Growing up in a small town in Texas, all I wanted to do was to tell stories. In elementary school, while other girls planned pretend weddings, my twin sister, Heather, and I made up elaborate tales involving our imaginary friends, two middle-aged hobos. In middle school, I scribbled ideas in floral embroidered journals and wrote some truly terrible poetry. But a community production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat changed everything. I fell in love with acting and was accepted into a theater conservatory in New York City. While friends were falling in love, getting married and having children, I was laser-focused on my career.
With that came something I never anticipated: judgment about my life choices. At my father’s funeral, extended family seemed disappointed when they learned I was single and childless. I was twenty-one. I laughed off their “you still have time” comments and focused on my studies. After several years in New York, I moved to Los Angeles, and landed my dream job: working as a TV writer. I even published two crime novels.
While my career was taking off, I fell in love, married David, a handsome British tennis coach, and adopted Stevie, our adorable rescue pup. We were together for almost ten years when we decided to start a family. To our surprise, less than two months later, I was pregnant.
My first thought was, “oh crap. I’m not ready.” Then the morning sickness kicked in. I can’t say it was pleasant, but suddenly this baby was real and I wanted it. I kept imagining how it would feel to hold my child in my arms. I already knew my husband would make a great father, but I couldn’t wait to see him in action.
It all seemed too easy…and it was. At our first appointment, David and I sat in the doctor’s office, her smile fading, her body language drawing inward as she stared at the ultrasound. She’d delivered this news before, but her disappointment didn’t sound practiced. “The fetus is too small,” she said. There were other terms I’d never heard before. Missed miscarriage. Silent abortion. None of them good. “Come back in a week,” she advised. I went home, and disappeared into a Google black hole, praying that the mommy blogs offering hopeful stories of miracle babies would be my fate.
The evening before my follow-up with the doctor, I began hemorrhaging. David found me passed out on the bathroom floor. He called an ambulance, and I was rushed to the ER. The events that followed next were the kind of brutal feminine business us Texas ladies don’t discuss in proper company. Kind-faced doctors and nurses appeared, IVs were drawn, pain meds administered, ultrasounds ordered, and tearful “I love yous” whispered. The operating room greeted me with its bright lights, and then nothing but blackness. I woke a few hours later, stitched together, but not quite whole.
We did not immediately start “trying” (a word my sister hates, which means I have to use it!) again. I needed time to recover emotionally, and then work commitments kept me and David on opposite coasts for several months. Five months later, my mother died and I found myself consumed with grief. I’d lost my anchor, and was heartbroken knowing that my child would never meet her grandmother.
It was soul-crushing, but we decided to start again. My OB suggested additional tests to make sure we were both healthy, and discovered several small fibroids and cysts on my uterus, something previously undiagnosed. A hysteroscopy was scheduled, a relatively simple outpatient procedure that offered up a clean bill of health. Until a week later, when I began to hemorrhage at home and found myself experiencing a terrible case of déjà vu: bleeding out, an ambulance ride to the ER, and emergency surgery. I was given another clean bill of health, and yet still no baby.
Last year, we finally began consulting with a fertility specialist. Since then I’ve had three more hysteroscopies to remove scar tissue and fibroids. I’ve never officially been diagnosed with PCOS, though my symptoms and challenges conceiving are not dissimilar to those with that diagnosis. I’d hoped to get pregnant with IUI, but four rounds later, it was clear IVF was our only option. I am grateful that we are able to afford these costly fertility treatments, but I am learning that it is still an agonizing road, with no guarantees.
I never imagined I’d be the leading lady of a story riddled with so many cliches. If I were writing this, my heroine wouldn’t obsessively purchase pregnancy tests each month, fighting back tears when that single pink line appeared. She definitely wouldn’t burst into tears at baby showers or stifle that bubbling jealousy when her friends announced their pregnancies or catalogued their baby’s daily accomplishments. My heroine wouldn’t resent the well-meaning (yet incredibly annoying) advice about meditating/yoga/acupuncture/cutting out alcohol/carbs/grains/dairy. She certainly wouldn’t be the type who spiraled into depression when people offered advice like “just relax,” or “stop stressing,” or have you tried going on a vacation?” It’s clear to me now that a higher power is penning this tale.
Of all the stories I’ve written, this is by far the most difficult. But writing is my therapy. It’s how I process my experiences and connect with others. I also know I’m not the only woman struggling. There are thousands of women gathering in private spaces; sharing encouraging words and advice on secret Instagram and Facebook pages, their experiences told in whispers, not shouts. My question is: what if we did shout about it? What if we talked openly about miscarriages and IUI and IVF, about hormone injections and mood swings? What if we shared the difficulties that come with juggling your professional obligations with weekly doctors appointments and failed fertility cycles? What if we stopped being ashamed of something we have no control over? Can you imagine the freedom we would have?
I can. It wasn’t simple, but I finally made the decision to share my experiences. It’s the only control I have in any of this. I’ve also chosen to silence that voice, the one that kept whispering, “you shouldn’t have waited. This is all your fault.” I don’t regret the choices I’ve made. I wanted to act, and write, travel and explore the world. I wanted to discover who I was, to nurture my relationship with my husband and make sure we were ready for the responsibility that comes with bringing new life into the world. Of course, some days I’m frustrated, other days I’m angry, jealous, some days I’m achingly sad, but I am never hopeless. I truly believe that our story will end the way it was meant to—with a child of our own.
Hollie Overton is a TV writer and producer currently working on TELL ME A STORY for CBS All-Access. She has written for Shadowhunters, Cold Case, and The Client List. Hollie’s debut thriller, BABY DOLL was an international bestseller and was published in eleven countries. Her 2nd novel, THE WALLS was released Aug. 2017. Her 3rd novel THE RUNAWAY was just released on August 6, 2019. An identical twin, Hollie grew up in Kingsville, Texas but now resides in LA with her husband, David and rescue dog, Stevie.