We all go through life with expectations. We expect that if we work hard, educate ourselves, and make the right decisions, that we are in control of our own destiny. We can achieve anything we set our minds to with hard work and dedication, right? That’s what I always thought.

I am the kind of person who puts 120% into everything that I really want—getting into my dream college, my relationship with my now-husband, planning the perfect wedding. I was in control.

So when we decided to start trying for a baby I felt the same. I wanted it for a long time, but we decided to wait until after our wedding. I wanted to have a bachelorette party and drink a glass of wine on my wedding day. So when we did start trying, I put all my effort into understanding everything about baby-making. I learned about all ovulation tracking techniques. I decided to wean off Sertraline (Zoloft). I was ready and “in control.”

And then reality hit me. Month after month, negative pregnancy test after negative pregnancy test. Reducing and stopping Sertraline ended up being a stupid idea. All of the stress and sadness that I felt wasn’t helping with my cycles being regular, which in turn made me even more frustrated with trying to track my ovulation. It didn’t matter how much effort I put in; we couldn’t get pregnant. I felt lost.

After about six months of trying to no avail, I said “Enough. We’re seeking help.” My husband agreed, though not with utter excitement. We saw an amazing doctor who took great care of us despite us coming to the fertility clinic after only six months of trying. Through some initial testing, we found two cysts on my left ovary, a bigger one with clear contents, and a smaller darker one suggesting that I might have Endometriosis. The doctor said we would need to wait a few months to see if they would disappear on their own. In the meantime, we were advised to keep trying naturally. The whole scenario felt completely out of my control.

Finally, after a few more months of failed cycles and the cysts staying exactly the same, we got to the point where I needed to have them removed. Also, our doctor finally referred my husband for a sperm analysis. I use the word ‘finally’ because for months I was asking my husband to get his sperm tested, and—spoiler alert—it turns out I was right that something was wrong. Continuing to try to conceive naturally felt pointless.

I was devastated. My surgery wasn’t until September. My husband had to see an andrologist and get more testing done, but in the meantime we had an anniversary trip planned so we didn’t get any answers until early September. Not knowing was so hard. I lost all control. All that was left was to try to enjoy our vacation.

It was the first time in almost a year that I could stop stressing about trying to conceive. Soon after, we learned that my husband’s fertility problems were due to low testosterone and that hormonal treatment would likely help it in 3-4 months. My surgery got postponed a few times until mid-November, which was good in the end because we would be ready to start trying again around the same time.

December came, and it was time to start trying again. I felt in control again. Everything was supposed to work now. My Endometriosis had been excised. My husband’s hormones looked good. How amazing it would be to get pregnant for Christmas, we thought. We knew I still had one blocked tube and that’s was all that was on my mind as we continued trying. It was the only thing taking the control away from me - not knowing on which side I ovulated.

December’s cycle didn’t work out. In January, I had confirmed 99% right side ovulation with my doctor. It still didn’t work. In the February cycle, I started taking letrozole, which brought with it lots of new hope and high expectations. It had to work now! I would have my cycle monitored. We would know the side and time of ovulation. We were so in control! Right?

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I let my expectations skyrocket, and then my husband got his sperm results. After all of the months of hormones, there had been no improvement at all. We were officially dealing with severe unexplained male factor infertility. That was the hardest moment of this whole journey. But it was also a turning point for me.

That was the moment I lost all control. It was the moment when all my expectations were crushed, the moment I felt my heart physically breaking. It was the moment I learned that hope and expectations are not the same things. This moment was not exactly “a moment.” It was a process, and we are still in it. I’m still learning. But since February 2020 I’ve been a new person. I’m forever changed.

I hit rock bottom, and that’s where I found the brightest light: hope. Until then, hope and expectations had been one and the same. When I hoped, I expected it to work. But at that moment, I realized that nothing had worked the way I wanted. My expectations were shattered into pieces, but hope wasn’t. I expected it to be, but it wasn’t. It was still there, somehow.

These past few months have been very difficult with learning that IVF is our only chance to have kids, COVID-19 postponing fertility treatments, and social distancing from all our friends and family. However, somehow I’ve been okay. I no longer allow my expectations to cover the light of my hope. There is always light in my heart.

Sophie Panasiuk is a 26-year-old Polish infertility warrior, semi-housewife, semi-social media manager, tax accountant, artist, and more, who is still trying to find her place in the world. Sophie is married to the love of her life, Cezary, and they’ve been together for almost seven years and married for two. She is also a fur mom to the cutest pup Obi. Sophie has had baby fever for four years and has been trying to conceive for two years. You can follow her story on Instagram at @sophie_panasiuk.