This article was originally posted on Everyday Health
It is difficult to describe to the fertile world what infertility feels like and the profound and lasting impact that it has on your life. I have been struggling with infertility for over a decade, and I work as an infertility counselor and advocate. Yet I still have trouble putting into words the pain and loss that struggling to conceive has brought to my family. A friend of mine from the infertility community described infertility perfectly in two words: soul crushing.
My husband and I married in our early 20s. For the first two years of marriage, I was on birth
control, but we knew we eventually wanted a big
family. When I was 24 I had my appendix removed, and after skipping a few birth
control pills while in the hospital due to my surgery, I decided to stay off
the Pill entirely. For the next two years we had no “happy accidents” and in
fact my periods became quite painful. I thought it might be time to check
in with my gynecologist. I had a sinking feeling that something wasn’t right.
|See this young bride? |
Already unknowingly pretty infertile.
My gynecologist told me it was normal to have terrible periods and painful ovulation, that I had a “low pain tolerance” and that I was overreacting. She asked to see me again in 6 months and told me not to worry, that I would be pregnant in no time. I also got a lecture on how stress and anxiety could hinder pregnancy. She told me to “just relax.”
For the next 6 months my husband and I tried REALLY hard to get pregnant. I peed on every ovulation predictor stick I could find. I charted my basal body temperature and noted my cervical mucus. I slightly elevated my hips for at least an hour post-coitus. And of course, we made sure NOT TO STRESS OUT. I did not get pregnant, and my periods were getting worse. I went to my gynecologist’s office 6 months later and said I wanted a referral for a reproductive endocrinologist.
I was officially worried. What if we could never have kids? We didn’t know anyone else at the time going through infertility. My husband came from a large family, so I was sure our trouble conceiving was my fault. I felt guilty and scared. All of a sudden, something that I took for granted all this time was so uncertain. All around me friends and family members were getting pregnant, some with their second and third babies. People kept asking us casually in social situations the heart-breaking question, “So, when are you guys going to have a baby? Come on! What are you waiting for?”
I remember sitting in the reproductive endocrinologist’s office with my husband for our first appointment. I felt physically ill. I felt like a failure for not being able to do what so many women do effortlessly. I felt alone. I felt broken. What if I couldn’t be fixed?
|To escape I read Harry Potter. At least I |
didn't have Voldemort chasing me.
That day was the start of a new era in our life--infertility treatments and all that comes with it. My reproductive endocrinologist’s office became my home away from home. In the span of six years I had 3 IUIs, 3 IVFs and 34 embryos tested and I suffered 4 miscarriages. I was finally diagnosed with endometriosis, which explained my painful periods along with a host of other problems that doctors could never explain. I was also diagnosed with a balanced translocation, a genetic issue that causes the overwhelming majority of my embryos to miscarry.
In an ideal world, making a baby is a decision between two consenting adults. Sex is meant to be an intimate and tender occurrence. When you struggle with infertility, making a baby is not a private affair anymore; it is a stressful, scientific experience now shared with receptionists, doctors, nurses, drug companies and ultrasound technicians. For years, my life consisted of daily hormone injections and vaginal ultrasounds, speaking with surgeons and geneticists, and fighting with insurance companies.
Our whole life became a cycle of waiting. We waited to get approval from our insurance company in order to proceed with our IUI or IVF procedures. We waited for my medications to arrive. While going through a medicated cycle, I waited every morning in the reproductive endocrinologist’s office
to get monitored. I waited that afternoon
for the phone call to see what medications I had to use that night based on my
tests results that morning. I anxiously awaited my next appointment to see how
I was responding to the medications and see if I could go through with the procedure.
After every IVF, I waited to see if our embryos that were formed were healthy.
Most often they were not, due to my genetic translocation. If I was lucky
enough to be able to have an embryo to transfer, I waited to see if the embryo
was going to turn into a healthy pregnancy. Then I waited to see if the
pregnancy test results were positive. Twice I miscarried after getting
|Sad about our wedding anniversary & no baby |
I convinced my DH to go to Trapeze School.
My husband and I were finally able to conceive our daughter with the help of our reproductive endocrinologist. We are incredibly grateful for our daughter, but I still feel sad for all we have gone through. Struggling with infertility changed us. We do not take life for granted and we do not sweat the small stuff. Yet, those stressful years always seem to be lurking in the shadows.
April 20-26 is National Infertility Awareness Week. According to RESOLVE’s website, “Infertility affects 7.3 million people in the U.S. This figure represents 12% of women of childbearing age, or 1 in 8 couples.” Spreading awareness of infertility is critical. Patients mustn't feel alone like I did. The general public must learn to be sensitive toward those who are struggling with infertility. Don’t dismiss their pain by saying, “Don’t worry, it will happen,” or “You can just adopt.” It may or may not happen for them; you do not know. They may end up adopting, or using an egg, sperm or embryo donor or even a surrogate. They may choose not to pursue other family building options after infertility. But that doesn’t mean they are not still hurting.
|Me and my friends and fellow advocates at Advocacy Day!|