Most people don’t realize how painful Mother’s Day can be for those grappling with infertility and loss. But I do. I see you. I know your struggle and your heartbreak. I’ve been there myself. I want to say, without faith, hope and strength the journey feels hopeless.
On the heels of National Infertility Awareness month, I want to shed light on the challenges, misinformation, grief and hope surrounding infertility. One in eight couples has trouble getting pregnant. That’s significant.
My guess is you or someone you know has battled infertility, in infertile or for whatever reason never had children but wanted to so badly. I am here to tell you that it’s a lifelong pain many women endure. Even women do end up having children, the infertility pain lingers for a lifetime. You don’t just forget the trauma you went through or the emptiness you feel in your core.
How is Infertility Defined?
The American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) says that infertility is “a disease, defined by the failure to achieve a successful pregnancy after 12 months or more of appropriate, timed unprotected intercourse or therapeutic donor insemination.” It goes on to say that earlier evaluation is warranted after 6 months in women over 35 years. The ASRM does not define recurrent pregnancy loss (two or more miscarriages or stillbirths) as infertility.
Be there For Those Who Need Support
Whether you just started your fertility journey, or you’re a friend or relative of somebody going through the pain and agony of infertility, hopeful stories are always good to hear. No matter what fertility issues it is, couples that are fighting with the egg and sperm game need support and love from those around them. These couples need a proverbial shoulder to cry on and loyal friends who can lift them up. I have great gal pals that were there for me, I am so grateful.
I hope my story will shed some light on what couples go through to have a child and how the battle wounds of infertility never completely heal. Those who get pregnant easily will never know how difficult it is for a woman to undergo infertility treatments for a long time. It wears you down to the core.
Experiencing Infertility Can Scar You For Life
I grew up dreaming about becoming a mother. It’s so innate for some, but not for others. The desire runs deep, almost in a very primal way. For those women, like me, not being able to conceive is life changing. What people don’t talk about, however, is that going through infertility can change you forever.
Infertility for many can rock your very foundation—our sense of control over our futures, our faith in our bodies, and our feelings about ourselves as women shifts when your body can’t reproduce a child. Men with a low sperm count may also feel insecure about their manhood. You feel like a failure.
Only a few understand the physical, mental, and emotional struggles couples experience. Because of the way the society looks and treats people with infertility, causes people to withdraw from life as usual.
Apart from the invasive procedures that tarnish your mental health, the way people treat you may feed your depression. The longer you try to get pregnant, the worse you feel about yourself, your pocketbook and sometimes your marriage. It’s crazy frustrating to get bad news with a negative pregnancy test month after month.
Like most of us, we grow up taking the necessary precautions so you don’t get pregnant. It never occurred to me that it would be so difficult to conceive. I always thought that unprotected sex would result in a pregnancy. I mean, most of my friends became pregnant by practically just looking at their hubby. That wasn’t the case for Steve and I.
If getting pregnant was easy for you, just know that you will never fully understand what a recurrent miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, negative intrauterine insemination cycles feel like. It’s hell. Every child conceived is a miracle baby. Our bodies (both male and female) have to work hard to make conception possible.
The path to parenthood is oftentimes one of the most difficult journeys a couple will endure
In effort to shine light and hope for women struggling with infertility, I want to share my infertility journey with you all. It’s through experiences and personal stories that we are able to learn and be inspired. I want women and men to know they are not alone and that miracles can come true.
My Personal Journey With Infertility-
Like many women, I always wanted to be a mother. I also knew I wanted a career as well. The way I saw it was nothing was wrong with being a stay at home Mom but I was raised by a single mother (after divorcing when I was age7) who went back to medical school to become a pediatrician.
With that said, I was the busy building my career. I had hit my 30s when Steve and I decided it was time to start trying. Initially I was giddy about the idea of becoming a mom.
Month and after month, I found myself discouraged. Twelve months passed before I scheduled an apt with a fertility specialist. When I walked into the clinic for the first time, the mood of the waiting room was gloomy.
The first thing I noticed when we stepped into the fertility clinic waiting room was the patients in the room all look nervous. The office was bustling, I remember thinking “this is a big business”.
After meeting with the fertility specialist, a myriad of uncomfortable tests were performed. I learned that my estrogen levels were fine. Steve’s sperm count was great and there were no major red flags. That should mean good news, right? Not really.
We were diagnosed with “unexplained infertility”. Great. I was hoping for some specific reason we could focus on whatever it was and “fix” it. No Ma’am!
I started taking the common drug clomid to stimulate my ovaries. Clomid causes bloating, stomach upsets and other uncomfortable side-effects. Even so, month and after month I took the expensive fertility medication. At first, we tracked my ovulation cycle by taking my temperature before we took it a step further and went to the fertility clinic for ultrasounds for a closer look at the ovaries. This went on for over a year.
I tried meditation, cupping therapy, acupuncture… literally everything I could to treat my body with love so it would somehow create a happy and safe place for a fetus.
Then in happened. I missed my period, and I finally got a positive pregnancy. We were over the moon. We didn’t tell anyone as I was planning on making the announcement to family and friends on Christmas. I had it all planned out.
On Christmas Eve I started to bleed, and Christmas morning Steve and I found ourselves at the clinic for an ultrasound and blood work. The news was heartbreaking. I was about to lose this baby. The heartbeat was good, but the blood work indicated something else.
We went home to our empty house, all decorated for the holidays and ready for a family dinner where we had planned to share the good news. Instead, we shared another story. I locked myself in my room and cried my eyes out.
Fast forward 11 months later and six or seven failed artificial inseminations, my doctor suggested that I have laparoscopic surgery. In laparoscopic surgery, your surgeon inserts a slender viewing instrument (laparoscope) through a small incision near your navel and inserts instruments to remove endometrial tissue through another small incision.
My Surgery Appointment
The night before my surgery, I walked into Bartell Drugs, the local pharmacy, to pick up the things I needed for my procedure. While in the store, I heard a very clear voice in my head. The voice told me to buy a pregnancy test. What? I thought to myself, how silly.
At 6 am the next morning, with much hesitancy, I opened the box of the pregnancy test. I couldn’t believe my eyes when the two lines appeared on the stick I had just peed on. I picked up the phone and left a message for my doctor.
The nurse called back and told me that those urine tests are not as reliable as blood test which is why they run a blood test before this type of surgery. I immediately felt inflated as we proceeded to drive to my hospital. I thought to myself, it would just be my luck if this was a false positive home test.
Sure enough, the blood test at the hospital came back negative. My doctor took one look at me and told me that we will not proceed with the surgery if I had any question about being pregnant. He suggested that I come to the clinic for another blood test in a few days.
When I went back to the clinic for a blood test, the result was that I was very much pregnant. So, friends, the voice I heard was God’s voice telling me to buy that test kit. Girls… my son Jake wouldn’t be here today if I would have ignored that voice.
Jake is my miracle baby #1.
Trying again- Secondary Infertility
After Jake was born, we waited one year before we started trying again for our second child. This road ended up being much longer than the first. Longer , bumpier, and so much more expensive!!! Our health insurance did not cover any infertility treatments or drugs. It was 100% out of pocket. It made me so mad that insurance would cover the expense for the “blue pill” for men, but wouldn’t cover the expense of trying to conceive a child.
I can’t even begin to tell you how frustrating, disappointing and depressing the years were to follow. As each year passed, I attended more baby showers than I could count. Each celebration of life pulled at my heart-strings. I was so happy for my friends, but the deep pain I felt inside was indescribable.
We explored adoption because we just wanted to be parents and we were not consumed with the idea of having our own biological children. The adoption road didn’t pan out. Every birthday I celebrated was paired with tears because it meant the odds of having mature eggs were higher. These years were difficult times .
Many people might say, “well, you should have just been happy with the one baby” and I was. Don’t get me wrong. Every single minute, I counted my blessings. My baby Jake filled me with so much joy, but I felt I was carrying around this monkey on my back that I couldn’t shake.
Secondary infertility is extremely difficult no matter what anyone may think. Steve and I visited three different doctors, always hoping for a different result. Sometimes we just had to try something new. Walking into a new clinic felt better than walking into the same clinic over and over again.
My IVF Treatments
After countless insemination attempts, we went through four IVF procedures that cost us over 15k each. My butt cheek became a permanent pin cushion as I pumped my body with so many hormones. Rounds of IVF are hard on your body and soul. When the ultrasound tech became a good friend, I knew it was a good indication that I could not sustain these treatments much longer. Going to the infertility clinic became a weekly routine.
Sometimes I would only get two or three good embryos to transfer. Each failed IVF attempt was like flushing money down the drain and got nothing good from it, only pain, sadness, and more depression. I tried to take better care of myself in any way possible.
One month we went through the entire three week process of taking birth control pills to suppress the ovaries, then the HCG shots followed by the egg retrieval only to find out that Steve’s high fever from an ear infection killed off his sperm that month. The in vitro fertilization was cancelled. A heartbreaking experience for us.. not to mention that we had to flush money and my soul down the drain.
In addition to my weekly visits to the fertility clinic, I also was getting acupuncture treatments and massages to help balance my body. I even tried taking Chinese herbs and had a reflexologists friend come to my house for treatments. Hey, I wanted to try everything I could.
What Causes Secondary Infertility?
- Hormone irregularities
- Uterine factors
- Fallopian tube blockage
- Ovulation problems
- Complications from past births, including scarring
- Egg reserve
- Quality and motility of the sperm
- Lifestyle factors, such as obesity or smoking
My Son Wanted A Sibling So Bad
The Jake’s nursery next to our master bedroom sat empty as it collected dust. Every time Jake would bring friends home, they asked why we had an empty bedroom with a hand-painted mural and an empty rocking chair in the corner. I had to keep the door closed because the reminder was too much to bare.
Jake would always ask for a brother and it broke our hearts that we couldn’t provide this for him. Steve’s mother passed away at the age of 62 and Steve realized how important siblings can be when you are grieving. We wanted a sibling for Jake so badly, but if it wasn’t in God’s plan, it just wasn’t. Period end of story.
I felt so empty as I suffered from deep depression. I joined an infertility support group, and it was helpful to be with other women who were going through the same struggle. We all had own battle, but the pain was something we had in common. Sharing our infertility stories helped all of us. I was with this group for at least four years. The good news was everyone in the group eventually got pregnant or adopted a child, except for me. I was the last one out of the group to not have success.
“Something Is Wrong WIth Me”
Each month I asked, what is wrong with me? Why can’t we conceive? I must not be women enough if I can’t get pregnant. I mean, if God designed women to conceive, something really must be wrong with me.I felt guilty that I was so sad about not being able to have another baby when I was so blessed to have one healthy boy. That guilt ate me up.
Nearly 11 Years Later- My 2nd Miracle Baby
We finally gave our crib away to our younger friends, who were having a baby. A few months later, I missed my period. A home pregnancy test was positive. I waited two weeks, then went to the doctor for a blood test. Then the phone call came- and I couldn’t believe what the nurse was telling me. She was so happy to share that I was pregnant.
The Feeling Of Gratitude
After my miracle baby #2 was born I was so groggy and tired, I wandered into the grocery store and found myself standing in isle B. Straight ahead of me were rows of diapers and wipes in various sizes and colors. My eyes blurry from the lack of sleep, I scanned the cute packaging with images of happy babies’ faces smiling at me, my eyes filled with tears.
Is it really true? Am really shopping for infant diapers? It hit me like a ton of bricks. I felt like it was an out-of-body experience.
I will never forget the feeling of gratitude I felt that day. As I stood in the store, my knees were weak and my tired body felt like I was floating. My heart was filled with joy and gratitude. God blessed me again. Two miracle babies.
What I have Learned From My Infertility Experience:
1. You Never Heal From Infertility.
The pain you experience is a deep mourning that only women who suffer from this can understand. It does a number on your self confidence and how you see your body. It takes work to recognize this.
2. There is a GOD
2. The Workplace and Going Through Treatments Is Brutal
In many cases, women who experience infertility are quiet about it. Do you really want to announce to people what you are going through only to have to answer the ongoing questions? “Any luck yet?”” How’s it going?” “I am so sorry.”
I never wanted people to be sorry for me. Infertility is surrounded by lots of silence and women, for the most part are reluctant to share info not just for the reasons I mentioned above but of fear of being stereotyped.
Hey, it’s hard enough as it is to deal with biases and barriers as a career woman, but being a mother or a woman trying to be a mother is a different layer of crap.
In a study published in the American Psychological Association, Eden King shows that discrimination starts the moment a woman announces that she is pregnant.
3. Depression and Anxiety Is Real
Research has shown that women dealing with infertility have depression and anxiety levels similar to those with cancer, H.I.V. and heart disease. I am here to tell you that if you experience infertility, you never get over the trauma.
Even if you succeed in having a child, you never forget the psychological and emotional feelings you experienced.
According to Allyson Bradow, a psychologist who wrote a paper on infertility, people affected by infertility must adjust to a major shift in life expectations while being exposed to constant reminders of their condition, through questions from family members, medical treatments or interactions with pregnant women.
4. Your Faith Can Grow Even Through Pain
When I look back at the times where I’ve experienced some sort of hardship, there’s one thing that sticks out to me about the benefits of the experience. I believe God has a plan. HE can take our hardship and use it for good.
5. Never Give Up
My motto is always to give it my all and if it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t.. at least I know I tried. I don’t give up easy and this story may prove this fact. If you want something bad enough, keep working at it.
6. Deep Gratitude About Life
I am more thankful about everything in life based on my struggle. The silver lining for sure.