Each person’s journey with Infertility looks completely different. I’ve watched shots being administered, hopes being shattered, tears being shed, and lives being forever changed due to intertility.
I have also learned that infertility is not a one size fits all “diagnosis” and the prognosis never, ever looks the same.
Many people stay silent abut their infertility stories. From the outside you will never ever know that they are going through one of the biggest emotional and physical battles of their lives.
“It’s an intense longing, coupled with a sense of powerlessness to achieve it. It is an acute pain, and it’s very difficult to comfort someone experiencing it. It can affect anyone at any age. It’s not just career women trying to have kids after age 35.”- says Stephanie who has battled with infertility.
“Been There Tried That”
People dealing with infertility try it all: state of the art super vitamins, new fad-diets, they’ve read every book and scoured the internet. They go to appointment after appointment, fight with insurance, change doctors, inject needles, take copious amounts of medicine, gain weight, lose weight, cry, hope, and pray.
“There was a period of time I would have tried any “fad” diet or vitamin in order to get pregnant. Someone suggested losing weight and dumping sugar. Yep, already did that months ago.”- Says Carrie.
They wait, and wait and wait and hope this month will be the month that changes everything.
“Days turn into weeks. Weeks turn into months and months turn into years. You feel completely helpless, and hopeless. You start to feel like your body has just totally failed you,”- says Cassie who has been on an infertility journey for over 8 years.
I never expected to be infertile – sure would’ve saved myself a lot of worry and cash on pregnancy tests in my younger years. I have PCOS, which doesn’t always require fertility intervention, but in our case my husband’s swimmers just weren’t perfect either. So, after some OBGYN led IUIs using clomid, then some RE led IUIs using injectibles, we moved on to IVF.
I look back and remember it as a really dark year and a half. I was lucky to have decent insurance coverage, but we hit our maximum out of pocket, we had to keep moving in that same calendar year – it felt like taking a break to regroup, was wasteful. Even with that coverage, we were just bleeding money and racking up credit card miles. So, to maximize benefits, we had 3 egg retrevial surgeries, 2 TESE (testicular sperm) surgeries, 1 fresh transfer, and 1 frozen transfer in a year.
It was an insane amount of monitoring appointments, blood work, shots (like 3 sharps containers worth), acupuncture, massage, reiki, I mean you name it and I threw it at the wall to see if it would stick. And it did! Well, she did.
After our fertilization reports continued to get worse despite more intervention, my doctor finally said, “well, hey, we don’t know that there is anything wrong with your uterus”. And I felt so healed when my body, that had failed me, had failed my husband (my words, not his), was able to sustain a healthy pregnancy and create this smart, beautiful, kind hearted soul that was made for me.
And I would do a thousand more shots and a million more vaginal ultrasounds and cry a zillion more tears if I knew it would lead me to her.
And the truth is, I am a better, more patient mom. I am grateful everyday, I am reminded every day that this almost didn’t happen. Last night I cried a little at the ice cream parlor when she told her daddy she had a question for him, and then asked him if he liked ice cream. When he said he did, and she responded, me too! I really felt my heart explode a little.
I am thankful for this perspective I almost didn’t have. Infertility to me is just a loaded word – it’s the darkest depths and the brightest corners of my life. I hope the best for all in the wait, for those that choose to walk away from this path, for those who don’t even know they have this coming, for me if we choose to try again, for my friends who get pregnant by going on vacation, for everyone who gets asked about when they are having children, just for everyone.
After my husband and I decided to get married, we thought, lets wait a bit to get pregnant. Which looking back on, is hilarious because we could have had so much more time on our hands to sort through all of infertilities ugly rollercoaster loops. When we finally decided to try for a baby the months started turning into years, and the years started turning into several years.
Along with wait comes worry and agonizing pain. I am always the first to show up to everyone of my friend’s baby showers, pretending and faking my way through the whole thing. I am also the first to leave and silently cry in my car, pounding on my steering wheel and asking god, why?
My husband and I have been going through the whole thing privately. We have only shared with a few close few family members. They have the best intentions and in some ways I had wished that I never had to tell them, but I couldn’t show up to one more Thanksgiving or Christmas and have to come up with pre-canned responses to, “When are you going to try for a baby?”
Over three years of trying to conceive “naturally” led us to a fertility specialist. We had 4 failed IUIs and a whole lot of heartache.
The longing and aching for a baby only intensified, and after several conversations, my husband and I agreed to use our hard earned retirement fund, since our insurance covered basically nothing, to move forward and try IVF.
There have been tons of injections, tons of bills, both emotional and physical strain; but we always hold hope. The first round of IVF did not got as planned, and not only were more dreams crushed, but our bank account was empty.
Will we do another round of IVF? For now I need a break.I feel completely emotional and physically tapped out. I am not sure what the future holds for us, but I do hope and pray everyday that we will one day have a biological child of our own.
Tom & Gwen’s* Story
Infertility is not always a female problem. Male infertility can include low sperm concentrations which can impede the amount of sperm making it to the egg.
My husband has a low sperm concentration which is the cause of our infertility. Steps taken so far have been weight loss, Sperm analysis and ultrasounds of the scrotum. With low sperm count you need to “save up” sperm and time ovulation perfectly. This is difficult to determine the exact moment.
With low sperm count more add does not equate to more sperm making it to the egg. Another option is using an IUI which will insert sperm that has been “washed” directly into the cervix. This part is challenging due to wanting to have a baby the “natural way”. Men are more difficult when using interventions because it takes away from their masculinity.
As a man, infertility represented a loss of control, an undesired but nevertheless interesting adventure, and an opportunity for positive change.
With He-Man as our ideal until Harry Potter made masculine insecurity fashionable, we American Men were largely conditioned to have two virtues: be determined, and “get the job done.” After all, He-Man’s catch phrase was “I have the Power!” When I had to recognize I lacked the power on my own to get the baby-making job done, I was confronted with something bigger than me (like the ocean), but unexpected and menacing (like the ocean at the back door of my house with a gun). I think the first thing infertility does to men is show us who’s boss, and it’s not us, and that’s a bit confounding.
Infertility Has Many Faces
The statistics are high, 1 in every 8 married couples has a hard time trying to conceive or sustaining a pregnancy. Although these four stories aren’t the only perspectives out there, they provide a glimpse of what infertility can look and feel like.
*Names have been changed to protect the potential identity of those who wished to contribute but remain anonymous.
Learn more about Infertility here