1 in 7.
That’s how many women are affected by infertility. It may be having their first, or even their second, but it means there are A LOT of us out there. And many suffer in silence. It’s a hard subject to talk about. It takes you on an emotional roller coaster ride that people who haven’t experienced it just cannot understand. But I am 1 in 7 and share my story because if what I say encourages just one, then it’s served it’s purpose.
And I will never tell that girl who is struggling to conceive to “just relax.” Ever.
Mother’s Day used to be a day I would dread for days, even weeks, in advance. The day made my heart ache for something I didn’t know if I would ever get to experience. Our infertility journey was long. Six years and nine months to be exact.
We were married at ages 28 (me) and 32 (him). We talked early in the marriage about having kids sooner than later. We were both settled in our home, our careers and our future plans. Having a child felt like the only missing piece. So we did nothing to prevent pregnancy from the start.
That first year was not stressful and we were not worried. We were enjoying our time together and married life in general. I casually mentioned to my doctor at my yearly check-up that we were a little surprised I had not gotten pregnant and he told me to give it six more months and we could run some tests. Those six months came and went.
My ob/gyn recommended what would begin test after test after test for me and a few for my husband. Bloodwork, laparoscopy, flushing my tubes, and all kinds of uncomfortable and humbling experiences to figure out why my system was just not working. All of the tests left more questions than answers. Everything, for both me and my husband, seemed to be working just fine except that some cycles I didn’t ovulate. I started taking ovulation induction medicines like Clomid and Femara for several consecutive months, but nothing happened.
At this point, I’m 30 years old and everywhere I turned there was another pregnancy announcement. One of the hardest things to explain about infertility is how you are genuinely happy for an expectant mother yet trying to hold it together enough not to cry for yourself.
After the initial treatments from the ob/gyn did not work, we were referred to reproductive specialists. They added endometriosis to my diagnosis and recommended IUI’s as the next treatment option. This led to going through IUI #1 & IUI #2 (both unsuccessful) and trying some natural supplements. These were painful, time consuming procedures and each negative pregnancy test created more anxiety and sadness. It feels like you’re living a double life… going through all the normal day to day routines, then coming home to shots, charts, and hours upon hours of Googling “infertility, infertility success stories, IVF success rates” and the list goes on.
One of the best things I did at this point, that did not cost a dime, was start a blog. I joined a group of some of the strongest, most resilient women who became virtual best friends. Women who would go to the ends of the earth if it meant getting us closer to the ultimate prize. Although I’m not actively blogging there anymore, I check in on them from time to time and will always be grateful for their support.
Took a year off. Not off my mind, not off my heart, but we knew at this point IVF was the next step so we started saving and planning. Infertility procedures are not only emotionally draining, they are financially draining. In most states, including my own, insurance does not cover any infertility procedures. That’s a post in itself and something that was beyond frustrating. We worked on saving $10,000 just to cover half of the cost of one IVF cycle. In addition to the cycle, medications cost more than $5000. Medications to force my body to go through a cycle that happens normally for most women… can’t lie, it was a (literal) painful pill to swallow!
During this time, I started to question whether I would ever get to experience pregnancy or become a mom. I started to think about life in terms of a being a couple, rather than a family. My mind drifted all the time to what it would be like with a child and my heart was heavy from all of the unknown. We did talk about adoption and even went to an information session with a local agency. We did not feel at peace with pursuing both IVF and adoption at the same time.
We decided on a reproductive endocrinologist and committed to one IVF cycle. They had to run more tests (by now needles just seem like a normal part of life) and we turned our guest bedroom into our home base fertility clinic. My husband, who hates needles, had to learn how to give me daily injections in my backside. He was incredible through this process. I wanted this to work so much for this sweet man to be a dad as much as I wanted to be a mom. He never once placed any blame. He just held my hand and remained my steady rock.
Year six, month three…
Our IVF cycle produced five eggs and only two made it through the in vitro fertilization process. These were very low numbers and I was really discouraged. But I kept praying through. On our six year anniversary (ironic how timing works sometimes) two beautiful embryos were implanted. One never attached or became viable. The other became our miracle.
Year six, month four…
For the first time, I saw two pink lines on a pee stick. I’m one of those people who saves up emotions inside and puts on a strong face until I reach a breaking point… around this time I started crying what felt like 6 years worth of built up emotions! I was both overjoyed and terrified at the same time. I loved every minute and every day of being pregnant, but it was hard to let my guard down.
Year six, month nine, 7:21 a.m…
I experienced God’s love in a way I never thought imaginable.
At 7:21 a.m., we welcomed our miracle into the world. We looked at those deep blue eyes with complete awe and just let the tears pour down our faces. Our first words to him, “We have been waiting on you a long time little buddy.” The wait was so worth it.
One of our delivery nurses was also experiencing infertility. Her shift was done, but she stayed to see us through. Our eyes locked moments before our son entered the world, and it was just a moment of complete understanding and compassion for each other that I will never forget.
If you’re reading this as a mama in waiting, know that you are not alone. Also know that there is someone who has walked in your shoes and understands the heartache. It sucks! It’s not fair. 1 in 7 may be our diagnosis but it does not have to become our destiny. There is always hope.