This post has been published on Thought Catalog.
I’d love to preface this wonderful interview by stating that this has been one of the most powerful and inspirational conversations I’ve ever had. Infertility affects so many women and what I’ve learned through this process is how isolated these women and their partners often feel as they take these scary steps into their IVF journey. If you happen to stumble upon this article, I’d love for you to realize how much braver and how much stronger you are compared to most. Keep going.
Q. When did you first get the feeling you were infertile?
A. 2013. We had both been sexually active, without protection since ’05. That’s a long time to go without an “oops”. One morning my sister-in-law and I were both late and we each ended up taking pregnancy tests. Hers came out positive. Mine didn’t. I started wondering if I was infertile when everyone else around me was getting pregnant, and I wasn’t.
Q. What were those first few days like after getting diagnosed?
A. A lot of different emotions. Sad – but curious. I wanted to do research. I wanted to reach out to friends of mine who were dealing with the same thing as me. Confusing. It felt like I did something wrong. It was like a punishment. What did I do? I felt robbed of the natural fun and passionate night that everyone else gets to have.
Q. What’s involved in the fertility process?
A. I was late for three weeks last May. We really thought it was happening for us this time. On the way to my OBGYN appointment, I got my period. I walked into the office and burst into tears. The whole process starts off with a consultation: what is your sex life like? Do you use protection? Does he pull out? Are you on birth control? Questions like that. We were referred to a fertility specialist. They do a series of labs and a sperm count. They inject dye into my tubes to make sure they’re not blocked and one hour after, you get the worst cramps of your life. Vicodin does nothing. They take a biopsy of your reproductive system. It sucks. It’s really painful. They numb the area but they don’t wait long enough. The needle comes and goes and doesn’t give it time to sink in. Then there’s another round of consultations to discuss our options:
20% success rate for IVI which is less invasive.
60% success rate for IVF which is the most invasive.
We chose IVF. They put you on birth control to regulate your periods. On the first day of your normal flow you have to get an ultrasound which is humiliating. You’re bleeding everywhere and they just shove a probe up your vagina. The IVF nurses gets a treatment plan together and orders the drugs. We were lucky that we only had to pay $250 out of pocket for them (our insurance was good); most people aren’t that fortunate. I start with two injections. The first night I shot myself in my thigh but it hurt too much so my husband then injected me in my stomach. It’s not something your husband should have to do for you. Then I had to get an ultrasound and lab work every other day once I’m doing the hormone injections. After the third shot we check on how many eggs I’m producing. These shots last a total of 12 days. On the 12th night, the fourth injection releases the eggs. The next morning is the egg retrieval.
Q. Does egg retrieval hurt?
A. They put you under for the procedure. You’re feeling so many hands on you. It’s invasive. I felt like a specimen and a pin cushion. I had to put my legs in stirrups high above my head. They wake you up afterward to tell you how many eggs they retrieved. My husband then had to give a sample. Then it’s a waiting game. It takes 3-5 days for the transfer. But we never got there.
Q. What has your support system been like through this?
A. Sometimes 50/50. I have easier support with my friends versus family. It’s such a new thing (even though it isn’t) and the older generation doesn’t seem to understand why I’m not doing it the old fashioned way. My husband has been amazing. I haven’t been able to get through this journey without him. People sometimes think that we opt for this; that we gave up too early. People try to be supportive but it’s not always as supportive as they think. I have five close girlfriends who listen to me all the time which helps.
Q. What has been the meanest comment someone’s said about your infertility?
A. “That it’s not in God’s plan for me.” What exactly is my plan then?
Q. Do you feel like you’re going through this alone?
A. Sometimes. Every case is different. I know people who have gone through IVF, but I don’t know anyone who hasn’t not been successful. My husband is less emotional and more rational about all of this; he kind of lets everything roll of his shoulders. Sometimes I feel like it doesn’t affect him as much as me.
Q. What’s something someone like me can’t understand about what you’re going through?
A. There’s two parts to this answer. First, is that I feel like I did something wrong. I feel like I’m less of a woman that I can’t do this. Second is the physical toll. There’s so many emotions involved with being poked and prodded. Some days are good. Some aren’t. It’s an emotional roller coaster for me. I feel like I’m not good enough to be a mom. It sucks trying to move forward. Every bill I get in the mail feels like a step back.
Q. What is one cliched thing you wish people would stop saying to you?
A. That it’ll happen when it’s supposed to happen or that if I stop stressing about it, it’ll happen for me.
Q. Do you honestly feel like you’re never going to become a mother?
A. That’s a hard question. Sort of. It’s hard right now because the specialist didn’t want to do another round. Each month we try naturally. Wishful thinking. Being a mom is the only thing I was meant to do.
Q. Have you considered adoption?
A. I hate that question. Yes, we have but it’s not really as easy as everyone makes it out to be. You can’t just walk into an agency and point and say, “I’ll take that one.” Adoption is a last resort. We talked about it, but it’s not something we want to do right now. We want a baby that’s a mix of the two of us.
Q. What keeps you going through all of this?
A. I don’t really know. I consume myself with work and my friends. Honestly though, it’s my best friend’s daughter, Lily. She was the result of a successful IVF story. I find hope because of her. There are success stories out there. We don’t avoid the subject of parenting. We talk about where we’ll take our kids for family vacations when we have them. I have hope that it’ll all work out. Once you lose than hope, that’s when this diagnosis consumes you.
Q. What have you learned about yourself through this process?
A. That I’m tougher and stronger than I thought. I hate needles. I kind of reassured myself that I’m going to be a good mom. It takes a really tough chick to do what I’m doing before knowing what the end result will be. I have more hope now. This whole process made my marriage stronger. I’m more confident in the choice I’ve made with my partner. I’m proud of myself.
Q. How do you feel when you see pregnancy announcements on Facebook?
A. Sad. Frustrated. And happy. I’m happy for them but sad for me. People try to hide their announcements from me. They tip-toe around me like I’m fragile which I hate. I’m not a bitter person. I just wish that their pregnancy announcement was happening for me.
Q. What do you wish your family knew about what you’re going through?
A. That it’s not fine. That I can’t just do it naturally. And that this is something I want more than anything.
Q. Is there a part of you that hates your friends and family for having what you don’t?
A. Absolutely. It’s not so much hate as it is envy and jealousy. I’m just disappointed. I wish I could go out with my kids to family outings with all the nieces and nephews and grandkids. Sometimes I feel left out of these moments just because I’m not a mom.
Q. Are you angry?
A. Yes. I think I get more angry in situations though then in general. I get angry when people tip-toe around me like I’m broken. I hate when people give me cliches, like to stop stressing. The day to day affects you. I get irritated that I’m being left out just because I don’t have kids.
Q. How long have you tried getting pregnant?
A. Since 2015.
Q. How does your husband feel?
A. (speaking to her husband): It’s rough. I felt bad. It’s a shot at your manhood. It’s heartbreaking to keep track of all the meds, and give your wife injections and to go through all these motions, only to not even be given a chance. It’s disappointing. But it’s also been enlightening. It taught us right now to step back and spend more time on ourselves.
Q. Do you keep a lot of these feelings bottled up? Do you feel comfortable telling people about your journey?
A. If I’m asked about it, I’m more than happy to share. It’s not something you bring up in small talk – “like, hey guys, I’m infertile.” But, I’m happy to be a voice. So many women are ashamed of this. I’m drawn to awareness because this is a lonely process. You apologize for feeling the way that you do, like it’s something to be embarrassed over. It’s not. I’ve joined support groups before but ultimately left. It doesn’t matter how many groups you join, sometimes you just feel alone in the process.
Q. How much money have you invested so far?
A. Between $3,000-$5,000. Remember aside from drugs, you’re also paying your copay every other day for weeks and months on end. There’s also costs for storage fees for your eggs. I’m still getting bills after the fact. Most recently, $900.
Q. What’s the worst symptom you’ve endured?
A. I was bedridden for two days after the egg retrieval. I couldn’t even walk up my stairs to use the bathroom. It felt like a knife was being twisted in my bladder, my stomach, and uterus. So much cramping. It hurt so much that I was scared to even go to the bathroom.
Q. What did it feel like when you were told the eggs didn’t fertilize?
A. Shocked. I mean, with all the advanced technology in the medical field I was certain it would work. I was disappointed. I was nervous to tell my husband, scared that he would feel like less of a man or own the guilt completely. More than anything, I felt lost. Like the one thing you want is out of reach. You come out of the whole process feeling empty handed.
Q. What do you do from here?
A. We’re taking some time for ourselves. We’re enjoying us. We’re taking vacations and going to concerts. It’s the little stuff that keeps us going. We feel hopeful. We’re planning on seeing a urologist before we dive back into the process. I want to do more research. I’ve been open about my IVF process, even shared it on Facebook but I never told anybody it didn’t work the first time around. It’s a hard thing to let so many people in on that failed aspect of your life because people feel let down. My mom wants to be a grandmother. My mother-in-law wants to be a grandmother again. My step-mom doesn’t want us to get divorced over this obstacle. People are sad for you more than anything and that’s tough because I’m not only owning my own emotions, but my husband’s and then all the people around us who feel like they’re on this journey with us. Some days we don’t feel as defeated. Those first two weeks after we found out it didn’t work were awful. I cried myself to sleep every night. It was heartbreaking to see the look on my husband’s face and having to tell everyone that it didn’t work.
We’re taking a trip to Mexico in a few weeks to recharge. We don’t think it’s over. We remain hopeful. After that, I really can’t say. To be continued, I guess.