From infertile to fertile?!

2014-2016 marks the span of when we first started “trying” to get pregnant, to when we had our beautiful baby girls. Loads of heartache, months of negative pregnancy tests, dozens of tests, multiple rounds of fertility drugs, frequent ultrasounds and appointments, and two rounds of IVF. It is in that timeframe that we were diagnosed with unexplained infertility, and that we began to identify as one of the “1 in 8”.

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We were so blessed to have found success in that second round of in vitro fertilization that resulted in the splitting of our one lonely embryo into two identical blessings from God. Our infertility journey ended in a family. And that is something I will never take for granted.

Fast forward to the final days of 2017. A positive pregnancy test after only three cycles of trying! And now that beautiful surprise baby boy is 22 weeks along and right at home inside my belly. We were shocked, elated, scared, overjoyed, you name it; we felt it. But a feeling I wasn’t prepared for was that of betrayal. Betrayal to the TTC community, my infertile friends and followers, and essentially my identity.

Now that I had become pregnant naturally and quickly, was I no longer “infertile”? Would I be outcast by the infertility community? Was I one of those people I always envied and silently cursed for falling pregnant so easily? Well….maybe I was, to others. But for me, I will always and forever be 1 in 8.

Infertility is not something that can be cured. Sure it can be remedied, but cured, no. I will always have those two years of loneliness and emptiness. The memories of the injections. The pain of losing our two embryos during our first transfer. The feeling of hope when first visiting the specialist. The new friendships I created in the TTC community. The immense knowledge I now have of the female body. And the other women/couples I have helped along the way. That is NOT going anywhere. And it is because of those experiences that I will always identify as being infertile. I will always advocate for infertility awareness, treatment and coverage. I will continue to educate and help my peers. And I will continue to hope for all those impacted by this disease.

Once infertile, always infertile.

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Thinking before you speak when it comes to infertility

Unsolicited comments are a constant in today’s society, especially with the prominence of social media. Thus, during my time undergoing fertility treatments I experienced no shortage of, let’s call them “unfiltered” remarks. Similar to that of comments made to a pregnant woman (minus the lovely ones like “don’t you look beautiful” or, “congratulations”), comments made to those struggling with infertility should, for the most part, be kept to yourself. Actually, I might even go so far as to say any comments regarding a woman’s body, unless solicited, are better left unsaid! While these comments are often well-intended, they usually translate as hurtful and annoying.

The vast majority of infertile women and couples keep their diagnosis to themselves for this very reasons! Thus, you may not know that someone you are communicating with is suffering from this otherwise invisible disease. But, if you are one of those people that just can’t seem to keep their mouths shut, I have compiled a list of things to never say to a couple struggling to build a family, or any female of what you would classify as “prime child-birthing age” who has not yet conceived.

  1. Just relax!! Oh how I HATE this one. As someone who suffers from generalized anxiety disorder and OCD, relaxing is about the last thing I can ever do. And you telling me to relax just brings out more crazy. Studies show that everyday stress does not cause infertility. And honestly, most of us probably weren’t so stressed out until we realized we weren’t getting pregnant easily!
  2. Why don’t you just do IVF? IVF is often seen as ‘the end of the road” when it comes to fertility treatments. Most couples go through multiple tests, treatments, etc. before finally taking the IVF leap. And actually, many couples get to the IVF crossroads and do NOT take that leap. IVF is extremely expensive, approximately $12k per cycle in the USA – not including genetic testing! And a lot of times it takes more than one round. I don’t know about you, but I didn’t just have $30k lying around. We had to open a new credit card, save money, and look to family for assistance. Many people don’t have those options! And some need donor eggs, donor sperm, donor embryos or surrogates, which can increase one cycle by tens of thousands of dollars!

In addition to being expensive, IVF is emotionally and physically draining and it is not the ultimate solution in every case. Some couples go through multiple rounds without every carrying a pregnancy to term! Not to mention the rigorous injection schedule, numerous ultrasounds, body and health restrictions, mood swings, and more. So don’t just assume we can “do IVF”.

  1. You can always adopt! Adoption is an amazing option for some families. But it is not one that most people jump to. The adoption process takes a very long time, and again, it is not a guarantee. And it is extremely expensive. And it doesn’t erase the fact that it is not a biological child.
  2. You already have one. So what if I have one? Or two or three of four? It doesn’t make the fact that you are not conceiving any less hurtful! Secondary infertility is a real thing. It is still a dream dashed. I hope to live in a world where someday all families can be as big as they would like, and are capable of providing for. Some people have SO much love to give.
  3. Count your blessings that you don’t have a real illness. Fact check! Infertility is a disease recognized by the World Health Organization! Of course it is not on the same level as cancer, but it is still a disease that causes pain and requires intervention. Don’t be the judge of who deserves sympathy and prayers, and who does not.
  4. You’re still young, you have plenty of time! That is not always the case. While a woman’s ovarian reserve diminished as she ages, conditions like endometriosis, PCOS, premature ovarian syndrome can occur early in very young women. Some, like myself, have unexplained infertility.
  5. Stop trying and it will happen. Ah, yes. One of my favorites. How the heck are you supposed to get pregnant in the first place if you aren’t doing the baby dance? I mean, I know you don’t have to technically have sex to get pregnant via IVF, but at that point you are really trying. And for many couples tracking ovulation, fertile days, etc., are how they get pregnant. Sex is key to getting pregnant. Stopping surely won’t improve your chances.
  6. Who is the problem, him or her? REALLY?? Does it really matter which person is having the issues? Maybe it’s both. Maybe it’s neither (unexplained infertility), but we don’t need you poking and prodding into our personal lives. What matters is WE are struggling.
  7. Oh, look at that little bump, are you pregnant? NEVER ask a woman if she is pregnant if you aren’t 100% sure of the answer. Do you really need to know that badly? If so, ask someone else close to her if they know. If you don’t know anyone close to her, you probably don’t really need to know. Or you might get an answer you don’t expect. Like, maybe I’m just bloated from all the shots I’m giving myself in the stomach each day and I gained 5 pounds from my last unsuccessful round of IVF. Oh, and my ovaries feel like they are going to explode. And I have gas.

 

I know we are all curious about what is going on around us, but infertility is an invisible disease and you never know what feelings you might stir up by asking a simple, unsolicited question. Rather than asking these questions, start advocating for infertility treatment and coverage. Share your sympathy with a friend. Bake them cookies or send them a card. Let them know you care and that you are thinking about them.

Understand that they may not want to go out on Friday night because they are afraid that one glass of wine will ruin their chances. Recognize that they may not want to go to a baby shower because it will hurt too much. Let them know it is OK to be upset that your best friend is pregnant, after all, you’re happy for them but sad for yourself.

Offer to be there when they need you, but don’t push when they don’t want to talk about it. Try to talk about things other than your kids. Don’t let the conversation always revolve around pregnancy and babies. They will appreciate your effort and kindness more than you know.


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One More Shot – Documentary Review

I just finished watching the documentary, “One More Shot”, on Netflix.

Guess what?

I am still crying.

This film is so real. So truthful, so heart wrenching, so me. In 90 minutes this movie managed to completely transport me back in time and to accurately explain the roller coaster of emotions we went through just over two years ago.

ONE. MORE. SHOT.

A perfect title that can be interpreted in many ways. One more shot of medication. One more blow to your heart after another negative pregnancy test. One more attempt at conceiving. One more shot of tequila to numb the pain. Or, one more chance at a miracle.

The story follows a couple in their early thirties as they try to expand their family and navigate the uncharted waters that are infertility. They aren’t a glamorous Hollywood couple. They aren’t doctors or scientists who know all about infertility. They are the couple down the street that stop over on Thursday night for a glass of wine. The couple you pass in the grocery store while looking for a ripe watermelon (how DO you know if a watermelon is good??). And they are the couple that sits across from you at the fertility clinic, wondering how long you have been trying, if you were already pregnant, or if you had just suffered another loss. The ones whose eyes you meet before heading back for your consultation who can tell you with just one look that they understand.

There were several moments in the film that I could identify with, but there were also several that I could not. This couple suffered longer than we did, and more loses. But, some points that really hit home for me, were:

 

The fear of the unknown.

As an OCD, control freak, I spend every spare moment planning, making lists and setting goals. Infertility was something I knew nothing about, and treatment had no guarantees. Yes, there were dozens of options for starting a family, but nothing was guaranteed. I often thought to myself “I would go through this 10 times, spend $100k if someone, somewhere could promise me that it would all end with a baby in my arms.” But the truth of the matter is, they can’t. And the fact that I had no control over the outcome was debilitating.

 

Feeling broken.

Nick checked out OK. Borderline for sperm morphology but otherwise, good for baby making. This made me feel like it was all MY fault. That I was broken. I couldn’t do the thing women were SUPPOSED to do – make babies. I feared this would break our marriage, and I feared it would break me.

 

The shots hurt.

Those shot were NOT a walk in the park. They hurt like a b*tch! They left me sore, bruised and hormonal.

 

Punishment.

Was I being punished for sneaking out of the house in high school? Or for that time I swiped some beer mugs from a college bar? Or for all of the things I have taken for granted or selfishly just assumed would happen?

 

IVF is the ultimate “treatment”.

When we started at our clinic, we were given a less than 1% chance of conceiving naturally. So we jumped straight into IVF. And we were positive it would work. When it didn’t work the first time, it was an even bigger blow. The miracle treatment we had just shelled out $15k for was a bust. It’s hard to pick up the pieces after that.

 

Obsession.

The sheer obsession of all of it. I think infertility made me a hypochondriac/Google genius. I spent all of my free time Googling symptoms, or lack thereof, grants, adoption, embryo donation. I needed to constantly feel like I was being proactive.

 

The comfort of knowing I was not alone.

From the moment I made my blog public, it was like the heaviest weight was lifted off my shoulders. The out-pour of love and well wishes we received was amazing. But what was even more amazing was the number of women who messaged me and said, I understand. I too, am suffering from infertility. I too, find it hard to be happy for my friends having babies. I too, am scared.

 

This documentary was everything I never knew that I always needed. I think it is something that every struggling family should watch. And all of their friends and family. And everyone else. It is relatable, funny when it needed to be, and informative. I highly recommend that you check it out now on Netflix. You won’t regret it. The only thing you might regret is forgetting the tissues, or that you didn’t watch it sooner.

And for all of the women, men and couples out there trying to grow your families, find hope and comfort in the fact that you are not alone. Infertility is hard. It will push you, it will test you, and it will break you. But there is a light at the end of that tunnel. There is always another option – maybe it’s another crack at IVF. Or maybe it’s a surrogate. Perhaps it is coming to terms with never being parents. Or maybe it’s adoption. Whatever it is, make sure it is YOUR decision. Not anyone else’s. And let that decision be the one that puts you back together again.