This is her story:
My name is Gen and I’ve always loved children. I love being their entertainer, their caregiver, their snuggle buddy. Having one of my own was on my bucket list but having one ON my own wasn’t.
I was 28 when I met Sam, the man who was to be my husband. In less than 4 years we were ready to give parenthood a try. I went off the pill and we were as busy as bunnies. After 8 months without results, I consulted a gynecologist. He took a history, did a pelvic exam and recommended that Sam provide a sample for analysis.
The results were mixed. I appeared healthy. Sam’s sperm count was low and had low motility. But there was a supplement that showed promise.
3 months later Sam’s sample didn’t show any improvement. We consulted a fertility specialist. This time, the same history the same pelvic exam and the same semen analysis. The only way we would get pregnant would be with IVF with ICSI, that is, in vitro with intracytoplasmic sperm injection.
No, we really didn’t know what we were getting into. And no, we hadn’t talked about adoption.
Next step was to start on birth control and then the follicle stimulating hormones. The process involves needles. Lots of needles. And did I mention the hormones? Lots of hormones.
To cut to the chase, the first cycle failed. The second failed and third and fourth cycles never made it to the transfer stage. My body did not respond well to the hormones. I suffered months of migraines and my uterine lining refused to thicken with the treatment. I took a month off. I tried acupuncture, took a few more yoga classes. I relaxed.
August came and the migraines were far enough behind me that I was willing to try another cycle. My uterine lining barely responded to the hormones but there was just enough there for the doctor to approve proceeding with the cycle.
And we were successful. We did it. Nine months later, Chloe made her appearance.
But we weren’t satisfied. Chloe was a delight. Being a mom was the most wonderful experience of my life and I couldn’t wait to try again. 10 months after her birth, we went back to our fertility doctor and asked for another. We had several embryos cryopreserved.
We had been through the process we knew what we were getting ourselves into.
I weened Chloe and started the hormones again. Fortunately my body responded. My uterine lining thickened nicely and we scheduled the transfer.
We took our first pregnancy test and wow, we were pregnant. That was easy, right?
Wrong. Sadly it was a chemical pregnancy.
We tried again. This time nothing.
We had one embryo left. We tried again and again.
Finally our fertility doctor suggested testing me for hydrosalpinx, a blocked and fluid filled fallopian tube. Turns out this is a pretty standard test for women having difficulty conceiving a child naturally. And I had it.
We went through a procedure to correct the situation, essentially a sterilization. Yes, it was surreal.
By now we had used all of our frozen embryos. We were going to have to go through a fresh cycle again. Great, more hormones and a LOT more needles.
We completed the cycle, the transfer, the pregnancy tests. We were pregnant, finally. And then we weren’t.
Our fertility clinic provided ultrasounds for the first 8 weeks of the pregnancy. The initial ultrasound showed one live embryo. The second ultrasound showed a slow heartbeat, but a heartbeat nonetheless. The third showed progress, not excited, not reassuring but enough to qualify as growth. I was released and sent on to my regular OB.
At 9 weeks, I went to my OB, without Sam, for my first appointment. She did an ultrasound and there was no heartbeat. She checked a few times but nothing. I left her office with an appointment for a D&C.
I was in shock when I left, I was in shock when I had the procedure and I was in shock for at least another 2 weeks. I didn’t cry, I didn’t talk about it, I felt nothing.
This effort to have another child has been harder than trying to have the first….because I know what I’m missing.
And yet, I’m still trying.
Infertility is a bitch.
This is her story:
Hi, Gen here, again. In my last post, I gave you all the details about the cycles I’ve been through, the HUGE number of procedures I’ve had done to my body and my quest to have both my first and my next child. I wrote that post as I was looking down the barrel of another Frozen Embryo Transfer (FET).
We had miscarried with my last try. It had been a fresh cycle which meant tons of shots taken both in my belly, (self-administered) and then in my backside (given to me by Sam, my husband.).
What my last post didn’t describe to you was the emotional roller coaster the past 3 1/2 years have been.
The hormones are a bitch. I didn’t react well to the estrogen but I had no choice but to continue to self-administer this excruciating medication. It killed me. Every swallow, every suppository, every injection ate away at me. And broke me down.
With my first child, I had to take a break after several unsuccessful cycles.
I sought out massage and acupuncture. I increased my cardio work-outs. I did more yoga. And I found my sanity.
The next cycle we got pregnant and stayed pregnant. It was a dream come true.
When Chloe was 10 months old, we started again.
We blew through our frozen embryos. My doctor recommended that I be sterilized in order to protect future embryos from the caustic fluid in my fallopian tubes.
We then did another fresh cycle. And we were pregnant! But I wasn’t in a good place. Sam and I had been arguing. The money we had been shelling out to build our family was taking a toll on us. My emotional instability was wearing us both down.
When we went for our first ultrasound the doctor didn’t see a heart beat. He assured us it wasn’t unusual at this point, only 5weeks, 4days.
We went for another ultrasound. Heartbeat! But the baby wasn’t as large as it should be. And the damn nurse practitioner had NO bedside manner and did NOTHING to assure us of anything, did not tell us be prepared for this pregnancy to be rough. Nothing. She didn’t offer to answer questions, her face stern and uninviting.
I hated her.
A third ultrasound showed that the baby was growing well, so that was a positive. At 8 weeks, my doctor released me to my OBGYN.
Sigh of relief.
Surprisingly, I was able to get into to see my OB the next week. We joked, it was good to see each other again. I made my usual inappropriate jokes about a dildo cam.
We were both still laughing when the image of our baby came on the screen.
And there was no heartbeat.
I was in shock.
The D&C was scheduled four days later.
I didn’t cry for three weeks.
Three months later it was time to try again. I had started working out again. Sam and I had been working on the house together and had found a new sitter who relieved a TON of stress we’d been suffering.
Life was good.
As I started meds, a friend recommended that I write a post for Band Back Together.
It scared me. I was afraid to feel this all over again. I was afraid it would wreck the fragile self I was holding on to so tightly.
But I did it. I was careful, I didn’t fall apart and I didn’t write from my heart.
We did the implant, we tested ten days later and had good numbers, we were pregnant.
And the real waiting game began. The mental challenge was laid before me, “hold it together for another two weeks.” Two days ago I asked Aunt Becky if I could write this post because I was a neurotic mess.
I took a home pregnancy test and was such a nervous wreck I did it wrong and invalidated it. I took another. It was positive but took SO long and how could I trust it?
I was wigging out!
Sam kept telling me to calm down. He asked, “What is it going to take for you to relax? One good ultrasound? Two? Another trimester?”
I said I didn’t know. The last pregnancy ruined me.
Today we had our first ultrasound.
And there was a heartbeat.
And I am relieved.
Coping with infertility can be an incredibly isolating experience.
This is her story:
Anyone who has been through IVF or any type of infertility treatments can vouch for how isolating it is. The time period where I spent all of my energy and focus on trying to conceive were the most lonely times of my life. Sure, yes, you’re with a partner, but as only woman knows, creating life is entirely a maternal thing.
I could sit here and tell you my story, which would take all day. And believe me, I LOVE to talk. But to spare you, I’ll give you the short version.:
I went through approximately 6 1/2 years of infertility, on and off. It killed my first marriage, and with my second marriage, it definitely took its toll, but we had our limits. Our last attempt was a Frozen Embryo Transfer (or FET for you newbs or n00bs if you prefer leet speak). We both decided, for our mental health and our marriage, that this was it. If it didn’t work, we were going to become the crazy animal people in our neighborhood. There probably would have been weird things like ferrets and tegus.
But it worked. And we were…shocked. That’s the thing about fertility treatments, when they actually work, you feel like you pulled off a bank heist.
Cut to four years later, and we now have two healthy children, one, who was a big old natural surprise. We call her the Matlock baby. Because we joke that we had ten minutes before Matlock started, and well, you get the rest.
But my point to this is, that going through it, I felt…depression doesn’t even begin to cover it. The first time around, I felt as if I had this blanket of sadness wrapped around me, that I couldn’t take off. Ever. The second time around, I found solace in the internet. It wasn’t so taboo! I had people I could talk to. Blogs I could read. But it taught me two things:
One, you are not alone. Not by a long shot.
Approximately 7.5 [million] women are affected by infertility.
Two, use your voice. Educate.
I feel no embarrassment or shame in telling people that we had a hard time conceiving, or that my son was conceived via In-Vitro Fertilization. Was I ashamed that my body failed me? Yes, for a while, but it wasn’t my fault. So I tell people. I talk about it, and 70-80% of the time, someone will chime in, “ME TOO!” It opens doors. It helps us to find others like us. And it also helps to educate people that don’t understand what its like. When we were going through treatment, a good friend of mine was so interested in the process. She would watch me inject medication. She would ask questions. Some people will always be ignorant, but by and large, people are just uneducated about the topic.
Please don’t be afraid to speak up. Don’t be ashamed. Lastly, don’t isolate yourself.
When I was 15, I had terrible ovarian cysts so my doctor put me on birth control. Not that I needed it – I wasn’t sexually active. It was great. No cysts. When I was about 19, I decided to go off the pill. I was taking them but didn’t need them as I still wasn’t sexually active. I knew it couldn’t be great for me so I just stopped taking them.
And then, I never got another period.
After about a year, I went back to my gynecologist and asked about it, whether it was strange or not. He said it WAS very strange and that it did happen occasionally. I may never get another period and may, in fact, be infertile. He told me this very solemnly and with great empathy. He was a good man.
But me, well, uh, I was ECSTATIC! Infertile? Please. Thank you, god. I was never the kid who planned the wedding and the babies and the names. I had three younger siblings I didn’t really care anything about (now I do). I loved to party and this was before the HIV/AIDS epidemic. (YEAH..I know, I said it. This was mid to late 70′s. Figure out how old I am)
I was trying to be an actor and was living a very vagabondish life. I worked about 10 different jobs so I could live and enjoy my life and sexuality. And then one day I felt different. I went to the clinic and yes, I was pregnant. This was after not using birth control for 6 or 7 years. It was a very easy decision for me to make and I had an abortion. I have never regretted that decision.
I lived my life. I used birth control (not the pill, the sponge… remember the Seinfeld episode when Elaine hoards them?)
And then I met Tom. We were friends, fell in love and got married. I realized that, in fact, I did want to have a family with him and that it was going to be wonderful. My life and expectations were turned upside down by the love I felt for Tom and it was so exciting and fun. We were older and after a year of trying, we started dealing with infertility. I was fine. Tom’s motility was low. No boxers or hot tubs. My eggs were a little old. We did inseminations. (Did any of you ever ALMOST make love in the quiet room with your legs in stirrups? To make it more personal? I KNOW you did!)
About a year later, during an insemination break, I became pregnant. There were little lines on the test and it was so exciting! We told everyone. It was amazing. We went to check in and have an ultrasound and hear the heartbeat and well, you all know… there wasn’t one. It was ectopic. I sobbed as they took me in for my D&C because I wanted this baby that I never wanted. This was a little “me and Tom.” It was heartbreaking for both of us.
The next step was IVF. I became a science experiment. I’m not sure there are enough words to convey how much I hated the process. I was going crazy from the hormones, the daily shots of Lupron and the shots Tom gave me (though, I think he got a little pleasure from it). I had eggs harvested and there were a lot. Not many were viable though. There were enough for a transfer and enough to freeze for the next baby.
So we followed protocol and did everything right. There was no baby. It was heartbreaking. Because for the faintest minute, they thought there was a baby… but no, there wasn’t.
We did it once. That’s all we needed. I looked at Tom and said I didn’t want to be a science experiment anymore. I wanted to be a mom and I was already 38 years old. We moved on to adoption. We were together on this decision. He didn’t need a clone and neither did I.
I am so grateful I was with Tom because someone else may not have seen it that way. And that would have been OK but a problem for us. And with Tom it was not a problem. We moved together to the adoption process and that will be my next post.
Because that was a barrel of laughs, too!
I remember the day that we were finally diagnosed with unexplained infertility.
Unexplained infertility means that there’s nothing wrong with either one of us and no medical reason that we shouldn’t be able to have a baby. We spent so much time and money just to find out there wasn’t a damn thing wrong with us. Five years of trying, with not even one scare, and there nothing wrong.
After finding out we had unexplained infertility, we joked that we “just didn’t do it right,” but peel back the layers of joking, and you found a lot of ugliness. Ugly things like anger. And depression. And jealousy. Oh, and there was pain – lots of pain.
To find out that there was nothing actually wrong with us, but that medically it was still a problem was very frustrating. We had struggled with infertility for years.
We talked to our doctor about our options and I immediately began researching our situation and possible options and solutions. We could try to take fertility drugs that would make me produce several eggs in one month with the hope that the sperm would have a better chance of fertilizing one of them. Cheap and less than a 50/50 shot. We could do intrauterine insemination or in vitro fertilization. More expensive and even more expensive, and not much better odds.
All of those options frustrated and saddened us. We wanted to have a baby the old fashioned way. We didn’t want to “buy” a baby or have a baby “made” for us in a petri dish. We thought about it. We talked about it. I prayed about it.
We decided that fertility treatments were our only options at this point. For us, the “medicine” for having a baby was coming to terms with not only the fact that we’d never have a baby the old fashioned way, but also coming to terms with the fact that we wanted a baby so badly that we would do whatever it took to have one. The “medicine” was the love that we had for one another and our future family. The need to see what the two of us put together would produce. The need to get rid of the constant clouds hanging over our heads every month that passed where there still wasn’t a baby.
Two fertility treatments and three kids later, I’m so glad we decided to take the necessary steps to have a family. God gave us a bumpy, rocky road to travel down, but made it worth it. I am grateful and very humbled by the blessings that we have received.
I think of all of the other men and women still struggling with infertility. The ones that have done in vitro 5 times and still don’t have a baby. The ones that can’t afford fertility treatments. The ones that don’t even know yet that there’s a problem. I send my prayers and best wishes to them.
I know how hard the process was for us, and how hard it was to deal with every single day.
It’s not uncommon to see my clients struggling to own their stories; especially to own every single part of their stories. We can all struggle to own, accept, embrace, and maybe even like every part of our stories.
I’ve been asked, “How do you just put it all out there without any qualms or fears?” I make sure to be very real, very honest, and very brave. Owning all the parts of my story, even on my strongest of days, involves mustering up courage; this courage does not exist without fear.
On the good days, I say who I am, my choices, and my mistakes without skipping a beat; palms dry, voice steady, my light shining through.
On the harder days I say who I am, my choices, and my mistakes while stumbling over words; palms clammy and hot, voice shaking, and yet, I make sure my hope shines through.
It’s only been through my own brutal work with my therapist that the ownership of my story has strengthened. With this continued work, practice, fight for recovery, my shame slowly dwindles.
I will continue to own and tell my story to help and change myself and – hopefully – others. I can only do this with bravery, feeling the fear, and doing it anyway.
I was recently challenged about the amount I am able to own my story within the limitations of judgment. We all judge, some more so than others. We have all been judged, some more so than others. I’m not sure we’ll ever fully escape this human experience of judgment.
What I do know is that the more I accept, embrace, and own my story – all the parts of my story – including the really difficult, misunderstood, invalidated, and judged parts of my story is that this judgment doesn’t have any room to grow.
It is really difficult to truly judge someone who wholeheartedly accepts, embraces, and owns themselves and every single part of their story.
I am not sure there will ever be a day that I am not judged on my story:
Judged for not figuring out how to try more rounds of IVF, both financially and emotionally,
Judged for knowing and making it clear that we are not choosing to adopt,
Judged for accepting a child-free life while leading a very child-full life,
Judged for living this all out loud,
Judged for attempting to change the shamed silence of infertility,
Judged for authentically living my work in recovery,
And judged for being the genuinely vulnerable therapist that I am.
But I dare you to hold on to your judgments as you read my words let alone hear me speak my story.
I dare you.
I am a survivor of infertility and IVF.
I stopped treatments after two failed rounds, because for us that was enough.
I know adoption is not my path to a family.
I bear the soul scars of three never-to-be babies, and yet I am still a mother.
I accept a child-free life, while having a very child-full life.
I will spend the rest of my life finding the end to my story by giving people permission to break the silence of infertility, and to break the silence of any of their sufferings.
I am resolving to know more than one happy ending.
I am an open and honest therapist who fights for her own recovery.
And, I dare you to judge me.
I have faith and trust that when I own every single part of my story, through my fear, shame and all, your judgment will become uncomfortable enough that your world will open up.
You will learn. You will see me – all of me. With that sight, I can only hope you grow a little more educated, a little more compassionate, and a lot more brave yourself.
And, I assure you, I will not allow your judgment and your misunderstanding to dim my light.
I will own it.
All of it.
Because only then do I find myself again.
And, only then will this light shine bright enough to hopefully give others the ever upward courage to do the very same.
I dare you…