Our Struggle with Infertility (Part 1)

Let me begin by saying a few things before diving into our story.

1. Infertility is much more common than people realize. According to RESOLVE, an infertility awareness and support organization, 1 in 8 couples experiences fertility problems. Why is that important? Because it means that unless you are a hermit (and we won’t even discuss how you could be a hermit yet reading a blog, lol), you know someone who has or is struggling with infertility – whether you know it or not.

2. The other seven couples who don’t struggle with infertility often don’t realize how common it is. My purpose in telling our story is in the hopes of making this group more aware so that they can be more discerning, supportive, and encouraging rather than inadvertently hurting someone with thoughtless words.

3. Please remember through all of this that the infertile woman does not hate those who are able to get pregnant without difficulty. Yes, we hurt. Yes, our first thought at someone else’s pregnancy announcement is, “Why not me?” Yes, we have a hard time when someone has an unplanned pregnancy. But that does not mean that we are unable to be happy for that person. I’ve discussed with my husband numerous times how I hated this paradox, where I was supposed to be happy for the other person while I felt like I was dying inside. A good example: a friend of mine who had also be dealing with infertility (and was actually told she’d never have kids) got pregnant about two years into our struggle. I knew she’d fought against the pain of infertility, but I was still hurt when she announced her pregnancy only because it wasn’t my announcement. It took me two weeks, but I finally reached the point where I was truly happy for her and able to support her and share in her joy. Please remember that if you announce a pregnancy and your infertile friend doesn’t immediately jump for joy, give her time. She’ll be happy for you, but she needs time to process her own emotions.

4. Infertility is an emotional struggle. Emotions are not rational or logical. Many parts of my story may not make sense unless you read it with your heart and not just your mind.

I’ll never forget the day my husband said he was ready to start having kids. We hadn’t planned on having kids until we’d been married about 3-5 years (not sure what we were thinking, since we were in our mid-twenties before we got married). However, within a year, I started feeling that desire to start a family. Two months before our first anniversary, we were eating at a local restaurant. I was watching an adorable small child at a nearby table and flippantly commented that I wanted one. My husband said he did too. I think I got whiplash… I was shocked and a little freaked out that we were talking about this so soon, so we decided to wait until our first anniversary to start trying. And for the entire next year, we tried… and tried… and tried. A doctor isn’t really willing to see a couple until they’ve been unsuccessfully trying for a year, by the way.

At the end of that year, we made an appointment to see my OB/GYN. He tested my hormone levels and my husband’s sperm count and quality. One of my hormones was half of what it should be, so he gave me a prescription for a common fertility drug and sent us on our way. We continued trying and using several methods of ovulation tracking, but with no success. After about six months, I went back to the doctor. He upped my dosage and sent me away again. Another six months later, there was still no baby and I went back. This time, I had a plan. A friend of mine had told me about endometriosis, a disease that basically poisons the eggs before they ever have the chance to get fertilized. I left that doctor’s appointment with a surgery planned. Endometriosis is diagnosed and treated within the same surgery, so it was basically going to start as an exploratory surgery with the possibility of removing endometriosis if it was found.

We knew things had changed. To this point, only a few of my closest friends and mentors knew that we were struggling with infertility. We’d always wanted our pregnancy announcement to be a complete surprise to our families since they wouldn’t be expecting it for a few more years. However, with me facing surgery, we knew we had to tell my parents. So, we told both sets of parents. If you’ve never had to tell your mom that you want to give her a grandchild but are currently unable to, IT’S HARD. That’s one of the worst parts of infertility – I felt like such a failure. The tests had proven that my husband was fine, so the problem obviously was with me. And even though my husband repeatedly reminded me that it was OUR struggle, not just MINE, it was hard to think that way.

Surgery showed that I did have quite a bit of endometriosis. The doctor told me that if we still weren’t pregnant in another six months that we would move on to trying artificial insemination. You guessed it – six months later, we were scheduling the procedure. It failed. We scheduled another. It failed. Then we made a decision that changed our fertility timeline.

We decided that we were beyond what my OB/GYN could handle with infertility, so we scheduled an appointment with a local fertility clinic. The first thing the specialist did was order a vast array of tests. Those tests revealed that on top of the endometriosis, I had a second problem: PCOS, or PolyCystic Ovary Syndrome. Basically, it is an insulin-related syndrome; my body’s resistance to the insulin my pancreas produces causes it to produce more. The extra insulin then messes up all sorts of things, including causing cysts on my ovaries that mess up my fertility. Thankfully, I have a mild case, but next came another hard part: telling my mom.

My family has a history of diabetes issues. Both of my dad’s parents were type II diabetics. I have several aunts and uncles on both sides with type II diabetes. But more importantly, my brother was diagnosed with type I diabetes at age 14. If you don’t know the difference between the two, type II usually hits people when they’re older and can sometimes be regulated by proper exercise and diet. Type I, however, means your body is not producing any insulin. My brother has to take insulin shots and test his blood sugar many times a day. And diabetes can seriously affect a person’s quality and length of life. And here I had to tell my mom that I had an insulin-related fertility issue…

But I digress. The specialist put me on medicine for PCOS. Now, in most women, the medicine works immediately. One of my best friends has PCOS (about four times more severe than mine), and yet she has three beautiful children thanks to the medicine. When two months went by without a pregnancy, we scheduled our third artificial insemination.

Let me pause here and say that I simply cannot describe the feelings an infertile woman goes through in her hopes of having a child. I can’t tell you how many nights I sat on our bed and cried, telling my husband that I couldn’t do it anymore and I wanted to adopt. I can’t tell you how many times I’d see an unwed pregnant teenager and fight back tears. I can’t tell you how many pregnancy tests I took, hoping for that positive result. I can tell you that there were 38 months that were accompanied by that undeniable proof that no baby was inside of me. There were 38 times that my heart shattered.

But there was still hope… (continued)

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: But There is Hope… (Part 2 of our infertility struggle) | FrankenStan
  2. Trackback: We’ve won the battle, but we’re still losing the war: 5 things to remember as you battle infertility. | FrankenStan

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