An Infertility Journey: I Just Want to be a Mom
A Story for #NationalInfertilityAwarenessWeek
Hi Everyone, It’s Lauren here, guest blogging again for a very important and personal cause that I’m so deeply passionate about. Before I get into the details, I want to acknowledge the very difficult times that ALL mothers, mothers-to-be, and those who are desperately trying to be mothers are experiencing with COVID-19. Millions of infertility patients across the nation have had their treatments stopped as a result. It’s so hard…all of it. This too shall pass, and I am wishing you all strength, joy, and patience in this trying time.
National Infertility Awareness Week
That said, this week is the official National Infertility Awareness Week. I know Leanna has shared her experience with miscarriages. God Bless her & her miracle babies! On a personal note, I’m currently 2 years into my infertility journey, and to be honest, most of my days feel like infertility awareness week. I wanted to share my story with you all in hopes that it will help someone else who is struggling, but perhaps more importantly, to shed a light on the prevalence of infertility–it affects 1 in 8 couples in the US and almost 50% of pregnancies result in pregnancy loss. I strongly believe that the more we talk about & destigmatize infertility, we stand a chance to get better care, increased insurance coverage, and better early education about fertility.
My Infertility Story
I’ve wanted to be a mom forever– I think I probably mentioned it on my first date with my husband (!!). I knew that I’d have some difficulties conceiving; unfortunately, an adolescent eating disorder damaged my reproductive system & I don’t ovulate (most likely a permanent condition). My doctors always told me not to worry—modern medicine is a miracle and I should have no problem as I’m otherwise “young and healthy”. Those two words can be so deceiving. Being young and healthy doesn’t always matter when you’re faced with life’s headwinds.
After a few years of marriage, we were SO ready to start a family and consulted with a fertility specialist about two years ago. We began with two cycles of clomid, and eventually moved onto an IUI. I’ll never forget the morning of my IUI when a new doctor came in and asked if my husband ever had a sperm analysis. I felt the color drain from my face, and quietly relied, “No—my doctor said it was probably just me and my husband is young and healthy so never tested him.” Again, “young and healthy” rears it’s ugly head. She solemnly replied that my husband’s sperm count was incredibly low, and asked me if he had a drinking or a drug problem. Shocker, he does not. He’d like to tell everyone reading this that “infertility sucks” and that he never had any reason to think he should get his sperm checked out at 26…who does?!
Unsurprisingly, the IUI failed. Long story short, after his surgery to repair a varicocele months later, there was no improvement. We started IVF with ICSI. We were fortunate enough to have some (albeit minimal) insurance coverage, despite the fact that we both worked for large corporations with fantastic benefit packages. Side note– I find it really frustrating that treatment is so inaccessible to the majority. Many couples, just like us, need this as their only shot to conceive. Any who, at the start of IVF, we were so sure it would work. We were made aware that sometimes it fails, but again the “young & healthy” pretense gave us a false sense of security.
Here’s what I wish I knew:
- IVF cycles can work and create miracle babies. However, they can fail, and do fail, no matter how young you are or how good your doctor is.
- You can have great results, and all of a sudden run into one speedbump that throws the entire cycle off. It’s the ultimate emotional roller coaster.
- It’s tempting to look at your cycle and say, “OK, I’ll be pregnant by X date, so let’s get family pictures then, or maybe we shouldn’t book that travel for Thanksgiving.” Please, don’t do this! If things don’t go according to plan, you’ll sacrifice even more of your life than you already did during treatment.
My First IVF Cycle
My first cycle was incredibly eye opening. I was learning about things like follicles (why did I never truly learn the details of how reproduction works?! Women’s health needs an upgrade in education!), estrogen levels, and stabbing myself multiple times a day with injections, all the while working full time and keeping a brave face. Luckily, I was open about what I was going through and my co-workers and friends were the only things getting me through. I stayed strong by reminding myself I was incredibly fortunate to have access to treatment, and doing all things self-care related! It was hard to give up coffee, traveling, alcohol, and working out, but I was happy to give up these things for a baby.
After two tiring weeks of stimulation meds, I had 12 eggs retrieved, 10 fertilized, and then only 2 embryos made it to blastocyst stage (the embryos must reach this stage to result in a viable pregnancy). Again, something they don’t tell you enough: the numbers diminish by the day. Two weeks later, we got a call from my nurse that my first transfer had failed. Her voice will surely be etched in my memory for life. We made a difficult decision to go straight into another full IVF cycle the next month. I let myself have a day, cried, and just threw myself back into my work life and forged ahead. To anyone reading this—I’d recommend processing everything you’re feeling first ????
My Second IVF Cycle
Fast Forward, the second IVF cycle yielded only one embryo. That transfer failed as well. We were gutted. After a few months of normalcy (and a lot of wine), we went into a third IVF cycle at a new doctor in NYC. The care was incredible, and we were delighted to learn that we had five embryos to freeze. They’re all just chilling in the freezer until further COVID notice, and I hope I get to meet one of them soon.
Enough about my story, I wanted to give you all some resources or ways to get involved if you are experiencing infertility in any way, shape, or form:
Infertility Resources I recommend
- Follow some support accounts on IG. My favorites are:
- FertilityIQ.com is truly gold. They have the most statistics on medical practices, Dr. reviews and ratings, and break everything down into digestible, yet fact-based information! Also, a helpful resource to see which employers cover infertility treatments.
- Make a donation or help lobby with Resolve.org. They’ve made some huge headway, and will only succeed with more help.
- Lastly, I really want to underscore the importance of knowing your fertility status. Whether children are in your immediate future or years away, knowledge is power. Ask your OBGYN for fertility bloodwork at your next appointment. There’s no harm in knowing.
All things considered; I’ve learned some really valuable life lessons out of this. I can do all the right things, follow the rules, etc. and still have things go wrong. That’s just life! To anyone out there struggling, I feel you, I see you, and I hear you. I know how frustrating it is to desperately want a child, especially after having been through the ringer emotionally, financially, and physically. All I know is that we’ll find a way to be parents, whatever that means for us. Until then, I’ll be fighting for infertility awareness—Every. Damn. Day