Infertility affects one in every 10 couples. It doesn’t sound like a particularly alarming statistic (10% of couples), but when you ARE that one couple out of 10, it’s devastating.
Infertility was never something that I thought about. It’s not something ANY woman thinks about, really. When you make the decision to start a family, you just assume that you’ll get pregnant once you get the timing right. After all, as women it’s our biological function to bear children. It’s what we’re designed to do. So the idea that you may not be able to perform your main biological function is not something that most women think about because it’s just supposed to happen. Nature is just supposed to let it happen.
Unfortunately, the sad reality is that infertility affects one in every 10 couples. It doesn’t sound like a particularly alarming statistic (10% of couples), but when you ARE that one couple out of 10, it’s devastating.
My husband and I decided we were ready to start a family more than 2 years ago. We have such a great relationship and love each other so much. We truly are each other’s best friend. So what could be better than starting a family born from our love for one another? We went through our first year of trying with excitement and expectations. We talked about what we would name our child, how we would tell our families, and how amazing it would be to see a little bit of both of us in another human being. Month after month we were disappointed. But we thought, it’s ok…if we can’t do it on our own we can always visit a fertility clinic and they can do it for us. THEY can make it happen if Mother Nature can’t.
Well, they didn’t make it happen. In fact, they weren’t even able to tell us WHY we weren’t conceiving. The diagnostic tests they did all turned out fine, so we were diagnosed with “unexplained infertility.” Excuse me? There’s no explanation for our infertility? Not having an explanation certainly doesn’t make it any easier to deal with an infertility diagnosis. They told us we had about a 20% chance of conceiving via intra-uterine insemination (IUI). So I put myself through two medicated IUI cycles (with daily injections), only to be met with more crushing disappointment at the end of each cycle. How could this be? Fertility clinics are supposed to get you pregnant. That’s their job! So after two failed IUI cycles and no further investigation into what the problem could possibly be, I was urged to pursue IVF, to the tune of $15,000 per cycle, not covered by insurance. It was at this point that I opted out and slipped into depression. Between my husband and I, we had hit rock bottom and were both so emotionally exhausted, vulnerable, and defeated by the entire situation.
In the midst of all of my heartache, two of my closest friends became pregnant, one with twins, and one with a honeymoon baby. All I could think of was how unfair life is. Why is it so easy for them and we have to be that one couple out of ten? In my mind, I wanted everyone to struggle and go through the same heartache that I was going through before getting pregnant. I believed everyone should have to suffer month after month of crushing disappointment and heartache before getting what they want.
It was this bitterness, sadness, and anger that prompted my husband to pretty much demand that I start seeing a therapist. My own husband said he was deeply saddened by the person that I had become. I was a shell of my former self, and he missed me. And I realized that I, too, was saddened by the person I had become. I was so severely unhappy, I was alienating myself from all the people I love, and I was so bitter that I found myself wishing bad things on people—it was time to get some help.
When I started therapy, I felt a little self-indulgent and dramatic. How could I feel the need to mourn the loss of something that I never had? Was I being too dramatic and ridiculous about infertility? Once I met with my therapist, I began to understand that infertility is a loss and a grieving process. I’ve been in therapy for about seven months now, and while it has helped me tremendously, I’m not quite sure where I fall in the grieving process. There are days when I feel as though I have accepted my infertility, and there are days when I wish every mother and mother-to-be would disappear from the face of the earth because it hurts me too much to see other women get what I tried so hard to have but couldn’t. With every new pregnancy and birth announcement comes a sting and a greater feeling of being alone on this journey. While I am happy for them, I just can’t help but feel sad for us.
There is a certain shame associated with infertility. Nobody likes being a failure, and essentially, infertility is failure at reproduction. There are so many emotions that you feel as an infertile woman—emotions only other women battling infertility would understand. You don’t want people to pity you, but at the same time, you get angry when people don’t sympathize or empathize with your sorrow. I feel as though I am being robbed in a way, of an experience. Not many women particularly enjoy being pregnant, but as women, it’s an experience exclusive to us. And for those of us who desire families, being robbed of that experience feels like the cruelest punishment in the world.
“You can always adopt” is a phrase I would like to strike from the English language. Sure, we can adopt. But would YOU be thrilled at the fact that you have to essentially buy the family you so desperately want? Would YOU be excited about the additional parenting challenges that come with raising and adopted child? It’s incredibly intimidating to think about the long arduous process of adoption. But through my therapy, I’ve come to realize that having a family is the ultimate end-goal for my husband and me. If we achieve that desired family through adoption, then that’s how we achieve it, and there is certainly no shame in that. However, I don’t believe I’m ready to take that step yet because I still view adoption as admittance of failure. If we never have a biological child and we do pursue adoption, then everyone will know that we failed. Call me crazy, call me irrational, but this is the mind of an infertile woman.
On a similar note, “just relax and it will happen” is probably the most ignorant thing you can say to a woman struggling with infertility. Women who haven’t dealt with infertility don’t understand the complexity of the condition, and should consider themselves lucky. I know more about the female reproductive system and miracle of life than I would ever want to know in my lifetime. Until you fully understand what a normal FSH level is and have charted your cervical mucus, or until you’ve had dye injected into your uterus and your fallopian tubes blown out, then don’t tell me to relax and it will happen. Infertility is a medical condition caused by something much bigger than stress.
I realize that I may never be ok with my infertility, and that’s ok. What I hope to achieve for myself is to become used to it. Over the past two years, infertility has become a new normal for us. That strikes me a rather sad, but everyone has their own “normals,” and this just happens to be ours. Eventually the pregnancy and birth announcements won’t send me into a jealous rage followed by a depressive slump, and the onset of my monthly period won’t feel so devastating and will just become as expected and routine as it was before we started trying for a family. But for now, I’m just taking one day at a time and reminding myself daily of all the other blessings in my life. I’m making every attempt to choose happiness.
“Never let the things you want make you forget the things you have.” —unknown
Identity Magazine is all about empowering women to get all A’s in the game of life – Accept. Appreciate. Achieve.™ Every contributor and expert answer the Identity 5 questions in keeping with our theme. As a team, we hope to inspire and motivate ourselves and inspire you to get all A’s.
What have you accepted within your life, physically and/or mentally? What are you still working on accepting?
I’ve 100% accepted that I’ll never be thin. I am muscular and curvy and most importantly, I’m healthy and happy. I used to avoid squats and weights at all costs because it’s easy for me to put on muscle, but I realized that I’d much rather be strong than skinny. And I’d much rather have a burger and a beer on a Saturday night than a side salad and lemon water! Life is about balance, and I’ve found the balance that works best for me and makes me the happiest, skinny or not!
What have you learn to appreciate about yourself and/or within your life, physically and mentally? What are you still working on to appreciate?
I appreciate my relationship with my husband. We are each other’s best friend. We’ve certainly had our ups and downs, but we love and respect each other so much and are committed to each other and to always making our relationship the best it can possibly be.
What is one of your most rewarding achievements in life? What makes YOU most proud? What goals and dreams do you still have?
My most rewarding achievement has been graduating college. I’ve never felt prouder in my life than on that day. It was an accomplishment that was hard-sought, given rough financial circumstances, and I was so proud of myself and my mom for making it happen.
We all have imperfections, so we think. The truth—we are all perfectly imperfect. What are your not-so-perfect ways? What imperfections and quirks create who you are—your Identity?
I’m not always the best listener. And I’m quite possibly the most forgetful person in the world. My husband will tell you that.
“I Love My…” is an outlet for you to express and appreciate all the positive traits that make you…well… YOU! Sharing what you love about yourself will make you smile, feel empowered, and uplift your spirit and soul. (we assure you!)
Identity challenges you to complete the phrase “I Love My…?
Weird, but I love my immune system. I hardly ever get sick! Watch, now I’ll catch something weird because I just said that. LOL