Earlier this year when I returned to blogging after a hiatus, I mentioned there were some personal issues that had kept me away. It has always been difficult for me to open up fully in this space, but when I do, I know it’s something my readers appreciate and the fact that I wasn’t ready to share what I’m sharing today kept me from wanting to write at all for several months. This week is National Infertility Awareness Week (NIAW) and although I don’t know if I’ll ever be fully ready to share a post like this, I’m doing so in service of anyone who may need to read it.
Truthfully, I never thought I would struggle with infertility at all. As a Health Coach, I’ve been living a healthy lifestyle for as long as I can remember. Also, my mom and sisters never had trouble conceiving. That alone, gave me confidence as we planned for a family. Little did I know that in October 2016, when David and I started trying to conceive, there would be a long road ahead.
Early in 2016, with our plans to start a family in mind, I started preparing my body for a healthy pregnancy. I devoured books on conception and began working with a functional doctor, a health coach and acupuncturist to make sure my hormones were balanced. I started taking a greater interest in my cycle, learning all the signals my body sends during each phase.
All of that said, I wasn’t blind to the fact that we were arriving at this later in life, but I had no reason to think that I couldn’t get pregnant. That’s the thing about infertility – it doesn’t always make sense. I remember the hope and excitement I felt the first month we started trying to conceive and how those feelings ebbed into disappointment when I first learned there was no pregnancy. After the first month, I remained hopeful, but with each month that passed, my heart broke a little more as my hope dwindled. Each month stinging more than the last.
By the sixth month I was making an appointment with my doctor and by the eighth month, we were referred to a Reproductive Endocrinologist (RE). That’s when the seemingly endless battery of tests and needle-poking started. On the outside, I was going through the motions. Scheduling the doctor’s appointments and tests between teaching barre classes and coaching clients, but inside it started to take its toll.
Sadness crept in first as I began to feel a sense of loss for the family my husband and I may not be able to create. I started to look back at my life and blame myself for certain choices I had made. I was frustrated that I had invested so much time and energy – almost half of my life – into being healthy and yet it didn’t feel like my efforts mattered. I felt shame that my body couldn’t do the very thing for which it was created.
Mostly, I felt like I had failed at being a woman.
I’ve heard infertility described often as feeling lonely. I could never imagine what that loneliness would feel like until I experienced it myself. In spite of the unwavering support I have from my family, the fact that David and I were going through this together and knowing that infertility affects 1 in 8 couples – a few of whom I know – I often felt like I was harboring a secret. Even though organizations like Resolve.org are flipping the script to remove the stigma attached to infertility, it’s still not openly discussed. Besides, as an over-achiever, I’m not exactly jumping at the chance to admit failure at something with which I’ve tried so hard to be successful.
Once we both had complete work-ups with our RE, she reasoned that IVF was our next step due to my age and some other factors that came up with testing. She gave us an overview of what IVF would entail and instructed us to call her office to make the required appointments to get started. It was all very clinical. David and I left the appointment feeling like we wanted a second opinion.
And that’s what we did. We consulted an out-of-network specialist who is well-known for helping women conceive without the use of IVF. He ran many of the same tests and a few others, this time looking for slightly different clues. We got a few new insights and learned that one of the previous test results with our RE was actually a false positive, but we still don’t have any answers. That’s the thing about infertility – there often are no answers. We may never get them.
As difficult as this is for us, we’re sharing our struggle with infertility this week to show that everyone’s story is different. If there are lessons I’ve learned through this experience, I want anyone reading who is also struggling to know:
One // It is not your fault. There is nothing you did or could have done differently. Do not blame yourself.
Two // Be your own advocate. Do your research. Get second opinions. Know which questions to ask. Be relentless with your insurance company. I know you wanted to be pregnant yesterday but take your time. Do what’s best for you and your partner when it’s best. There are no right or wrong decisions, but you should be at peace with what you decide.
Three // Never lose hope. It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when and how. Thanks to strides in technology, there are plenty of alternative ways to conceive. And if those ways don’t work or aren’t right for you, there are countless children who need loving homes. There are even organizations like LendingClub that offer fertility loans to those who don’t have the funds – or insurance coverage – for infertility treatments.
Four // You’re not alone. Just like everyone’s story is different, everyone deals with infertility differently. There may be moments that feel lonely. There may be times you don’t want to talk about what you’re going through or times when you’re in denial. I’ve been there. You don’t have to go through this in silence if you don’t want to. Thanks to the work that Resolve.org is doing to remove the stigma around infertility, those who are struggling can more easily find empowerment and access support.
We’re still going through this and as of now, we don’t know what’s next. I’m working on accepting what is and being at peace with where we are. I’m so grateful for everything I do have in my life (a supportive family, a loving husband and partner with whom I’ve built a beautiful life, a career that fulfills me) that I don’t want to dwell on what isn’t meant to be right now. My faith and spirituality have been a tremendous help with that. We’re weighing all of our options and we’ll move forward when we make a decision that feels right to us. Meanwhile, I remind myself every day that I am good enough and that together we are a family, just the two of us.