Infertility is like being at a huge fair.
There are glowing dancing lights, music, and fantastic food you can only find at the fair. You had tickets to get into the fair, but for some reason, you couldn’t get in. You can’t walk away; you’re stuck and have to watch people go in and out smiling and laughing. All the while, the smells of glorious food, the sounds of music and laughter taunt you. Everything you want is just beyond your reach. It’s agonizing just being on the other side of that fence; you are so close.
Infertility is a harsh, emotional, and financially draining rollercoaster ride. A ride that wasn’t supposed to happen to me.
All my life, I had heard about how easy it was to get pregnant and be sure to be married and stable before trying. Finally, after a few questionable boyfriends, I married an amazing man, and we were ready to start a family of our own.
After a little over a year of marriage, we were lucky enough to become pregnant. I remember being so shocked and excited that I called my husband on his way to work. He turned around and came back to see for himself. I was so happy I forgot all the little plans I had to surprise him! He was in such disbelief that I tested later at work to prove to ourselves it wasn’t a mistake. The next few days were spent planning how to tell our families and how we should decorate the nursery.
It was a short, glorious week before the worst happened. I noticed something was off during family photos and started bleeding. So we left early to go to urgent care, where they had my blood drawn. A few hours later, we found out that I was miscarrying. My wonderful husband called to tell our parents, who we had just told them the day before, and we sat in silence, holding on to each other for the rest of the day. All I did was cry.
Foolishly we held on to the hope from Dr. Google about being more fertile following a miscarriage. Luckily, I had a great OBGYN at the time who would frequently answer my questions and wanted to see me after our miscarriage. She politely and lovingly told us to stay away from Dr. Google and wanted to start running tests on both of us to get some answers. She didn’t want me to go through this again if she could do anything to help.
Thus began our year of testing. I found out that I had hypothyroidism and my husband would need surgery. His urologist was confident and gave him an 85% chance of recovering and improving sperm. It was hard for my husband, as he blamed himself for our miscarriage, and he found out later that his father had to have the same thing done and just didn’t tell him. However, a few months later, he made a full recovery, and his sperm improved. Afterward, we moved on to a fertility clinic, which had many tests for me. They were happy with my husband’s results and would continue to check every procedure afterward.
Then came my tests.
I remember getting so much blood work done that the hospital phlebotomist wanted to know what surgery I had that day! Admittedly it was only after that conversation, did I figure out why I had a hospital identification bracelet on! After rounds of blood work, a painful HSG, and saline ultrasound, it was confirmed that I had a uterine septum. Even if we did get pregnant, the chances of miscarriage were very high. As my Fertility Specialist put it, the roof of my house had collapsed, and there wasn’t enough room for a baby to grow. He advised a simple surgery before moving on with fertility treatments.
A few months later, due to Covid, I had a successful hysteroscopic surgery where they cut away my septum and removed a few polyps in my uterus. The doctor was very pleased, and after a few long months, we were able to start treatments. But, unfortunately, I was also diagnosed with Diminished Ovarian Reserve, which means I didn’t have many good eggs to give. With medicines, I would only be able to produce about 3-5 eggs.
Being ever-curious and knowing what was ahead of me, I joined a few support groups for women who also struggled with infertility and an IUI group that I wasn’t going to be in for long. Deep down, I believed that after my 1st IUI, we would be pregnant and have beautiful twins. I again fell into the pitfall, thinking that I wouldn’t be one of the many women on their 3rd or 6th round of IUI.
But I was.
After the 2nd failed IUI, we stopped and spoke with our doctor about what was going on. I hadn’t responded to the medications like they hoped I would, even after they changed up my protocol for medications. I knew going into the appointment that I wanted to move on to IVF. Our money was tight, and we couldn’t waste more on treatment with such a low success rate.
Once again, it was fall, and we had to wait until spring to start our IVF journey. My husband was relieved to have a break to focus again on ourselves, but I was disappointed, wanting to continue to charge ahead. I was so determined to be pregnant I didn’t want to wait; I couldn’t stop. I didn’t want to stop treatments because the moment I did was the moment I had to come to terms with my difficulties of getting pregnant. I didn’t want to admit defeat, and stopping even for a few months meant that I was. So we kept moving forward. Planning, reading, taking vitamins in preparation for IVF. We would be ready.
Our IVF cycle finally came, and went, and came, and then went again.
My body just wasn’t cooperating. Despite all the medications, stimulants, and different protocols, I would only have 1 follicle that would produce an egg, or my hormone levels would be so out of whack that the doctor didn’t want to move forward. One time I had already ovulated in the middle of treatment and then found out my progesterone levels were so high, they thought I might be pregnant.
In our third IVF cycle, we actually made it all the way through. They were able to retrieve 3 eggs but had only 1 make it to day three. We were excited; it only takes one egg, we would say. So on the third day, we transferred our tiny embryo.
I remember our car ride up there. It took us 2 hours to get to the clinic, and we were a bundle of emotions. It really hit us that we were going to be parents. Our hopes and dreams in just 1 tiny embryo. My husband and I cried, and we played fun, upbeat songs about becoming parents. It was the 4th of July, so we celebrated with pink sprinkler firecrackers when we got home.
A big thing they tell you is not to test at home. There is a risk of potential false positives or negatives, and they don’t want to give you additional stress. We decided to test anyways.
Seven days after our transfer, we got our first positive. Again, we were so excited but cautious as it could be the second trigger shot I took after the transfer. By the 11th day after transfer, we knew we were not pregnant. Our beta confirmed it, and we had an appointment the following month to talk with our doctor.
We decided to take another break no matter what, as the past several months had been a roller coaster. A small part of me didn’t want to, but I knew I was exhausted mentally, emotionally, and physically. We had both changed jobs and barely saw each other, so we decided that we would need at least 3 months before trying again. Then came our appointment, where everything just crumbled before me.
I never dreamed I would ever hear what I heard in that appointment.
I wasn’t going to be that person. It wasn’t going to be me. I refused.
I was wrong, again…
After reviewing my chart and my history, our Fertility Clinic concluded that it was my eggs. My diagnosis of Diminished Ovarian Reserve played into that, and they felt like my eggs, and my response to the protocols was like that of a woman far older than me. They then recommended we move on to using an Egg Donor.
I couldn’t get pregnant.
It was me.
It was my eggs.
I was the one who couldn’t get pregnant.
I remember the appointment moving on, but I wasn’t really there. I had just been permanently denied entry to the fair I so desperately wanted to see. All of that hope and possibility I had been clinging to had just been ripped from me in a matter of moments. A few short sentences had crushed me, laid me bare. I was drowning, and it was all I could do, not fall apart. I spent the rest of the day in a fog; my husband was the only thing keeping me grounded.
The day after our appointment, I struggled to try to come to terms with the news. I couldn’t focus, going back and forth from anger to despair. I was gutted, angry at my body and God. I couldn’t comprehend why I had to go through this. Then, my husband held my hands at the dinner table and wiped my tears. Then, looking me in the eyes, he said the most profound, humbling thing I needed to hear.
“I love you. Even if we cannot have children, I still want to grow old with you. I want to sit on our porch with grey hair with you. I want to chase you around the nursing home and scare you in the shower… I need to know that you want that too.”
I looked at him like he had three heads. But, of course, I wanted to! Why would he ask me that? We often joked about the trouble we would get into in a nursing home, so where was this coming from? But as he continued, I realized that I had become so obsessed with becoming a mom. I had tied myself worth to being able to give him a child, and here this man was, asking if I would be okay if it was just the two of us because he didn’t know. He had seen me struggle over the years and was worried I would say no to him and us.
My heart broke all over again but was filled again with love. We knew going into this, it would be hard on our marriage. So many couples don’t make it through, so we had vowed to stop if it meant compromising what we had, and here I had gone and done it. Yet, he reminded me that we chose each other and would continue to choose each other every day. It’s been months since that conversation, and I can say that I am honestly one of the lucky ones.
After taking time to grieve, we decided to move on with an Egg Donor. Some of our family asked why not just go with adoption, but we wanted to try everything before doing so. We wanted to say we gave our all before moving on with adoption.
Our fertility clinic was not able or willing to do a procedure involving egg donors. So we had to find a new clinic, a new doctor, and start our journey over. There are so many choices and factors we had forgotten about when starting that it felt like we were dating clinics. Well, this one has this, or this one is closer. So a few weeks later, we finally chose one.
However, we are still waiting on our initial consultation, but the wait has granted us the time to grow close again. Hopefully, we will be able to start our egg donor recipient process this spring or summer.
I’m sure, like me, most of us going through infertility like to say that we are prepared for the worst, but I don’t think we ever truly are. In some way, we stubbornly cling to the hope that the next cycle or procedure or treatment will work, and we get to start our family then. Always holding on to that next step, the next thing to try to keep us going.
I don’t know what’s in store for my husband or myself, but I know that we are not giving up on starting our family. Through Egg Donor or adoption, we will start our family. This journey isn’t for everyone. It’s full of disappointment and hope. Of grief, anger, and jealousy, but we do it. Despite all the ups and downs, we persist.
They call us fertility warriors for a reason.
To those still in this fight, I see you. I feel your pain; I see your struggle. But, don’t give up, and don’t forget each other. We can do this. We will start our families.