Originally posted April 2017.
This week is National Infertility Awareness Week. It should be all year honestly. NO ONE TALKS ABOUT IT but SO many women and men go through it. I (Leah) wanted to share my own story about infertility and miscarriage even though I am currently pregnant. Since you might not want to take it from me, two of my friends currently going through IVF treatments have shared their journeys as well.
If you have a loved one going through infertility, this blog post is for you too. I hope that you read this and get a little insight into how that person is feeling. Learn what to say and most importantly what NOT to say. Because trust me, when we’re pumped up on hormones and shots and emotions and you say, “don’t be sad, it’ll be okay”, or tell us a success story of someone else, we will END YOU. Ummm okay so anyway….
IF YOU’RE EVEN THINKING ABOUT GETTING PREGNANT.
- Let’s just start here. You will save so much time if you simply go to the drug store and get a pee on the stick ovulation predictor kit. I would have saved about a year of “trying naturally” if I had known that I wasn’t even ovulating! That’s such a major DUH moment. I wish someone had told me to do this.
- Be aggressive/assertive. Even if you’re young, speak your mind! My OBGYN wasn’t concerned that it was taking so long, as I was only 24 at the time. You know your body, and you know when you’re ready. Be your own advocate.
My story is not unique. My story is not even close to being the worst. Obviously. Going through these low times myself I know that some of you want to just punch me in the face right now since I’m currently pregnant. And that feeling is completely valid! Every time a friend would announce their pregnancy, I would cry. Then I would cry about feeling guilty for crying. This is a very real and common emotion, and I want you to know that it is OKAY to feel this way and know you are not alone.
My husband and I started talking about having a baby on our two-year anniversary. We just thought, let’s see what happens! Guess what? Nothing happened. Month after month I’d feel disappointed which soon turned into a feeling of hopelessness. We didn’t really tell friends or family. I just thought I’d be one of those girls who would get knocked up easily, so it was a little embarrassing on top of being super sad when each month, I still wouldn’t be pregnant. My secret Pinterest board of cute maternity clothes and pretty nursery decor became utterly depressing. You know what I’m talking about.
WHAT NOT TO SAY.
When you’ve been married for a couple years people start asking when you’re going to have kids. NEVER AGAIN WILL I ASK ANYONE THIS QUESTION. I wanted to answer, “as soon as my uterus decides to start working but thanks so much for asking this extremely sensitive and personal question!” Even sweet friends and close family would nudge at the question, and I still took it like a knife to the heart. Every month my mom would ask if I got my period. She’s my favorite person in the world, but I seriously wanted to stab her. Love you, Mom! When my husband would say, “it’ll all work out” or “don’t be sad”, I would just want to scream! It’s not going to work out! It’s fine that I’m sad… isn’t it?
THEN CAME MY LOWEST POINT.
My best friend from college called me to tell me she was pregnant. She knew what I was going through and was extremely sensitive about telling me. Still, I felt crushed. I hung up the phone and immediately started sobbing. And I’m not a crier. Parts of my tears were tears of guilt. How dare I not be happy for her? How could I be so selfish? I don’t know you guys… all I can say is ALL feelings are valid. I called her right back and apologized for not acting happier (as I was sobbing, so I’m not even sure if she could understand me. I think she got the gist.) She was gracious about it of course, but I couldn’t quite get over how terrible I felt that I couldn’t be happy for her.
BACK TO THE PROCESS.
I decided to be more aggressive with treatment and requested Clomid from my regular OBGYN. I took it for 3 months, and I still wasn’t ovulating. This is when we finally told our families what was going on, and they encouraged us to go to a fertility clinic.
Our doctor was kind and listened intently. He took us seriously. That’s one of the best parts of switching to a fertility clinic. This is their jam. Everyone from the receptionists to the blood draw techs knows what you’re going through. There are no babies in the waiting room. It’s not shoved in your face like “see what MYYYY body can do?” Our doctor switched me to Femara and also recommended fertility acupuncture. After three months of Femara I started ovulating but still was not getting pregnant. Then we started IUI’s (Intrauterine insemination). On the third IUI, I felt sure it would work. Then I got my period. I called the nurse to schedule another IUI, and she told me that I would need to start shots. I said okay great, let’s get going. Then she informed me that in order to start shots, you needed to take a month of classes. I. Lost. My. Shit. I did NOT want to wait another month. The poor nurse took my emotional outburst like a champ (this couldn’t have been the first time). The next day I was leaving for New York to visit my mom and sister, so I thought it was perfect timing to blow off some steam. But when I woke up… no period. I took a test and it was positive! Whaaaat? After taking another test on the plane (yes, I’m psycho) that turned out to be negative, I made my mom and sister take me to a random NY clinic to get a blood test. This one turned out to be positive! My doctor thought it was a disappearing twin. Such a weird situation, but I was thrilled. I had a healthy baby boy who was worth every freaking penny. With my second son two years later, we just went right back to our fertility doctor and right back to Femara and an IUI which worked on the first try. Sorry, I know that’s super annoying to some of you.
THIS IS WHERE IT GETS SAD.
Three years after my second son, I had a hunch and took a pregnancy test. It was positive. Wait, seriously after all this, my body just started working? Everyone was shocked and thrilled, most of all, my husband and me! But soon I started to feel strange. It just didn’t feel like my other two pregnancies. My early blood test came back with low HCG levels. An early ultrasound revealed a hemorrhage. My regular OB didn’t seem concerned and told me she had just read an article on how hemorrhages had no relation to miscarriages. She was wrong. I started bleeding when my husband was on a trip to LA. Our dear friend came over to watch the kids while I went into the ER. I had lost my baby. It was the worst day of my life, and I was completely alone. No fault to my husband of course, it was just terrible timing. I couldn’t even drive myself home, I was crying so hard. I thought this baby had been a miracle baby. I was 9 weeks when I lost her (I just had a feeling it was a girl). I hope you never have to experience loss, but if you do, just know that it doesn’t matter how far along you are. It is still devastating to lose a child, even at the very beginning. Before my own miscarriage I just kind of thought it happened often and wasn’t that sad, never really thinking through how horrible it is for that parent. I’m ashamed to say I felt that way but it’s true. Anyway, as soon as I got home, I crawled in bed with my oldest son and held him as he slept. I truly do not know how people cope with a miscarriage if they don’t have a child already. My heart goes out to you. You’re stronger than I am. That loss never really goes away, not completely. I went to a Medium months later (more as a general reading) who told me I had had my baby so that she could become my angel. I hold onto that thought daily.
WHERE I AM NOW.
After a few months, life got back to normal and so did my body. I got pregnant again naturally, and this time it stuck. So here I am, 29 weeks later. Am I still scared of losing this baby? Ummm yes. That’s just how it’s going to be until I can hold this baby in my arms. When you’ve gone through infertility or a miscarriage, you don’t take anything for granted. I’m not going to complain (except to my husband of course) about the hardships of being pregnant. I am grateful for every single kick, every single ache and pain, every single varicose vein, every terrible night sleep. I cannot wait.
If you have ANY questions at all, please feel free to email/DM/comment here. I would love to talk with you. Please read below of my friends’ experiences with infertility and IVF.
FRIEND A’S STORY (Currently going through a second round of IVF):
My husband and I had been married three years when we decided to start trying to begin our little family. It had always been in the back of my head that it would take a little time, however I truly don’t think we were prepared for the journey we were about to embark on when we started. I actually started writing this sharing ALL the details of everything we went through before we welcomed our miracle in April 2015, but then I remembered what one of the biggest lessons I learned in going through infertility and thought I’d share what really stuck with me and has actually been applicable in so many situations since!
The number one piece of advice I can give anyone on this road is to not compare your infertility story with someone else that has struggled. When we were in the midst of our story, I’d find myself googling blogs or message boards and reading others stories and trying to find a common ground with their situation – but also in that I’d allow comparison to lead to worry and fear.
When we were just beginning our IVF process I had so many friends offer stories of their friends or someone they just met who did IVF and it didn’t work BUT they’d always follow up with “then they randomly got pregnant.” Every time I heard that IVF didn’t work for someone my heart sank a little more and doubt crept in. Why were we going to do this if it isn’t going to work? Why were we spending our savings to do this if it is not successful? For me, doubt leads to a lack of trust that God is absolutely in control of everything that comes our way. If I was going to survive this infertility journey, I had to stand strong in what I believed to be true no matter our outcome. Deciding to do IVF is a very personal and difficult decision – you don’t need to also have the struggle of comparing the success with others added onto that pile of stress.
Thankfully our first round of IVF was successful, and we welcomed our little guy 9 months later. I’ll never forget when he was born, and I held him for the first time – I said the journey is over and I sobbed like a baby. Every. Single. Day. of those three and half years was worth all the pain and heartache for that moment. Every hormone, shot, test, ultrasound, and the money – it was all worth it to get our little guy. I can’t even imagine not trying IVF and not having that opportunity.
I hope that if you are reading this and you are going through this journey that you can find a hope that has been placed deep in your soul to cling to during this time. I don’t know the plan God has for you or your journey – it may not have a happy ending or the way you envisioned it going, but I know that there is a plan, and you will have the strength to get through whatever is before you. I also want you to know that you are not alone! It amazed me how friends were placed in my life that either were going through the same journey or had just gone through it to encourage and walk with us. Be open with those you love and trust – let them help soothe you when you need that extra dose of love. Leah and Jenni were two of my dearest friends during this journey – with Leah having gone through it herself and Jenni just constantly speaking hope-giving words of encouragement – it really made the journey so much easier. Thanks ladies! XO! Oh and I would recommend acupuncture if you are going through this not just for the health benefit but it is so relaxing – again thanks to Leah for that recommendation!
FRIEND B’S STORY (IVF):
You’re sick of not feeling like yourself. Exhausted, really. You’re not a sad, frustrated, bitter, jealous, shameful person. And yet. You can’t shake it. You feel angry, a lot. Someone says the wrong thing, asks the wrong question, has the wrong response. You try to forget, but these moments are seared into your story.
You feel the need to isolate, insulate. You fight yourself over it. You can see reason, logic, but can’t live it. You know they won’t comment on your weight gain or stare at your new acne. You know you should go to the shower and visit the baby. Will they see the darkness? Will they see through the strained smile and thin laugh? Will they ask? You let well wishes and encouragement from those “who know” give way to this horrific self-absorption and pity. And you feel guilty and awful about it. But you give in.
In bursts that are gone too quickly, you’re grateful for the good in your life. Your husband: working tirelessly to support this heavy financial burden, letting you act out when you learn about another friend’s pregnancy, and calling from work declaring “let’s have a date night.” He’s too good to you. You’re the reason for this. Why, and how does he stay so steady, optimistic, and intuitive, while you’re paralyzed by sadness. Your heart swells thinking about him—and, and– sigh– the sadness comes back.
You recall the conversations with brave friends that started “I hope you never need to know about this, but here’s my story.” Without them, you’d be navigating alone through the darkness. You repeat one friend’s words: “everyone gets their baby” at times that make you smile through sobs.
There’s a break. There’s a new start. There’s an opportunity to shift. You try to take it. You try to be more thankful, more emphatic and feel more love. Your family takes a once-in-a lifetime vacation and you’re present and feel joy every day. A friend sends you special cookies after your surgery and you cry because that’s love. You go to dinner and nobody asks, with that look, “how are you doing?” but instead they talk about things that are light and you laugh.
You have more days where your mind and body are busy. You’re really trying to be better. You have a plan. You go multiple days in a row without crying and that’s a win. You still have waves of overwhelming sadness, guilt, frustration. Your body is beat up and you’re emotionally exhausted. You confront the worst case scenario. You’re just so tired. But you can handle it. You’ve gotten stronger.
You get good news. The news. You hold on so tight, like those fleeting feelings of gratefulness. Can I hold on? Is it real?
You’re still so fragile. You’ll be OK.
FRIEND C’S STORY:
To make a long story short, my wonderful friend “C” who went through every test and procedure you could imagine was just matched up with a baby-to-be for adoption, and she could not be more thrilled! This is her path in life, and it just feels right. So happy for her and her husband!
If you’ve made it to the end, know that it’s not the end for you. Know you’re not alone. Sending you love through the interwebs!