This is National Infertility Awareness Week and I thought I’d take this opportunity to share my story.
When my husband and I got married, I was about to turn 36; we knew we wanted to have kids and couldn’t waste any time. 5 months of trying passed and I thought I should see a specialist, just as a preventative measure. I found a Reproductive Endocrinologist and made an appointment; she recommended I do a full workup just to see where things stood. But then we got lucky: just one week after that initial consultation, I got pregnant naturally. When I gave birth to my daughter, I was just a couple of months shy of 37 years old. Maybe I was naïve but I didn’t feel like it was older than the norm. I guess because we live in NYC, where a lot of people don’t get married and have kids until they’re older.
We always knew we wanted to have more than one kid and had decided that 2 years was our ideal age gap. When we realized that meant getting pregnant when our daughter was just 15 months old, I started to panic. We were just getting past the terror and mind-numbing exhaustion stage of new parenthood and settling into our life as a family of three. So we put it off for a couple of months and started trying shortly before she turned 2. Well, months passed. And even more months passed. And then…yup, more months passed. I was starting to get worried. My husband, ever the optimist, was not. Still, I decided the time had come to go back the fertility specialist I had seen before I got pregnant the first time. In my mind, I foolishly believed the same scenario would happen: I would see the doctor and then that would somehow spur the universe into knocking me up naturally. (Yes, I am aware that’s not how babies are made; I’m familiar enough with the “birds and the bees” to know a woman doesn’t get pregnant from the universe simply bestowing a baby upon her.) Guess what? Didn’t happen.
The doctor recommended we do an IUI. So we did. Big Fat Negative.
At this point, I constantly ran the numbers in my head: if we got pregnant now, our daughter would be 2.5 years old when the new baby came. If we got pregnant now, our daughter would be 3 years old when the new baby came. Ok, ok, if we got pregnant now, our daughter would be 4 years old when the new baby came. It just never stopped…the age differences whirled around in my brain like a tornado. Why was I so focused on it? To this day, I still don’t know. I had a certain number in mind and I couldn’t seem to let go of what I thought was the “perfect” age gap and the further we got from that number, the more depressed and panicked I became.
And then, we moved from NYC to Florida. And guess what Florida doesn’t have? Mandated infertility coverage. It was then that we learned the true price of Infertility – beyond the emotional toll. Because what we discovered is that it is really friggin’ expensive to try to have a baby when your body won’t cooperate. We did one IUI out-of-pocket and were surprised and delighted to get that Big Fat Positive pregnancy test. “Yes!” we thought. We dodged the infertility bankruptcy bullet. Sure, IUI wasn’t cheap but hey, it’s a lot cheaper than IVF. And we didn’t have to do any more. We were pregnant! That is, until the 7 week ultrasound in which we discovered that I had miscarried. I was devastated. I kicked myself for being so smug, for getting ahead of myself, for believing that it could somehow be so easy (and this is the kind of mental game that infertility plays – that one can actually believe that almost 3 years of trying and 1 IUI is “getting off easy”) .
The worst part was how alone I felt through all this. I felt sad and angry but I also felt guilty. Shouldn’t I just be happy with what I had? I had an amazing daughter who was the best thing that ever happened to me. Wasn’t I being greedy for wanting more? There were so many people out there who were struggling to have their first, what was I complaining about? Even my mother, who has been incredibly supportive and loves her granddaughter beyond measure, told me she didn’t understand why I would go through fertility treatments to have another. She said I should be happy with what I’ve got. So, of course, I thought that not only was there something wrong with my body because I couldn’t have another baby but now I figured there was something wrong with my personality because I couldn’t be satisfied with my one awesome kid. When I went on infertility forums, I felt alone and as if I had no right to be there because not only did I already have one child but really, wasn’t it my own fault that I couldn’t have another? Didn’t I realize that waiting so long to have kids would be a problem? How stupid and selfish could I be? I felt very much alone.
So, we took some time off. I had to heal both physically and emotionally. Well, the physical healing was a lot easier than the emotional healing. It took me a long time before I felt ready to try again. We went to a new RE and even though I was ready to move on to IVF by this point, our budget was not. We did another IUI and I was not the least bit surprised when it didn’t work.
I was about to turn 40. Our daughter had begun to ask for a little sister on an almost daily basis. I didn’t know what to do. All I knew was that there was no way we could afford IVF if we had to pay for everything ourselves but I also knew that at 40, doing another IUI was probably a waste of time and money. So we waited for an answer to reveal itself. Perhaps the answer was that we needed to come to terms that we would never have another. I was almost starting to accept this. And then we moved back to NYC.
This is when the story changes. Because when insurance picks up the tab for a large majority of treatment, all of a sudden your options open up. And there is something incredibly freeing about finally having options. We found an RE that I will praise until the day I die. He is probably the best doctor I ever worked with and he never once gave me the “your eggs are too old and you are probably a lost cause” talk. He was realistic yet optimistic. Simply put, I credit him with changing our lives.
We did two retrievals and got 6 embryos which we then had PGS tested. Only one came back normal. I have to admit that when I thought about the statistics and odds, I was feeling pretty hopeless. We did the transfer of our one lonely normal embryo right after I turned 41 and I knew there was no way it would work.
I am now 2 weeks away from having a baby…my daughter is beyond excited and can’t wait to be a big sister. But infertility has taken a toll. The shame, the stigma, the secrecy. I will never forget all that I went through to have this baby. I will never forget how alone I felt and how hopeless it all seemed at times. So, I’m writing this post for National Infertility Awareness Week because someday maybe somebody will stumble across my blog and feel just a little less alone.