There are a lot of things that absolutely suck about infertility. Not everyone experiences infertility the same way, so I am not about to pretend that I can speak for everyone who has traveled down this road, but there are some universal things that I think pretty much everyone who has been there would agree with. The following is by no means a complete list, and are in no particular order because I think everyone would put these in a different order of which ones were the toughest for them.
~ Loss of Naivety ~ When you are under the care of a reproductive endocrinologist, you will know every single step of your pregnancy. And everything that goes wrong with it. You will know more than you ever thought possible about reproduction and how it actually works. I will let you in on a little secret, it is actually more complicated than egg meets sperm equals baby.
~ Nothing is Simple ~ This tags along with the previous one. If you are an “infertile”, your path to baby is not simply removing birth control, giving it some time, celebrating your pregnancy, and meeting your baby. It is now, blood work to determine when your body is ready, some sort of medication (oral, injections or both), followed by constant monitoring (I will spare the details), and then either one of two things… 1) You HAVE to have sex at scheduled times on scheduled days or 2) You get to have some sort of uncomfortable medical procedure.
~ Decision Making Becomes Very Complicated ~ It’s not just about deciding if you want more kids and seeing what happens. No, you have to determine if you have the finances as none of these treatments are cheap and despite most people having a medical condition causing or contributing to their infertility, insurance for this sucks. You also have to decide timing because you likely have to do some sort of medical testing or medications before starting. Then you get to decide, with your spouse, how you feel about possible multiples, deal with public (and sometimes family) opinion about what you are doing, and then even if you are lucky and end up with frozen embryos, you now have to decide what to do with them. Things like… what happens to them if you gets divorced or if both of you die. Weird, huh?
~ No One Talks About It ~ I would love to see this one changed. It seemed almost everyone in my life, who was not living their own fertility struggles, either dismissed my problems or avoided them. And it’s a double edged sword. Because no one wants to talk about it, those going through it suffer in silence and feel like failures. And because they feel like they are somehow damaged, they don’t talk about it either. If people reading this take anything away from this particular post, I want it to be this. Infertility is a disease. People struggling with it do not understand it and are helpless to change it. We are afraid, depressed, and at the mercy of modern medicine. We are consumed by it, but not defined by it. We WANT to talk, but not if our worries, concerns and sadness are going to be dismissed. We know that our problems can’t be solved by simple solutions. We don’t need you to fix it for us. We just need you to listen and be open minded.
~ It Becomes Your Relationship ~ For some this makes them stronger, for others, I have seen it tear them apart. But, unless you take a break from fertility treatments, it is your life until it works or you give up.
~ Side Effects ~ All of the medications are rough in their own fabulously different ways. They make you hot, sick, bruised, sore, hormonal… I could go on.
~ No Guarantees ~ It hurts my heart that not everyone gets that dream baby at the end of their journey. You could realistically shell out thousands and thousands of dollars, time, energy, emotions, etc… and still leave empty handed.
I can still acutely remember the pain I felt with both of the miscarriages I suffered and I can still remember how out of control and alone I felt while going through every step of my fertility treatments. But, I know that I am one of the lucky ones. Every day, I count my blessing as I think most parents do… in this we are all not so different. I will share the details eventually as I do think it is important for women to know they are not alone in this. But, it will be a story for another day.