Infertility is without a doubt a life altering experience. From your self-esteem, to your plans and dreams for the future, relationships with friends, family, even your spouse. Sadly, I think most people focus on the physical aspects of infertility and the emotional aspects go ignored. People just do not realize how emotionally challenging and overwhelming it all can be on a couple. My friend Kathryn sent this article to me a while ago. I still read this from time to time because it’s so blunt and true! I thought this would be good to share 🙂
I always thought I was in control and that my life-plan was coming together nicely. Finish college, check. Marry great guy, check. Buy a home and get financially stable, check. Wait 2-1/2 years into marriage and start family, check. First baby at 27-years-old and second one by 30…that was just “part of the plan”. Guess someone else had different plans. Thus began our four-year struggle to conceive. With much doubt, fear, and anticipation, we tried on our own to have children for over a year before seeking medical attention. After many, many failed attempts, we sought the help of a reproductive endocrinologist in our area.
No one tells you at your first consultation that everything involved with infertility is so demeaning and demoralizing. It’s like having ten people involved directly in your sex life all of the time. The OBGYN, Reproductive Endocrinologist, your husband, the ultrasound technician(s), the nurses at the clinic, your parents and his parents and well-meaning friends who are constantly asking “how’s it going?” without realizing that no news is always bad news on the baby front. They’d have heart failure if you told the truth about the experience. What if we were totally honest about the experience…
“Well family member/well-meaning friend/coworker, this week I got to work late every single morning because I had to go give blood at the infertility clinic. I rode the elevator with all of the pregnant women who were getting off on the second floor where all of the hospitals OBGYNs are located while I stayed on the elevator until the fourth floor where all of the infertility specialists are located. I gave blood every morning in alternating arms for nine days. Then it was on to the vaginal ultrasound to see how my follicles are developing. The closer I get to ovulation, the more painful it is, poking all of those swollen, tender, over-stimulated organs. The nurse couldn’t get a good enough picture, so she called in two other nurses to help who all stared at the screen and put their hands on the wand in my vagina to look more carefully at the follicles which may or may not be ready for fertilization.
Then, every afternoon, my mother or best friend gives me an injection in the upper arm that stings like fire. I pay approximately $190.00 a day for 9-12 days in a row for this privilege. Then my darling husband and I have sex “just to cover our bases” without lubrication (because it kills sperm and changes the cervical mucus) before the big HCG shot, mostly because we are afraid all of this will be in vain. Sex with no lubrication and little or no foreplay. I cannot tell you how horrible that is. Honey, get on top of me, I’m ready now. Get me a pillow to prop my hips up. Oh, and now that you’re finished, will you hand me the remote while I lie here for 30 minutes to let the sperm swim? Very romantic and cuddly and reassuring. It’s a marital bonding moment for sure.
During my wait, I go on the Internet night after night searching for other women who are in the same predicament. I want to hear from someone, anyone who has been successful with my same diagnosis and treatment. I am grasping for reassurance and hope. There are literally thousands of mom-wanna-be’s lurking on the boards and chat-rooms and web-sites. We are all desperate. We are all seeking. We are all members of a secret community of sufferers. We lurk because we are afraid of talking honestly with our loved ones because they might say hurtful things. We are afraid they won’t understand or will offer some inane advice like, “just relax” or “if you’d stop trying so hard you’d get pregnant”. We are afraid we will have to share the gory details of our reproductive lives. We are afraid we will be judged. So I lurk with the rest of them.
When the nurse finally says it’s time, I take the big HCG shot and 36 hours later me and my husband find ourselves standing in a room with many other couples who are all there for IUIs-the intrauterine insemination. All of the men leave the room one at a time to do that thing they have to do that our society frowns upon so much. Every time a male name is called a vibe goes through the room “we know what he’s about to do…” It’s humiliating and demoralizing and embarrassing for the husbands. And still they wait. The women also wait. Paralyzed. Afraid to be hopeful, afraid to dream, afraid to look at one another. But most of all, afraid to go home empty-handed.
One by one we are called by the nurse and file into little private examination rooms, get undressed, and wait. Wait. Wait. All of that waiting gives you lots of time to think. Think. Think. Is this our turn? Is this the day we conceive that long awaited baby? Is this the day on which we spend all of this money, time, and effort for nothing? Another month of Aunt Flo? Another month of eating an entire half-gallon of chocolate chip mint ice cream over the sink, sobbing in despair. Another month of other women getting pregnant but not me.
Enter the nurse. She hands me a vial and has me sign a thousand papers affirming that this really is my husband’s sperm. My husband’s sperm. It should have been inside of me after passionate lovemaking. Instead I hold it tightly when the nurse tells me to keep it warm and wait, naked on the table, covered only by the paper towels they issue. I keep looking at the vial as if decoding war data. Why is it pink? Is there enough? Is one of them strong enough to make it? Am I keeping it warm enough? Remember, it only takes one, it only takes one, it only takes one. I wait for the doctor. I am cold. I am afraid. I am alone.
After thirty minutes of torturing myself, the doctor enters. Oh, your chances look so good this month, Mrs. Johnson. Your follicles look good, Mrs. Johnson. Your husband’s motility was fine, Mrs. Johnson. Plenty of sperm, Mrs. Johnson. The drugs worked, Mrs. Johnson. You have every reason to feel hopeful, Mrs. Johnson. This might hurt a little bit, Mrs. Johnson. Lie back and try to relax, Mrs. Johnson.
I hold my breath. I pray. I pray to God that this is it. This is the exact moment I conceive. I visualize my eggs receiving the sperm. I visualize the sperm entering the egg. I visualize the fertilized egg implanting. I visualize my uterus preparing for the embryo. No, for the baby…I visualize my baby. My baby. My baby. Oh, God please have mercy on me this time and let it happen. Open my womb just like you promised you would! Please, God. Please.
Okay, Mrs. Johnson, we’re through. Lie here for fifteen more minutes, then go make an appointment with the front desk to schedule your beta test. Use these progesterone suppositories twice a day until we tell you to stop, Mrs. Johnson. Oh, and don’t take a home pregnancy test because that might just show a false negative. Try not to worry, Mrs. Johnson. Ha, ha, Mrs. Johnson. See you in two weeks, Mrs. Johnson. I force a smile.
I waddle to the front desk and make the appointment. I am sore. My ovaries hurt. My uterus hurts. My heart hurts. I see my husband’s face through the glass in the waiting room. His eyes meet mine. I can see his hope. It’s written all over him. He is full of questions that never get asked. Is this the last time I’ll have to come down here and humiliate myself? How much more can we afford to do? Will I ever get my wife back the way she was before this crisis of infertility? Will she ever be happy again? Will her body be able to do this one more cycle? How much more of this can our marriage take? I have to look away. There are too many questions and I have no answers.
I see his love for me and his sacrifice for me. I am moved to tears. I love my husband. I know that he loves me too. That’s part of the reason that we are here. We want to make a baby together as a tangible result of that love we have for each other. This is a test. This is only a test. I repeat it like a mantra in my head.
We go home, and I lie down for three days out of fear. I barely move. I am afraid the fertilized eggs won’t implant. I’m afraid we’ll blow the cycle because of something stupid. I am just afraid. I lurk every night, commiserating with the other women in the infamous “Two Week Waiting Club”. Two weeks until my period. Two weeks until my pregnancy test. Two weeks until something happens. We try to comfort each other.
Return to work. Agonize over every single possible symptom. Are my breasts sore? Is that cramping implantation or my period arriving? Do I sense any change in my cervical mucus? Do I look different? Am I having any nausea or cravings or weight gain or temperature rise or fall? I refuse to have recreational sex with husband because it might “hurt the implantation process”. Instead, I hurt his feelings. I examine the toilet paper every time I pee, looking for any trace of blood. I stop after work and buy a three pack of home pregnancy tests on cycle day 26 even though the doctor told me not to. “What’s another $25.00 on top of the $1,500 we’ve already spent this month,” I reason to myself.
I hide the tests in my purse so my husband won’t see and worry, and I go upstairs to the private bathroom in our house. I open one test and examine the instructions (as if I haven’t already taken a thousand of them since this party began). I don’t want to make any mistakes. I change my mind. I put the test back in the box. I repeat this ritual over and over throughout the night. Sneaking upstairs to fondle the test, wondering if I have a baby growing in my tummy or if that cramping I feel is my period looming in the not so distant future.
And whether or not the test is positive, I am permanently altered by this entire experience. My sex life is different. My marriage is different. My perception of people is different. My sensitivity level is different. My life is different. And that’s how each month of trying to have a baby was dear family member/relative/well-meaning friend.”
And you thought getting pregnant was easy! Ha! I’d have never wasted all of that money on birth control in my youth had I known it was going to be so hard to conceiveJ.
Now for the pep talk: Hang in there! Don’t give up on your dream of parenting! Don’t let others discourage you in your quest for babies! Don’t lose your marriage in an effort to expand your family! Don’t be angry with those around you who say stupid things in an effort to comfort or guide you-be gentle and forgiving whenever possible. Educate people about infertility at every teachable moment given to you! You might make it easier on the next infertile woman they encounter. Who knows, maybe that’s why you were “chosen” to have this particular roadblock in your life.
I know that you feel powerless and immobile and afraid. I know because I feel all of those things.
We are not alone-There are thousands in our number.
Have faith and keep pressing toward the goal!
“We are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.” II Cor. 4:8-9