April 21-27th is National Infertility Awareness Week (NIAW). I never intended to join the infertility awareness movement, but like one in eight couples living with infertility, I was drafted.
After two years trying to conceive “tho old-fashioned way,” we went to a specialist and found out that my husband has congenital absence of the vas deferens. (In simple terms- it’s like a built-in vasectomy- there’s no tubing for the sperm to get out.)
Once we got over the initial shock of our diagnosis, we broke the news to our family as optimistically as we could:
“So….we have some good news and some bad news… The good news is that we want to become parents. The bad news is that the only way for us to get pregnant is with In Vitro Fertilization (IVF).”
We explained the “birds and the bees” of IVF to our friends and families, determined to stay positive and show everyone that we weren’t ashamed of our infertility.
Our friends and families wanted to be supportive. But they didn’t always know what to say.
“…Well, you never know.. it could just happen when you just relax and aren’t expecting it,” my well-meaning mother said.
I tried to hide my exasperation.
“No, Mom. Relaxing won’t get us pregnant. There is zero chance we will get pregnant without IVF. There’s absolutely no way of connecting the sperm to the eggs without help.”
And there were others who gave us sympathetic looks, saying with an air of superiority:
“Wow, going through all that to make a baby? I could never do that. There are so many kids in the world that need homes- I’d just adopt instead.”
Soon we stopped sharing what we were going through- even with our friends and family. After our first IVF cycle ended in a miscarriage, it was too hard to answer their curious and mostly well-meaning questions.
At the time, I didn’t know anyone who had gone through IVF. Struggling through the emotional, physical and financial hardships of infertility was a lonely road without others who understood. I began to blog, and finally found others online and on Twitter who knew exactly what I was going through.
These men and woman knew how to joke about eggs and sperm, about botched hormone injections in parking lots. They knew what to say after the heartbreak of miscarriage. They understood how the desire to have a baby can be a constant ache, a feeling of loss for something we’ve never had and may never have.
That fall there was an article in Self magazine about infertility. My little sister sent it to me along with a bag of Hershey Kisses and a note that said: “I can’t imaging what you are going through right now- but I hope you know I’m here for you.”
I cried. Her words and the gesture was so sweet. But the article’s topic dismayed me: “Why our reluctance to talk about infertility keeps us from getting the care that we deserve.” It’s true. While we are going through infertility, so many people don’t want to talk about it. If and when we are successful, many of us want to forget the struggle, as our lives are consumed by the children we worked so hard for. I promised myself that if I got through to the other side of infertility, I wouldn’t forget.
After three cycles of IVF and two miscarriages, after my backside became a perpetual pin-cushion from a billion injections, after our hope had dwindled to nothing and our bank account to match, our last cycle IVF cycle brought us a positive pregnancy test. Nine months later (and I still can’t believe it as I write it) our daughter was born.
To say she was worth it (and we say it all the time) doesn’t even begin to capture all the feelings I have about the journey that made me a mother.
It took me a while to find my way back to my blog. Just as the Self article warned, I was too overwhelmed with the joys and trials of motherhood for the first year of her life. But I knew I’d come back to help others on this path. I’ve started up my blog again to share stories of hope from the other side of infertility, to help others still finding their way.
A friend of mine who also has a baby from IVF asked me if I planned to tell my daughter about her origins. I was surprised.
Why wouldn’t I?
I want her to grow up knowing that infertility isn’t something to be ashamed of. That there are many ways to become a mother. And that no matter what happens in life, there are people out there- strangers even- who are willing to share their stories so that they might help others.
I was drafted to this movement, but I’m here in hopes that one day my daughter won’t need to raise awareness for this disease. I’m here in hopes that her generation will have access to the care and support and insurance coverage for infertility. Most of all, I’m here because no one should have to struggle with infertility alone.
To learn more about RESOLVE, National Infertility Awareness Week or Infertility in general, please visit:
- http://www.resolve.org/infertility101 (Basic understanding of the disease of infertility.)
- http://www.resolve.org/national-infertility-awareness-week/about.html (About NIAW)