The theme of NIAW (National Infertility Awareness Week) is “Don’t ignore infertility”.
- Don’t ignore the signs of infertility.
- Don’t ignore each other.
- Don’t ignore people with infertility.
- Don’t ignore the pain.
A lot of people don’t realize what we actually go through and what our daily struggles are like. I don’t blame anyone because not many people talk about it. Especially the gritty details. Let’s not ignore it anymore though. It’s not fun making a baby. The fun has been taken away from us. Living with infertility is painful, disappointing, time-consuming, and expensive. Infertility affects our relationships, bank accounts, sex lives, physical and emotional well-being, jobs, and the ability to lead a normal life. This is very personal, but I’m not embarrassed….I’d like to give you an in-depth and very truthful peek into my life over the past couple years…
- 40 or more visits to see a specialist (Reproductive Endocrinologist). For a year and a half, I traveled a 4-hour round trip almost every single month (usually twice a month) to see my doctor. I even had to travel tout of state to see one of my specialists.
- 20 + blood draws. At least on one occasion, I had 22 vials of blood taken at once. My arms have been bruised like a junkie, and my veins might not last.
- Approximately 20 times, I’ve had my legs in the stirrups and had vaginal ultrasounds. Any privacy or modesty I had is gone.
- 1 HSG (hysterosalpingogram). This is a procedure done to visualize the uterus and fallopian tubes, to check for blockages or abnormalities. It’s basically a very uncomfortable X-Ray. It can feel quite painful to have the dye injected into a place where it’s not supposed to be, along with a catheter poking up into my uterus.
- 1 Laparoscopic surgery. This surgery is done to check for abnormalities in the tissue and structure of the uterus and to repair whatever is found. They went in through my belly button, as well as a spot around my pelvic bone. They found a lot wrong, and had to remove/repair quite a few things. I woke up in the worst pain of my life, even with all of the drugs. I had to be given IV morphine a couple of times, but it only dulled the pain. I felt sick and in pain for several days. I was barely able to eat, sleep, or move. I still have scars.
- 5 years off of birth control, over 3 years of trying to conceive, 20 or more cycles trying naturally with no treatment, 9 cycles with Clomid (oral fertility drug), 7 expensive injectible cycles (lots of shots), and 4 cycles with Femara (another oral drug). I’ve also taken Dexamethasone (an oral steroid), progesterone (vaginal suppositories), hcg injections, estrogen tablets, and Lovenox injections (a blood thinner) several times. The side effects are not fun at all. Hot flashes, headaches, bloating, mood swings, a bruised, nasty looking belly where the injections go, increased appetite = weight gain, and signs that mimic pregnancy (which really messes with your head).
- About 8 supplements/vitamins taken everyday. Sometimes it feels like I live on pills and other drugs.
- 6 inseminations. This is a procedure called IUI (Intrauterine insemination) where a sperm sample is provided by my husband and injected via catheter into my cervix. I never imagined such a clinical, sterile way to try to make a baby. Talk about sucking the romance out of your sex life and baby-making.
- 2 attempts with IVF (In-Vitro Fertilization). No, it doesn’t always work on the first or even 2nd try. Sometimes it doesn’t work at all, for certain people. This procedure is even more clinical and unnatural than IUI. Eggs are retrieved from my ovaries, placed in a petri dish, and fertilized with my husband’s sperm sample. The egg retrieval process is quite painful. Imagine a needle sticking your ovaries over and over, then having them feel humungous, swollen, and painful for a week. The doctors watch for the fertilized eggs to grow into embryos, then implant them back into the uterus. It is a lengthy, extremely expensive process with lots of heavy duty fertility drugs. Emotionally, hormonally, and physically – it’s pure torture, especially if it doesn’t work.
- 9 early miscarriages (or “chemical pregnancies”). I’ve never seen a baby via ultrasound, experienced hearing the heartbeat, or made it far enough to know what it’s actually like to be pregnant. Early losses are quite devastating though. To get so close to experiencing my dream of motherhood, and then to have it swiftly taken away from me…it hurts. There’s no comfort in knowing I can “get pregnant” when there’s not any reason to think that I will “stay pregnant”.
- I’ve missed a lot of work. I nearly got fired from one position, but I quickly found another position with different hours to accommodate all of my doctor appointments. I didn’t make as much money though. Currently, I’m in another new position, with better pay and hours, where my boss is very supportive and lenient with my situation (thank God).
- We’ve spent thousands of dollars. I don’t even want to tally it all up and tell you. IVF alone is about $15,000 a pop. My insurance covers a small portion, but I’m still trying to pay off some of the testing and procedures I’ve had. We have sacrificed so much. We still rent our home because it’s impossible for us to become homeowners right now.
This is the truth, and this is what I live with. This is NOT unique to me, nor is my journey any worse than other people struggling with infertility. My relationships are lacking. I don’t feel like socializing much of the time. My husband suffers, too. Everyone has what I don’t have – kids. I feel fat and uncomfortable. It’s difficult to get out of bed and go to work everyday. Sometimes it’s hard to concentrate and be motivated with everything going on.
It goes on and on, with no end in sight. How would you feel, all pumped up on hormones and having miscarriages and extreme disappointments all the time? Even so, I carry on with HOPE. I do my best to take breaks and try to relax. I pick myself up (with the help of my amazing support system) and keep going. My strength and faith waiver at times but gets me through. I have so much love already for my future child(ren) that I will continue on and do whatever it takes.