Infertility. What do you feel when you hear that word? For me, it brings back a wave of emotions: anger, sadness, fear, bitterness and more. Although most people choose not to talk about infertility, one in six couples experience it at some point in their lives.
That means that at this moment in time, 8 MILLION couples in the United States are currently battling infertility. That’s a lot of broken hearts.
Why can I talk about infertility?
Let me introduce myself: my name is Misty and I have three-year-old quadruplets. In case you’re wondering, yes, I struggled with infertility. I’m often asked how it happened that I had quadruplets and each time I am asked, although I try not to show it, I am reminded of all of the tears, the pain, and the long, tortuous process of trying to conceive.
Why I share?
I share my story of infertility openly. I share because I know how alone and inadequate it feels to think that your body doesn’t do what it was designed to or what we want it to do: make babies. I know what it’s like to want to be happy for your best friend each time she celebrates the birth of a beautiful new baby, but to quietly die inside because of the pain of not knowing if you’ll ever experience birth for yourself. I know what it’s like to dread baby showers and children’s birthday parties because of the emotion it stirs up inside. I know what it’s like to sit in church on Mother’s Day and see all of the mom’s stand up and be recognized as you slump quietly into your seat and hide your face to hold back tears. I know what’s it’s like to buy pregnancy tests in bulk because you just can’t stop hoping to see those two pink lines, even though you know they won’t be there.
This is my story
I knew before my husband and I even thought of starting a family that I would have trouble conceiving. Five years prior, I was diagnosed with PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome), which means I rarely ovulate. Upon my 34th birthday, we knew it was time to seek help in the baby-making department.
A couple weeks later, my husband and I sat across from a reproductive specialist, looking at pictures of the female and male anatomies and listening to him explain to us a series of invasive tests that definitely seemed more than a little bit scary to me. He spoke matter-of-factly and before I knew it, the hubby and I had signed up to undergo what felt like a series of science experiments on both our bodies.
Soon after, we sat across from our doctor again. This time, we would hear words you never want to here. I have a 0.5% chance of ever conceiving naturally. Zero. ZERO. As in, it’s not gonna happen!
I couldn’t move past that. It felt like every last hope of ever being a mommy shot out the window like a little kid’s helium balloon. My mind heard those words on repeat. I was so stuck on them that I had a hard time hearing what our doctor was telling us afterwards. When I was finally able to focus, I realized that he was outlining a plan of treatment that he felt would up our odds of conceiving to a 40% chance. He did mention that there was a 5% chance of twins.
During the months that followed, we learned how to give me hormone injections in my stomach. We would learn how to read a calendar outlining which injections, pills and suppositories we were to use and when. We’d learn how my cycle would be monitored via ultrasound and that when we determined I had a viable egg, we’d give me a “trigger shot” to stimulate ovulation and then we’d come in for an IUI (inter-uterine ovulation.) Several weeks and thousands of dollars later, we had a box of medications/hormones and we were ready to start our journey.
If there is such a thing with infertility, we consider ourselves to be some of the lucky ones. After one extremely long treatment cycle, I was finally going to be a mommy.
My dreams were coming true and I couldn’t wait for the day I would bring my own snuggly baby home. Little did we know, life had other plans! Six months later, at 28 weeks and five days gestation, my husband and I welcomed four babies into this world, all weighing between two and three pounds. But that’s a story for a different day!
Today, we have four healthy and happy three-year-olds. On most accounts, I should be content. I have four children. I’m a mommy. Still, in those rare, quiet moments and always in the back of my mind, infertility looms. It looms because of the experiences I missed out on. There were no new baby snuggles in post-partum or introducing family to our babies. Instead, there was a 52-day NICU stay followed by close to two-years of in-home lock-down to keep germs away from our tiny premature babies. If I wanted to have another baby, without medical assistance, it would take nothing short of a miracle. And that hurts.
You are not alone.
To the woman reading this battling infertility: I’m sorry. I’m sorry that I can’t take that hurt away for you. I want you to know that you are not alone. There are so many stages of infertility. There are many of us who have walked and are walking this path with you. I know it’s hard to know what to do next.
There’s nothing simple about infertility but here are just a few simple recommendations that I can offer:
- It’s okay to talk about infertility. Please don’t live in silence. With 1 in 6 couples struggling, I promise it won’t take long to find someone you can relate to.
- Ask your friends and family for help. Very few people will intentionally try to hurt another person, especially someone they love. If you’re dealing with a particularly painful time like a baby shower or birthday party, share with your family that you’re struggling and why.
- See a specialist. Sometimes our regular ob-gyn reaches a limit on what they can do. It’s okay to ask to be referred to a reproductive specialist. I know it can seem scary but remember, the sooner you do, the sooner you can undergo tests to learn the cause of infertility and whether or not it can be treated and sometimes, just knowing can give us more peace than we can imagine.