Truth in trying: Looking back at my personal struggle with infertility
Posted May 22, 2016
Updated May 23, 2016
When my daughter Elsa turned 2 years old this month, I had a range of emotions.
I was partly in denial: “How is she 2 already?”
Partly nostalgic: “She’s growing up way too fast!”
And incredibly grateful to celebrate: “I can’t believe we get to be the parents of this adorable, sweet, smart and funny little girl.”
At times, being a mom still seems surreal to me, because there was a time when my husband and I thought maybe we weren’t ever going to be able to have a child.
We waited three-and-half years for Elsa – three-and-a-half years of stress, anger, sadness, resentment and heartbreak when our dreams of parenthood did not play out the way we assumed they would.
One out of every eight couples trying to conceive is infertile. And we were that one in eight.
We were also in that 10 percent of infertile couples who fell into the category of “unexplained," meaning there was no obvious medical reason for us NOT to be able to have a child.
We always wanted to have kids, but we married what some might consider late in life. I was 31 and my husband was 33.
And we waited a year because we wanted to have some time to enjoy married life with just the two of us before throwing kids into the mix.
When we started trying, we thought it would be fairly easy, maybe a few months at the most. But month after month went by, with no pregnancy.
After about nine months of trying, we sought medical help. Test after test came back normal, which was a relief.
But it was also frustrating to not have answers as to why infertility was affecting us. Without knowing why, we felt powerless to do something about it. The best that doctors could tell me was that I was old, fertility-wise (33 at the time!).
All this came at a time when so many of my friends already had children or were getting pregnant and starting their families. It was also a time when WRAL was having its own baby boom. There were several anchors and reporters who were pregnant. That would lead viewers to often ask me when I was going to have kids. I knew the question came from a good place, and was a natural question to ask, but every time someone would ask me, my heart would break a little bit.
And then when someone would announce her pregnancy – a friend, a neighbor, a co-worker – it was devastating. I would smile, muster as much composure as I could to say “Congratulations” – and quickly make my exit so I could break down and cry.
I’d cry because I’d feel like the worst human being in the world to not be truly happy for someone else’s happiness. And I’d cry because I so desperately wished *I* could be the one to share such news. I avoided baby showers because it would’ve been far too torturous for me. As awful as that was, I was in self-preservation mode.
I threw myself into work. I tried to be cognizant of the many joys and accomplishments in my life: my career, my husband, my parents, my extended family, my friends. But I always had an emptiness in me that I knew only having a child could fill. I felt like I failed as a woman, as a wife, to not be able to bring a child into the world.
For about two-and-a-half years, we tried the gamut of fertility treatments – starting with drugs to increase ovulation, then artificial insemination, and then finally in vitro fertilization (IVF).
Each cycle was a medical abyss, consisting of constant doctor appointments, medications, and with IVF, self-injections and surgical extractions of your eggs.
Nothing worked. We were about to give up. We were emotionally and financially spent. We started thinking about adoption and reached out to some adoption agencies for some preliminary information. But we also needed time to grieve the fact that we weren’t able to have children on our own. And so we decided to take some time off from all the planning and the procedures and to just NOT think about it anymore.
And then, two months later, we found out we were pregnant. No meds, no treatment. It actually happened. It finally happened! And you know the rest of that story.
When we struggled with infertility, my husband and I supported each other as best we could. I confided in family and a few close friends. My husband and I also found a church home. We had dinner with the pastor and his wife, who shared with us their struggle with infertility as well (first child is adopted, and then they were pregnant with their second.)
That felt like a sign to me. Other than that, it was my private battle. It’s so hard to talk about it when you are swallowed up by this all-consuming, emotional rollercoaster. There’s no eloquent way to put it – infertility sucks.
It was only after I shared the news of my pregnancy – and revealed our struggle with other friends – that I found out how many dealt with, or were dealing with, infertility as well.
Two years later, I wanted to share this to let people know that there is not always a smooth path to parenthood. I wanted to let others who are dealing with infertility know they are not alone. And I wanted to do a story that peels back the emotional layers of this disease.
On Monday at 5 p.m., I’ll share one local couple’s path to parenthood that took five years – how they coped, what they learned, and what they would tell others who are struggling to have a baby.
Then at 6 p.m., I look into the financial burden of infertility.
For those whose dreams of parenthood are delayed because of infertility, I will keep you in my prayers…that somehow, someway, your heart’s desire to become a parent comes true.
I’m one of the lucky ones to say, it finally did for me. Yes, I’m a mom now. But I will never forget what it took to become one.