Infertility has been the most overwhelming, exhausting experience in my life. It's something that unless you've experienced it, you'd never truly understand it. Stressful and invasive do not even come close to describe the emotional and physical daily struggles involved. To say it's been a battle would be an understatement. Though I’ve been extremely private about my struggles over the years, I’ve come to realize that there’s no shame in my experience and the path I took to have a family. Once you become engulfed by the fertility world, you quickly realize that infertility doesn’t discriminate against age, gender, or race. It’s highly likely you know someone facing these issues right now but they’re too ashamed to admit it, so instead they suffer in silence; we need to work together to change this and begin to end the stigma today. Here is my story.
From a very young age I suffered from multiple reproductive diseases, including endometriosis and polycystic ovarian syndrome; as I got older I was informed having children could be extremely challenging, but my infertility battle didn’t truly begin until I decided to move forward with trying to have a baby in my early 20's. After some time and no pregnancy, I decided to see an OBGYN who optimistically insisted within 6 months of taking a prescription called clomid, I'd easily fall pregnant. Well... 6 months passed and with great disappointment nothing happened, I was then referred to a fertility clinic. They completed testing including daily blood and ultrasounds and a standard x-ray and ultrasound test; I also had a double surgery so they could get a better picture of any possible internal damage caused by the endometriosis. After completing months of tests, I was finally informed that the test results meant I would never have a baby naturally; my only hope was jumping right into IVF. My husband and I then began to save all of the money we could to be able to do one round of IVF, in order to hopefully achieve our goal of starting a family.
When the time finally came to start my first IVF cycle, emotions ran high. The fertility clinic proceeded with extreme caution due to my age, resulting in very few embryos which was very disappointing. But, I kept telling myself I only needed one to take, and with science and some luck, one did! The moment I found out I was finally pregnant, all of the years of tests, procedures, and medications finally became worth it... but, as anyone else whose experienced infertility knows, a high level of constant fear, caution and denial comes with this type of pregnancy (but that's a whole other topic...).
Jump forward to when we decided to try for baby number 2. We weren't so "lucky" this time. After several failed IVF attempts using up all of our frozen embryos, we were back to square one... We now had to make the decision to either do a new fresh cycle and go through more tests, spend a lot more money than planned, and take more potent medications, or just give up. Our desire to have another baby was too strong to just stop now, so we decided to again put everything on the line to have another baby. This time my clinic wasn't as "cautious" using meds, which resulted in severe ovarian hyper stimulation syndrome aka OHSS. What resulted was 10 lbs in water retention gained overnight in my abdomen, daily clinic visits to be monitored, hospital visits, and drainage procedures (the only way to remove fluid build-up in this case), all while looking after a toddler. The only good thing that came out of this experience was an embryo did take, but because I was so sick, I constantly felt scared for the baby (will he or she survive ?), fear for my health, and stress from being in constant pain. No matter what I did, I couldn't find comfort physically or mentally, and it wasn't until my second trimester that things became more "normal" and tolerable. At this point I knew baby number two was OK, and this dreaded experience was also worth the pain and suffering.
Looking back, it truly amazes me where my journey has led. After over 5 years, numerous procedures, surgeries, treatments, countless medications/injections, and only a 20% success rate overall, I finally have the family I've always dreamt of and I can't imagine life any other way. My experience has allowed me to completely understand the importance of spreading awareness about infertility. It's something not often discussed or understood and unfortunately so many people suffer in silence, I know I have... The physical and emotional affect infertility can have on someone is something that shouldn't be ignored, and spreading awareness gives me hope for the 1 in 6 couples facing infertility issues today.