Infertility: my journey + ttc advice

Lilies and Lambs

My journey with infertility began in January of 2014.

Phil and I got married in October of 2013; but knowing my history with PCOS, I decided to stop taking the BCP the summer before we tied the knot. I had known for most of my adult life that it would take some time and help to start a family, so I figured I would roll the dice and see what happened.

So after roughly three months of not, not trying; and three months of really trying, combined with my diagnosis, I sought the help of a reproductive endocrinologist the following January.

I was 29; and so completely naive to the very foreign world of infertility- one that would overwhelm and consume me for some time; and become so intrinsically linked to our family. To the story of us.

My relationship with infertility and TTC ebbed and flowed in the five years proceeding that first appointment in January. We underwent seven months of interventions- one timed cycle and six rounds of IUI’s- before starting IVF in September of 2014. Looking back on that time, in that first year, I can say it was one of the most challenging experiences of my life. It tested us in every way- mentally, physically, socially, financially, emotionally. It brought out the worst in me at times; and strengthened the very best parts of me- of us- too.

Being that I was 29 during that first year of treatments, I didn’t have too many peers to turn to with a similar experience. Generally speaking, I was young to be in that chair in my RE’s office. Most of the faces I saw in the waiting room were quite a bit older than mine. And, at the time, the conversation about TTC and IVF wasn’t one that was so openly had. So to say I felt isolated during this first year would be a wild understatement.

As you well know, that first round of IVF, thankfully, brought us our girl- the one that turns four in just a few short days. We were so grateful for her from the start- from before she was even growing in my belly. And when she arrived, she was everything we could have possibly wanted; and we instantly wanted more. Maddie turned one in the spring of 2016, and we promptly made plans to begin our second round of IVF- this time a frozen embryo transfer (FET)- that fall.

Happily, this round brought us another positive; if only for a few days. But I quickly learned this round would result in a chemical pregnancy- essentially a very early miscarriage. I was devastated. We were used to not getting pregnant, but this was new to us. And it broke me; for quite some time. And I needed to heal before trying again, in the fall of 2017.

Our FET that subsequent fall yielded yet another chemical pregnancy, after which we decided to thaw and test our remaining four embryos. After this process we were left with two healthy embryos- a boy and a girl. And in early 2018 we decided to transfer the highest quality of the two, which happened to be our boy.

With all the testing behind us, we were again confident. The odds seemed to be in our favor again- testing and knowledge always made me feel that way when it came to TTC. So when that final transfer resulted in a negative, I was again broken.

And there was something different this time- about knowing the gender of our embryo- that made this failure especially sad; particularly painful and hard to swallow. But, as painful as it was, and as broken as it made me; I had to heal quickly this time. Not only because I was mom, but because I was a mom to a now very cognizant almost three-year-old. And the great fortune of being her mom brought with it the misfortune of not having the luxury of being too sad for too long.

And very quickly I realized that for the sake of our family- the one we had already created- I needed to stop trying for the time being. At this point in our journey, TTC was taking me away from enjoying what was right in front of us. And as much as I wanted to grow our family- to create more for her, for us- it was overshadowing all the beauty that was already there.

And so we stopped. And put it off. And put it off. And made plans to try again. At another time. Later.

And in that time- of not trying- I became one of those tales:

A story of a woman who got pregnant when she stopped thinking about it. When she wasn’t trying. Not even a little bit. Not even at all.

A story of a woman that would have driven me mad back in 2015, when I was in the thick of it. One of those stories that people tell their friends TTC, in effort to makes them feel better; to give them hope. A story friends did, in fact, tell me in encouragement; even though it only invoked deep frustration.

And despite this frustration I was so familiar with, I also understand why someone would relay this tale-

Objectively speaking, its a story of hope. It defies logic and statistics and even science, in some cases. And I am so grateful that it is mine.

But I also tread very lightly when discussing it with my friends- the ones that are in the very middle of their fertility journeys.

Because if I’ve learned anything in the last five years, it is that this chapter of our lives TTC is one that is beyond sensitive. And even when we give advice and tell tales of hope with the best of intentions, it can still sting those of us deep in the fertility trenches.

So, as always, when I am {often} asked what to say to those TTC, I would say this:

Say nothing. Listen. Listen to your friends when they are hopeful. Listen when they are not. Celebrate with them when they experience victories- both large and small. Hold their hand when they are anxious. Comfort them when they are sad- for as long as they need to be. Let them talk, even when your happy hour can no longer stand the mention of IVF and TTC and FETs and BFPs. Let them be selfish. And be patient. As patient as you can be. For as long as it takes.

But please, please, do not say these:

You can always adopt. Adoption is an amazing way to create a family. Let me be clear: I am totally supportive of creating a family in any and all ways- through surrogacy or egg or sperm donation, or adoption or any other way out there. But when you are trying to create a life with your egg, in your own body, it is incredibly frustrating to hear this piece of advice.

Everything happens for a reason/It will happen when it’s meant to happen. True. But again, not helpful. In hindsight, I know my daughter came to me when she was meant to come to me. And all those unsuccessful rounds of IVF were meant to happen, too. They’re the fabric of my family and my story; they made me who I am today; they strengthened my marriage and made us better partners. But saying this to someone trying to build a family, again, is not productive.

You can have mine. Like, what? You’d be surprised to know how many times I heard this, too. To be clear: complaining about motherhood and children to someone trying to become a mother is NOT HELPFUL.

It will happen when you aren’t thinking about it. In some cases, yes. In others, no. But, in my experience, you can’t will yourself to not think about something as paramount as trying to create a family when you want it most. In general, I would shy away from words of encouragement that revolve around when your baby will come, as they beg the questions: Why not now? Why not for me? What am I doing wrong? Which can be defeatist, to say the very least.

photo by Julia Dags