Since yesterday was the last day of Infertility Awareness Week, I thought it was about time to post something and maybe give those a peek into what infertility might feel like to some 15% of couples that are struggling to conceive. I have been putting it off because honestly, thinking about it makes my heart hurt. For my story, for your story, and for those of you who don’t even know if fertility is even an issue yet.
Infertility is many, many things but a good time is definitely not one of them.
It makes me relive those awkward punch to the gut moments…like when someone at church asked me about my priorities and why I don’t have children yet.
It’s going to the umteenth baby shower with a smile on my face, mentally giving everything I have to not make the day about me, and to convey my genuine happiness so my friend feels special and loved like they deserve on their shower day.
It’s going through a divorce and feeling sad, broken, and defeated because you know that you are potentially losing YEARS off your time bomb of a biological clock while you’re simultaneously wondering if you will find love again.
It’s scheduling your 4th endometriosis laparoscopy surgery since the pain is telling you it’s about that time to clean out your insides (approximately every 3-4 years).
It’s hearing the anxiety in a friend’s voice when they are about to tell me they are pregnant again.
It’s skipping vacations, shopping at thrift stores, working full time, and going without any extras in order to save for fertility treatments (IVF).
It’s also getting a pregnancy test for a white elephant gift at my extended family’s Christmas party, while hurting/laughing at the irony at the same time.
Yet one miraculous day, not even two months after that same Christmas party, I will scramble to grab that pregnancy test I had stashed away in the closet and will be convinced the false positive is ovarian or uterine cancer. Because honestly, that scenario is a thousand times more believable, right? I mean, c’mon, who gets pregnant when they have mono, the swine flu, and bronchitis all at the same time? With fertility issues piled on top of that? It’s almost comical really how the seemingly impossible came to be.
Then when the news actually sinks in, I try my best not to feel too happy or attached to this growing baby, for the entire 10 months (that was new to me too!) of being pregnant. It’s a completely messed up and backwards way to feel. It’s SO hard to explain. Being let down and disappointed for so many years will really screw with your thoughts. You don’t feel worthy or prepared to be a parent, and every day you think this is too good to be true. That something will go wrong. Infertility will eventually start to define you and wear you down, even when you try everything in your power not give it another thought or energy you don’t really have to begin with.
I HATED that the most.
Not only do you feel like you are missing out on being a member of the Exclusive Parents Club, you feel like an outsider, an outcast, a defective human, unblessed, undeserving, and somehow faulty or being punished somehow for having to endure these difficult struggles.
Of course none of that is true, but dealing with infertility is enough to make you insane, emotional, and downright irrational trying to justify why this is happening to you.
To this day, 2 and a half years later, I’m still in shock. I’m still processing it all and will continue to try to process it all for the rest of my life. I truly feel so lucky to have been given my sweet miracle baby, yet I don’t think the pain will ever fully go away. Just because I was able to get pregnant once doesn’t mean that my struggles with infertility are over. Those painful memories are still fresh in my mind, and the uncertainness of tomorrow still scares the crap out of me.
The only thing I’m sure of is that God has a sense of humor. He sure has a funny way of showing it sometimes, but those are a bunch of other Summer stories for another day. He’s always answered my prayers in His own way on His own time, but just knowing He’s finally heard my plea to become a mother is such a comfort. If getting pregnant with Ryo could happen to me once in face of so much difficulty, is anything really impossible?
What we all need to remember is that infertility awareness begins with an open dialogue. It has been tremendously helpful to meet other men and women who are also struggling and I’ve been so blessed to meet some amazing people who have been so open and willing to share their stories. If you are suffering alone and in silence, please find your tribe that you can confide in. Some days the extra empathy with friends who understand infertility first hand is crucial to coping with the anxiety and stress that it brings.
I came across this amazing video on Sympathy vs. Empathy and how sympathy can actually make a situation worse. “Rarely can a response make something better. What makes something better is connection.” This couldn’t be more true. Watch this. I promise the 3 minutes of your time will be worth it.
And if you have gotten this far, here are some Fast Facts about Infertility (found on Resolve.org). Don’t be afraid to talk about it and to share your story too. You have no idea how your experience can help and support another who might be in your same situation.
Infertility is a disease that results in the abnormal functioning of the male or female reproductive system. The World Health Organization, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recognize infertility as a disease.
Infertility is defined as the inability to conceive after one year of unprotected intercourse (six months if the woman is over age 35) or the inability to carry a pregnancy to live birth.
- 7.4 million women, or 11.9% of women, have ever received any infertility services in their lifetime. (2006-2010 National Survey of Family Growth, CDC)
- 1 in 8 couples (or 12% of married women) have trouble getting pregnant or sustaining a pregnancy. (2006-2010 National Survey of Family Growth, CDC)
- Approximately one-third of infertility is attributed to the female partner, one-third attributed to the male partner and one-third is caused by a combination of problems in both partners or, is unexplained. (www.asrm.org)
- A couple ages 29-33 with a normal functioning reproductive system has only a 20-25% chance of conceiving in any given month (National Women’s Health Resource Center). After six months of trying, 60% of couples will conceive without medical assistance. (Infertility As A Covered Benefit, William M. Mercer, 1997)
- Approximately 44% of women with infertility have sought medical assistance. Of those who seek medical intervention, approximately 65% give birth. (Infertility As A Covered Benefit, William M. Mercer, 1997)
- Approximately 85-90% of infertility cases are treated with drug therapy or surgical procedures. Fewer than 3% need advanced reproductive technologies like in vitro fertilization (IVF). (www.asrm.org)
- The most recently available statistics indicate the live birth rate per fresh non-donor embryo transfer is 47.7% if the woman is under 35 years of age and 39.2% if the woman is age 35-37. (Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology, 2013)
- Fifteen states have either an insurance mandate to offer or an insurance mandate to cover some level of infertility treatment. Eight of those states have an insurance mandate that requires qualified employers to include IVF coverage in their plans offered to their employees: Arkansas, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Rhode Island.
- A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine (August 2002) found that the percentage of high-order pregnancies (those with three or more fetuses) was greater in states that did not require insurance coverage for IVF. The authors of the study noted that mandatory coverage is likely to yield better health outcomes for women and their infants since high-order births are associated with higher-risk pregnancies.
- The Affordable Care Act (ACA) does not require coverage for infertility treatments. Those states with an infertility mandate that covers IVF may have chosen an Essential Health Benefits (EHB) benchmark plan that includes the IVF mandate. The EHB impacts the individual and small group markets only in each stat