It’s National Infertility Awareness Week. Did you know that 1 in 8 couples struggle to conceive? Often times, people think asking a couple when they’re going to have a baby (or another baby) is a harmless question. What they don’t realize is that couple may have been trying to conceive unsuccessfully for months or even years.
I know I’ve shared a lot about our struggle to conceive, but I think it’s important to keep the conversation going. I can’t tell you how devastating it is to track your cycle and ovulation every month to make sure “the timing” is right, only to get a negative pregnancy test month after month. I watched everyone around me fall pregnant, and I constantly wondered when would it be my turn. After 10 months of unsuccessfully TTC, we started seeing a reproductive endocrinologist for testing. Ben and I are both healthy, so we didn’t understand why it was taking so long to conceive. All of our tests came back normal. There was no explanation as to why I hadn’t gotten pregnant yet. I was “diagnosed” with unexplained infertility.
After almost a full year of TTC without success, we were scheduled to begin treatment. We had one more cycle to TTC naturally, and then we’d move on to intrauterine insemination (IUI). Well, we ended up pregnant with Elliot that last cycle. A full year of tracking every single symptom and peeing on stick after stick after stick, we finally got our baby.
Then our dreams were destroyed by stillbirth.
We were four months out from losing Elliot when we decided we wanted to have a second baby. I knew we might have trouble conceiving again, but I was also hopeful it would happen sooner this time. After a few months of failed attempts to get pregnant, more negative pregnancy tests and more heartache, I called my RE again. I begged him to help us sooner. We couldn’t wait a full year again. Not after all we had been through. My doctor agreed to move things along faster for us, and after 6 months of TTC, we did our first round of IUI.
There were so many appointments for blood draws and ultrasounds. Shots at home, tracking ovulation. Always waiting to move on to the next step. Keeping notes on everything – progesterone levels, follicle count, follicle size, etc. Being ready to go to the doctor’s office today, tomorrow, the day after. Because when your tiny follicle has finally reached maturity, it is go time. You have to be monitored closely leading up to that time so you don’t miss your window. It’s exhausting. And that was “only” IUI. IVF is much more involved.
After the dreaded “two week wait” we learned that our first IUI worked. Yay! Well, that excitement lasted a day. We learned my HCG level was very low and would likely result in a non-viable pregnancy. I really hate that word, btw – viable/non-viable. After my second blood draw, our fear that the pregnancy wasn’t viable was confirmed, as the doctor on staff that day very coldly relayed to me via email. Talk about being kicked while you’re already down.
Our regular RE said we could try one more IUI cycle, but he was not hopeful. Thanks for the honesty, but WTF? at the same time. If the next IUI did not work, we would move on to IVF. I was exhausted physically and emotionally. It had been 2.5 years since we started this journey. A year of TTC, losing Elliot, another 7 months of TTC, and now an early miscarriage. I was not sure how much more I could take. But we moved forward with our next IUI. It was even more exhausting the second time around. Probably because I knew what to expect, and truthfully, I was starting to lose hope myself. Then it happened. We conceived Brynn.
Sometimes I minimize our struggle because we did get pregnant eventually. But after revisiting what we went through, I am reminded of how hard it was. It took us over three years to bring home a living baby. 3 years, 4 months, and 29 days to be exact. Things with Isla were different. I thought 100% for sure we’d need help again, as I was convinced we would never get pregnant on our own. But life threw a curve ball at us once again. I share this part of our story to offer some hope that the unexpected can happen in your favor, which can be difficult to believe sometimes.
Even with all of the difficulties we had conceiving, we still consider ourselves very lucky, and we would do it all over again for all three girls.
So why am I sharing this deeply personal information?
Because I am not ashamed. Because I didn’t know that being healthy and doing all the “right” things didn’t guarantee pregnancy or a healthy baby. Because I didn’t know to look for support from others like us when we struggled so much at the beginning. Because it is important for people to know they’re note alone. And because it is important to spread awareness that this journey can be very trying for many people. It can take years and years for couples to conceive, and then they are faced with the struggle of keeping the pregnancy and bringing home a living baby. Many people cannot get pregnant at all. Many people go through failed round of IVF after failed round. Sometimes there is a known cause for infertility, sometimes there isn’t. Sometimes people get pregnant quickly the first time only to experience secondary infertility later.
You just never know what someone is going through.