When I hit my early 30s, I wanted to start a family. We tried the “natural” way, but after three years, it still wasn’t happening. After many doctor’s visits, I learned that I had “unexplained” infertility. After some soul-searching, my husband and I embarked on a journey that included six failed intrauterine transfers and three rounds of IVF (fast forward 15 years and we now have twin teenagers).
Here are some things I learned from my experience:
1. Infertility treatments can be a roller coaster ride, and not always the fun kind.
When you enter the realm of treating infertility, you’re like a poker player doubling down on the middling hand you’ve been dealt. In other words: You’re all in. There’s a certain kind of hopeful recklessness to putting all of your time, energy and money into something that will either fail, or become the best thing that ever happened to you.
You can ride that energy, or let it take you down. Some days I was exhilarated; others I was wallowing in the depths. Taking a truckload of hormones didn’t help. In retrospect, I wish I’d been more prepared for the dramatic highs and lows.
2. Just because people care about you, doesn’t mean they know how.
While most folks are well-meaning, it doesn’t stop them from occasionally being tone deaf. Infertility is very personal, and the sheer intensity of it can make people squirm. I had a friend tell me during my third (and final) round of IVF that, “If I couldn’t get pregnant, I’d just focus on being a super cool aunt.”
At the time, I thought that was a hurtful comment. Looking back, I can see she was just trying to be supportive. I wish I’d spent more time being forgiving, and forgiving myself for being annoyed by others’ comments.
3. You will get so used to going to the doctor you could get a medical license.
As someone who went to the doctor once or twice a year prior to IVF, going to a clinic for daily blood draws and sometimes twice-weekly ultrasounds not to mention real surgical procedures, was a huge change. I got so used to it that toward the end I was on a first-name basis with nurses and office staff. I became a champion at self-administering hormone injections and wore my bruises like a badge of honor.
4. Self-care is your best friend.
IVF is tough on your body, and it can be hard on the mind also. You’re covered with bruises from injections, and blood draws, extractions and implantations can feel like someone hit you with a baseball bat.
The aforementioned hormones will wreak their havoc. I wish the whole self-care movement had been more present when I was going through my pregnancy attempts; I probably would have felt less guilty about barricading myself in my room with chick-flicks and doughnuts for days at a time after I found out yet another procedure had failed.
5. It can test your marriage, in a good way.
While they aren’t getting their bodies poked and prodded to the same degree, your partner is experiencing all the same emotional upheaval you are, not to mention the financial pressure. My husband, among other things, attended a support group where he had to pretend to be a vagina. If that’s not love, I don’t know what is.
While stressful on the marriage overall, I’m happy to say the entire experience drew us closer. I wish I had appreciated his support at the time instead of basking in the “why me” of it all. Lucky for me, he decided to stick around.