“Take a cruise, that’s what worked for a friend of mine!”
“Why don’t you just adopt?”
“Maybe this isn’t God’s plan for you?”
These are just a few examples of the many so-called “well-meaning” sentiments that people say to you when they find out you are having difficulty trying to conceive a child. If you were to say any of the above within the earshot of a veteran of the infertility trenches, you could earn yourself a punch in the throat, or at least a glare that says more than what one would say in polite company.
According to RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association : Infertility is a disease that results in the abnormal functioning of the male or female reproductive system. Both the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), World Health Organization (WHO) 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.
For those that suffer from this disease, like myself, infertility is an emotional and physical burden to carry. The inability to succeed at something so ingrained into our biological nature is humiliating and depressing. What should be the easiest thing in the world to succeed at (after all, teenagers and crackheads can do it!) provides the greatest sense of failure you will ever know. You are stripped of your femininity, or in the case of male factor infertility – emasculated, through a series of invasive tests and procedures. Your private sexual life is now, quite literally, under a microscope. To top it all off, your ability to create your family can be limited by the financial means you have available to you. If you do not have insurance coverage for the necessary tests or procedures, then you can be facing medical costs that usually run between 10 -30,000 dollars per treatment. Adoption isn’t always a cheaper option either. Private and foreign adoption can cost you just as much as infertility treatment and most couples have already spent the money on said treatment before moving onto to the choice of adoption. Of course, neither option can 100% guarantee that you’ll go home with a child in the end.
In honor of National Infertility Awareness Week, (because I have been on this so-called journey for the past 13 years, and now my husband and I are now pursuing becoming parents via the foster-to-adoption route) my editors here at OKC.NET have asked me to write a monthly column in which I will explain the process that I have gone through in my quest to become a mother. I hope to better educate our readers – and the public at large – about something that is often misunderstood because it is such a private issue. I will discuss not only my own story, but the stories of women and couples I know who have turned to a variety of means to build their families. I will also strive to answer any questions you may have about anything I have written, or that you may have heard in general and would like to know more about.
My story begins like so many other little girls; all I wanted to do was be a Mommy when I grew up. I’ve always had an extremely maternal/nurturing side of my personality in which my dolls and animals were my outlet as a child. As I grew, the desire for motherhood did not wane. I spent my teenage years babysitting to earn money and hang around babies and small children. My mother gave birth to me at the age of 20, so I thought nothing of becoming a mother at a young age as it was quite common in my family. In the three years we were together before our marriage, my husband and I had encountered more than one pregnancy “scare” in which he was nervous and I was secretly thrilled and hopeful. Within eight months after our marriage we started actively trying to conceive a child. At this time I was 21 and was completely convinced that I would be mother by the new millennium only ten months away.
Instead, month after month brought heartache and disappointment.
Internet chat rooms and bulletin boards were just becoming popular and there were plenty of outlets for women who were trying to conceive. My life became an endless stream of acronyms as I learned how to chart my BBT (basal body temperature – to know when I was ovulating), examining my CM (cervical mucous – just as gross as it sounds) and scheduling BD (baby dancing AKA sex) with my DH (dear husband). If I was even one day late at the end of my cycle, I would rush to my OB/GYN’s office to ask for a beta (blood test to measure HCG, the pregnancy hormone) only to be disappointed when either the test came back negative, or my period would start later that day. After enduring these ups and downs for many months, my doctor and I agreed that due to my family history of endometriosis and other female reproductive issues that I should schedule a laperoscopy procedure in order to diagnose and treat anything that may be going on with my reproductive organs. My surgery was performed on January 7, 2000 and after removing several spots of “endo” on my uterus, fallopian tubes and ovaries, I was declared fully fertile and ready to start trying again within six weeks of recovery.
Subsequent months of continued failure (along with other circumstances in my life at the time) eventually brought on a deep depression. At the time, I was living in the Washington, D.C. metro area because my husband worked as a government contractor for the Department of Defense. Without family and friends to help me through these tough times, I felt extremely alone and vulnerable. Eventually, I knew that I needed a support system in place to help me deal with my depression, and so I moved back to Oklahoma, where I have remained since. I thought perhaps living once again in familiar surroundings would help me to “relax” and that I would finally become pregnant.
Two years passed with no results. I listened to people that told me not to worry, because I was still young and I also did not have the money or medical coverage to seek any further testing. Every time a friend or family member would announce their pregnancy, I would feel the white-hot stab of simultaneous jealousy and sorrow in my heart. However, for their sake, I had to put on my happy face and pretend that everything was fine. Mother’s Day was always especially painful. Having to endure an entire holiday that did nothing but remind me of my own failures was excruciating. If it weren’t for the support of my online friends who were enduring the same thing, I don’t know how I would’ve coped. No one else I knew in person was going through anything similar. It seemed like the entire world minus myself was fertile. During this time, it was mere happenstance that my husband found out that he had a hernia in the groin area. When he went to see a urologist to schedule surgery, I mentioned to the doctor that we had been trying to conceive for three years without success. The doctor suggested that we order a semen analysis to see if my husband’s sperm could be a contributing factor. The test results were devastating: there was no way that my husband could ever father a child without Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART). As is typical with most couples going through fertility struggles, both parties assume that the problem lies with the woman’s reproductive organs, so we were both shocked to learn that we equally contributed to our conception issues. The doctor diagnosed my husband as having a vericocele of the testes and would perform surgery to try and correct the problem at the same time as the hernia repair. Our hopes were once again buoyed with the thought that we would be able to finally succeed after a simple procedure. Unfortunately, subsequent tests throughout the years have since shown otherwise and we were back to square one.
Next month, I will share with you how my husband and I wrestled with the decision throughout the years as through what means we would now build our family, and how we eventually came to the decision to become foster parents with the hope to eventually adopt a placement. In the meantime, allow me to direct you to the following links that may answer some questions you have, or clear up any confusion about infertility myths: Fast Facts About Infertility (from RESOLVE), and Frequently Asked Questions About Infertility (also from RESOLVE).