'What Did We Do to Deserve This?': The Infertility Question We Flipped on Its Head


It was 2010.

Two years after we happily walked down the aisle of a Catholic church and exchanged our wedding vows, we found ourselves in an unfamiliar place.

It was a place I never pictured we’d need to be.

I sat nervously twiddling my thumbs with my pants pulled down and a thin paper draped over my lap.

This is it, I thought. This is the beginning of our family…

It was the beginning of our first round of infertility treatments with a reproductive endocrinologist, and we were making plans based on what things looked like “down there” and “in there.”

The appointment ended 20 minutes later.

Even though we left with a plan to get pregnant, I cried as my husband and I walked out of that clinic.

The reality that we were now one of those couples — you know, the 1 in 8 who experience infertility — felt like too much of a burden to bear.

I felt like we had done everything right. We had good jobs. A beautiful home. We were paying off our student loans, and we were financially secure. We started asking ourselves, What did we do to deserve this?

My sadness turned into frustration as we drove to the pharmacy to pick up my injections. Lots of injections. Hundreds of dollars’ worth of injections. We asked ourselves again, What did we do to deserve this?

As if the thought of paying to become a human pincushion wasn’t enough, our insurance company denied coverage. And we continued asking ourselves, What did we do to deserve this?

We justified the hefty price tag, though, with a renewed sense of hope from one of the top specialists in town. But like most couples with an infertility diagnosis, we had no idea what was around the corner.

Month after month, we gambled with our emotions, our finances and my body. 

But they never worked. None of them. The infertility treatments never worked. Our specialist — as much as she tried to convince us otherwise — filled our hearts with empty hope. Our bodies “failed” us time and time again.

Out of dozens of pregnancy tests, there was never a plus sign.

Out of all of the vitamins and supplements and acupuncture sessions to increase our chances of getting pregnant… none of it ever worked.

It was heartbreaking.

It took us an entire year to grieve the loss of having biological children.

We cried. We were angry. We were envious of the perfect lives everyone else seemed to live.

And then little by little, seed by seed, we became hopeful.

You see, there are many ways to build a family.

Some people choose to pursue embryo donation or IVF; others use donor sperm or donor eggs. Some people choose to foster parent or accept a life without children.

And us? We felt a tug at our hearts to adopt. So that’s what we did.

The road to get there wasn’t always easy. But my goodness, it was worth it.

And now, three (fast) years later, I look back on our family’s journey through infertility, adoption and childbirth, and I’m grateful.

I’m grateful for it all. Yes, even the disappointments and heartaches, for they’ve provided me with a level of empathy and understanding only those who have walked can understand.

I’m grateful for what infertility taught me; I’m grateful the road to motherhood wasn’t easy because I appreciate it so much more.

Most importantly, I’m grateful for where it eventually led us: to three little girls — all brought to our family differently — who we get to call our own.

three little girls smiling

And now we ask that same question we asked ourselves years ago, except with a totally different context: What’d we do to deserve this — to deserve the honor and privilege of raising these three beautiful girls?

Follow this journey on Shelley Writes.

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