Wendi and her husband, John

What to Do (and Not to Do) for a Friend Dealing With Infertility

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One thing that has truly been on my heart during our journey through infertility is educating people about the condition.

Many have asked my opinion on what you should or shouldn’t say to someone struggling with this. (I am speaking largely to women here because I receive these questions/comments more often from women.) So here is my short and sweet guide.

The Basics:

A couple will eventually resolve the infertility problem in one of three ways:

  1. They will eventually conceive a baby.
  2. They will stop the infertility treatments and choose to live without children.
  3. They will pursue an alternative way to parent, such as adopting a child or becoming foster parents.

It is important for you to understand that each of these three “routes” offers excitement, pain and heartbreak in their own way. I have friends who have either chosen or been forced down each of these different paths. It is important not to pressure them down any of these roads. Option one can be racked with worry and fear after the amount of time and money invested. Options two and three can be very difficult choices.

The Don’ts:

Here are some things I believe you should not say to someone struggling with infertility. If you have said any of these, don’t feel bad. One of my dear friends was struggling with infertility before I was diagnosed, and looking back, I said every one of these things to her. I apologized, and thankfully she understood I meant well. Having been there, I know people do mean well, but I also believe the more educated you are about this, the better.

  • Don’t tell them to relax. This is very rarely the problem for people with infertility. While stress can be a problem, it is often not the main issue. Stress is usually an issue that is quickly rectified.
  • Don’t minimize the problem or say worse things can happen. Don’t say it really isn’t a big deal and shouldn’t bother them that much. Of course there are worse things that can happen. Any life-changing event could be worse, but it doesn’t change how much it hurts.
  • Don’t say they aren’t meant to be parents.
  • Don’t ask why they aren’t trying in vitro fertilization (IVF). IVF is expensive and isn’t an “easy” decision.
  • Don’t play doctor. Don’t give medical advice unless you really know what you are talking about.
  • Don’t be crude. This should be obvious. Making jokes about “Do you need a lesson?” is just mean.
  • Be tender when making a pregnancy announcement. The general rule here is to not make your announcement in a public place with your friend experiencing infertility in attendance. Instead, send them a card or an email and allow them to digest it privately first. Remember they are happy for you, but they might also be jealous because of their own frustrations.
  • Don’t complain about your pregnancy to your children. Obviously there are things to complain about with infertility, but it is a wise move to find other adults to confide in regarding these problems.
  • Don’t push adoption (yet). The general rule is to not bring this up unless they bring it up first. This is a very wonderful and tender topic, and if/when they are ready, they will share.
  • Don’t start any story with “I know someone…” or “I had a friend who…”. These stories often feature the exception, not the rule. The biggest culprits: “I know a friend who went on a vacation then had a baby” and “I know who friend who got pregnant right after they adopted.”
  • Don’t tell them that if they adopt, they will probably become pregnant. According to Resolve, the National Infertility Association, studies show the rate for getting pregnant after adopting is the same for people who do not adopt
  • Don’t question their decision to stop treatments. Again, it’s a personal decision. Encourage them in whatever direction they choose. If they want advice, they’ll ask.
  • Don’t say, “I hope this works for you because being a parent is the best thing ever.” I have heard this on more than one occasion — shocking? Yes. Painful? Yes. I know they mean well, but it is hard to hear.

The Do’s:

If your friend (or an acquaintance) brings up their infertility with you, they probably want to talk to you about it. From that point on, the conversation is usually welcome. Start off by saying, “If you don’t want to talk about it, it’s OK, but how is everything going?” Most of the time, once a couple decides to share, they will want to talk about it. So now that I’ve explained what not to do, here is what I believe you should do:

  • Remember their “calendar” and send an email or card on a big day.
  • Put them in touch with other people “in their situation.” (Ask them if they want to be contacted or do the contacting.)
  • Let them know you care. Cards or thoughtful acts are appreciated.
  • Remember them on Mother’s Day. This is a very painful day for my husband, John, and me. We choose not to go to church and instead plan a fun day away from all the mothers with flowers. You could simply send a nice card saying you are remembering them on that day, like you would on the anniversary of a loss. My friend Deanna had her kids (my godkids) sent special “God-Mom” cards on Mother’s Day one year. This was a wonderful thought.
  • Attend support group meetings with them.
  • Invite them to all events but understand they may opt out of events that might be painful (baby showers, baptisms, etc.).
  • Invite them to special child-free events whenever possible.
  • Give them poems or even books you think might be helpful — try to find another friend who has experienced infertility to give a “stamp” of approval on the book. (I have a great list!)
  • Offer to go to appointments with them if their partner is unavailable. (Thanks, Lesley!)
  • Recognize that not being able to have a child can be the loss of a dream for some people. They will move through stages of grief, which may include a time when they question their faith. However, I believe they can cycle through this with love and prayer.
  • Read books that will help you understand what your friend might be going through. I strongly recommend “Water From the Rock” to understand the grieving process those with infertility go through.
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4 Words I Want to Share With Women Facing Infertility

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I’ve skipped church. I was unable to enter the doors altogether, simply because I knew the flowers on blouses, the words from the pulpit and the “asking the moms” to stand would simply be more than I was emotionally able to bear.

I’ve lied in my bed and cried the hard cry — the cry that comes from the very deepest part of you. And in truth, it wasn’t a cry of sadness as much as it was one of deep, gut-wrenching pain over our infertility journey that was entering yet another year.

I’ve attempted to go to a baby shower only to find myself in the bathroom, trying to will that lump in my throat to go away as other ladies chatted and talked about things I could only dream about.

I’ve sung happy birthday to a 1-year-old as he stuffed a cupcake in his face and stood there, mumbling prayers and pleading for the chance, somehow, to be the mommy of a little someone.

I’ve tried to turn my head from the television when a story of a woman abandoning her child popped up, only to find myself glued to the screen as the story of an unwanted pregnancy and an unwanted child was shared.

I’ve sat in a doctor’s office as the tiny waiting room filled with a seemingly unending sea of pregnant women, some half my age, all with huge bellies and expectant glows, yearning to have a chance at what seemed so easy for them.

I’ve flipped through brag albums as fast as possible.

I’ve sent my regrets for events I just couldn’t attend.

I’ve walked out of church when a message on parenthood was announced.

I’ve mumbled my congratulations and then sobbed when alone.

I’ve watched everyone but me succeed.

I’ve caught my breath walking by a rack of onesies.

I’ve dreamed.

I’ve prayed.

I’ve begged.

I’ve hurt.

I’ve quit.

I’ve begun again.

I’ve given up.

I’ve picked myself up and decided to give it “one more try.”

I’ve felt infertility.

And I never, ever want another woman to feel what I have felt.

People who haven’t experienced infertility just cannot comprehend the pain involved with the loss of a dream — with the loss of a child that never was.

But I can.

And so I will never stop sharing what I’ve felt.

I will never not remember that pain.

I will stand alongside any woman who wants me to hold their hand.

And I will remember.

And confirm.

And encourage.

And dream with them.

And understand.

I’ve fallen in love with a child I have never met and seen him in my dreams and attended his birthday party and planned for his future and kissed and hugged and wanted him with every facet of my being.

I’ve felt that.

And I’ll never let another woman feel it without knowing I’ve felt it, too, and I understand and will be there for them in any way I can.

They are not alone.

To those women (you know who you are) who I have stood beside through infertility, adoption, success and failures — thank you for letting me remember.

And to those women who I am standing beside right now, please know I will never forget.

For more information on infertility, please visit the links below:

• What is infertility? (Resolve.org)

• National Infertility Awareness Week (Resolve.org)

Follow this journey at flakymn.blogspot.com.

Imagine someone Googling how to help you cope with your (or a loved one’s) diagnosis. Write the article you’d want them to find. If you’d like to participate, please check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Lead photo source: Thinkstock Images

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What Not to Say If Someone Says They Can’t Have Children

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I have heard it all. Complete strangers at christenings have told me, “It’ll be your turn next” or “It’s amazing what doctors can do nowadays.” I’ve even had family members ask me, “If you could have children, would you?” And one person actually burst into tears.

Let me get this out there here and now: If a woman or a man say they can’t have children, don’t ask why, or worse, ask what’s wrong. The implication that you’re somehow broken is upsetting. Just accept it and move on. Not everyone’s life goal is to have a baby, and if someone is infertile, people questioning it really doesn’t help. The questions can actually make us feel bad.

At 29, I had a total hysterectomy and bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy, which meant my cervix, womb, fallopian tubes and ovaries had been removed, and I went straight into surgical menopause.  

Therefore, no matter how amazing some of the advances in medicine are, there is absolutely no chance I’ll ever carry or have a child of my own. The hysterectomy was the right decision for me. I had recurring cancer cells in my cervix that were getting progressively worse with each treatment. I had ovarian cysts that would grow to about the size of a tennis ball and then rupture, and I had a lot of issues with extreme blood loss, resulting in anemia, pain and adenomyosis.

Interestingly, after discussing this with my doctor who diagnosed me with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS), I now know this was part of the EDS (apart from the cancer). I lived with most of these problems during my teenage years, and believe me when I say the hysterectomy was the last resort. Before that, I had undergone 12 gynecological surgeries, countless treatments to try and resolve the issues and I was hospitalized twice because of blood loss. However, I shouldn’t actually have to explain all of this to people.

Being in my mid-30’s and married, I’m going through that phase in life where a lot of my friends are having babies, and, of course, I’m happy for them. However, there will probably always be a small part of me that feels a little sad that it’s an experience I will never have. But I still consider myself very lucky. I met and married a single dad, so I’m a stepmother to three wonderful children.

So the next time someone tells you they can’t have children, please don’t question it, please don’t force them to explain why and please don’t try and offer helpful advice. Just accept what the person says and move on.

I have very purposefully used non-gender specific wording because infertility isn’t specific to women. I think men get left out a lot in the discussion despite the fact that it affects them as well.

Also — and this might be the biggest point of all — please never say, “You’re so lucky!” because your own children deprive you of sleep. And yes, I’ve heard that one as well.

Follow this journey on From the Heart.

The Mighty is asking the following: What is a part of your or a loved one’s disease, disability or mental illness that no one is aware of? Why is it time to start talking about it? If you’d like to participate, please check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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

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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.

The Mighty is asking its readers the following: Describe the moment someone changed the way you think about disability, disease or mental illness. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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Husband Shares His Perspective in Heartbreaking Post About Infertility

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It’s not often men open up about their experience with infertility, but this one husband really hits the nail on the head with a post he shared on Facebook.

Dan Majesky, 37, and his wife, Leah, 36, have been trying to expand their family for over three years. Like other couples with infertility, the Majesky’s have tried more than their fair share of fertility treatments — from ovulation tests to fertility-enhancing drugs and intrauterine insemination.

The Majeskys

Majesky’s description of the couple’s infertility history, like infertility itself, is a roller coaster of emotions.

He shares his anguish: “You see people scream at their kids, and beat them in Kroger, and you just want to die because you would give anything to have a child throwing a tantrum in the cereal aisle.”

As well as the sheer exhaustion that follows fertility treatments: “Are you aware of what happens to people when their hormones go out of the norm? They are not happy. Unless they are happy, in which case, they are very happy. There is no mild. There is no average day. Her job was to feel like her brain and soul were on fire.”

The post, which has been liked on Facebook more than 49,000 times, highlights the highs of finally getting pregnant: “You go in for a blood test, two weeks later, and they tell you that you’re pregnant. And you cry. Big fat tears of relief.”

And the lows that come with miscarriage: “When a family member dies, you can share your grief. With a miscarriage, you would have to tell people that someone who will never be born, who they had never heard of and will never meet, but who meant the world to you, is gone.”

In an interview with The Mighty, Majesky stressed the importance of opening up about infertility: “People of every stripe and walk of life are living through this, and feeling angry and embarrassed and jealous. And it seems like everyone knows someone who is going through this, and wants to understand, but doesn’t.”

“We hide, but maybe by hiding, we’re making it harder on ourselves,” he said. “Maybe the last 3 years would have been easier if we were open along the way. It’s hard to say.”

His advice to those supporting someone with infertility, “You don’t have to be a rock for anyone. Share when you are worried and anxious or you feel that knot in your stomach, but don’t know what it is. Not with the world, but with your partner. Weep with her when you are sad or when tragedy strikes. And if she doesn’t laugh at your jokes, don’t take it personally.”

“And go to the damn doctor with her,” he added. “Every appointment, if you can possibly help it. Hold her hand while she’s laying there, and get breakfast where she wants afterward.”

The couple’s story ends on a happy note as they are currently around 15 weeks pregnant.

You can read Majesky’s Facebook post below:

 

Do you have a minute? I’ve got kind of a long story.

Leah and I have been trying to get pregnant for over 3 years. I’m not sure when, exactly, we stopped the birth control. Like all our plans, we didn’t start with a plan, but instead decided that if we got pregnant, that would be great.

And then we didn’t get pregnant.

I mean, look, when you’re in your twenties, it feels like you can’t look at someone else without getting pregnant. We’ve all heard about someone who got pregnant through 2 condoms, spermicidal lubricant, and an IUD. Right? But we didn’t get pregnant. No big deal.

We’re in our 30s. Things are probably a little bit dusty, and a little bit rusty. So, three years ago, we started using apps and calendars to track this and that. Ovulation test sticks. Old wives’ tales of positions and timing. We got some late periods. And some periods that never came!

But we didn’t get pregnant.

So, off to the doctor we went. His and hers appointments for collections of blood and semen and measuring parts and such. Medical science being what it is, we got the answer to all our problems: “You’re fine, and there shouldn’t be a problem.”

Do doctors ever tell anybody, “This is what is wrong, and this is how to fix it,” and then give them pills, and they’re fine? This is not my experience. My experience is: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

We didn’t get pregnant.

So then came the hormones for Leah. Along with those hormones came the realization that little-to-none of this would be covered by insurance, and that the coverage rate would go down as we went deeper into the process. See, insurance companies look at getting pregnant a lot like getting sick. Why, they can’t imagine, would you try to get sick? Well, fuck you, insurance companies. That’s why.

But we didn’t get pregnant.

So maybe we’re bad at timing, or something, or god knows. Usually that’s fine, but we are in our late 30s, and clocks are ticking. The doctor told us that certain hormone levels were low, lower than they should have been, and that meant our egg supply was dwindling.

Let me tell you something. There is nothing you can tell a woman that will make her feel more young, beautiful and vibrant than, “You have a dwindling egg supply, and it is time to pick up the pace.” You should try it. Maybe at a bar.

And that was when we began IUI, intrauterine insemination. IUI is – colloquially – the turkey baster method. When they told us about it, I tried to really hear what the doctor was saying, but all I could hear echoing around the room, off of the oyster-y pearlescent floors and the alien-vagina wallpaper, was “dwindling.”

For Leah, we eventually figured out, this meant a regimen of hormone boosters to facilitate egg production. Are you aware of what happens to people when their hormones go out of the norm? They are not happy. Unless they are happy, in which case, they are very happy. There is no mild. There is no average day. Her job was to feel like her brain and soul were on fire.

My job was to try and not say anything dumb, because she also needed to be calm. I tried to avoid triggering phrases like “Hey,” or “Good morning,” or “I love you,” but I kept fucking up, and opening my mouth, or allowing Leah to see TV programs, or commercials, to read books, and interact with the world in any way.

The best was when someone would ask her when we were going to have kids. That was just the best.

Then, after one or two ultrasounds to make sure eggs were there, and in their right places on their little follicles, I would give my needle-phobic wife a shot in her thigh to set ovulation in process. She says she’s not so much afraid of needles as she is afraid of being stuck by me with a needle, but same difference, right?

Over time, I developed a method where she would look away, close her eyes and cry, while crushing all the bones in my left hand, and I would count to three, and inject her with my right. I wouldn’t inject her on three. I tried to pick a random time. She usually didn’t even feel it.

After all that romance, you would think that abstaining from sex for a few days would be hard, but you would be wrong. You might also think we should be having massive amounts of sex, but it turns out that you have to let your seminal stash build up for a few days before collection.

Over the last couple years, I became pretty professional about my sperm deposits. My first one was a few paragraphs up, for testing. Man, is it ever weird. You can do it at home if you want, but then you are under a clock to get your sample to the lab on time. I don’t need that kind of stress.

I don’t talk about it much, but I like to think I’m pretty good at taking care of business in the art of sperm production, but I had never entered a room designed specifically for masturbation, while people waited outside, hoping my masturbation went okay. Perhaps that is what Eddie Murphy’s life was like in Coming to America, but I was less familiar with it.

The room was like a combination of a hotel room and an office. It had a big picture of The Ohio State University football stadium, filled with fans, on the wall over a small vinyl sofa. There was a neatly folded sheet, fresh and crisp, hanging on the far armrest. A clock radio on the side table, tuned to local political talk radio, sputtering away beneath a low-lit lamp, was paired with a little wooden cube that had one tiny drawer, specifically made for storing your collection cup.

Under the table were four or five magazines that I didn’t really want to touch. Usually two Playboys, a Penthouse, and a Swimsuit Issue. Across from the couch was a TV/DVD combo with a DVD preloaded. I didn’t want to touch the remote either, really. It sat on a wicker chest.

Wicker struck me as the worst possible material for a room designed for male masturbation. Everybody’s aiming for the cup, I know, but I also know there have been enough accidents in that office that it required a laminated sign about what to do in case of an accident.

The first step, in case of an accident, is to not try to hide it by scraping your mess into the cup. Big no-no. This makes your sample corrupt, which may mean that your partner could end up being impregnated by carpet fibers if I understand correctly, but it is also unsanitary.

The second step is to tell the front desk staff that you had an accident, which seems horrific. The people who work at the lab are people who, by my calculations, deal with upwards of 80 men per day who have just masturbated, or are about to, and their sperm. Sure. They are professional.

But, still, everyone is a little bit tittery, a little bit anxious. We all know that this is all very silly, and that I just touched my penis, and you are someone’s grandmother, and that even though you have a pin in the shape of a little sperm fella to help break the tension, we all – if we really had the choice – would probably prefer to burst into flames than discuss any part of this, let alone the fact that someone missed. Whoops!

The DVD would change over time, but still be of the same variety. Usually some kind of early 90s Eurotrash boat fantasies, or oily faux-lesbian scissorhands scenes, starring fingernails that made me very nervous. I would check every time I went in, and it was always awful. Everybody’s got their thing, I guess. My thing is that I am thankful for the Internet.

Oh. And you are supposed to go in dry if you can help it. Lubrication, as it turns out, can mess with the quality of the semen, which seems like a pretty big jerk move on the part of lubrication.

But, yeah, I’ve got my routine down.

When your sample has been washed and spun, or whatever it is they do with it, they put it in a paper bag that you carry over to the doctor’s office for the procedure. We long-timers can always tell the new couples. Their discomfort and optimism is cute. They smile and look around on their walk, hoping no one notices the bag they have pinched in their fingertips.

Me, I carry my paper bag like a sack lunch. The same turkey sandwich I’ve had every day for years. With hope, yes, but the skepticism of routine.

The IUI itself is pretty quick, and from what I understand, painless, if not the normal amount of demeaning of going to an OB/GYN. You get one more ultrasound to make sure everything is in place, and then they pour the gravy all over the giblets.

Sorry. I know. I’m hung up on turkey metaphors.

And then we wait.

You’re warned against taking pregnancy tests because they measure hormone levels, and after taking all sorts of weird shit all month, you can trigger a false positive. So you wait. And there will be spotting. Is it spotting, or is her period starting? You don’t know. So you wait. And you wait.

And you wait.

And sometimes her period comes, and you start over. Step one.

And sometimes it doesn’t come. But the second line doesn’t appear, or the plus, or the whatever these tests do.

So you wait. And it’s negative, but you hope, and you see your friends getting pregnant, and you get a little sad. But you get mad at yourself because you want to feel happy for other people, and that’s not fair to them. And then the 17-year-old across the street gets pregnant, and you get a little sadder. And your cousins get pregnant, and you get a little sadder.

And you see people scream at their kids, and beat them in Kroger, and you just want to die because you would give anything to have a child throwing a tantrum in the cereal aisle.

You don’t want to hate people. You don’t. I think babies are beautiful. I think kids are awesome, but you can’t help the jealousy. The envy. The resentment. It really creeps up on you. And you search for positive things. And you talk on end about your capital-O Options.

And then you see people on the internet post screeds about how dare anyone assume that they would want to have kids because not having kids is the best – which is fine, have at it or don’t have at it, I really don’t care – but we want to be procreating, and we want what you could have, but are choosing not to use.

And we want to tell you, but people don’t talk about it. Because you don’t want to talk about it.

Because you spend all day thinking about it, managing it. Trying not to cry. Trying to not turn into HI and Ed from Raising Arizona, stealing babies in the night.

And the doctors start talking about Next Steps, and the Next Steps are very expensive, so you try it one more time.

And then, while you’re in Kansas on a road trip with a friend, your wife does the IUI with a frozen deposit you left behind.

And you get pregnant.

You go in for a blood test, two weeks later, and they tell you that you’re pregnant. And you cry. Big fat tears of relief.

And then you freak out because, to be honest, you talked yourself out of real hope months and months ago, but now you have to get ready for a baby.

Some weeks later, you go in for an ultrasound, and there it is. I mean, yeah, it’s a tadpole with a giant head. There’s its brain, and there’s its heart fluttering away, and it’s so real.

And you relax.

We’re in our late thirties, which means that the chances are higher than average that a pregnancy won’t be viable, or there will be a chromosomal abnormality, or something along those lines. We spent a lot of time tiptoeing around that idea, but we talked about it. And about not getting too excited. You know, the higher you let your hopes up, the further they have to fall.

But they told us to relax. Everything looked great and we were on track, so when we went in for one final scan before being released to our obstetrician a couple weeks later, we were all smiles and jokes.

“I’m so sorry. I can’t find the heartbeat.”

And then you’re not pregnant.

I’ve felt time stop before. Car accidents, falling off a fence, a mountain bike jump gone wrong. I have not felt the vertigo of infinity like when we were told our baby was dead.

I’m logical. I understand science and biology. I know it was a fetus, not a baby. But it was my baby. In my head, in my heart, I could already imagine being old as it grew into an adult and had its own children, and – woosh – it was all gone.

As I write this, the due date is a little over a week away, like a car accident on the road ahead that you’re trying not to look at, that you have to drive by.

The world isn’t going to stop. We all get up and go to work. Because it happens. People lose babies all the time.

Miscarriage.

But no one talks about it. No one gets on Facebook and tells their friends. It’s specifically why you wait to tell anyone.

But then you have no one to tell. When a family member dies, you can share your grief. With a miscarriage, you would have to tell people that someone who will never be born, who they had never heard of and will never meet, but who meant the world to you, is gone. And you don’t have the strength to get into it. You tell your parents, maybe a close friend, maybe your boss.

I was so stunned when it happened that I texted my boss that I wouldn’t be back that day, but that I’d be back the next, which really cracks me up now. I didn’t even get how I was about to be affected.

Leah was scheduled for a D&C, dilation and curettage, under general anesthesia at Christ Hospital right away, so she wouldn’t have to go through the trauma of slowly passing the fetal tissue over the course of a week. It wasn’t until they took her back that I let myself break down. Alone with my worst thoughts and the sour coffee of the waiting room for several hours. God, I have no idea how long. One more forever.

The people at the hospital were excellent. We got a lot of information about support groups that we never went to, but we should have. We just wanted to hide.

I’m thankful for our families and our friends, who came to sit with us. Who brought Lea the things she needed, and let me get out of the house to walk around the neighborhood. I must have looked like a zombie.

It’s very difficult to think about, even now. I don’t think I’m doing a good job of describing it. I don’t want to dwell on it. I don’t want to think about it. I don’t think it was until around the New Year that I went a day without crying about it.

But, you know, you pass the car accident and it’s in the rear view, getting further away, and sometimes you don’t even see it anymore. Maybe you’ve told yourself enough times that “at least we know we can get pregnant” and “this just means that something was wrong and it’s a good thing.” Maybe you even believe it.

Just to let you know how strong Leah is, she still made the Dean’s List that semester, and she was carrying 18 credit hours. I dropped out of college for the dumbest reasons in my time – once because I got mugged – but she persevered. Like Britney, bitch.

We started back at the fertility process too soon, in a dumb burst of optimism and courage, and the desire to move forward. The hormone treatments were too much for Leah. And the lack of success was too much for the both of us. So we stopped. Our doctor told me, privately, that we need to take care of ourselves, but that, if we want to have a baby, we either need to move forward now, or start discussing Next Steps.

Remember: Dwindling.

We tried a couple more times, one of which felt good – we thought we had it – and were told that if this one doesn’t take, that we would need to increase hormone treatments substantially and begin planning for options outside of IUI. In Vitro, surrogacy, or something else.

The doctor also told us, during one IUI, that while Donald Trump scares him, his wife loves Trump because of the Mexican wall thing. They are both immigrants. His problem with the wall was that it would be impossible to pay for it. I don’t know. Doctors tell you some crazy shit while they’re inseminating your wife.

Through this process, and through both of our lives, neither of us have ever had a home pregnancy test come out positive. Even when we were pregnant before, it was the doctor who did a test. This last one, Leah couldn’t bear to look at it herself, so I looked at it while she was in the shower, and told her no, that it was negative.

While she stood there, crying, I googled “pregnancy test faint line.” As it turns out, even the faintest fucking line in the whole fucking world means you’re pregnant. So we’re pregnant.

We’re pregnant.

Not that we believed it at first, but we are. Three scans later, I’ve even heard the heartbeat, like a hummingbird, and it’s beautiful.

As I write this, tomorrow is our first obstetrician appointment, and we’re so nervous. So, so nervous. I wouldn’t dare to post this until we’re in the clear enough, and ready to tell people. Almost no one knows right now. We’re worried to jinx it, us, we, who don’t believe in jinxes. Mostly, we’re afraid of going back through the pain. To have to retract it, publicly, is too much to think about.

I know plenty of people have gone through more than us. We are comparatively very lucky. Some people have never gotten pregnant. Some people could not go as far as us. Some people have taken many Next Steps beyond where we were. Some have been successful, but many haven’t. I hesitate to share this because I don’t want anyone to read this and feel what we felt, watching others’ dreams come true.

Some people have found out, or have guessed, and have been very kind to share their own stories with us, and it has helped tremendously to not feel alone. Many thanks to all of them. I hope that maybe this helps someone else feel less alone.

And I hope that everything goes well, and I can inundate you with pictures, starting in November.

Everything went well. Arms and legs and moving around. We’re very excited, but I’ll be holding my breath for 26ish weeks.

And it’s a girl. Not that gender matters! But we’re going to have a little girl! And I am stoked. We are stoked.

We are pregnant.

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A Letter to Infertility, From Someone Who’s a Better Person Because of You

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I am so tired of you. I am tired of hearing your name. I am tired of thinking about you. I am tired of even hearing about you.

I am sorry if that sounds harsh, but it is the truth. You have a lot of nerve, and I’ve decided to let you have a piece of my mind.

I always knew about you. But in 2003 you decided to insert your big, obtrusive self into my life. Not only my life but my husband’s life. And you know, while we are it, I’ll go even farther and blame you for messing with every single person we knew!

Seriously? Do you think of yourself as that important that you had the right to reach your tentacles into the lives of nearly everyone we loved?

You messed with my parents. You told them they may not be able to be grandparents. And while all their friends were celebrating being a grandparent, you thought it was OK to leave them in a state of limbo.

You even had the nerve to tell my only sibling he couldn’t be an uncle. Maybe not ever. Really nice.

And your reach went farther than that. Your coming into my life meant that you even messed with my girlfriends. They had to dull their own celebrations to help ease my pain. They had to walk through this journey with me. They had to cry with me and grieve with me and try to say the right things when sometimes there just wasn’t a right thing to say.

For five long years you inserted yourself into every single aspect of my life. You thrust yourself into the most private recesses of my relationship with my husband. Birthday parties. Baby showers. Church. Reunions. You were there. You not only thrust a disease onto our marriage but you brought huge words along with you: jealousy, frustration, anger, grief, pain and sadness.

You made me feel alone. You made me feel different. You made me feel left out. You made me feel afraid. You made me question every thing I had ever dreamed for my life. You made me question my relationship with God. With my husband. With my friends.

What right did you have?

And you know what? Even after five years of all that pain, I feel like I could have forgiven you if you would have left me alone as my story came to a close.

But you didn’t.

Here I am 12 years after meeting you. Twelve years later, and I am still hurting because of you. This week I cried in my living room to hear of a miscarriage in a womb of a woman I loved dearly. Another friend shared with me that she has been given the final nail in her infertility coffin. No children. Not ever. Three others wait for a birth mother to choose them while still grieving their barren womb. Another is in the midst of treatments and feeling helpless in the wait.

There are celebrations. You don’t win nearly as often as you lose. One friend got news that her IVF was successful this week. Another is preparing to deliver a baby over five years in the making. Yet another celebrates new life through a donor egg.

But in the midst of that joy, I find myself thinking about you all too often, and I have begun to realize you will always be a part of me even though I no longer stare at negative pregnancy tests or allow my body to be a pin cushion of needles. I do not answer questions about myself or cry on a table while doctors attempt to fix an unknown problem. But yet I think of you.

All the time.

And I hate that about you.

I am changed forever because of you.

Anytime I hear a pregnancy announcement, I think of all the people who are pained by these words. Pained because you are living in their home.

Every single time I walk into the baby department of a store, I think of women who speed by that aisle — fighting back a lump in their throat and wondering if it will ever be their turn.

I want to wear a shirt that says, “Wait! You don’t know my story!” I don’t want anyone to look at me and feel like something came easy for me. I don’t want to cause anyone pain.

I still have trouble with Mother’s Day. Even though I have reason to celebrate the mothers in my life and the mother I have become in non-traditional ways. And I blame you for those mixed emotions.

But despite my grave dislike for you, despite how much I loathe having to listen to a woman whisper your name and despite how my heart hurts each time, I stand alongside a woman doing battle against you. I must admit you have made me a better person.

I am stronger.

I am more compassionate.

I am more resilient.

I am less afraid.

And because of that, my fear of you has lessened. So much so that I am not afraid to stand alongside another woman as they fight you. I will do battle by her side as she fights an unseen enemy. I will cry with her. I will encourage her. I will push her to fight you with everything she has. I will educate myself and her and anyone who will listen.

I will explain what this disease called infertility does to a woman’s heart. What it does to a woman’s body. What it does to her relationships.

I will never stop doing battle against you and against what you bring into homes and lives. You have no right in doing what you do.

Love,

Me

Follow this journey at flakymn.blogspot.com.

The Mighty is asking the following: What is a part of your or a loved one’s disease, disability or mental illness that no one is aware of? Why is it time to start talking about it? If you’d like to participate, please check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Lead photo source: Thinkstock Images

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