Monday, April 24, 2017

Listen Up! Infertility Doesn't Just Affect Women

This post during NIAW is written from my husband's perspective. Even though he is biologically "fine," infertility affects him as it does me. This is his essay he wrote for a grant we applied for. As you can see, while I am the more serious one, he definitely brings laughter into my life. He has been my rock over the past several years and has kept me sane. He's reminded me that it is still ok to laugh.

 My path to attempted parenthood started off similar to others, and for the same reasons.  Lara and I had been talking about having kids ever since I got out of the Navy and had a regular work schedule.  Our family includes two goofy and sweet dogs, but I always wanted to add children to the mix.  Every time we visited our nieces and nephews, after holding and playing with them, I always felt longing and wishing that we could have children of our own.  But since we made the decision to start trying, we could never figure out Lara’s ovulation cycles. 

“Wait, ok,” she would say while hovering over a calendar, “I ovulated last time two days early, which altered the ovulation moving average to 3.567 weeks, but my basal temperature hasn’t changed just yet so that means I’m a day late, which means I should be ovulating…let’s see…tomorrow?!”  I’d scratch my head at the charts and graphs she had sprawled out across our kitchen, not to mention the kooky equations she was using. “Why not worry? We could just try every single day!” I added with a smile.  The face melting look I got told me that my suggestion was not a viable option.

Despite repeated attempts to predict Lara’s ovulation cycle (and a chicken bone necklace on my part), we sensed something was amiss, but couldn’t really determine what it was.  Lara would watch television, and a generic nuclear family with 1.5 kids and a baby would be featured.  Lara would look at it wistfully and sigh, “I wish I had a bun in the oven.” Because I am a proud male descendant of Neanderthals, I am completely oblivious to subtlety and remarked, “Oh, buns are gross. I prefer biscuits.”

It wasn’t until I was in bed, after hours spent puzzling as to why Lara pelted me with pillows, that it hit me: “By golly, you were talking about wanting a child!”

So after months of trying, our gynecologist finally gave us a referral to a fertility specialist who officially diagnosed Lara with polycystic ovarian syndrome.  “What does this mean?” I asked. “It means it’ll be difficult for us to get pregnant.”

I was devastated. Did this mean we’d have to resort to dressing the dogs up in baby clothes? Who would I tell my awesome dad jokes to? “Stop being so dramatic,” Lara replied. “It means we’ll have to start seeing the fertility doctor to check if I’m ovulating regularly.”

As it turns out, Lara was not. Despite my chicken bone necklace, we’ve had to resort to hormone therapy with no success.  After the fifth round of therapy and numerous test, we’re slowly starting to come to the realization that we may have to resort to IUI or IVF as the end point, as well as paying for a majority of the costs out of pocket.  But as I explained to Lara, my view is that it’s just one more hoop to jump through to have a kid and totally worth it.

As most of you know, we've decided to skip IUI and to try for our first IVF round, hopefully soon! And as my husband says, whatever hoops we have to jump through, we will, because in the end, having a baby will be worth all the hoop-jumping in the world.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Listen Up! The Lonely Journey of Infertility

Today marks the official start of National Infertility Awareness Week or NIAW. Throughout this week I'll be posting on different topics and different experiences on my infertility journey. The first post is a hopeful post on how infertility doesn't automatically mean loneliness. 

The journey of infertility. Oh how to explain this to people who don't understand? 

A year ago I was asking my GYN for a referral to a fertility specialist. I remember sitting in my car, alone, crying after that appointment. Even though I wanted to move forward, I hated that I had to take this step. I thought I would be joining the ranks of sad, angry women who thought all the time about stealing children from hospitals or who were so drugged up from infertility injections that they couldn't function. 

A year ago I sat in my car, alone, crying because I thought that I would lose all my friends, that my family would shun me and that my husband would eventually give up on me. I sat in my car crying because in the span of a few minutes I had completely changed, my life had completely changed and I was about to go back to work to people who would never know what this felt like. How would they react? How would I get through this? 

A year ago I sat in my car ,alone and crying, and made the first, of a lot, appointment with my RE. A year ago I couldn't have imagined how far I would go, the friendships I've made, the thing I've done, the strength of my marriage. A year ago. So much has changed. 

The lonely journey of infertility can be really lonely. And I know that sounds redundant so let me explain. Everyone's journey is different. Everyone has a different reason for joining the infertility family and so in that way, everyone is "alone" on their journey. Even though another woman may have PCOS, her journey and mine are not the same. But you don't have to be alone in the walk. You don't have to be alone in the darkness. 

I felt alone for a long time after that day. For weeks I tried to make sense of what was happening. Why it was happening. I tried to atone for my sins, because surely that would stop this madness. Each step we took, each new treatment we tried was always I step I had felt for sure we would never have to take. I was angry and frustrated and I hated myself. I couldn't understand why my husband stuck around. 

And then I went to my first Resolve support group. I was late, because why not? When it was my turn to share I could barely get through the first part of my story before tears came. I felt shame and embarrassment that I couldn't even hold it together for strangers. And then I looked up. They were all looking at me but not in a judgmental way. Some even had tears in their eyes. They all were looking at me in empathy-they had all taken this same step before. All of a sudden I felt like I could breathe again. I stopped screaming at myself. The hurt in my heart lessened a little bit. I was surrounded by people who knew. With them I didn't have to sensor my feelings, my frustration. And I didn't want to. Each month I went to a meeting and each month I connected with someone who knew what I was going through. Each month I met another amazing person. And each month I felt more hopeful. 

I am lucky enough to live in Richmond, VA where there is a very active infertility community. In fact, we are so active that each year for the past four years we've held a race to raise grant money to help sponsor the journeys of five very lucky parents-to-be. 

This year, my husband and I were so fortunate to have been chosen as grant recipients for the 2017 race. We, along with four other couples, spent the past several months planning the race, sharing it with family and friends, and spreading infertility awareness. 

Yesterday was the day of the race and it was one of the best days of my life. While I can't say that this journey has been easy, I do not regret the people that I've met, the friendships that I've made, the experiences that have made me a stronger person. It's taken me a long time to accept infertility as part of who I am. I have come to love my journey, I wouldn't change it for anything. The people I've met in the past year are some of the strongest people I know. They have held my hand as I struggled, they have let me cry with them. My infertility family means everything to me. 

And just like that, I'm not alone anymore. 

Sunday, April 9, 2017


Lately, I have been feeling anxious. I have been trying to think of things to do so that it feels like we're moving forward. The race is in less than two weeks (!!!), which means that we'll soon start the "getting ready" portion of IVF. I am excited and terrified. I was reading back through a text conversation with a friend last night. Hard to believe that just a few months I was so sure that we would never have to try IVF. And yet here we are. Just a few short weeks away.

I realized why I have been so anxious the last several weeks. IVF is not even remotely close to other procedures we've tried. We WILL be making babies, they'll be only 3 or 5 day old embryos, sure, but that's more than anything I've ever had. And I think that's why I'm anxious. Because before, even if there was fertilization, I never knew it. But this time, I will KNOW that there are embryos in there. And if they don't stick, I will have actually lost something.

Did you know that you can see your embryos before they're transferred? You can actually see the little tiny microscopic embryos before they go in. There's an acronym that's used for women in between transfer and confirming a pregnancy two weeks later: PUPO. Pregnant until proven otherwise.

So there you have it. The reason for my anxiety.

I sincerely believed we would never have to utilize IVF. I really did think that the other things would work. But they didn't and here we are.

Just a few more weeks. A few more weeks until, what I think will be, the most emotional roller coaster time of our lives.

Another "hurry up and wait." I hate "hurry up and wait."