My doctor handed me a box of tissues just as I burst into tears.
It was the end of 2020 and at that point, we’d spent more than three years trying to get pregnant without even the faintest line on any pregnancy test. There was no explanation as to why we weren’t getting pregnant and I was at the cusp of turning 37, feeling way too old to have any hope. But in that doctor’s office on that day, I felt for the first time relief, and to me, the first time I’d heard goods news.
To understand why I felt such relief at that moment, we have to go back to the very beginning.
Lance and I got married at the end of 2014, and I moved from California to Birmingham a little less than a week after. I knew getting married, living with someone, and moving to a new place without any community would be difficult, so I definitely did not want to bring a baby into that chaos. But as I mentioned in my introduction post, after a couple of years Lance and I felt it was time to start trying to have a baby.
After six months of trying to get pregnant with regular periods and tracking my ovulation, I went to my OBGYN to talk about next steps. Without much discussion, she told me to wait another six months because I was young. I think she was trying to be encouraging by telling me it would eventually happen, but in the moment I felt ignored and dismissed. It didn’t feel right, but I acquiesced and waited another six months. By the next time I went to my OBGYN I was 34 and already starting to feel like I was running out of time. Again, we didn’t talk about my concerns; instead, she told me to get Lance tested. She didn’t explain that fertility issues were easier to manage if the issue was with the man or that this was the first and necessary step to start the long process of infertility treatments. (These are things I found out over a year later when I saw a fertility specialist.) She just filled out a prescription for Lance and left.
I couldn’t tell you why, but feeling ignored became an insurmountable barrier I was mentally unable to overcome. So it was then that I gave up for the first time.
Now, if you know me, you know that’s totally out of character. If I want something I go for it. Most of the jobs I’ve had started with cold calls and one of my current jobs I applied to twice before getting hired. Even in terms of my health, I’ve always been persistent and proactive. When I found out my aunts had a possibly life-threatening blood disorder, I immediately got tested to see if I had it. When I found a lump in my breast, I scheduled a checkup that week. After my mother got cancer, the first thing I did when I got health insurance was ask my doctor when I needed to have my first colonoscopy. So I’ve never been shy about going after what I wanted. But something about my fertility—my desire to have a baby and my overwhelming fear of never being a mom— paralyzed me.
It was about another year at the end of 2019 before I had the courage to go to the doctor again. This time, it was a different doctor and a different practice. Lance always supported me in whatever I felt comfortable doing, but never pushed me one way or another. He respected and understood I wasn’t ready before then. And to be honest, the only reason I went was because I had two very good friends consistently and lovingly pushing me to go. If they hadn’t worn me down, I doubt I would have gone on my own. So thanks to them we went to see the doctor, ran a bunch of tests, and found out there was nothing wrong with Lance or me, but that IUI would be a promising option to get pregnant.
With that news, we scheduled our first IUI and told a bunch of friends and family members. We did our first IUI, then our second. Then by our third, I stopped telling people we were trying at all. Frankly, I didn’t have the emotional capacity for some of their responses. I couldn’t hear another unhelpful anecdote about some random person who got pregnant because they “just kept trying” as if it’s that easy. Or any more suggestions of “have you tried….” Or the constant demands of people wanting to know if my pregnancy test was negative or positive. One person I had confided in that we were doing IUIs asked me completely seriously if Lance and I were planning to have kids. This person had forgotten all the many personal things I shared about my infertility, and that was the final straw for me. In an effort to protect my heart, I only updated my father and a few friends.
My hope to get pregnant slowly waned by the fourth IUI. By then I felt isolated in my sadness. Someone told me in passing that IVF treatments were $35K, which made me feel like we would never be able to afford IVF or adoption and that this last IUI was our last hope. The day of our fourth IUI was my 36th birthday, and around the time we got our negative pregnancy test Alabama issued their stay-at-home order. My fertility team remained available, but I thought I’d wait out the stay-at-home order until I went back for a follow-up appointment. That didn’t happen.
Instead, by the time the order was lifted, my depression had overcome me. At the beginning of the pandemic like many other people, I had to adjust to a life without my routines and my in-person hangouts. It was a hard transition for everyone, and I honestly don’t think I ever adjusted. Because I’d alienated myself from most people and censored my true feelings to everyone else, I mourned another failed IUI mostly alone and lost all hope that we’d ever have a baby. I let my worst fears control me, and I spent most nights crying myself to sleep after Lance fell asleep, too ashamed to tell even him how sad and hopeless I felt. And that continued for the rest of the year until I came across an Instagram post by a friend.
She had just experienced a miscarriage but remained full of hope. She had shared her pregnancy news early on with all her friends and family, and now they were there to support her through this time of mourning. Reading her simple post, something inside of me just clicked. I couldn’t do this by myself. I realized keeping all my fears to myself was isolating and toxic and fueling my depression. It was because of her post that I finally shared with Lance how I felt and everything I was thinking. I realized I was hiding my feelings from him because I didn’t want to face the reality of those feelings or fears. But talking to him allowed me to release a burden I had been silently carrying all those months. He was so encouraging and supportive that I felt a brand new jolt to revisit infertility treatments.
I scheduled a consultation with my fertility doctor, and now we’ve come full circle to the beginning of my post. I went into my appointment without any expectations and just listened as my doctor told me that my levels were good and that I responded well to medications. But it was when she told me the price of IVF and that I would be a good candidate that I burst into tears. IVF in my situation would be a fraction of the cost I thought it’d be, and I finally felt like we had some options. It was that news that allowed me to finally release all the stress I’d been bottling up all those years.
It’s been about six months since that heart-to-heart with Lance and that consultation with my doctor. That day we set up a plan, and now I’m here at age 37 and I can’t sleep because I took three naps today thanks to the progesterone and estrogen I’m taking in preparation for our second embryo transfer. Nowadays I feel a renewed sense of hope. I’ve learned it’s good to have emotional boundaries, but I also know how much better I feel now that I’ve discovered my core group of cheerleaders and prayer warriors. Most importantly, I’m learning to face my fears: being vulnerable to those I love and asking for help when feeling alone. I don’t know what the future holds or if we’ll ever be parents, but I know that I will be okay whatever happens.
We are thankful to work with UAB Medicine on our Lullaby Wishes series. Their position as a major center for research leads them to constantly investigate new advances in fertility treatment, but their team’s heart for the men and women affected by infertility is what truly sets them apart.
Read more from some of the team here:
Lullaby Wishes :: UAB Medicine’s Heart Behind the Care