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Five Things You Should Know About Infertility

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Infertility. It’s not really something you think about until you’re living it, and then it’s about the only thing you can think about. There’s much I’ve learned about this journey in the past 20 months, one of them being how little I understood about it before. If you’ve never lived through it, below are five things you should know about infertility that can help you be a better friend and support system to someone in your life:

We’re not making it up:

Infertility is hella REAL, y’all. This is not something that we are making up. Believe it or not, this is one of the biggest hurdles Alex and I have encountered in our journey. I’ll share more about our struggle with finding a good doctor in the future, but getting a doctor who would just listen to us was incredibly frustrating and difficult- and they are trained to listen to their patients.

I wish I had a nickel for every time someone told me to just “chill out” or “stop stressing” and “it’ll happen”. While I do think there is something to mitigating stress when you’re trying to get pregnant, our problems cannot be solved by just “chilling out”. I have stage three endometriosis – there is zero communication between my Fallopian tubes and my ovaries, which means that without a 4+ hour surgery  to remove the scarring, we won’t be getting pregnant. These are real health issues. They are not made up.

Hearing that someone is struggling with infertility can be uncomfortable – but so is infertility. So if someone opens up to you, don’t brush them off and tell them to “chill out” or act like it is all in their head, because you are glossing past something very real. Instead, offer them a shoulder to cry on, and don’t feel like you need to offer sage wisdom. Trust me – your emotional support will be plenty.

It’s almost impossible to get answers from doctors:

As I mentioned above, finding a doctor who would even listen to us took months. In fact, I consider it a great stroke of luck that we even found my current doctor. Before seeing her, we were met with doctors who may as well have shrugged their shoulders and said, “Sorry, can’t help ya.” Every question I asked (and I ask a LOT of questions) was met with, “I don’t know.”

In case you were wondering, hearing the words “I don’t know” come out of a doctor’s mouth just once is frustrating enough. Receiving that response to every question you ask is downright infuriating. You begin to think maybe you really ARE crazy and this is all in your head. Why else would people who are supposed to be experts in fertility be lacking the answers you desperately need? As it turns out, in our case it was not so much a lack of answers, but an unwillingness to do the work to find those answers, which is perhaps even more frustrating. You never know the value of a really good doctor until you really need it.

It’s expensive:

Like, really expensive. Let’s assume for a minute that you, like us, have not ventured into the realm of IVF. Every time I get blood drawn, which is fairly often, I get a bill for anywhere from $200-$500 – and that is after insurance. Then there are the prescriptions and supplements, many of which have to be compounded and are not covered by insurance. Then there are the surgeries – which, to be totally honest, are an unknown price at this point because it takes so long for bills to come through after a procedure. That’s not even getting into IVF territory, which can cost tens of thousands of dollars per round, and it is not uncommon to have to go through multiple rounds.

Maybe you decide to bypass fertility treatments altogether and opt for adoption. In that case, you are looking at upwards of $30,000-$40,000, whether you choose a domestic or international adoption.

Bottom line: When you’re going through an experience that takes such a drastic emotional toll, the added financial burden can feel like one more painful hit.

Your baby’s milestones hurt like hell:

Please don’t get me wrong. I am so happy for you and your pregnancy/new baby/baby’s first words/steps/birthday. Really, I am! I would not wish the hurt of infertility on anyone and am so glad you get to experience the joy of being a parent. But I am still absolutely going to cry when you tell me that you’re pregnant or when you post that baby bump photo. I am going to have to come up with an excuse not to attend your baby shower or baby’s first birthday party because I will spend the whole time holding back giant crocodile tears. I will be acutely, painfully aware every time I walk past the baby aisle at Target and will want to rip my hair out every time someone innocently asks if I have kids. It all hurts like hell. So please do not be hurt if my congratulations doesn’t sound as enthusiastic as it might once have. I am genuinely happy for you – I am just also very sad for myself. And that’s a very hard thing to balance.

It’s isolating:

No one talks about infertility. It still feels like a taboo to discuss, and that’s very isolating. Add in how often you are told to “chill out” or the fact that you don’t know how to act excited for new parents anymore and it is easy to feel like like you’re in your own impenetrable bubble. I am very blessed to have a supportive, loving husband who is not afraid of my moodiness and dear friends (some of whom have been down this road themselves) who lend a shoulder to cry on. Without them, I would feel completely alone in this journey – and even still, there are days when it feels like no one else really understands what I’m feeling. So I encourage you – offer to be someone’s tribe. If someone you know is walking this road, offer to walk alongside them. If they need cheering, take them out for ice cream or to a funny movie or dancing. If they need to cry, curl up on the couch with them and watch a good tearjerker movie and sob into your popcorn together. They need a friend right now, so don’t be afraid to be a pal.

If you’ve experienced or are experiencing infertility, please share what you wish people around you had known in the comments. Let’s be each other’s tribe.

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Holly N @ Spend With Pennies

Friday 28th of April 2017

Sending so many hugs and prayers your way. It just isn't fair. :( I can't even imagine the emotional (and physical) roller coaster you're on and as if the emotional wasn't enough, the financial burdens too. I can only pray that you are in good medical hands now and your journey ends with the sweetest results. Keeping you in my thoughts and prayers. <3

Jenn

Sunday 9th of April 2017

First, it was so nice to meet you this weekend at the Mediavine Conference. Loved your talk about working with brands! I was planning on reaching out to you via e-mail soon, but then I read this and had to comment here too.

Which leads me to - Second, I understand everything about this post. I've been there. It's a bundle of so many emotions that it's even hard to describe to someone. I actually just shared my story on bumpstobaby.com - on one of the Warrior Women Wednesday pieces in case you're interested. But, I'm always here if you have questions or need to talk as well. The thing that helped me the most to get through it was talking to others who had been there before, so I'm always an open book about our story as well.

Stephie

Wednesday 12th of April 2017

Thank you so much for sharing, Jenn. I'm so glad I got to meet you this weekend! <3

Alyssa

Friday 7th of April 2017

All of this. Yep. So much yes. Just finished our second round of IVF after the first one (and multiple IUIs, etc) failed miserably. Had the surgery for stage 3 endometriosis as well, still not sure if we've paid it off? I feel like there's a big bill right around the corner even though the surgery was last year? Got good news last week and we finally have some frozen embryos, but it has been absolutely awful and isolating and horribly expensive to get to this point. And who knows how the next steps will go - after the last few years I'm hesitant to get excited about ANYTHING. I am so thankful for my supportive partner, because it's been really hard to get any kind of REAL support from someone who actually knows what you're going through and knows what to say (or NOT say, more importantly). All I can say is GOOD LUCK and hang in there. It is crushing, but somehow or another you'll end up on the other side of this (this is also a pep talk to myself, lol). It may not be exactly the way you imagined, but you'll figure it out. Sending you lots of positive energy.

Stephie

Wednesday 12th of April 2017

Oh my goodness, Alyssa, sending you prayers and positive energy as well. So glad you have some good news and praying you get more soon. Always here if you want to talk. xoxo

Laura Chevalier

Thursday 30th of March 2017

I used to love the "You just need to relax and it will happen" comments. Every time I heard it my brain conjured up that Siamese cat in the Warner Bros. cartoons that leaped to the ceiling and hung on for dear life at every move the dog made. I still wonder what the purveyors of such nonsense would think if I characterized their sex lives the way they felt free to characterize mine. It would sound something like: " I'm pregnant again!" Me: "Stop getting drunk and passing out! You need to be more alert!" Sounds stupid when you turn the tables? Of course it sounds stupid before you turn the tables too but who's counting?

You want to know why infertility is isolating? Because most people who have no trouble getting pregnant pity us instead of having compassion toward us. Pity makes you just a little bit superior to the poor infertile girl. PIty looks like compassion but it's not. It's judgement. Most people don't even know they do it, but become infertile and it will rise up out of nearly everyone you know and slap the crap out of you. I have come to understand that it is like a self inoculation against "our problem." Fortunately, they are doing something right! Like the Pharisees they pray under their breaths, "Thank God I'm not like THAT woman."

The first Dr. I went to prescribed Motrin as if I were an idiot and wouldn't think to take pain killers for my stage 4 endometriosis which he refused to diagnose. He didn't want to spend the money to find out what was wrong with me but he did offer to keep his eye open for a pregnant teenager to hook us up with for 10,000 dollars. That's right, he wanted a "finders fee". Yes! I'm the tree money grows on! Obviously! I don't have kids!

Don't even get me started on adoption costs. Adoption is legalized extortion. I will know things have truly changed when you can adopt a child for the same price as an abortion. We ended up paying for our birth mother's living expenses and her dog's for 9 mos. It was a big dang dog too. Went thru poop bags like water. Birth fathers need to figure out how to play this angle better. Of course none of these things were in the original agreement. They sprang them on us the morning our daughter was born. As if the disease isn't victimizing enough, there are the birth mothers and their attorneys waiting to cash in. Endometriosis is the gift that keeps on giving.

Stephie

Wednesday 12th of April 2017

Oh, you know how I love you. I had to laugh at so many points of your comment - because if you don't laugh, you'll cry, right?

Melissa

Thursday 30th of March 2017

I hear you, my friend! Please know that you are not alone in this journey. We've been TTC for almost 2 and half years, of which, the last year and a half has been working with a fertility clinic. After all the routine tests, it was determined that our infertility is due to my "Advance Maternal Age" (I just turned 42 today actually!). We've done 6 rounds of IVF and the results of every round were COMPLETELY DIFFERENT. I could find no pattern at all; there was no link to what I ate, what I weighed, how much I exercised, what my stress levels were, weather my husband was smoking or not...nothing made sense! I need to point out to you that every experience is going to be different from one person to the next. Also, every one of our monthly cycles is different too. Totally frustrating? YES. A reason to give up hope? NEVER!!! Every time I'm at the clinic I see every age, shape, size, colour, culture & sexual orientation. There are so many of us that can relate, and I openly talk about it with anyone who asks.

In each round of our IVF, any embryos that made it to Day 3 were frozen, except for the last round (Nov 2016) where we did a fresh double-embryo transfer. I got pregnant with a singleton but miscarried at 9 weeks. What a horrific ordeal that was!! It is also something our society doesn't talk about. In fact, my doctor pointed out that we are one of the only cultures that tends to keep pregnancy a secret until the end of the 1st trimester. Other cultures celebrate the first indication of pregnancy and, if need be, give support during miscarriage. Both are viewed as a normal part of life.

When people have asked me "how things are going", I'll happily talk about where we're at. They usually don't understand infertility and the issues involved. This is the part where they don't really know what to say, which is why you hear the awkward, yet encouraging comments. I always remember that they are giving the only support they know, and that's huge in my books.

This is the first time I've ever written online about my experience and thoughts. Something in your words above just touched my heart. It's sure nice to feel like there's someone out there who just "gets it". Although there are days that feel like "one step forward, two steps back", please remember that we're all here, walking right beside you. Love and support to you all!

Melissa

Stephie

Wednesday 12th of April 2017

Thank you so, so much for opening up and sharing your experience. I will be keeping you in my prayers. I just love this little support group that is forming here - we all need to have each other's backs! So much love to you.