The Motherhood Series: One Woman’s Infertility Journey
There are many points in motherhood when we share our stories. And boy are there stories to share.
We share stories about how being a mom changes us, about the happiness and struggle of having children, the pain and joy of bringing them into the world, and so much more. We share because it helps us to share ideas and feelings, it lets us laugh at motherhood’s (very frequent) crazy moments, and because it gives us strength to know that we are not alone.
Motherhood is big. It’s so big and heavy and all-consuming, that we can’t help but write and ruminate and reflect on it a whole heck of a lot.
But there is one thread of the motherhood experience that is a little more difficult to talk about than others, and that is the journey to becoming a mother.
For some women, conceiving is easy and quick. For others, it’s a bit of a journey. And for still more, it is an all-out battle. The pain of infertility is unique–strong and isolating, and so consuming that it literally can take over one’s life. And sadly, it is a pain that many women bear alone.
That is why I’m so grateful that someone stepped forward to share her story with us.
Danielle reached out to me, wanting to share her experience with infertility, because the conversation about this topic seems to be conspicuously absent from the discussion of motherhood. And I’m so, so grateful that she did.
The CDC says 12% of American women have trouble getting or staying pregnant. Infertility is defined as the inability to get pregnant after a year of trying.
This is an interview I did with Danielle where she shares part of her journey. She is so brave to put a face to the battle with infertility that so many women face. Thank you, Danielle.
Tell me a little about your journey. How long have you been trying to get pregnant?
We have been trying for about 2 years and 2 months. I was 33 when I started trying to conceive. Since I wasn’t too far away from being 35 I only waited about 6 months before seeking medical help. My OB-GYN is not an infertility specialist but she has experience with some of the first steps with infertility.
Have you consulted with a doctor? What treatments, if any, have you sought?
Yes. My OB/GYN ordered several tests which included a physical exam, blood tests, an HSG (hysterosalpingogram) to check my fallopian tubes and even a semen specimen from my husband. Every test result kept coming back good; everything was fine, I thought… until I got a call from the nurse stating I tested positive for a diminished ovarian reserve. How could this be? I am healthy and active.
I waited my whole life to have children and now I am stuck with this. I went back to my doctor and she put me on a 6 month round of Clomid. It is a common first step medication for woman experiencing infertility. “Great, this is it, I will be pregnant in no time,” [I thought. But] month after month after month, and nothing.
After the 6-month round of Clomid I went back to my doctor and she referred me to a fertility center in Austin, Texas. I mustered up the courage to make that phone call about a month after I was referred and set up an appointment.
I went to the appointment and was basically told that I had to go through even more tests. I got all of the tests set up to find out that insurance covers none of them; so at that point I walked away from any further treatment or testing.
It is all so overwhelming and honestly scary. Do I really want to know what may be lurking around in my body and what I may carry that causes my body to shut down? Not to mention that infertility treatments come with a hefty price tag and no guarantee.
My appointment was about a year ago. Last month my husband and I finally agreed upon a timeline; if nothing happens within the next year I will go back to the fertility center and continue on my journey with testing. The test results will only lead me to even more questions, [for example], IVF, donor egg, [or] adoption. More testing will basically tell me if I am even a viable candidate for IVF or if I should just explore other options.
I think it’s probably difficult for someone who hasn’t gone through this to understand the intensity of emotions you must experience. How does this all make you feel? What do you do when it feels overwhelming?
I have never felt any pain like this in my life, and I have been through my fair share of deaths, heartaches and sick family members. I am mourning the loss of something I have always longed for, and it has been taken away without any control of my own.
Every single month it hurts, and I cry. It doesn’t get easier. It is such a deep, deep pain that I can’t even really put into words. I literally cry sometimes when I see other mothers walking through the store with their babies. I cry privately every time another friend, family member or coworker is pregnant. I am happy for them, but I cry for myself for my pain. I am crying right now as I answer these questions.
But I refuse to sink, I refuse to fall into a depression or let this define my life. I fight through the pain and heartache every single day.
The only real outlet I have found that is helpful for me is talking with God. I put all of my hope, faith and trust in Him. I know that He has a plan for me. Whatever he has planned is better than anything I could possibly plan for myself and I have learned to trust in him and believe. For one day soon I will understand his plan, it will all make sense.
My motto from very early on in my infertility journey has been, “Hope Anchors the Soul” (Hebrews 6:19). I will continue to hold onto hope every single day.
Every single month it hurts, and I cry. It doesn’t get easier. It is such a deep, deep pain that I can’t even really put into words. I literally cry sometimes when I see other mothers walking through the store with their babies.
Sometimes friends or family members don’t know what to say to make someone who’s experiencing this hardship feel better. What advice do you have for people trying to comfort or counsel someone who is experiencing infertility? Or should we do nothing, and just be there to listen?
For me it’s the latter of the two, I just need someone to listen or just to hold me just be there with me in the moment, no words are necessary.
What is your next step?
We have decided to wait one more year, before any further testing. One more year of trying naturally conceive. Next year we will go back to our specialist for more testing, which will include genetic testing, an infectious disease screening, an ultra sound to look at ovaries and another test to check my ovarian reserve.
Depending on those results we will have to decide if we want to, A. Try in vitro fertilization, B. Use a donor egg or C. Adopt
Right now I have pretty much rolled out the donor egg option but I can’t say that my mind won’t change in a year.
Why are you passionate about starting this conversation?
Giving hope to other women is my purpose in this conversation; I don’t want to see anyone silently suffering, like I have. When I reached out to you I just figured I had nothing to lose, and if I could help one person by putting my experiences out there then it’s all worth it in the end.
There are people to talk to, there are other women who understand the pain, and most importantly it’s not our fault. I want people to stop feeling entitled to thinking it’s okay to just walk up to women and drill them on when they are going to start a family. The innocent questions of, “When are you starting a family? What are you waiting for?” are really none of anyone’s business.
I want people to understand that this is a real medical condition. Even with my medical diagnosis I have family members who basically don’t believe it and keep telling me to just “have fun.” I want the women of the infertility community to come together.
Thank you, Danielle, for sharing your story and your voice. If any other mothers out there want to talk about topics about which they are passionate, please reach out here. I’d love to hear from you.