My husband and I started trying when I was 34 and he was 36. We had done long distance between Canada and the US for years, and when we finally sorted out visas and were able to live together in the same country, we wanted to enjoy some time together before starting a family. So we waited two years.
I'm fortunate to work in pre and postpartum health and wellness, and had heard many stories about struggles to conceive. Of course we never think that it will happen to us!
After 6 months of trying, I booked an appointment at a fertility clinic. Many people thought I was being overly concerned and told me to "relax", but something in my gut told me to make the appointment. First lesson - TRUST your gut. I'm grateful that I did.
My husband had experienced a severe blunt trauma injury during a mountain biking accident as a teen, and something told me this was being overlooked.
The results were devastating. We would need to do fertility treatments in order to conceive. The sperm parameters were borderline for IUI, and IVF would give us the best chance. Still, we decided to try IUIs first as they are less invasive, less medication and less expensive. The first IUI worked, but ended in an early miscarriage called a chemical pregnancy. It was a huge blow. The next two IUIs were all negative. It was then that we decided to move on to IVF.
What are some of the difficulties you’ve had?
Our first fertility doctor who delivered the bad news did it in a very blaming way. Infertility should never feel like it's someone's "fault" in the couple, yet that is a feeling we both struggled with. Emotionally, mentally, it was very difficult. I'm a very healthy person, and coach people in nutrition and fitness for a living. I received a ton of unsolicited yet well meaning advice about what sort of lifestyle changes to make, which added to my silent anger over our uncontrollable situation. People tend to assume if you could just eat organic, or do more acupuncture, or reduce stress, or take certain supplements - conceiving will happen naturally. Being told to just "relax" was the worst!
Many people also assume it's always a female issue also - even my own father made comments about how it is the "woman's responsibility" to safe guard the fetus and prevent miscarriage.
I suppose he's not familiar with DNA fragmentation issues.In fact, male factor infertility is the single most common cause of infertility. . Yet sadly, there is still stigma about male infertility as it relates to masculinity. Men also don't have the same social support networks that women do. They often have to stand by helplessly as their partner undergoes countless tests and procedures, and often feel guilt and shame that they can't readily communicate.
. Fritz MA, Speroff L. Clinical Gynecologic Endocrinology and Infertility. 8 ed. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2011.
How have those experiences impacted you? Your family?
We are incredibly blessed to be expecting a little girl any day now! IVF worked. We got very lucky, and not a day goes by that I don't recognize that.
We changed clinics when we moved onto IVF, and it was the best decision we could have made. I've come to realize that all clinics are not created equally. Your patient experience matters.
I've learned so much about what it means to surrender control, handle setbacks with courage and grace, and have faith. There were some very dark moments throughout the journey, but our marriage is stronger now as a result of working through. We share joy, we share pain - we are in this together.
I've also become so much more empathetic as a person, and this has impacted every aspect of my life. Before this experience, I likely would have been one of those "well meaning" holistically-minded people who would offer advice to people struggling to conceive. I now know that's often the opposite of helpful as it can come across as condescending and ignorant. People in the middle of a struggle need to feel heard and understood to feel supported - sometimes a silent hug is the best thing you can offer them.
What do you wish people understood about infertility?
Infertility is the ultimate mind f*ck. Can I even say that on here?! It's the honest truth.
Finding out that your body can't do something so basic and natural can make people question their worth as a human being. It goes very very deep.
Infertility can happen to anyone, and it's so often beyond anyone's control. From male factor issues, to PCOS, to endometriosis, to low AMH, to the heartbreaking unexplained cases - we must stop the shame and stigma surrounding infertility.
There are so many holistic programs popping up online promising desperate couples the key steps to "conceive naturally". While cleaning up your diet or getting to a healthy body weight can certainly help - it's a slippery slope. I wrote the book on those programs! Sometimes couples like us need medical intervention to build a family - it doesn't, and shouldn't, mean failure in any way.