Our Infertility Journey
We are infertile. Saying and writing that always seems weird. Weird because I always had a plan for my life, and it didn’t include infertility.
I met the love of my life, when I was 18 years old while we both worked at Wendy’s. After our first date, I was hooked. We were married at 28, 10 years after we started dating. You could say it was a long time coming. We always knew we wanted to have children.
At 30 years old, I was diagnosed with premature ovarian failure. I was quickly running out of eggs. This diagnosis was terrifying and, we knew, not good. Of all the things we thought could have been wrong, this one hadn’t even crossed our mind. We had some very dark days after this diagnosis. We had our first failed IVF a few months later. If I thought we had some dark days after my diagnosis, it got a whole lot darker after that. A few months after that, I had abdominal surgery. I finally got the diagnosis of endometriosis, stage 3. My insides were cleaned up, but unfortunately so much damage had already been done. Though, it was nice to finally have an answer as to what caused my ovarian failure; it allowed me to let go of much of the crushing guilt I had been carrying with me. I have a disease; I did not cause my infertility. Our doctor had told me it was not my fault many times, but up until the moment I woke up from surgery and looked at the nurse beside me, and asked her if I had 2 or 3 incisions, and she confirmed 3, I felt a weight I didn’t even realize how heavy, lift off of me. A few months after that, we did our final cycle of IVF. It was looking promising for a few days, but ultimately was unsuccessful. I have so much love for our amazing doctor. He gave us hope when we felt hopeless, and that gave us the strength to keep going. He really is a super hero in my eyes; he makes little miracles happen every day.
My heart has broken a hundred different ways over the last couple years. I have felt so sad, so angry, so alone, and crippled with guilt. I am learning to let go of these emotions; they are not healthy, and I don’t want to live like that.
It doesn’t make me sad the fact that I will never experience pregnancy and birth. Instead, I mourn for the little person who I already love with my whole heart who I will never get to meet. In a world where everything is tangible, how do you explain the concept of loving someone who never existed? But I do; I love and mourn for that baby who I will never know. I miss them horribly, even though I never met them. I will never get to meet the unique person my husband and I could create. I will never see my husband’s gorgeous blue eyes and his insane stubborn streak, or my curly hair and shyness in that of our little one. That is what shatters me over and over.
The funny thing is, I don’t wish anymore that I wasn’t infertile. My infertility has led me to some wonderful women and men. Without this journey, I would not have the relationships I have today. Some days are hard though; I feel like I’m not just drowning in my own grief, but drowning in the grief of many other people. I feel their ache in my soul, and I wish I could take it away. It is what bonds us though, and for that I am grateful.
I have become bilingual during this journey. The world of infertility really does have its own language. For those of you who have gone through it or are going through it, I know you know what I am talking about. I have had to become an expert on my conditions and all things relating to it. I have spent hundreds of hours researching it. I have had to become my own advocate. No one will talk for you if you don’t talk for yourself.
This journey has also made me strong. Stronger than I’ve ever had to be; emotionally, physically and mentally. It has taught me patience, and a greater compassion for those who suffer. It has made my marriage stronger; not many couples have gone through what we have gone through at this point in their marriage. Most, luckily, will never have to experience it.
Recently, our journey has led us to adoption. We are very excited to see where this new path may take us. I say new path because that’s what it is. It is not, and will never be, a replacement for our infertility. Adopting a child will never replace our loss and grief. It will always hurt. But it will hurt less over time, as all things do. Someone once said to me, it’s not about getting over it, because we never will, it’s about learning how to live with the pain.
Some of you may wonder why I share our story. It is my hope that one day, as a society, we can erase the stigma and shame of infertility. People and couples should not have to walk the path alone. 1 in 6 couples suffer from infertility, so why does no one ever talk about it? And why do people feel comfortable asking when we are having a child, yet get uncomfortable when I give my very honest answer? We need to change the face of infertility; it is not a 45 year old woman. I am the face of infertility, your 16 year old neighbour is the face of infertility; because yes, teenagers are told they will never have biological children. We need to stop telling people to “just relax” or “go on a vacation”. While people say these things with the best of intentions, they are often very hurtful. I would love to go on a vacation and come back pregnant, but the sad reality is my disease also goes on that vacation with me, and no amount of vacations or relaxing will cure it. There are a hundred different reasons why people struggle with infertility, and it is almost always medical.
I also share our story for awareness. If you feel that there is something not quite right with your body, don’t feel like you can’t say something, and if your doctor doesn’t listen to you (as mine didn’t when we were concerned), seek another opinion. Maybe if I had said something earlier or pushed harder, things would be different for us, but also maybe not. I have come to accept that we may never have answers to many of our questions. But if I can help even one person to never have to experience what we have experienced, sharing our story will be more than worth it.
This past year we made a big step forward; we had the first pregnancy and infant loss day. A day to recognize, celebrate and mourn those little souls and the pain those families have endured. We also have an infertility awareness week, and last year I found the courage to share an article on infertility that really touched me. Organizations such as Fertility Matters Canada and Resolve are making great strides in awareness.
Months ago I wrote a passionate letter to parliament thanking and advocating for continued support from the government in funding the Ontario IVF program, and received a very nice reply. This program offers light in the dark for so many people. My husband and I were lucky recipients of this program and had our second IVF covered by the program. We will be forever grateful this program exists.
Finally, for those of you whose journey has ended successfully, I am so happy for you. For those of you whose journey has ended unsuccessfully, like our own, I hope that you find peace. And when your heart breaks, know that my heart breaks right along with you; you are not alone. If you want to eat that whole container of powdered sugar donuts, you go ahead and eat it; God knows I have (multiple times!). And if you have days where life seems so unfair and dark that you don't want to get out of bed, don't; I have also had many of those days. And for those of you still fighting, hold onto hope. It is what will carry you through the toughest times. To all of you; know that you are not alone in your struggle. You truly are warriors.
2017 CIAW "Out in the Open: Tell Us Your Story" Series
2017 CIAW "Out in the Open: Tell Us Your Story" Series
Repeat Pregnancy Loss