I’ve been battling unexplained infertility for 3 years. I’ve always wanted kids, but I always envisioned it happening in my 30s so I was never in a rush. My mother and grandmother both had healthy pregnancies at age 35/36, so I just (naively) assumed I would be fine. My husband was 36 and I was 34 when we got married in 2017, and we were both disappointed when “trying” yielded no results after 8 months.
We were referred to a local fertility clinic, and although some possible issues were identified (anovulation, thin uterine lining), there was no specific diagnosis besides “unexplained”. More than 2 years after our initial referral to the clinic, we have done at least 6 timed/medicated cycles and 3 medicated IUIs, all of which were unsuccessful. Further testing now shows that my hormones have balanced and I am ovulating again, but that hasn’t helped us find success yet.
I do think that being on the birth control pill off and on (but mostly on) from age 17 to age 34 caused some of the problems with my hormones and lining, though doctors claim that any effects from birth control should be gone after a year. For me, I believe the long-term use meant my body needed a couple of years to get back on track but I’m hopeful there was no permanent “damage”. We are currently on the waitlist for Ontario’s funded IVF program and are still unsure of what (if any) additional treatments we might do between now and IVF, as costs are high and we have exhausted all of our very limited benefits coverage.
Three words I would use to describe our challenges: difficult, frustrating, exhausting
“Sometimes my own strength surprises me”
I think it’s always difficult for us to reconcile the life we thought we’d have with the life we might find ourselves living. The fertility process has caused a lot of stress in my life and has brought a great deal of frustration and disappointment. I just always thought we would have at least one child by this time in our lives, and I worry about being “old parents”. It’s been bittersweet to watch my friends have babies – even though I love my friends and love their babies, I feel sometimes like I’m being “left behind”. I always envisioned our kids growing up together, perhaps overlapping maternity leaves, playdates, etc. I feel sad when I think that if we do have a child, all of our friends’ children and our nephews, cousins, etc. will be so much older. My sister is 12 years younger than me and although we are very close, she did miss out on relationships within our family because she was so much younger than our cousins. I guess to sum it up, my life is worse because I spend a lot of time grieving the infertility itself and the things I feel that we’ve lost, or that our future child might lose. Noting the age difference with my sister – I was an only child for the first 12 years of my life and it was lonely. I am disappointed that, given my advanced age, our future child will also most likely be an only child.
As far as the ways it’s made life better? It’s definitely made me a stronger person. Sometimes my own strength surprises me. I’ve been extremely open about our struggles on social media (Facebook, IG) and I’ve had so many other people reach out to me to share their stories – whether they have been through infertility and come out the other side, or they are currently in a similar boat. Sometimes people will ask me how I keep going and the answer is, I really don’t know. But often, those same people tell me that my strength inspires them to keep going and in my opinion, that shows how powerful a community can be when we are on this difficult road. So, not only have I become a stronger person, but I have become part of a circle of support and community that I didn’t even realize existed 3 years ago.
Shots, Shots, Shots
Honestly – injections! I wouldn’t say I have a phobia of needles, but I’ve never been a fan of getting any type of needle. The first time I had to give myself a trigger shot (in the bathroom at work no less), I felt like I could do anything after I’d been successful. Then later, when I first had to do daily Gonal-F injections, I was so afraid. I let my anxiety get the better of me and I really started to question if I could do it or keep doing treatments altogether. But, with support and encouragement from my husband, I just did it and now it’s wild to think that something I was so afraid of is now almost “no big deal”.
I’ve learned that no one can do this alone. I know not everyone is comfortable sharing their journey publicly like I do, but it is so important to have someone in your life that you can talk to. And it can’t just be anyone – that person you lean on has to “get it”. I consider myself very lucky/unlucky because I have more than 5 close friends who’ve faced infertility, secondary infertility, and pregnancy loss – it’s horrible that we have all been through these struggles and tragedies, but it’s lucky that we all have each other to commiserate with and we can all support one another. That’s why myMindBodyBaby’s online support group is so amazing. It’s a safe space for infertility warriors to connect with others, vent, find hope, give and receive support, and I think it’s especially beneficial for people who are feeling lost or alone on their journey.
I’ve also learned that everyone’s story is different and how important it is to respect that. One day almost two years ago I sat in the fertility clinic waiting room with another patient who was accompanied by 3 beautiful children and I wondered “why is she here? Why aren’t those babies enough? I can’t even have ONE”. When one of my friends had recurrent miscarriages, I was sad for her losses but envious that she could at least get pregnant. But since then, I have since read so many stories and articles, watched webinars, learned so much, and I now understand that those struggles are just as difficult and just as valid as my own personal struggle. We can find ways to relate and connect with each other, but it does no real good to compare our story to anyone else’s. We are all on our own journeys and we have to stay true to ours while understanding that everyone’s individual journey will be unique.
Hope, courage, strength
My husband, my family, my friends. Music, nature, a good book, or a comfort binge-watch. I’m not a religious person, but I try to consider that perhaps there is a reason for all of this and stay hopeful that one day, we will better understand what that reason might be and find ways to come to terms with the outcome of our journey, whatever that may be.
On a good day, I feel hopeful and confident. I feel like this has all been a valuable learning experience and that by overcoming these challenges, we will be better equipped to face the challenges of parenting and less likely to take anything for granted. I feel like each month is a fresh start with new hope and new chances. It doesn’t always last, but there are many things to be grateful for on the good days.
A changed person
I’ve always been a pretty Type-A person, so I think the fertility challenges have exacerbated some of my anxious tendencies. On the flip side, it’s made me appreciate the importance of taking time to balance that with mindfulness, meditation, deep breathing, light exercise, etc. Finally, it’s also made me a better advocate for my own health and for spreading awareness about infertility in general.
Let me tell you – working with the public, I’ve heard all sorts of harmful things. It’s surprising how many random people who don’t really know me have felt the need to tell me how “sad” it is that I don’t have children. The only saving grace at this time is that I look about 10 years younger than my age – I bet if they knew I was closer to 40 than 30 there would be even more comments.
Everyone from my patrons at work to my nail technician to my massage therapist wants to share their opinion, including perennial classics like, “just relax” or “just adopt” or “just try this diet” or “just stop trying and that’s when it will happen”. It’s sometimes a difficult balance between wanting to be very open about my journey to spread awareness and push back against the stigma, versus wanting to keep it quiet sometimes because you just can’t handle hearing another person’s “helpful” suggestions. I do recognize that most people are coming from a good place and genuinely want to be supportive, but when you are knee-deep in the fertility treatment process, the last thing you need is another ignorant suggestion from someone who doesn’t understand your experience.
A bit about me…
I’m a librarian, so I’ve always been very into books and reading – particularly psychological thrillers, self-help, memoir, and literary fiction. But libraries are not just books! The parts I love most about my job are helping people find information/community services and hosting big events (all virtual now) with authors and guest speakers. I used to play and teach piano up until my late 20s, so music has always been a big part of my life – I enjoy everything from bands like Tool and Radiohead, to Motown, to reggae, to hip hop from the 90s and 2000s.
My husband’s hobbies include cooking (he’s incredible) and computer gaming. I don’t have a ton of hobbies, but I’ve recently started doing “Paint by Sticker” books and really want to get into abstract painting. I’ve lived in Hamilton, Ontario my whole life and am a proud Hamiltonian – my husband and I love to hike and explore the trails in our city (especially if those trails lead to a waterfall) and explore the incredible shops and restaurants all around us. We obviously can’t travel very far these days, but we love taking mini-getaways to nearby places like Niagara-on-the-Lake or Prince Edward County. Summertime is my favourite, and the beach is my happy place.
We are both lucky to have our parents and siblings close by. The best times are always spent enjoying a meal with our loved ones or laughing and playing games with our two adorable nephews. My husband and I are the proud “pet parents” of a 7-year-old cat named Sophie, who loves our laps and brings us so much joy. I often joke that if we can’t have a baby, we might need to consider adopting a few more cats!