Infertility is a disease that affects one in eight couples. One in EIGHT! This was a statistic that shocked me when I read it. Since infertility strikes diverse groups – affecting people from all socioeconomic levels and cutting across all racial, ethnic and religious lines – chances are that a friend, a relative, a neighbor or perhaps YOU are coping with the heartbreak of infertility. Since so many lives are touched by infertility, including my family, I asked my daughter-in-law Kaitlyn if she would be willing to share her story with us. She agreed and I want to thank her from the bottom of my heart for helping to shed some light on something that is often suffered in silence.
Kaitlyn writes: When Jill told me that this week is National Infertility Awareness Week® (NIAW) I immediately volunteered to write a post about it. But as I sat down a couple of days ago to write I started to second-guess myself. I read through a whole bunch of other blogger’s posts for NIAW and thought, my story is no where near bad enough, tragic enough, heart-breaking enough or a million other things-enough to share in a very public forum. But then I realized my experience and my story is really all I have to share. And even though I haven’t dealt with years of infertility it has still been difficult for my husband, Erik, and I to conceive.
In the last few months I have experienced the excitement of a positive pregnancy test, the anxious anticipation of telling family and friends that we were expecting, the absolutely heart-breaking emotional and physical pain of a miscarriage, the shock and fear of an ectopic pregnancy, and finally surgery and the loss of one of my fallopian tubes.
Even though all of that is nothing compared to the things that some women go through it was still extremely difficult for me and I hope that sharing a little of what I’ve gone through will help someone. Hearing other people’s stories has helped me immensely this year. Although I would never wish the loss of a pregnancy on anyone, it is extremely comforting to know that other women have gone through the same thing.
The theme this year for NIAW is “Resolve to Know More.” Today I would ask that we resolve to know more about other people’s experiences.
Infertility is something that has, in a way, affected me my entire life. I was a miracle in-vitro baby. My mom was close to thirty when she married my dad and my dad is quite a bit older than her. My mom also has endometriosis. So the odds were against them from the time they started trying to have kids.
They went through six long years of fertility treatments and multiple miscarriages before they were able to have me. After I was born they tried again for another baby but it just never happened.
(As a side note – my parents were still blessed to raise three other kids from my dad’s first marriage. Before his first wife passed away they had my two older sisters biologically and adopted my brother.)
I always worried that I would face the same problems conceiving that my parents did but hoped that it wouldn’t happen. Erik and I started trying for our first baby in April of last year. We tried for eight months before getting the happy news that we were pregnant in November. We waited until Christmas to tell our families. We bought these darling plaques for our moms that said, “The best moms get promoted to grandma.” It was so fun revealing our big news.
And then the next day, I miscarried. My body really has great timing.
It was shocking and awful and heartbreaking. It was also insanely painful. Nobody ever talks about that part! But having a miscarriage hurts like hell.
Two weeks later my parents were in town from CA and we were all just lounging around. About mid-morning I started cramping. It started slow and within an hour I was laying on my bed just writhing in pain and sobbing. I ended up going to the ER and after a bunch of tests found out I had an ectopic pregnancy. An ectopic pregnancy is where the egg is fertilized in one of the fallopian tubes. If it isn’t caught early enough it can be fatal. Only about 2% of pregnancies are ectopic – so it’s pretty rare. I only knew what it was because Cristina had one the first season of Grey’s Anatomy ;)
In the end I had a simple laparoscopic surgery to remove one of my fallopian tubes and repair the damage that had been done by the pregnancy. My doctor assured me that it is absolutely still possible to get pregnant with one tube; it will just be a bit harder. A tiny silver lining in the whole thing was that during the surgery my doctor found some patches of endometriosis and was able to repair those.
It’s now been three months since my surgery, and a year since we’ve been trying to get pregnant. Each time a new month rolls around I think about how far along I would have been in my pregnancy. My heart breaks every time someone announces on Facebook that they’re pregnant and they’re due right around the time I was. As silly as it sounds, I’ve had to stop following a few people on Instagram because I just can’t handle seeing their pregnancy progress pictures. It’s just too painful to think, “That should have been me.”
I feel like overall I’ve handled this whole experience really well. But it still sucks. I really can’t think of any other way to describe it – it just sucks. I’ve had many days where I’ve been mad that my body can’t just work the way it’s supposed to, mad that I can’t get pregnant quickly like all of my friends, mad that life just isn’t going the way I think it should be.
But I’m hopeful for the future because there is help for those dealing with infertility. I’m grateful for organizations like Resolve – The National Infertility Association – that provide information for couples who struggle to conceive. They founded NIAW in 1989 to raise awareness about the disease of infertility and encourage the public to understand their reproductive health.
Did you know that infertility is classified as a disease? It’s defined as the inability to conceive after one year of unprotected intercourse (six months if the woman is over age 35) or the inability to carry a pregnancy to live birth. But most insurances companies don’t cover any kind of infertility treatment. This disease takes a huge physical and financial toll on many couples, and an emotional one as well.
A study from Harvard Medical School showed that women who have difficulty getting pregnant can be as depressed as those who have major heart problems or cancer. This is a heartbreaking article about the silent struggle that most couples dealing with infertility go through. It’s kind of a taboo topic that isn’t getting enough attention from medical professionals or the general public.
1 in 8 couples of childbearing age will have trouble conceiving – and 1 in 5 recognized pregnancies end in miscarriage. So it’s extremely likely that we all know someone who has miscarried, is suffering with infertility or have gone through it ourselves. Our friends and family members should not have to go through this alone.
If you know of someone dealing with infertility resolve to know more about their story. Be a shoulder to cry on and an ear to listen if they are willing to talk about it. Be understanding if they decline an invite to a baby shower or can’t handle talking about your kids or looking at your latest baby pictures. Forgive them if they feel jealousy or anger when you announce a pregnancy.
If you don’t know of someone dealing with infertility resolve to know more about the disease and be sensitive to the fact that their may be someone in your life suffering silently. Don’t ask childless couples when they plan to expand their families.
And if you are dealing with infertility I encourage you to speak up about it. I know it’s a deeply personal topic but the more we’re willing to share our stories the more likely it is that funding will be put towards discovering new treatments and that insurance companies might start offering coverage.
I learned a lot about infertility as I did research for this post and I hope you’ll take the time to look through a few of the resources below. Do it for yourself or for loved ones who are suffering. Resolve to know more.
- Fast Facts about Infertility.
- A great article entitled, “The Top Ten Things I Learned About Infertility.”
- Find out if you have an infertility problem.
- Read other people’s stories.
- Learn about your options for building a family.
- Infertility FAQ’s from the CDC.
- Find out what you can do to help.