Hi friends!! First of all, let me start by thanking Kayla for asking me to do a guest post. Today marks the beginning of National Infertility Awareness Week (NIAW) and I’m stoked that she and I are teaming up on this! For the purpose of this post, I actually won’t talk in depth about our exact story. However, the nitty gritty details can be found on my own blog if you’re interested in knowing more about us. Hopefully this post brings awareness to those on the outside, and encouragement to those who know the journey. I’ve picked a couple of topics I think are so important to talk about. Let me just say, this post was so hard to actually write because infertility awareness has so many different areas to discuss. Picking just a few was hard! Let’s get started, shall we?
When I was a little girl, I owned an exorbitant amount of baby dolls. I remember breastfeeding my dolls and caring tenderly for them. I was 5 & 7 respectively when each of my sisters were born and one of my favorite things was watching my mother care for them. My mom had this newborn care tape that I used to take to my bedroom and watch. Honestly, pregnancy, birth, and babies have always enamored me. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been referred to as the “little mama.” Moral of the story? Babies are my jam. For my entire life, I couldn’t wait to grow up, find an awesome husband, and have amazing little babies. But it doesn’t always happen that way. For 1 in 8 of us, that’s not how it happens at all.
I did grow up and find an awesome husband. Joshua is my rock and makes me laugh constantly. He is truly my best friend and I’m super jazzed that I get to spend forever with him. Joshua is exactly what I’d define as an awesome husband. We were married on August 6, 2016. We both wanted a family, and we knew we’d probably struggle, so we started trying to get pregnant the day we got married. To make a very long story, very short: our parts don’t work all that well. In fact, there’s a 0% chance Joshua and I will ever conceive naturally. Our only option is IVF.
As of April 9th, I was medicated for 84 days in 2018. Fifty-two is the number of hormone injections I have received this year. This does not include the needle pokes from blood draws, which were done every other day (and sometimes daily) during the ovary stimulation process before egg retrieval. Forty-five is the number of follicles I carried on my ovaries during stims. Twenty-eight is the number of eggs they retrieved from those follicles. Seven is the number of eggs that actually fertilized. Five is the number of embryos we ended up freezing. One is the number of embryos we transferred. Zero is the number of babies still inside of my body.
IVF is a lot of numbers, but even more, it’s a lot of emotions. For one, you’re pumped full of hormones and generally you spend most of your time crying. Sometimes you know why you’re crying, sometimes you don’t. Sometimes that reason is rational, sometimes it’s not. There’s so much pressure on your body to perform at a certain level. I’ve always struggled with anxiety and let me tell you, IVF did nothing to help with that. Every other day I had an ultrasound and bloodwork. Are my hormone levels where they should be? Is my estrogen rising like it should? How are my follicles? Are they growing? How many are there? You’re increasing my meds HOW MUCH? You’re increasing my meds again? Questions I asked myself and the nurses. Over an over. Analyzing every single detail. This was huge. I’ve dreamt of motherhood my entire life and now the chance to have that was right in front of me. And can we talk about the waiting? Aside from waiting to have a baby, you’re waiting on lab results, appointments, procedures, milestones, and phone calls. Sometimes when you’re going through infertility, it feels like all you do is wait. You wait, and you grieve.
Joshua and I did our first transfer on March 28th.
We traveled two and a half hours to pick up our baby from frozen daycare in secret. No one, not even our parents, knew we went to do it. It was exhilarating!! Seeing your tiny baby go into your body on an ultrasound screen and getting a photo of that baby is magical. I remember choking back tears as I watched it all happen, seemingly in slow motion. I was finally pregnant! Of course, we had to wait and hope that the baby would actually implant. In the infertility community, we refer to my post-transfer status as “PUPO,” or “pregnant until proven otherwise.” We came home and we encouraged our little embryo to stick. We told that tiny little baby how much we wanted to meet him or her. A few days later, I got a very faintly positive pregnancy test. I wasn’t willing to trust it just yet. However, the tests continued to be positive for the next couple of days.. until the positives just stopped. Ultimately, we experienced a very early loss, called a chemical pregnancy. Devastated doesn’t even cover how that felt.
It’s no surprise to me that mental illness statistics among the infertility community are as profound as they are. Let’s take account of the physical pain, discomfort, and exhaustion that infertility treatments provide. In addition, the emotional toll and financial strain we’re affected by is outrageous. Do you know how few companies offer infertility coverage, and how many states mandate it? Only 15 of 50 states in the US mandate some sort of infertility coverage, be it diagnostics or treatments. A study by Fertility Network UK was done on the effect infertility has on individuals. The study showed some pretty staggering statistics.
“For example, those who responded to the current survey reported feeling on average sad, frustrated and worried nearly all of the time and 42% had experienced suicidal feelings compared to 20% in the 1997 survey. Those most in danger of experiencing high levels of distress and suicidal feelings were those who had unsuccessful treatment, who spent longer trying to conceive, who experienced some relationship strains, and who had less support from friends and family and from their employer. This suggests that additional counselling beyond IVF counselling may be needed for some couples, especially as 70% reported some detrimental impact on the relationship with their partner.“
I personally have friends who have attempted suicide after miscarriages and/or failed fertility treatments. This should really light a fire in people to raise awareness, and for some reason, it doesn’t. In fact, I myself have been accused of being “dramatic” when speaking about our struggles.
First of all, how dare you. If someone opens up to you about their infertility, you’re doing them a huge injustice by criticizing them for how and what they’re feeling. It’s even more disappointing if you’ve never experienced infertility yourself.
Second, someone going through infertility is battling grief in one form or another on a monthly basis. There’s nothing dramatic about grief. Raw? Definitely. Dramatic? No. Any human being with an ounce of compassion inside of them should be able to sympathize with grief. To quote my sweet friend, Emily: “If you are a parent who didn’t struggle to conceive, look at your child. The child you’ve raised and love so much. Now, I want you to imagine that you knew your child was out there, somewhere, but you had no idea how to get to them. Imagine the pain and desperation you’d feel wanting to get to them. That is exactly what infertility feels like.” She hits the nail on the head there. This is true of both primary infertility (trying for a couple’s first child) and secondary infertility (infertility after the arrival of one or more children). Contrary to what some people may think, secondary infertility is still infertility. The desire to have a child is still there and it still hurts. And even when someone beats infertility and has their miracle baby, they’re still part of this community. This journey never stops being part of your life.
Now that I’ve overwhelmed you with my feelings and some troubling statistics, hopefully you’re feeling enlightened and ready to advocate. So, what can you do? Plenty! If someone you know is experiencing infertility, I urge you to reach out. Offer your sincere support. Get educated on some basic infertility information like conditions and treatments. This is a link full of reliable info. You can also send a thoughtful card or gift to the person in your life affected by this. Gas cards are great because often times, there’s a lot of travel to and from appointments. Get creative! I guarantee they will be so appreciative.
Another thing you can do that is a huge help is raising awareness. There are awareness walks held all the time, so look for one in your area. Form a team and get out there. The reason infertility is such a taboo subject is because people don’t talk about it. Because no one talks about it, others remain uneducated and unaware. There’s progress to be made in changing the stigmas surrounding infertility.
If you’re the individual experiencing infertility, reach out! To myself, a support group online or locally, to a trusted friend or family member, or to a trusted doctor. Know that you don’t have to do this alone. Know that you’re a warrior and that this WILL be worth the wait. We’re all in this together. I originally “came out” about our struggles a year ago in the hopes of connecting with others struggling in the dark. But my biggest driving force was the desire to educate others. If you’re reading this and you have questions or want to know more, I’d be stoked to chat with you. Please reach out!
And there you have it. My real, raw feelings this NIAW. This year’s theme is #flipthescript encouraging us to talk about infertility. So here I am, trying to do my part. And how amazing is Kayla for doing hers? So grateful for awesome friends like this! I stand for the 1 in 8 because I AM the 1 in 8. Who’s going to stand with me? #saytheFword
Mallory and her husband, Josh, continue to fight the good fight every day on infertility. Not only do they go through their treatments and support each other, but they continue to give hope to the rest of the infertility community. Follow their story, and help them achieve their dreams.