In Her Own Words: Living With Infertility
Cathy, 29, and her husband have been married 10 years and truly want to be parents. When the Kansas couple wasn't able to conceive naturally, they sought medical help.
What was your first sign that something was wrong? What symptoms did you experience?
Six years ago, we started trying to have a baby. Nothing happened. My OB-GYN reassured me and said for us to try on our own for a year. We took my temperature daily or used an ovulation predictor while waiting. My OB-GYN did some preliminary checks on my husband and myself. Everything was fine. He recommended we see a specialist. When we did, we got a little freaked out by what was involved and decided to hold off on treatment.
What was the diagnosis experience like?
About three years ago, we started going through testing again with our current reproductive endocrinologist. I had an hysterosalpingography (HSG) and a laparoscopy. He could not find any reason why we could not conceive.
What was your initial and then longer-term reaction to the diagnosis?
I've never been so scared, asking myself if my body would ever work like it's supposed to. I wanted a child. I'm very religious, so dealing with why God hadn't blessed us was difficult. I questioned and dealt with "Why is this happening to me?" and "What have we done not to be blessed?" But knowing there was an end—whether it would be a pregnancy through treatment or a miracle or adoption—helped. Also, I saw people who adopted and loved their child as much as my mother loved me. That helped me realize adoption would be OK. One way or the other, I knew we would be parents. I finally came to a place where I could rest in that fact.
How is infertility treated?
For three months after the laparoscopy, I had intrauterine inseminations (IUIs), sometimes called artificial inseminations. They were not successful. I knew the next step was in vitro fertilization (IVF). I took fertility drugs and underwent an egg retrieval procedure. My husband's sperm count was high, so we did traditional IVF, putting my 12 eggs and his sperm together to fertilize. The next day, the doctor called, saying none of my eggs had fertilized. It was a huge blow.
They tried a rescue intracytoplasmic sperm insertion (ICSI). In this procedure, single sperms are inserted into individual eggs. Seven fertilized. We had an embryo to transfer, but the pregnancy test was negative. That was hard. Not only couldn't we get pregnant naturally, it was like our bodies were fighting each other. But at least we had an answer about why conception wasn't happening naturally. We tried again, this time doing the ICSI immediately. There was good fertilization and transfer. Then I found out I was pregnant with twins. We're very excited and feel blessed.
Did you have to make any lifestyle or dietary changes in response to infertility?
I left a job I loved and people I loved working with for an employer with health insurance that pays for four tries of IVF. It was a huge decision. But I wasn't willing to go into major debt if I didn't have to. I also made all the recommended lifestyle changes. While trying to conceive, I rarely had a glass of wine. I don't smoke or drink caffeine. And I eat healthful foods.
Did you seek any type of emotional support?
I saw a counselor, because I started feeling angry at the world, myself, God, my family. I went to a monthly educational meeting at RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association and started to volunteer. The peer support group allowed me to talk to other people going through infertility, which helped enormously. I can't imagine going through this without the friends I've made through RESOLVE. It's great to have someone to call. They help you think through things, like what your friend with four kids just said.
Does infertility have any impact on your family?
My husband wanted children as much as I did. My angry stage was hard for him. But infertility has made our marriage stronger. We've had to come together and talk things over, make joint decisions, and set stopping points. We've made huge ethical decisions, like what to do with our embryos. We talk about things most married couples don't discuss. We've had bumpy times, but that has made us stronger.
Dealing with our families is harder. At every family reunion, we were asked when we were going to have children. We didn't want to get into an infertility discussion. That was our personal business. We made the choice not to go to family reunions, because we couldn't deal with it.
What advice would you give to anyone living with infertility?
If you want to be a parent, you will be, whether through treatment or adoption. Get plugged in with RESOLVE. And go to a reproductive endocrinologist, not just an OB-GYN.