Infertility - A Lonely Battle

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This week is Infertility Awareness Week. Infertility sucks - there’s really no other way to put it.  Actually, I can think of a lot of words I’d use to describe infertility, but most of them would need to be censored.

When a couple is unsuccessful trying to conceive, it is so heartbreaking and yet the world continues going on around you. It can be lonely and isolating. Friends get pregnant and have baby showers and gender reveal parties. You want to be happy for them, but really you just want to RSVP no or cancel at the last minute. If you actually get yourself there, you hold back tears the entire time.  I remember throwing a good friend’s baby shower shortly after my first round of IVF failed. I had overstimulated during that round, so I still had a bunch of hormones in my system and was so bloated that none of my clothes fit. Once I squeezed into a way too-tight dress, I struggled not to cry the entire shower. I finally broke down in tears after all the pink decorations were put away and the last guests had left.

Well meaning friends and family who know you’re trying to conceive usually say the wrong thing, it’s almost like there’s a book out there about how to say the wrong thing in this situation! They tell you to just “relax, it will happen if you just stop trying!” If you’re open about your infertility journey, people can get nosy and sometimes the most private details become the subject of casual conversation. The actual act of trying to get pregnant is no longer fun since you’re scheduling it and only focused on the goal, and that can seriously impact any desire to have sex.

If you’ve decided to try in vitro, the whole process is an invasion.  For women, there are so many things entering your body (probes, needles, drugs). You have to be at the doctor’s office many times per week, so if you work in an office your colleagues are likely suspicious or annoyed at you for how often you’re arriving late or leaving early. The hormones make your emotions all out of whack, and the bloating and discomfort can be unbearable. I think it took me 9 months to finally lose all the weight I gained during my two unsuccessful rounds of IVF. For men, the small cup and the dirty movies/magazines in the sterile room is enough to make even the most virile man freeze up.  Not to mention the cost, IVF is a serious invasion of a couple’s bank account!

Many of my clients pursuing adoption have struggled with infertility. Many are trying to pay off the debt of unsuccessful fertility treatments and are now terrified about the thought of losing more money in a disrupted adoption. Many have a child already, but are now struggling with unexplained secondary infertility and dealing with those emotions while trying to be a parent. Some are still struggling with the grief/loss/anger relating to the infertility, and the idea that their only option for a child is in someone else’s hands, whether it’s a doctor, egg donor or expectant mother considering an adoption plan.

My advice is just that you survive - put one foot in front of the other and try and move ahead, whatever direction that takes you. I believe time does make things better. Seek help, a good grief counselor can help you deal with the emotions relating to the infertility. There are infertility support groups that you can participate in virtually or in person (check your local hospitals for their educational programs).  If you feel you’re meant to be a parent, consider other ways to grow your family, but only when you’re ready to move on. Consider adopting through foster care, domestic private adoption, embryo adoption, an egg donor, or surrogacy, there are so many different ways to grow your family after infertility. Each option has its own pros and cons, and some won’t be an option due to the underlying cause of your infertility.

If you decide that assisted reproductive technology is the way you want to grow your family, do your research on the professionals you choose to work with and make sure you have an experienced attorney helping you with the essential contracts. The American Academy of Adoption & Assisted Reproduction Attorneys is a great resource for experienced attorneys in your state who can advise you through the legal aspects of the process.

If you decide domestic adoption is a route you want to take, consider hiring an adoption advisor to guide you through the process. Choose an advisor like me who has experienced the loss you have, has seen the negative pregnancy tests, experienced the sticker shock of IVF, and came out the other side holding the child meant for their family. That person will be able to better empathize with what you’re going through and all that you’ve experienced in order to become a parent!

Katie Zimmerman