Monday, November 20, 2017

10 Things I Learned From Infertility


Back in May I shared my husband's and my journey (battle?) with infertility. You can find the posts here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5 (and additional posts where I spoke about our infertility here and here). These posts detailed everything we went through as far as diagnostics and treatments, but I also wanted to share some of the things I learned when going through it all. I think it's so important to keep these things in mind in the middle of the complete hell that is infertility. I still have difficulty processing all we went through and I don't think that will ever go away. So here is what I have learned and I hope it helps others going through similar situations.



1. Your happiness is not everyone else's.

I can't even tell you how many pregnancy announcements of friends and family I heard during the almost 3 years of infertility. Over 20 at least. And the resounding lesson I learned from it all was that if you are fortunate enough to get to the end of that difficult journey and be able to share pregnancy news with others, don't forget it might be hard for them to take. I cannot tell you how many times I cried after hearing pregnancy news. And it was NEVER because I wasn't happy for them. I was always happy, but there was still that fresh layer of grief for myself and my husband I had to sort through. There was the ache I had of wanting it to be me sharing that same news, too. The anxiety and questioning, wondering if it would ever be us in that situation. So when we became pregnant and it was safe to tell others, I never expected a certain reaction. I knew my excitement about being pregnant does not translate to EVERYONE being excited. I never expected them to be half as thrilled as I was. The important part was that my husband and I were over the moon with finally having another child. I remembered how hard it was not to cry when I would hear pregnancy announcements and how hard it was to slap a smile on my face so I never expected anything from anyone else when we announced. 



2. Advocate for yourself.

In those early days of diagnostics and coming to terms with the diagnosis of infertility, make sure you advocate for yourself. It is YOUR body. Don't do things you don't feel comfortable with. Ask, "Why?" and then ask it again. If you have a strong feeling for or against a treatment or diagnostic test, make sure you verbalize it. Ask questions so you understand your options. Early on, I wasn't so verbal about my feelings and wants to the doctors. And we went through 3 months of Clomid with only a 5% chance at success (NOT a fun drug to take). Testing showed I was ovulating regularly and Clomid wouldn't have really helped us. I should have advocated to go to an IUI instead of just Clomid. Lesson learned.

3. Educate yourself.

Read as much as you can. Make sure what you read is actually scholarly, medically based information though. Join a support group. Ask your doctor questions. Get a second opinion. Do everything you can to get a background in infertility so you can better understand what path to take and what decisions are right for you. Ignorance is not bliss, especially in this case. Make sure you understand your insurance policy and what will or will not be covered. I learned our  insurance would cover diagnostic tests, but only if it was coded with the ICD 10 code of 'fertility testing' and not 'infertility'. Even if it was the same exact procedure. Because of that knowledge I ended up switching doctors. My previous doctor refused to use the diagnostic code of 'fertility testing' and would only use 'infertility' for a hysterosalpingogram and it would have cost us $1000 out of pocket. I switched doctors and the second doctor agreed to use the 'fertility testing' code. It cost us $52 out of pocket. That second doctor delivered our second daughter now because I really appreciated her communication and how she worked with us and our insurance to get as much as she could covered. 

4. Don't judge others for their decisions.

Just because a decision is right for you and your spouse, does not mean it is the right decision for anyone else. We decided to proceed with an IVF (twice) because I knew I would always wonder if we didn't try everything we could. But that was a decision we discussed as a couple and agreed upon. I had people ask why we didn't just adopt. Well first of all, it's never that simple. It's a costly, lengthy financial process and we weren't ready to give up on a natural child quite yet. We had already put time, effort, and money into fertility treatments and didn't want to start over with the adoption process. I know there are many other couples who choose differently than we did. And that is OKAY! Some people elect to never try treatment, some believe in holistic approaches, or a combination, or decide on adoption. We are all different and so we make different decisions. So never judge what other people decide is right for them.

5. You are stronger than you think you are.

There were times I never thought I would get through it. I could not fathom injecting myself multiple times a day with hormones that made me feel awful, physically and emotionally. Paying thousands of dollars just for a chance of pregnancy. Riding this awful roller coaster of emotions for years. But we got through it. Take it all day by day. You are so much stronger than you think you are. 

6. Your feelings don't stop after seeing 2 pink lines.

I remember at the start of the IUI and IVF cycles thinking that I just needed to get through it and get pregnant and everything would be fine. Sorry to burst the bubble, but it won't ever be fine. I still look back on it all and cry. There are still times when grief and sadness overwhelms me. It's so hard to just be happy about being pregnant. The infertility process can take years. You can't just get over all of those emotions after seeing those 2 pink lines on a pregnancy test and receiving confirmation you are pregnant. It takes time to work through the grief and sadness of the difficult journey you had to go on to get to the point of pregnancy. And that is okay! It's okay to be happy about being pregnant and sad about all you had to do to get there. With my first pregnancy, there was so much more blissful ignorance. This one has had a lot more anxiety with it about keeping healthy and making sure the baby is growing the way she should. Comparing the two experiences I had, neither was better or worse, just different. I know I am still sorting through it all so I let myself feel those feelings when they come. I don't try to suppress them. Feelings are meant to be felt. There is a reason why you are feeling a certain way and that is okay! 

7. A positive test doesn't mean you are pregnant.

If this is ever something you have learned, I am so sorry. There are no words to express seeing that positive pregnancy test after trying so hard only to have your dreams crushed a few days or weeks later. I had two chemical pregnancies and a miscarriage during our almost 3 year battle and it was devastating each time. Pregnancy tests have become so sensitive that they can detect very small amounts of HCG giving you a positive test. You can even find out up to 6 days before your missed cycle if you could be pregnant. But just having that hormone present, does not always mean the pregnancy is viable. There could be chromosomal issues as we had with our miscarriage, that causes the fetus not to develop. Or there could be implantation issues where the embryo does not fully implant into the uterus, but still causes enough of a rise in HCG to give you a positive result. Whatever the cause, seeing those two pink lines of a positive pregnancy test does not always mean you will be giving birth in the next 9 months, unfortunately. I tried to view it more as a staircase. With a positive test I get to take the next step. And hope to keep going until I reached the top. 

8. Acceptance of what you cannot change.

For quite a while I was in denial of our infertility. I refused to accept it. That made it so much harder on us. I think it was hard for me because we were able to have our daughter Claire so easily. All the diagnostic tests we both did came back normal. The doctors could not find any cause. So how could we have infertility? It was a concept I had to wrestle with and finally accept. I prayed for God to change it all. For it to be an awful mistake and for me to miraculously become pregnant naturally. But once I started praying for God to give me strength and to help me through this was when I finally found some inner peace. It helped me deal with it all and even focus on the positives of our situation. I became grateful for the availability of infertility treatment, for our location and how it meant I could choose between several places that provided treatment, and for us find the finances to be able seek treatment. I was grateful for the supportive friends and family we had that helped us through. We couldn't change our infertility. So I put my energy into other things and it really helped me to sort through it all. 


9. Support makes all the difference.

As I said before, I was so grateful to our family and friends that helped us through. Whether you chose to have one person or a whole tribe, you need to have some kind of a support system that helps get you through the tough times and celebrate with you during the exciting times. I found some online support groups, and I had some family and friends that could relate to what we were going through with their own experiences. Sometimes you just need acknowledgement of how hard it can be or just a listening ear while you vent. It helps with the stress level and helps makes you feel that you have the strength to keep going. I encourage you to find your support because it can make all the difference when you are heading down that long and lonely road of infertility. 


10. You are the one that has to live with yourself. Don't apologize, don't regret.

So many times we put others' needs before our own. If you are going through infertility, you need to learn to put yourself FIRST. I learned you are so busy sorting out your own emotions you don't have energy to try and please everyone else. I missed baby showers, family events, and more as a result of appointments, procedures, or not having the emotional strength to go. I confided in some people, but not others. I would cry at inappropriate times. I learned to ask myself what is going to make me feel better right now and do that or ask for it. And I refuse to apologize for any of that! It helped me get through 3 months of Clomid, 3 IUIs and IVF twice. My husband and I needed to focus on ourselves and what we were going through. We didn't have room in our lives for additional stress that others could have brought in. And that is OKAY! I had to put myself and my feelings first. I don't regret any of it. You are the one who has to live through it all so put yourself first! 



As always, I share all of this to help others. Whether you are going through infertility or not. 1 in 8 couples deal with infertility so the chances you know someone who is going through infertility or has in the past is very high. I want to share our experience in hopes of bringing a voice to those who do not wish to speak out. I want to help others feel supported who are going through this and educate people who are not. If you have any questions about what we have been through, or anything else you think I could answer, please feel free to email me or leave a comment below. 

11 comments:

  1. Oh Laura, this must have been so hard for you to share, but it's so helpful to others. I know just getting the words out can be difficult, but having the audience your blog does you're going to reach and help so many people. Sometimes you just need to know you're not alone!

    It's not infertility, but I had a few health problems a while back. We had a friend come stay with us and being able to talk to him about it was the best, he'd gone through many of the same tests and diagnosis struggles as I had and while it didn't solve the problem or make it any easier, it was just nice talking with someone who got it, and knew what it was like.

    Never be afraid to put yourself first - I hope you continue to do that, and carve out some time for you in motherhood and accept all the help you're offered. It's hard with two, but so much fun too if you have the support there and the chance to even take a shower in peace! :)

    Hope you had a great weekend :) Was cold and wet here, a bit unexpected after our warm week!

    Away From The Blue Blog

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  2. Thank you for this heartfelt post. So glad you shared your journey because it will help so many other women. So happy that your story had a happy ending.

    https://www.kathrineeldridge.com

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  3. What a very thoughtful, personal, helpful post! I truly appreciate the emotion and vulnerability that went into writing this. I especially love #1 because it applies to a lot of things in life, not just infertility. Thank you for sharing this, Laura!
    Gina || On the Daily Express

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  4. Such a well written post, Laura. You definitely have been through so much in this journey and you are so blessed to have your second daughter! Pregnancy is something so many take for granted and it is such an odd thing at times. Just how some couples go through IVF 2+ times with no success, then stop and get pregnant. Or a couple may decide to adopt and then they get pregnant. You never know what will happen and can only try to stay positive and yes praying for strength helps a lot too! It must really pay to do research, that is amazing how the different doctor coded your test differently and you saved that much money. It's funny how some doctors will work with you more... Glad you switched and found one that would!! I am SO happy for you!! :)

    Carrie
    curlycraftymom.com

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  5. Such a great post. You have been through so much and others who can or can't relate can learn so much from you sharing!

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  6. Wow...this is such a heart warming post, Laura. And you are quite wise beyond your years. Of course we all know that life is not all fabulousness, but it's so hard when it doesn't go the way we planned. I think you have shown here a great learning tool for so many others....
    XOXO
    Jodie
    www.jtouchofstyle.com

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  7. Such a powerful post, it's always great to share the hard points in our lives. You never know what you're going through is what someone else is going through.

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  8. This such a wonderful post, Laura. Thank you for sharing so much of yourself and of your family. I have friends who have dealt with infertility and I have seen what a long, painful road it is and how many ups and downs there are. I'm so happy you all have your little blessing on the way!

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  9. This is so beautifully written and so full of important lessons for anyone struggling with infertility or anyone who just wants to have an insight on how to be more sensitive to those around them. Thank you for talking about it and for being transparent about your journey. I am so happy for your family that you have a new little one! <3

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  10. This is amazing dear, thank you for sharing such an inspiring story. Indeed, we are all stronger than we think we are.

    Jessica | notjessfashion.com

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  11. Bless your sweet heart, your words are so wise. It is so easy to beat ourselves up over infertility as if we are being punished or that it is somehow our fault. I am pinning this post on Pinterest in hopes that it finds it way to some struggling, hopeful mothers-to-be. XO

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