My Infertility Journey: It wasn't easy!
This week is National Infertility Awareness Week. Infertility is often an unseen struggle, and it's one that affects so many women and men. One in eight couples struggle with some form of it and it is not an easy road. It is heartbreaking and dream-shattering for many of those who go down this path.
I never imagine I would be labeled as infertile. Fortunately, those days are now behind me, but I feel compelled to share my story in order to raise awareness to others.
I personally struggled with infertility and the thought of never having children was one of the most painful times in my life. Gratefully, I also received the best gifts of my life (my twin boys) through the miracle of science and love.
Ever since I can remember, I always knew that I wanted to be a Mom. I loved kids even when I was a kid. I babysat, was a mother’s helper in the summers, a camp counselor, and the best very best Aunt to my Nieces. Life threw me a curve ball or two and I found myself single again in my late 30’s when all of my friends were married and having kids. I was stressed and anxious at the thought of not having children. Although I was single at the time, I knew my biological clock was ticking and that I only had a certain amount of time before it was too late for me. After a couple of years of researching and learning about different options of becoming a single mother, I decided to take the leap at the age of 39.
However, it was not an easy decision at all! There were many many night of crying and feeling sorry for myself. Sad that I was single at that point in my life. Sad that I was not going to be able to share the love of raising a child with a spouse. Torturing myself whether I could even do it alone. Could I even afford it?! But, in the soul of my being, I knew that I wanted to me a Mom beyond any doubts or fears that I was having.
During my information gathering phase, I went on a volunteer “vacation” to work in children’s homes and hospitals in Russia with the hope to adopt a child from there. The experience was heartbreaking and life changing. I wish I could have given them all a place that they could call home but, in the end, I decided I wanted to be pregnant and carry my own child. I started the process with a fertility doctor. My plan was to choose a sperm donor to get pregnant. Easy peasy, right? Well, not for me! It seemed like nothing was easy for me at this time of my life.
While I was researching sperm donors, I found out that I could not get pregnant because I have something called Asherman’s Syndrome (scarring in the uterus).
Back story: Several years earlier, I had surgery to remove a baseball size fibroid that was creating havoc on my life. I was also told that I would need to have it removed before I wanted to have kids as it would interfere with getting pregnant and carrying a child. The day after this surgery, I ended up with a horrible infection and ended up back in the hospital for 5 days. The infection cleared up, but what I wouldn’t know until years later was that the infection is what probably caused the scarring for me. It’s horrifically ironic that the surgery I endured to help me carry a child in the future is what caused me not to be able to carry my own child. This is a very rare occurrence and I just happened to be one of the unlucky ones.
After being diagnosed with Asherman’s Syndrome, I had another surgery to try to remove the scar tissue in the hopes to get pregnant. But, sadly, it was unsuccessful. I still remember that day so clearly- too clearly! I walked back to my office alone after I received the news from my doctor, crying, heart broken, devastated, embarrassed, a failure. I kept thinking “how is it possible that I can not, will not, ever have children?” I was healthy, in shape, exercised, ate well, looked younger than my actual age of 40. I did everything right! But, I was still not able to get pregnant or carry a child. Ever! And, to find this out while being single! No one to share this pain with, no one to hug me and tell me it would all be ok. This information changed me forever. That pain is indescribable and unless you have personally experienced infertility, there is no way that you can understand or feel this devastating loss. It is the loneliness place in the world. You become part of this Silent Sorority that no woman would chose to be part of.
Shortly after all of this, I started dating a wonderful man who is now my husband. I was also lucky enough to become a Step Mom to a pretty awesome kid. My husband was very supportive and open to exploring other ways for us to have a child together. Then, shortly after we got engaged, my niece (Samantha) called me and shockingly made the most generous offer in the world to us - to be our surrogate (actually, our gestational carrier). I never even thought that would be an option for us. It was even on my radar. But, somehow this selfless 21 year old thought of this on her own and forever changed our world.
However, this was also not an easy road for any of us. There were many disappointments along the way. At many points throughout this new process, I thought I was never going to be a Mom all over again as it didn’t “work” for us until the third try. Lots of tears, pain and stress during these months. There were lawyer meetings, social worker meetings, plane trips back and forth, financial costs, prayers that it would work and that she would be pregnant with our child, prayers once she was pregnant that she would stay pregnant and not miscarry. Once she made it past the high-risk 3 month mark, I thought we were in the clear and that I could be happy and relieved. But, I was stressed the entire time. At 26 weeks, she went into early labor; but, luckily, the doctors were able to stop it. Samantha went on strict bed rest at that time and stayed there until our twins were born early through an emergency C-section at 33 weeks. I remember being in Washington, DC and getting a phone call from Florida saying to get there ASAP because our boys were about to be born. I was so scared and worried wondering if they would be ok and I desperately wanted to be there for their birth, but wasn’t able to be.
Nothing about my infertility journey was easy. NOTHING. But, today, I am beyond grateful to my niece who gave us the best gift(s) I will ever receive. I am thankful every single day that my boys are in my life and that I get to be called “Mom”.
Along the way, I grew into the person I am today and which is why I have always been out loud and honest about my/our journey. The more we are open about infertility, the less likely someone else needs to feel so alone. For all those struggling with infertility, I know that the pain never completely goes away - even if you are one of the lucky ones to come through the other side and are able to have a child. My heart goes out to every man and woman who has to go down this road. The days, weeks, months or even years are dark, but know that there is light at the end of the journey. Even if it isn’t the one you pictured for yourself, life is beautiful and you are stronger than you think and you are loved. xx