Here comes another Squawk Box post! Yippee! In my world things are coming along. Today is day 4 of ovarian stimulation and tomorrow is my first follow up ultrasound to see how everything is growing. Thursday I will post an update on how this cycle is progressing but in the mean time you’ll need something awesome to read! I’ve got that covered with this guest post.
Remember, if you’ve any stories you feel like sharing with the rest of the infertility community you know what to do…
Send them here: firstname.lastname@example.org
Today’s post comes from Katherine. I don’t know Katherine in person or otherwise, we know each other exclusively because she reads this blog… A fact which means she is pretty awesome, if you ask me! She’s had a long journey with infertility and became a mother in an unconventional but brilliant way. Enjoy her story and the five lessons that she learned by accepting her infertility.
The picture today is from the original Chicken Little reader. It seemed appropriate as Katherine herself refers to the story a few times below… Here we go!
I’m not Chicken Little- My sky is indeed falling:
Five lessons I learned from my struggle with (and acceptance of) my own infertility.
Written by: Katherine Jones
Published with the author’s permission.
I’d like to thank Unpregnant Chicken for allowing me to step up on the Squawk Box to shout to the world how awful infertility is. When you’re going through it, people often say “you can always adopt”, or “you can be a good aunt to your nieces and nephews”, and suggest to not get so worked up like Chicken Little did about an acorn falling on his head. But for those of us who really want – no – assume that we are going to have children, struggling with infertility definitely feels like the sky is falling, or that it’s the end of the world.
Although I didn’t start trying to conceive until I was 35 (for a whole suite of reasons that are more suitable for another blog at another time), at that time, they discovered that my tubes were both completely blocked so I couldn’t have conceived naturally anyway. I started IVF and had two failed attempts even with a flare cycle; for some unexplained reason, my follicles couldn’t be stimulated at all. My non-response to hormones was very enigmatic to my doctors, but that didn’t offer much consolation when I was told I’d have to come to terms with never having my own babies. That reality was the hardest thing I’d ever have to face.
When I was in my teens and early twenties, I never dreamt about a flashy wedding or a glamorous wedding dress. My recurring dream was always a scene of domestic bliss – a loving husband and two children who were noisily preparing breakfast in a kitchen while I was coming down the stairs to join them. The day I was told I would never have my own children was the day that recurring dream involuntarily stopped. My other dreams of holding my children’s hands while walking along the beach also faded and disappeared. The children in those dreams resembled pictures of me when I was young.
I won’t lie to you, my 5-year battle with infertility evolved into a chronic struggle with anxiety and depression, and I contemplated ending my life because it really felt like my dreams had ended, my world had no meaning – the sky was falling.
After taking a lengthy “grief and acceptance hiatus” from the fertility treatments, I decided to return to the fertility clinic for the debriefing session that was part of my treatment package. Although my doctor stated that they could not explain why my follicles wouldn’t mature, and that I would never give birth to my own children, she suggested that I try an embryo donation program that is available through California Conceptions. She said it had terrific success rates, and their program is one set fee for up to three embryo transfers within a year, and guaranteed up to 12 weeks of pregnancy. If I hadn’t taken some time to grieve and accept my own inability to have genetic offspring (i.e. “letting go” like Amy stated in a previous Squawk Box post), I wouldn’t have been open to considering that program.
My path to embryo transfer was not smooth-sailing, not by any stretch of the imagination. But I persevered – and it paid off. I am so happy to say I gave birth to my son in February 2014. It doesn’t matter one iota that he’s not related to me. Yes, it might be a difficult story for him to get his head around when he is older. It is a little odd to say “I gave birth to my son, but he’s not my genes”. But I knew there was a mother inside me waiting to be, and now that I am a mom, I feel whole.
I would like to share five of the most important things I came to realize while going through my battle with infertility.
1. Despite how you likely feel, you are not alone. I believe that infertility is one of the most isolating conditions that humans might face in their lifetime. Not everyone wants children and I respect their decision, however, for those of us that want children and run into roadblocks to having them, it often feels like it’s the end of the world. In my own experience, it’s best to reach out to others going through infertility via support groups in your own city, or online. Until someone faces infertility, they won’t ever understand how deeply it affects you.
2. There is no instant gratification from fertility treatments, patience is a virtue. Even when there is medical intervention (IUI, ICSI, IVF) to assist with fertility, time is required to allow things to happen (like the notorious two week wait after a transfer, or for you to get your period to “reset” your cycle when trying IVF again.) So as hard as it might be, being able to patiently wait is a must. I took up knitting to help. Haha. Additionally, if you manage to get pregnant after struggling with infertility along the way, don’t worry if you feel almost paralysed with fear that something will go wrong with your pregnancy. Worrying is normal. I didn’t really accept that I was pregnant until my 20 week scan, and even after the 1.5 hour ultrasound confirmed that the baby was absolutely healthy, I was hesitant to allow anyone to buy gifts for the baby, or help me prepare a nursery.
3. If at first you don’t succeed – try, try (and try) again. Taking a hiatus, or “letting go” as Amy said, will help ease the stress associated with trying. And we all know that stress is counterproductive to the whole process (a vicious cycle though, I know!) But don’t be afraid to keep trying.
4. Yes, it’s expensive. But… living with the regret of never having a child is going to be costlier to your health and quality of life than you could ever put a dollar figure to. I’m not saying go ahead and be irresponsible about financing fertility treatments, but I am suggesting that sometimes you’ll be faced with hard decisions about how to afford the treatments. I took out a second (and third) mortgage on my house to be able to afford two rounds of IVF and then embryo adoption.
5. I am thankful for my struggle because without it I wouldn’t have discovered my strength. I wouldn’t necessarily choose to experience infertility all over again. However, because of what I went through emotionally, physically, and financially, during my battle with infertility, I am starting a not-for-profit Infertility Foundation for my province. We currently don’t have any provincial assistance for fertility treatments, and that has to change.
Much like the story of Chicken Little, which has a variety of endings, the journey of every infertile individual or couple will be different. For the versions of Chicken Little with a happy ending, the moral of the story is not to be a “Chicken” but to have courage. I believe that everyone who faces their infertility has remarkable courage – it’s one of the most difficult challenges humans might have to face in their lifetime. I’m very grateful that my infertility journey has a happy ending, and I wish the same for all of you.