While filming their show, FABLife, Tyra Banks and Chrissy Teigen broke their silence this past week about their own personal fertility challenges. I applaud both of them for their bravery. After my post last week, I had not only women I have never met but also friends and acquaintances contact me about their journey and what they were going through. I was surprised to hear that so many other women have been through so many challenges, just like me.
Here’s the thing about infertility. It does not discriminate. Infertility affects both women and men, white, black, rainbow, young and older people and everyone in between. It is not an inconvenience. It is a disease. According to Merck, as many as 1 in 8 couples experience difficulty conceiving. That’s approximately 7.4 million women facing the infertility battle. On June 24th, 2014, I officially became a part of that 7.4 million. My husband and I are that 1 in 8. Yay! We’re #1, right? Not exactly.
After Tyra and Chrissy’s admission on FabLife, infertility topics began popping up all over the internet. Tyra talked about multiple failed IVF attempts. Tyra and Chrissy both made mention numerous people asking “why don’t you have kids yet?” or “when are you going to have kids?”. They both emotionally discussed how frustrating it can be to someone who is experiencing it firsthand. I noticed while reading articles and various comments that those who are on the journey with us, whether is it is family, friends, co-workers, etc., sometimes they just really don’t know what to say or how to respond.
Personally, although I’m new to this “adventure”, I have experienced questions or comments that I know are meant to be comforting and helpful, can also have the complete opposite effect. I had planned on blogging my own version of what to say and what not to say further down the road, but on the heels of Tyra and Chrissy’s recent sharing, I thought now would be a better time than any. There are a variety of lists regarding what not to say to someone who is struggling with infertility, so this may not be news to the seasoned warriors. I want to share my own personal experiences in what will be a two-part blog. With that said, if you have said these to me, please know my goal is not to make you feel uncomfortable or upset. I hope that this will be a guidance tool for those around me and those who may know someone suffering with infertility.
“Have you tried losing weight? Maybe if you work-out you would be able to get pregnant!”
Yes, that thought has crossed my mind, a lot. My weight is definitely not ideal or where it should be. I have Hypothyroidism, meaning, my thyroid basically decided to give up and not work. I have been struggling with this since I was 16. I remember the first 2 years of high school I consistently weighed around 120 pounds. My junior year,my thyroid threw in the towel and in a matter of a few months, I gained 55 pounds. We used to joke that my “freshman 15” came early. Until recently, my doctors and endocrinologists struggled to find the perfect concoction of thyroid medications for my body. Almost immediately after the correct meds and dosages were figured out, I was diagnosed with Endometriosis and placed on 6- months of Lupron Depot injections. In addition, to other awful side effects, (that’s a blog post for later), I gained an additional 63 pounds. Now, add my recent diagnosis of PCOS which causes me to be insulin resistant and pack on a tummy pouch, it only gets better (sarcasm). Do the math and now you can figure out where I am.
Morale of this story, you telling me to lose weight, isn’t going to magically make me shed pounds, let alone become pregnant (although, wouldn’t that be nice?). I’m already conscious enough about my body and its inability to make babies, only saying this to me makes it worse.
This has been one extremely frustrating, 12-year, up-hill battle. I’ll be the first to admit I could eat better, smaller portions and do more cardio. All of which, I have begun in the last few weeks. My thyroid levels for the first time in years are in the correct range and I recently began taking the wonderful (sometimes not-so-wonderful) drug, Metformin, to help with PCOS and pre-diabetes. I also plan to start swimming again in the next week and plan on posting my progress, (which by the way I’m down 12 pounds!)
“At least there’s always adoption, right? There’s so many children in need already!”
While this is true, I have struggled with this question immensely. It wasn’t until I was asked this or the “adoption alternative” was brought up about the 5th or 6th time that I realized how this made me feel.
Selfish. I feel selfish. Don’t get me wrong, adoption is great and I admire those who open up their hearts and homes to the children who need it the most. But I want to experience the moment when you look down and see two lines on that pregnancy test. I want to hear our child’s heartbeat at the doctor’s office. I want to feel flutter kicks in my tummy. I want people to ask me about my due date, what gender our baby is, what their name will be. I want to wear maternity clothes and show off my belly. Is that so wrong?!
This also falls in line with “At least you have already have a step-daughter!”
You’re right, I LOVE being a step-mom to K. She is possibly the coolest 10-year-old I have ever met. I am grateful for every moment I get with her. With that said, I met K when she was 5 years old. I didn’t get to experience time with her when she was an infant or toddler. I didn’t get to witness her roll over for the first time or hear her first cry. I want to experience those milestones with my husband and with our child.
Being asked this makes me feel bad that I want those things and somehow I feel bad that adoption isn’t our first priority or that K isn’t “good enough”. It’s almost the same as if we should ask pregnant women why they didn’t adopt first or if they already had one kid, why they decided to have more.
Do realize we have considered adoption as an alternative but if we make it that far, that decision will not be easy for me. Just as if you grieve for a lost loved one, I will grieve knowing that we may not be able to have a biological child and I may not get to experience those moments.
“At least you know you can get pregnant!”
Yep, even though knowing this is entirely said to give me hope, it doesn’t. I have heard this far more than I expected. At first, I was hopeful. As mentioned in my interview on Amateur Nester, my husband and I had a miscarriage 3 months after we were married. Doctors estimate I was only a few weeks along and now as we learn more, I feel it was most likely a chemical pregnancy. A chemical pregnancy is a very early miscarriage, which takes place before anything can be seen on an ultrasound and is where the sperm has fertilized the egg, but later on, the egg fails to survive.
Despite the fact I tried so hard to focus on the positive that we were able to get pregnant, the thought remains that we didn’t stay pregnant. Again, reverting back to the “my body is incapable of making (and growing) babies” thought in my head. I’m finding infertility makes it very hard to not put yourself down while making you feel like you are doing something wrong or you are at fault. I am consistently having to tell myself this is a disease. While I can try to do as much as I can with specialists, medications, natural paths, etc., this is still a disease and I try to comprehend that there are just some things that are out of my control. (Take that inner control freak!)
This is just a small look into what I have experienced thus far. The above 3 questions and statements are by far the most common I have encountered. Stay tuned for the next blog post that touches on a few more that I have heard or have recently began introduced to.
Please comment below with any questions or phrases you have encountered as someone dealing with infertility or maybe you are someone who has tried to offer help and not sure if it was the best thing that could’ve been said! I would love to hear your experiences!
On another note, let me just say “Thank You!” for the overwhelming amount of support we have received after my first post! In one week, The Last Key had over 350 views! I have received so many texts, emails and messages with encouraging words, curious questions and grateful notes. I even got the amazing opportunity to tell my story over at Amateur Nester. You can read that here. It all means so much!
Thank you again!