Infertility impacts approximately 15% of couples in America and is a result of abnormal functioning of the male or female reproductive systems. Because I have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), I live with one of the most common causes of infertility in women.
If you've been following along with my goals posts so far this year, you'll remember that one of my goals is to worry less as we prepare for starting a family. This is the second post in a new series in which I'll be chronicling this journey. You can read all of the posts in this series by clicking here!
To be clear, my goal with these posts is to be open. Over the past year I've done a lot of searching to find experiences and stories from women living with PCOS and/or going through fertility treatments, and so far I haven't come up with much. Because I want to hear about what other women are experiencing, I am sure that others out there feel the same. While I know this is my story, I hope that by sharing it openly I will help someone else through whatever they are experiencing.
If you read my May and June goals posts, you know that we have been moving through our second round of fertility treatments. Well, last week, we had our last appointment with our fertility specialist. The second round of medication didn't work, and because of our planned move to Pennsylvania in August, we are out of time here in Florida.
With lots already going on this summer, Kurt and I have decided to take a break in trying to start our family. We need to focus our time and resources on wrapping up our lives and enjoying the last little bit of time we have as Floridians. Once we move and get settled, we will find another fertility specialist up north and, per the recommendation from our doctor here, begin exploring the process of In Vitro Fertilization (IVF).
As we processed through the miscarriage at the end of March, the failure of this round of medication, and the recommendation for our next steps, there are four things that I've really come to notice and understand:
Infertility impacts more people in my community than I realized
After I shared the first part of our infertility journey, I was somewhat stunned at the number of women who reached out to share their stories with me. The number of women I know who are struggling or have struggled with some level of infertility is well into the double digits, and it makes me so sad to know that friends, colleagues, and mentors from all stages of my life have experienced some of what I have. At the same time, it frustrates me that this is something that seems to be only talked about behind the scenes, rather than out in the open. I know this impacts what is very often a private part of someone's life, and that not everyone feels comfortable sharing with a wide audience. But I believe that education and conversation about what questions to ask and how to support someone going through this type of experience may do more good than not. After all, sometimes it is those things that we keep hidden that actually bind us together most.
Not everyone will understand what you're experiencing or feeling
While I received many messages of support from members of my community following our miscarriage, there were also a couple who didn't understand why I was upset for as long as I was (and, to some degree, still am). They didn't understand why I couldn't "just move on." What I think they don't understand is that in those almost six weeks that I was pregnant, I experienced a shift in my thought patterns; I wasn't thinking about how something might impact just Kurt or me, but also about how it would impact the life that was starting to grow within me. I wondered what kind of parents Kurt and I would be, and together we began researching baby products and parenting methods, having conversations about how we would be changed by this child that would join us. It's not easy to move on from those kinds of thoughts and conversations. It's not easy to go from planning one future to literally watching it slip away. I had to make peace with the fact that some members of my community weren't supportive in the way I expected them to be because they didn't understand the experience that I was having.
Both my head and my heart need to be involved in making decisions
After our miscarriage, I became somewhat impatient with having to wait to start the second round of medication. I saw how quickly our time in Florida was going to end, and didn't want to waste any of it. My heart longs for pregnancy and a baby. But at the same time, my head knows that our financial resources for fertility treatments are limited. And the decision to purchase our first home, while adding some stress right now, will be so great for our family in the future. If I were to let my heart drive every decision, we would start the IVF process immediately. But my head knows better, that we need to be settled and closer to members of our support network before we begin that process.
It's important I know what I can and cannot control
Many of you may know the popular serenity prayer - "God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference." These words could not apply to navigating infertility better. I cannot control if my ovaries decide to ovulate. I cannot control if fertility medications will work the way they are designed to. But I can control the attitude I have toward the experience. And I can control how I choose to take care of my mind, body, and spirit each step of the way. Knowing the difference between what I can and cannot control helps me to remain positive and optimistic, even when I don't necessarily want to be.
In a small way, I'm relieved for the break we have ahead of us. I'm looking forward to thinking about moving and making this new house into our home, and to celebrating the last few weeks we'll have living in Florida. I still feel like I'm stuck waiting to see what will happen next, but as this chapter of our lives comes to a close, I am excited for what the next one might bring.