When/How did you first realize you were struggling with infertility?
After trying for 6 months, I was not feeling myself and had put on some extra weight but was still very active. In order to better understand what was going on, I decided to go to the fertility clinic that my doctor recommended for a general assessment which revealed that I had a serious case of hypothyroidism. Thankfully there is a simple solution with a daily medication to treat it, however it can take some time to get the dosage and hormone levels in the optimal range for pregnancy so it took a specialist and some patience. A year later my blood work revealed that I have an autoimmune disease that led to the under-active thyroid. While it was helpful to find out the source of the problem, it was hard to add this news to the mix while trying tirelessly to get pregnant.
What was most challenging about this realization/diagnosis?
The fear of the unknown was most difficult. I wasn't confident that I'd be successful or what lengths we might have to go to in order to get pregnant, if we could at all. It was also really tough to understand all of the information and terminology at first. We did a couple of IUIs to begin with but soon realized the chance for success was very low and I was disappointed we spent nearly 6 months on something that wasn't likely to work. Finding trustworthy sources to educate myself with was difficult at first.
What gave you motivation and confidence to move forward?
My faith in God and the support from my husband. While I was really anxious and scared throughout the year and a half long process, I kept having an overwhelming feeling that God made me who I am for this very reason. I'm a focused and driven person and I truly believe that these qualities helped me persevere, along with the unwavering support from my husband. While he certainly couldn't fully identify with how I was feeling, he never made me feel badly for the struggles and he always agreed with my choices as we navigated the options. I know without a doubt that I could not have seen infertility to the other side without God and my husband.
What types of therapy/ies did you pursue (reproductive endocrinologist/acupuncture/yoga/herbal therapy/etc.)?
YES! I did it all. I relied heavily on my endocrinologists and even sought out second opinions for my thyroid and my fertility. In hindsight I'm glad I asked tough questions, went looking for other opinions and didn't stop until I felt like a plan was developed that felt right. While acupuncture was a nice way to force me to take a break during the workweek, I truly believe that yoga helped me to listen more closely to my body, to feel comfortable with myself during an unpleasant time physically, and to exhale the negative thoughts that would creep into my thinking at the least helpful times.
What is the best piece of advice you received during your journey?
Someone I do not know personally but had a strong inclination to reach out to via social media kindly wrote me and shared that it's overwhelming to think of the process from start to finish. Instead, she recommended that I have a plan for one step ahead. For me this meant having a game plan should the thing we were about to do not work out. That way I could give myself some time to grieve but then would be able to dust myself off quickly and get back in the fight. I truly believe it is a journey of endurance. You really find out how strong you are when you are going to almost daily doctors appointments and receive repeated test results all while trying to juggle your career and trying to appear like you have it together. I now realize that IVF was great preparation for being a mom because the challenges and exhaustion never ends!
What do you know now that you wish you would have known when you began this journey?
I wish I would have reached out to people who had experienced infertility and tackled IVF, successfully or not, sooner. I waited for some reason but it helped tremendously once I had developed a nice circle of people who were willing to share the nitty gritty of their journey, listen to my worries/fears, and allow me the space to be upset whenever I needed. It was a lot for my husband to constantly hear about my thyroid problems and the IVF process so having others to vent to was crucial for him and I both. I think it's important to take some pressure off of yourself and your partner in order to get through the journey.
What encouragement can you offer someone who is struggling with infertility?
One of my dear friends who also struggled with infertility and ultimately chose adoption said to me, "Jamie, if you want to be a mother you WILL be. You will be a mom one way or another and you have to remind yourself of that." At the time I found it hard to understand how she could be so certain but she was absolutely right. I repeated this to myself once it sunk in and it was a mantra that really helped me stay positive. And here I am today writing this as a new mom to a little girl who is more beautiful than I could have ever imagined.