My husband and I got married in 2010. I was 32, he was 29. Like many of us who believe we are ready to start a family immediately, we thought for sure we had hit the target during our honeymoon. When that didn't pan out we were confident again that the next month was it. This continued on for about 9 months. Around this time my mother had surgery, and we paused "trying" so I could care for her. When we resumed, I joined an online forum for women trying to conceive and a number of women on the forum eventually became part of my core support group.
A visit to my general practitioner propelled me to make an appointment with a Reproductive Endocrinologist (RE). I remember her telling me in a very matter of fact manner, "Listen - if you are over 30 and its taking you more than 6 months to get pregnant make an appointment with an RE immediately. Forget waiting until you are 35." She herself had struggled with infertility and was currently pursuing treatment for her second child.
My husband and I were diagnosed with unexplained infertility. Our RE recommended we start with medically assisted timed intercourse. After three months without success I was already emotionally exhausted and asked to move on to Intrauterine Insemination (IUI). After another three failed rounds, I was done! I switched clinics and decided to pursue In Vitro Fertilization (IVF).
With IVF on the horizon, I felt giddy with expectation. At least four of the six other women in my fertility support group had become mothers, and some were starting to think about their second. The year was 2013 and I was 34. Our first IVF cycle seemed picture perfect, but it failed. I was devastated, and my husband went into shock. We pursued second and third opinions. I recall reading a blog about a mother who had struggled through many rounds of treatment. She wanted to give up, but her doctor encouraged her to stay the course, and she ended up having triplets. That story inspired me and gave me strength and perspective to continue as I finally came to understand that this journey we were on may be a very long one.
My second IVF cycle was, indeed, challenging, and I leaned on my core support group. One friend in particular called me daily to check in. As fate would have it, that was the cycle that worked and gave us our beautiful son.
The love and support from and for others is what gave me strength during the many bleak days of infertility. Not being consumed by feelings of "woe is me" because I became vested in other people's journeys became critical to my ability to carry on. Their successes became my successes. I was able to tap into their knowledge base and learn far more than I could have on my own.
The power of community is what sustained me throughout. I've since started a free program in Washington DC called Fertile Ground Growing Families as a means of giving back to others still in the trenches. The goal of the 8-week program is to both educate those trying to expand their families on all of the options that are available to them and create community. We go over the fundamentals of getting pregnant spontaneously and through assisted reproductive technology, and bring in speakers who've pursued other options such as adoption, fostering, and surrogacy as a means to grow their family. I'm currently in the second semester of piloting the program. My advice to those still in the trenches is to know you are not alone and that you do not have to walk this journey alone.