To help spread awareness of the prevalence of infertility and offer hope to those currently struggling, I interviewed women who overcame the odds and persevered through many challenges to start a family. These are their stories...
When/How did you first realize you were struggling with infertility?
I always thought that I would get pregnant rather quickly. I am a very healthy person and never had any problems but after going off birth control, I never developed a regular menstrual cycle. First I gave it some time as I thought that my body probably just needed time to adjust. After 6 months, based on advice of the GW midwives led by Whitney Pinger, I started regular acupuncture treatments with Kelly Welch and Kate Yonkers. Kelly and Kate were great. They gave me lots of support and I learned so much from them. After another 6 months they recommended that I check in with a fertility specialist, and she confirmed that I would need medical intervention to get pregnant.
What was most challenging about this realization/diagnosis?
I found my initial diagnosis very overwhelming – not because I had trouble accepting the fact that I needed help but because I was overwhelmed by all the information, pro and cons about different treatment options, the process itself and so on. I was super lucky to have good insurance but even with that weight off my shoulders it was hard to navigate the choices.
In contrast to my wonderful team of midwives and acupuncturists, the office of my fertility doctor offered no emotional support. Everything was very medical and technical. That was one of the hardest parts - to deal with such a difficult and personal issue in such a sterile environment. At that point, I also didn’t know anyone else who had struggled with infertility issues, and while I felt very support by my partner, it was still a lonely journey to be on.
What gave you motivation and confidence to move forward?
My acupuncture team gave me a lot of courage and support. I saw them every week and it made a big difference. The biggest help was my partner, who was incredible supportive. We talked a lot and just spent lots of time together to support each other. Supporting each other and communicating became more and more important as my journey became more and more difficult.
Where did you find hope when the situation seemed most bleak?
After four rounds of IUIs I finally became pregnant, but then had a difficult miscarriage that required a hospital stay and a long recovery time. Losing a baby and having to start over again was too much for me to deal with alone. I had never been depressed before but I began to experience clear signs of depressions.
What helped the most then? Therapy. I saw a psychologist, Laura Kasper, who is a very special person – full of empathy and support. With her help, I first took the time to be sad and then found the strength to try again. She helped me to talk about my struggles with my partner, family and friends. It made all the difference.
She also recommended that I join a support group and that was one of the best pieces of advice I received during this journey. I found a yoga for fertility class at Tranquil Space studio, and I truly believe that together with my partner and therapy, it saved me. If felt so good to connect to women who were going to the same process and understood what I was experiencing. The instructor, Angelyn, has a very special way of facilitating the class. She gives everyone a lot of support, space, and hope. I loved the combination of yoga and sharing during the class, and we soon started to go out for dinner after class, to support each other over emails and phone and just to be there for each other.
After the miscarriage, we also got a puppy and it was the best decision that we ever made. We suddenly were a family of three and I had someone to love and who could love me unconditionally. There is nothing better than doggy licks and puppy cuddles after being punctured by needles or just feeling sad after another unsuccessful round of treatments. Our doggy gave me so much love and comfort.
Where are you in your journey?
Last September, with so much support, puppy love, and two more rounds of IUIs I become pregnant again. I am expecting a baby in June. I feel very blessed and I am so grateful for all the support I got along the way.
What is the best piece of advice you received during your journey?
I had two mantras. I kept telling myself that I have no control. That sounds strange but it took pressure off me to acknowledge that neither I nor my body needed to do something or be a different way. Instead I tried to learn to accept that I have no control of whether, when, and how I would get and stay pregnant. It was a hard practice but it made it a bit easier.
My other mantra was to believe that I will have a family but that I might get there differently then I expected. Building up the trust that there would be a family in my future really helped. The pup became part of my family. Trying fertility treatments and trying to get friendly with the idea of maybe not having biological children were part of this too.
What encouragement can you offer someone who is struggling with infertility?
Be kind to yourself! It is a really hard journey and it is so important to get support from as many different people and sources as you can. For me that made the biggest difference. I could not have done it alone.