If you can’t say anything nice…

11 Feb

Through numerous discussions with other women in the same, or similar, shoes that I’m in, I’ve found some pretty common “tips” are out there for the infertile ladies.  I’m sure that all of the advice that’s given is done with the best of intentions, but that doesn’t change the fact that the tidbits I’m about to share are at the very least ignorant, and at their worst, hurtful.  So if by some chance you know of someone that has actually had the courage to share her struggles with you, here is a list of things NOT to say to her:

 

“You should just stop trying and it will happen” – This one has several variations.  “You need to relax”, “If you’re stressed you can’t get pregnant”, “A friend of mine was tying for blah blah blah years, and as soon as she relaxed and stopped trying she got pregnant!”.  I think this is one of the worst things you could say to someone struggling to have a baby.  First, it’s pretty much impossible to relax about something like this, something that literally occupies at least some small space of your mind at any given point in the day. Second, women who have been trying for any amount of time are very in tune with their body’s signals and it’s literally impossible to not notice the fertile signs.  So nope, we can’t relax and simply “stop trying”.

 

“It wasn’t even a real baby” – This one makes me see red. Literally. Having gone through two miscarriages, I can tell you that those babies were VERY real to me, even if they never developed past a small cluster of cells.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m a pro-choice girl to my core, and I believe in a woman’s right to choose whether or not to continue a pregnancy.  The realness of my babies wasn’t based on an idea of life beginning at conception (though I know many do hold this view), but more so the hopes and dreams that instantly flooded my being with the promise of a positive pregnancy test.  So don’t tell us our babies weren’t real simply because they never made it to the stage of ten fingers and ten toes.

 

“Don’t be selfish, you already have a child” – Secondary infertility can be just as painful as primary.  Just because a family already has one child doesn’t make the inability to have a second or third any less painful.  When you feel that your family is not complete, when there’s a child missing from your life, it hurts. A lot.

 

“Maybe God doesn’t want you to be a mom right now” – This one doesn’t phase me much, personally. But that’s just because I don’t believe in God, so for me God has nothing to do with it.  I do have friends with deep faith, and I can’t imagine harsher words to say to these women.  Not only are they dealing with the emotional strain of infertility, some also cope with feelings that their God has somehow forsaken them. Some question their faith, something I can only imagine is a painful process to go through.  Not only has their body betrayed them, but many feel that their Savior has betrayed them as well.  So seriously, don’t say that shit.  What’s wrong with you?

 

“Have you looked into adoption?” – I realize that this is probably another well-intentioned suggestion, but it’s another one to keep to yourself.  Maybe they have, maybe they haven’t.  If they have, and they’ve already talked to you about their infertility, they would probably have mentioned that it is something they would consider.  Hope can be a very fragile thread for women dealing with infertility.  Try not to say anything that could somehow question what remaining hope they have that their body will eventually be able to provide them with a child.  We have plenty of doubts on our own, thanks, without reminders.

 

“It’s not a competition” – One of the hardest things women struggling to have a baby encounter is other women that seem to get pregnant at the drop of a hat.  So we oftentimes aren’t interested in hearing about pregnancy woes of others, or pregnancy announcements in general.  So if you know someone who is struggling, and they say that they would prefer not to be around obviously pregnant women, understand that it’s not a competitive feeing to see who can have a baby first.  It just hurts to see someone with the one thing they would give anything to finally have.  And in that same vein…

 

“Will you throw my baby shower?” – Absolutely fucking not!  Personally, I won’t even attend a baby shower at this stage of the game.  Thankfully the only friends I have that I would feel bad about saying “no” to aren’t planning on more children any time in the near future.  But if you’re close enough to someone to ask them to throw you a shower, you should care enough about their emotional well being to realize planning shower games with cute baby gifts probably isn’t on their top 5 list of ways to spend a Saturday afternoon.  If they’re in good enough place to be able to throw you a shower, they’ll offer.

 

So what can you say?  Sometimes nothing.  Sometimes it’s just nice to have someone listen to us vent about our fears and frustrations.  Make sure that they know you’re willing to be a shoulder to cry on, tell them you’re sorry they’re going through this difficult process.  We infertile ladies have very expensive doctors to “fix” our infertility, so that’s not the role we need our friends to play.  We need compassion and understanding from our friends.

 

 

Advertisements

Statistically Speaking…

7 Feb

If you know me, you know I like numbers.  I find comfort (usually) in statistics, and the analysis thereof.  When we dove into this whole “make a baby” journey, I had no idea just how improbable getting pregnant actually is.  It’s amazing that babies are born at all.

So here we go…

  • On average, a healthy couple has a 15-20% chance of conceiving on any given month.  And that is only if everything is timed correctly.  The odds decrease if there are extenuating circumstances, such as Advanced Maternal Age (which is 35, by the way. Lovely label, right?), or if the guys swimmers are less than stellar, or.. well, really there are many variables that can reduce your odds.
  • Assuming the ovaries are cooperating and the woman actually ovulates every month… 50% of healthy couples will conceive within the first three months, 75% within 6, 83% within 9, and 95% within 12.  This is why the standard for diagnosing a couple as “infertile” is 12 months, and why most specialists won’t look in to more invasive procedures until a couple has hit the one year mark (6 months for the ladies who are AMA – again, 35 or older.  Really? They can’t come up with a less insulting term for that?).
  • For those that are lucky enough to earn the “infertile” moniker, there are doctors that specialize in getting women pregnant.  Typically, the next step is either taking a medication to help ramp up the ovulation – causing more than one egg to be released and offering more targets for the boys, or something called Intra-Uterine Insemination (or IUI), or a combination of the two.  An IUI works just how it sounds.  The Dr uses a catheter to inject the solders directly into the woman’s uterus.  This is helpful because the female cervix is a treacherous place for sperm, and many have met their doom before getting anywhere near the prize.  But the IUI doesn’t really bump your odds.  In the BEST circumstances it takes an already infertile couple and increases their odds to that of a normal “healthy” couple.  And after 3 tries at IUI most doctors agree that the chances decrease significantly that IUI will ever work for that couple.
  • Once you’ve made it past IUI it’s time for the big guns, In Vitro Fertilization, IVF, test tube babies, etc.  I remember when we first started trying, I researched IVF just so I would know what the worst case scenario would be (which is what I do).  Odds of success with IVF?  Anywhere from 35-60% for a woman under the age of 40, depending on the clinic.  I remember thinking what an awful success rate for a procedure that is SO expensive (think $10-15k per try, and most insurance companies won’t cover it).  But now, after knowing what I know, and having gone through what I’ve gone through… I would kill for 50% odds.
  • And even when you manage to actually get pregnant, you still have a 20-25% chance of having a miscarriage, and those odds only get worse with each consecutive loss.

So like I said, it’s actually pretty amazing that I’m even here to write this post, or that you’re here to read it.  So many things had to fall just in to place in order for any of us to be here.

 

 

No One Said it Would be Easy (but still, I assumed…)

2 Feb

We started trying as soon as we were married in May, 2011.  For the first couple of months it was fun, and new, and exciting.  I knew that healthy couples can take up to a year to conceive, but I still had hope that we would be one of the lucky couples that got it right in the first couple of months.  It seemed that we were one of the lucky couples, five months after starting to try, I got my first positive pregnancy test.  I was thrilled, and relieved, and I began bookmarking baby furniture, nursery ideas, assuming that 9 months later we would have our baby.

Yeah.  That didn’t happen.

My first ultrasound I was about 7 weeks pregnant.  At that point, a heartbeat should be seen, but there wasn’t one.  The doctor said that it could just be too early, that maybe my dates were off and I wasn’t as far along as I thought.  But I knew.  I managed to hold it together until I got to my car, then the flood gates opened.  I called Paul, I don’t even know if he understood what on earth I was talking about.  But I knew.  Our baby wasn’t going to be a baby.

Two days later, I boarded a plane for Michigan to attend a three week training program for work.  Longest. Three. Weeks. Of. My. Life.  I was terrified that the miscarriage would begin at any minute, while I was away from home, and with a bunch of strangers.  Thankfully, my body managed to not betray me so badly.  I made it home, had a confirmation ultrasound, and two days later miscarried at home.

Though I was heart broken from the loss, we decided to get right back on the horse (so to speak), and 6 months later I was pregnant again.  Because I had had a previous miscarriage, my Dr monitored the pregnancy through testing my Hcg (pregnancy hormones).  In a healthy pregnancy, the levels in the first few weeks should double every 48 hours or less.  My first number was 44, which was low, but okay.  My second should have been at least 88… but instead it was 43.  I received the call at work, and began crying immediately.  Again, I knew.  This baby wouldn’t be a baby, either.  After 3 weeks of ultrasounds to confirm that the pregnancy wasn’t viable, I had miscarriage #2.

The American Society for Reproductive Medicine used to consider 3 consecutive miscarriages as “Repeat Pregnancy Loss” (RPL), however a few years ago, they amended the definition to 2 consecutive losses.  I guess they finally realized that perhaps they shouldn’t make women go through three heart breaking losses before offering testing to see if there is an underlying cause. The odds of having 2 in a row is 5%, 3 in a row 1%.

My regular doctor referred us to a Reproductive Endocrinologist (RE) for RPL testing.  They check for blood clotting disorders, chromosomal issues, hormone levels, immune issues, and structural normalcy, however, in 50% of RPL cases, a cause is never found.  Well, we are one of those 50%.  The RE told us we were probably just very unlucky, and to try again.

So here we are, 7 months after the second loss, with no new pregnancy as of yet. 

No one talks about miscarriages.  No one talks about infertility.  Like it’s something to be ashamed of, or something that is the fault of the couple going through it.  Well, I’m not going to be ashamed of what we’ve been through, and I’m not going to be quiet about it, just because it’s an uncomfortable topic.

This is our journey.