My infertility journey…

If you only knew….

December 19 will always be a special day in our hearts.  One year ago, Jason and I transferred a perfect little embryo who you know as Mason Bauer Portz. We waited and prayed for our Christmas miracle knowing this was our last chance at IVF (in-vitro fertilization). A few days after Christmas, I got the call, heart pounding, about to jump out of my chest, only to hear our IVF coordinator say “you’re pregnant, really pregnant!”   We both sat there in silence crying.  Our miracle happened.  I was pregnant…..

If you only knew getting pregnant was half the battle.  Cue the worry and anxiety and the fear of “what if’s”.  Until I was holding my baby in my arms, the fear never went away. Infertility can rob you of your joy and happiness.

Three failed artificial inseminations, 2 cancelled IVF cycles due to my body’s poor response to meds, 3 failed IVF cycles, shot after shot, needle after needle, pill after pill, appointment after appointment, hopeful turned hopeless, day after day, month after month, year after year left with nothing but a broken heart.

Why me?  Did I do something wrong?  Are we doing something wrong?  Was I broken?  Was I just not meant to be a mom?  Am I too old?  Did I miss my chance?

If you only knew infertility is a painful disease that affects 1 in 8 couples.  The pain is comparable to the grieving process of losing a loved one but only to have it happen month after month.  Couples grieve the loss of a baby they’ve never met but so badly want.  Infertility is peeing on a stick waiting to see those two lines or the word “pregnant” but only to see one line or the words “not pregnant”.  Infertility is being terrified of going to Target, walking down the pregnancy test isle, only to find yourself leave without buying a test for the fear of knowing it’ll probably come back negative again.  Infertility is hiding in a bathroom stall crying because a bunch of moms are sharing stories of their little ones and you have nothing to share.  Infertility is getting the devastating phone call and finding out that your IVF cycle failed which you invested everything you had for the past month. Infertility is picking yourself up off the bathroom floor, getting dressed, putting a fake smile on your face, and going about your day as if nothing happened.  Infertility is avoiding pregnant friends and family members and making excuses why you can’t attend their baby shower.  Not because you’re not happy for them but because you’re sad for yourself.  Infertility is seeing Facebook posts about pregnancy announcements and wishing it was you posting the exciting news.  Infertility is finding out you’re pregnant but then having a miscarriage…sometimes more than one miscarriage.  Infertility is making your husband eat quinoa and kale, take vitamins and supplements, have acupuncture needles stuck all over him and telling him just do it.  Infertility is trying to find the humor of having a baby unnaturally.  Infertility is an obsession which becomes your life whether or not that person or couple decide to share with others their struggle.

If you only knew infertility could be affecting…

one of your own children.

one of your best friends.

one of your co-workers.

one of your teachers.

the woman behind the counter at the grocery store.

the woman you see every day at the gym.

the man who sits at the end of the bar looking defeated and helpless.

If you only knew the holidays can be a very tough time for couples struggling with infertility.  I know it has always been for me. Here’s how you can help….

  • The best thing you can do is let them know you care.  Tell them you’re sorry they’re struggling with this and you’re here to support them in anyway.
  • Listen if they want to talk.
  • Be a shoulder for them to cry on.
  • Pray for them or let them know you’re thinking of them during this difficult time.
  • Remember them on Mother’s Day or Father’s Day by sending a card or message.  These holidays can be a very painful time for the women and men out their waiting and hoping to become parents.  They are still moms and dads at heart.

If you only knew how hurtful it is to…

  • Be asked if or when you are going to have kids. I once had someone ask me, “Do you even want kids?”  If you only knew…I want kids so badly that I’m sticking myself with endless needles, taking every supplement/vitamin possible to boost fertility, driving hours back and forth for doctor appointments, and every other thing I can do to help me become pregnant.  But I put that fake smile on my face and say to them, “I would love to have kids someday soon” and quietly leave the room as a tear rolls down my face.
  • Have someone tell you you’re getting too old to have kids.  Couples are very aware of their age and the fact that they could be older parents.  Age doesn’t matter when you want to become a mom or dad. Young or old, you still will be a wonderful parent.
  • Hear someone say at least you don’t have cancer or some other disease.  I’m very thankful for that and everything else in my life; however, comparing it to a disease you think is worse is basically saying to them their feelings are invalid.  To me, the worse thing in life is not becoming a mom.
  • Hear comments such as “just relax”, “maybe you should take a vacation”, “at least you can sleep in every day”, “if it’s meant to be it’ll happen”, or “try not to stress about it”.  Comments like this make them feel like you are minimizing their feelings. You wouldn’t tell someone to “just relax” if they lost a loved one.
  • Have someone tell you you can always adopt.  Adoption is not always an option for couples.  The mere fact of not being able to experience the pure joy of finding out your pregnant, feeling your baby kick for the first time, feeling morning sickness (yes, a woman who yearns to become a mom would give anything to be sick or throw up), feeling contractions, giving birth and holding your own baby for the first time as those big blue eyes, just like his daddy’s, meet yours and your heart explodes into a million little pieces with nothing but pure love.  Couples need time to mourn the loss of a biological baby before even considering adoption and loving someone else’s baby.

If you only knew the financial burden infertility treatment can have on a couple. Some couples are very lucky and insurance will cover some of the cost of treatment; however, other couples have to pay completely out of pocket draining savings accounts and retirement funds, maxing out credit cards, and working 2 or 3 jobs.  And still a baby is not guaranteed when going through treatment and only leaves some couples shattered, heartbroken and in debt.

If you only knew the stress it can have on relationships.  Unfortunately, some couples only end up with a broken marriage. I’m very fortunate to have such a supportive husband not give up on me and allow us to keep trying IVF over and over again even though he knew the emotional and physical pain it caused as well as the financial burden it put on us.  I was determined.  I was not giving up.  I was keeping hope alive.  I was going to get pregnant and become a mom.

If you only knew the heart in this picture is made out of all the vials of medicine and needles I injected through 6 cycles of IVF.  As I emptied carton after carton after carton, the photographer asked me if those were my needles used.  My mom sat flabbergasted and thought I bought extra needles to fill up the heart.  No mom, all mine.

As I sit here and type this post, tears stream down my face.  Not only for the heartache I experienced while on this journey of becoming a mother but also for all the couples out there yearning to become moms and dads themselves. I’m not writing this post for empathy but to spread awareness for infertility and inform you that someone you may know might be suffering in silence. So the next time you’re curious when a couple is going to start a family or have another baby, please be mindful and choose your words carefully. For those of you struggling with infertility, please know you are not alone.  There are support groups out there and others willing to help you. For those of you who are already moms and dads, give your kids an extra hug tonight….actually every night and know you’re very blessed.  The moms and dads without kids would do anything to be in your place.

Thank you to all who were on our journey and offered support and prayers, especially MCRM Fertility. Without Dr. Peter Ahlering and his incredible, supportive medical staff (who I now refer to as my friends), our Christmas miracle wouldn’t be in our lives today and for that we will forever be grateful.