When my husband and I first began our infertility journey, the word “infertility” felt incredibly shameful, embarrassing and lonely. We harbored it inside of ourselves like a secret. Looking back, we would have never thought then that today we would wear the title of “infertile” like a badge of honor.
My husband Ryan and I got married in the summer of 2015. We had no intentions of starting a family anytime soon at that time. I was a graduate student studying to become a Physician Assistant and I spent more time at school than I did at home being a newlywed. My husband works as an Optician in a private practice. When my graduation was on the horizon we decided we were ready to start a family. I had fantasized about being a mother from time to time as I grew up. Whether it was while caring for my favorite baby doll as a child, getting my first babysitting job or seeing my sibling bring children of their own into this world, it was something I always knew was in my future. I had not however, ever felt the absolute longing to be a mother that I do now until I met my husband. I would dream of a day when the two of us would have our first child; creating a life that was half of each of us. Joking about which of our characteristics we would pass onto them. I never entertained the idea that we may not even be able to have children of our own. After the first few months of trying without success, I blamed it on being on birth control pills for the past 11 years and reassured myself it would happen soon and that my body was just “adjusting.” When more time had passed with still no baby to speak of, I briefly considered that I was defective, but was reassured when I bought ovulation tests and got positive results. I figured that all my part and pieces must be working. I spent the new few months tracking my periods, ovulation and fertile days on numerous cell phone apps, taking vitamins and supplements, tracking my basal body temperature, modifying my diet and whatever else I read online that would increase our chances of conception. I blinked, and a total of 18 months had passed. Month after month of disappointment; my husband and I each taking blame and sharing guilt.
Being in healthcare I knew it was time to seek professional help and there must be an underlying cause. There was no obvious reason why a pair of seemingly healthy “twenty-somethings” couldn’t conceive on their own. I scheduled an appointment with my gynecologist who went to work ordering a multitude of tests including blood work, special imaging of my lady parts and a semen analysis for my husband. Within a week or two we had some answers. I was diagnosed with Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) by my lab results and a slightly misshapen uterus on imaging. My husband was then found to have multiple issues with the quantity and quality of his sperm. Unfortunately, this meant that we had multiple factors to overcome between the two of us if we ever wanted to conceive. Our gynecologist determined that we would be better in the hands of a specialist; a reproductive endocrinologist, to help us achieve our dreams of parenthood.
We hit the ground running with our fertility specialist. After our first appointment we started on fertility medications and pursued IUI (intra-uterine insemination) within our first month. It was during that IUI that my husband was found to have worsening results of his semen analysis and was then referred to a urologist who specialized in male infertility for further work-up. During that time IUI procedures were put on hold as they likely would not result in pregnancy. What little flame of hope we held by seeing the fertility specialist was quickly extinguished. Nevertheless, we went to the urologist seeking answers and my husband was placed on fertility medications of his own. They would take at least 3 months to see their impact on his male factor infertility. In the meantime I continued my fertility medications and we attempted to conceive naturally. Although odds were slim, we attempted to retain as much faith as possible.
Five months passed, still without conception, and we got the okay by our physician to resume IUI procedures. We were ecstatic and full of a new optimism. That is, until our second IUI procedure revealed once again that my husband’s semen analysis was still far from average, despite medications. A specialized form of IVF called ICSI (Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection) was recommended by his urologist. This form of IVF involves one single healthy sperm be injected into an egg giving us the greatest chance of the resulting embryo becoming our long awaited little one. We likely will not conceive any other way. This advanced procedure, comes with a heftier price tag when compared with conventional IVF. Unfortunately, insurance companies do not provide adequate coverage, if any, for advanced reproductive therapy (ART) and we will still be responsible for a large portion of the cost. One procedure alone costs around $10,000 if you pay out of pocket. Although the road ahead is about to become much harder than we ever anticipated (and much more expensive too) we are thrilled at the idea that sometime in the near future we might be decorating a nursery, preparing a baby registry or watching our mother’s hold their grandchildren for the first time and these daydreams are more than worth every obstacle that lies ahead.
Ryan and I have always been hard-working individuals and take pride in earning everything that we have built together in our marriage thus far. We have never asked for hand-outs, which makes asking for help even more difficult for us. These past couple of years have been emotional to say the least. We have felt everything from sadness, defeat, isolation, embarrassment and shame; but we have also felt hope and developed strength and a closeness to one another that is indescribable. Aside from our closest friends, our situation has always been a secret. We have never really felt comfortable sharing our story across the pages of social media, until now. We want to thank all of you for taking the time to simply read our story, regardless of donation. It is our hope that in sharing our journey that others may find some comfort and encouragement in our words knowing that they are not alone, but also that we may find the same in the stories of others who choose to share with us. It is time that we start an open discussion about infertility…