When my little sis Noelle started dating Andres and expressed that she felt that perhaps he was ‘The One’, I wondered how many folks in this day and age still marry their first and only boyfriend. But it was obvious to see that while they differed in personality, in musical interests, and in hobbies, they complemented each other really well. And in September 2016, they were married among the tall oaks and poplars of our mother's backyard.
Noelle and Andres began passively trying to conceive soon after their wedding. Starting a family was really important to them. After several months without success they began actively trying to conceive. This meant ovulation sticks, monitoring her menstrual cycle, planning intercourse during a high fertility window, hanging onto hope when a missed period might've signaled implantation, only to be disappointed and tearful when the bleeding came. These months were tense and stressful, and upsetting.
Several more months went by along with their 30th birthdays and they began wondering if something was wrong. Noelle was often confronted with comments from strangers, family, and friends. "No baby yet?" "Oh, you have time." "You're still young." "You should enjoy marriage first." "So and so had a hard time, and now they have kids." Though these were well-meaning comments, they didn't quiet the doubt that arises in a woman's head. "Why hasn't it happened for me, yet?" nor alleviate the hurt felt when a woman begins to think, "What's wrong with me?" For Noelle, it has been difficult to be approached by people dismissive of their worry because of their youth, falsely reassuring them that they have plenty of time before the need to worry. And yet, she endured the grief silently, only sharing her tears and pain with a few family members who could lift her up and help her feel emotionally supported. After several more unsuccessful months, nearly two years after their wedding, Noelle and Andres sought the help of a reputable Fertility Specialist.
While the journey thus far seemed to have moved at a snail's pace, the speed with which the information was coming to her and Andres on the first visit at the fertility clinic was overwhelming and hard to process. No woman is well-prepared for the scrutiny that her body and her partner's body endures as fertility clinics search for the cause of infertility. Their full medical (and sexual) history is uncovered. Blood tests. Hormone level checks. Genetic test. Infusion Therapy. Ultrasounds. This would become Noelle's new norm. She was disheartened to discover that she has something called Diminished Ovarian Reserve. What this means is that her egg quantity (and often quality) is low in comparison to others her age. In fact, it was explained to her that it is equivalent to that of a woman in her early to mid-40's, when women are deemed "advanced maternal age."
However even more difficult to digest, were the results of a test done to visualize the interior of her fallopian tubes which were found to be blocked. Her laparoscopy confirmed endometriosis. Surgical removal of the tubes was the right decision to move forward and increase their chances of pregnancy by IVF. And though the removal of these blocked tubes was something they had discussed with their doctor, that didn’t make it any less painful. Noelle was devastated that she would never be able to conceive naturally. While on my own path to conception I also experienced immense grief, but I wanted to better understand Noelle's pain. I read an article by a woman who wrote about her unexpected emotions after a hysterectomy. The excerpt that struck a chord was this: “Although I’d made the decision to have the surgery, I still experienced a kind of mourning for those parts of me that had been removed, a part of my womanhood that left me with a pervasive feeling of emptiness.” “Was I less of a woman because my body was no longer capable of doing what a woman’s body was evolutionarily made to do?”
2018 has been a year fraught with heartache, emotional ups and downs, anxiety, tension, disappointments, for Noelle and Andres, and a search for strategies to help them cope with the infertility. Noelle finds hope and reassurance among women in her infertility support group, seeks complementary therapy through acupuncture, communicates her need to focus on stress reduction, and receives emotional support from her family. Fortunately, though cost-prohibitive, their path forward is IVF. Unfortunately, there are few resources that support an infertile couple financially. Insurance does not cover IVF. After Noelle and Andres did their research, they were unable to find a financial option that suited them. And with the time-sensitive nature of her diagnosis of Diminished Ovarian Reserve, they felt there was no time to waste. A couple weeks ago, they pulled the trigger on beginning IVF knowing that the expense would be fully out-of-pocket.
During my IVF journey, I found strength in the tides of emotional support I received from friends, family, and strangers in my community. And experienced immense humility when that same community donated to my cause (especially Noelle and Andres, who selflessly accepted donations to my IVF expenses in lieu of wedding gifts). With this page, I hope to remind Noelle and Andres that they too are not alone. It takes a village to raise a child - even from conception. And as they are currently undergoing the first stage of IVF, they are in need of prayers, well wishes, and blessings, to strengthen them and see them through this process. As they have slowly opened up to people about their journey, loved ones have asked to donate to their cause. This page is open to anyone who wants to use the opportunity to do so, but only if you are in the position to offer it.
*To anyone who knows the depth of my sister Noelle's loyalty and compassion to others, please consider supporting her.
*To anyone who has witnessed how engaged Andres is with his nieces and nephews, and has caught a glimpse of what a wonderful Papa he would make to a child, please consider supporting him.
*To anyone who has ever been on the receiving end of their generosity, their time, their love, their attention, please consider supporting them.
Unless you have experienced infertility, it may be difficult to understand Noelle's experience. I think the following text, written by an unknown author, aptly illustrates how infertility can impact every aspect in a woman's life and every part of her being. It is hard. It is relentless. And no one should endure the battle on their own.
...will not cripple my marriage
...will not shatter my hope
...will not destroy my peace
...will not kill my friendships
...will not silence my courage
...will not invade and ruin my soul
...will not conquer my spirit
...will not steal my dreams
...will not overcome me
Because while I might bend, I won't break. While I might fall down, I will get back up. While I might lose my way for a bit, I'll find it again. And while my wave of emotions might sometimes overwhelm me and take me under, I'll always kick back up to the surface. Everything that infertility is...heartbreaking, dream shattering, soul crushing...has made me fight for what it is not. And it is not going to win. I am strong. I am brave."
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