Our 5 Year Fertility Story

Our 5 Year Fertility Story

Researchers have measured that fertility issues are as stressful to women as having cancer, AIDS or heart disease. In my worst moments – when I was sad and disappointed and crashing down from all the medications – I would think to myself that infertility didn’t feel like “dying” but “not living.” It seems overly dramatic now but that’s the uniquely painful reality of a health issue with a potent blend of secrecy, stigma, doubtful insurance coverage and mood-altering hormones.

In the clear light of six months into a happy pregnancy – with a tiny person with hiccups endlessly kicking my hips as I type – it is easy to have the perspective and confidence to talk about our situation that I lacked during our five years of fertility struggles. I still don’t feel all that comfortable sharing the details so publicly – but it’s Infertility Awareness Week and I hope that my story can help reduce the fear I felt about the process for someone else.

Unlike many women my age and in the technology sector, I was not surrounded by other stories of infertility. Instead, we had friends and family who seemed to all be able to conjure up babies with the snap of a finger. And on the internet, everyone seems perfect. When Rob and I started trying in 2011 we assumed it would be a breeze. Three years later, after 36 individual months of disappointment, many awkward responses to questions about our plans and several baby showers hosted for friends, we finally had the courage to talk to our regular doctor about it. He ordered some basic tests and sent me to acupuncture – starting a worthless six months of drinking expensive powdered Chinese herbs and being stuck with – sometimes flaming – needles.

I don’t know why it was so hard to finally take the leap to see a reproductive endocrinologist. It felt like an admission of failure, an irreversible step toward expensive and painful treatments, weirdly guilty. I can only say that even though those things were sort of true – I wish we had done it sooner. In a year of treatment, I had every possible test, Rob had surgery under anesthesia and we went through six cycles of IUI. We told a small group of close friends. Their support was generous and kind, but it did hurt just that little bit more to have additional people feel sad with us each month. Thankfully, Rob’s insurance surprised us by covering almost all our costs. And, by now I had launched my own company and didn’t have to try to hide all these doctor’s appointments from my employer. Infertility is technically covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t still a major career risk to even mention it, especially in a place like Silicon Valley.

A year later, we had the painful conversation with our doctor about it not working and needing to explore other options. I had finally come to a place where thinking about the possibility of our life without kids didn’t make me cry – or at least not cry for hours. We had priced out $18,000 IVF treatment options – which I had said we would never do – and considered going to Spain for the process.

The night before our last official test day, we were going to a beer-tasting fundraiser for the parks. I decided to test early so I could drown my sorrows in delicious microbrews when we saw our first-ever faint line on a pregnancy test. About nine more home tests, two blood tests and two ultrasounds confirmed it – our last IUI had beaten the odds and worked! We are so, so lucky and so, so happy! A bit of good karma (and good genetics) have meant I’ve had zero morning sickness, stretchmarks or other pregnancy issues. Rob teases me for taking so many selfies of the bump, but it’s a symptom of still being joyfully in awe of the fact our treatments worked. I really never thought I would have this.

Looking back, I think one of the biggest downside of our fertility issues is that it stopped me from being truly, genuinely happy when a friend would announce a new pregnancy. I know now the joy they wanted to share but I was fighting my own selfish moodiness.

My advice for others: don’t be afraid. Go straight to a reproductive endocrinologist for expert opinions at the start. Talk to your ob-gyn about fertility even if you’re years from wanting to try for a baby. Learn everything about your own reproductive biology that you should have been taught in middle school with this book.

Despite the five years it took us to get here, I know we’re still one of the lucky ones. I’m grateful to the nurses and doctors at UCSF and to everyone who supported us throughout the process. And, even more thankful for Rob, who went through the endless appointments, invasive procedures and shots with me every step of the way.

Photo of our six week ultrasound, with the baby looking very much like BB-8.

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This article was written by
Website: EmilyStyle

I'm an adventurer and founder of a brand strategy studio. I'm so lucky to work abroad for a couple months each year. Weekly dinner parties and picking what to wear when I'm at home in San Francisco. I love a tough challenge, email [email protected] to reach me.

There are 7 comments for this article
  1. c at 12:10 pm

    Thank you for sharing this! I know what’s on the internet is only a tiny part of our lives but I am glad to have gotten to know you and what you went through to have your amazing baby (and I totally get taking so many bump selfies.) I have lost 2 babies and have learned a lot about what a miracle babies are (and how many people go through this without anyone ever knowing!)


    • MrsEm Author at 2:58 pm

      Thanks for the comment, C. We’re in this together 🙂

  2. Maureen at 5:41 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing such an intimate story. I’m moved by your courage and grace. I am sure this will be encouraging to others who are going through the same struggle to have a baby.

  3. Jill at 8:22 pm

    You are brave for sharing. I’ve supported friends through similar situations and it is heartbreaking to see the strain it puts on people and relationships. I’m so happy that you are having a great pregnancy. That is one lucky little gal you are growing.

  4. Sarah Robertson at 11:33 am

    Thank you for sharing! It’s so helpful to learn about other’s struggles so that we can be empathetic. I’m so happy that you were eventually able to conceive!

  5. Jillian at 6:01 pm

    Thank you for your honesty and for sharing this deeply personal story. As more women can share these stories, the easier it will be for those who struggle with infertility. And thank you for sharing your joyful pregnancy!! Living vicariously through you right now as we wait for our own faint line!

  6. Katie H. at 6:34 am

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. I think that’s the best thing to do for this community of women – talking about infertility, talking about miscarriage. I have had so many friends silently struggle with this issue and I tried to stand with them in even the most subtle of ways: whenever family or friends would ask, “When are you going to have a baby?”, I’d respond, “we’ll start trying next year.” I can’t tell you how many people would say, “What do you mean ‘start trying’?” as if they’d never heard of struggles or if a baby could just *poof* appear. My husband also went under the knife for a different reason but with the risk of not being able to get pregnant and we consider ourselves lucky to have been able to. I appreciate your story and thank you, again, for this conversation!