The following is a guest post written by my lovely friend Catherine. She writes about the longing to be a parent, her struggle with infertility, and the closeness she has developed with her husband, Joe. Catherine and Joe are my daughter’s aunt and uncle, which is one of the great lucks of my own life during good times and bad.
By Catherine Fleenor
Joe and I met in college when we were 20 years old. I still remember the first time I saw Joe, telling my friend how cute I thought he was and making every effort to make our social circles overlap so I could see him again. I love telling the story of how we met (which is actually a funny story, because only Joe really remembers the first time we saw each other), but that’s not what this story is about.
We were only 23 when we got married, which now seems so young. Eight years later, our love and friendship is stronger than ever and I am still in awe of how lucky I am to be married to such a wonderful man and my best friend. I could go on and on about how much I love him and how lucky I am, but that’s not what this story is about either.
In the summer of 2007 after three years of marriage, we decided we wanted to start a family. This is the story I finally feel ready to share.
For as long as I can remember I knew I wanted to have kids and anyone who has ever seen Joe with kids knows what an amazing father he is going to be. We didn’t share our plans with anyone, and our plan was to keep it stress-free and fun, but sometimes things don’t go according to plan.
It took over a year before I talked to my OB and had some testing done. Everything came back clean for both of us. Even though it seemed everything was in working order, my OB had me try three months of a medication which helps some couples, and I was convinced in 9 months we were going to have twins. After that didn’t work, my OB referred me to a specialist. I still wasn’t ready for that and spent the next year checking basal body temperatures, trying new diets, yoga, acupuncture and anything else I thought had the possibility of helping. I wasn’t ready to face the dreaded word “infertility”. It carried such a stigma in my mind. I was embarrassed and ashamed. I didn’t want pity and was still comfortable in my state of denial and did not make an appointment with the fertility specialist.
In 2010, three years after first starting this journey, we decided to take the next step and went to a fertility specialist. More tests and a minor surgery for me later, things were still relatively inconclusive but the doctor felt confident he would be able to help us. While there were a few small things they found in my testing that could make conceiving more challenging, it was hard to not have a definitive answer as to why this was all happening. If you don’t know what’s wrong, how can you fix it?
The specialist recommended was a procedure called intrauterine insemination, IUI. Two attempts and two negative pregnancy tests later, my confidence hit an all-time low. We were down to our last option, in-vitro fertilization, IVF, and I didn’t know if physically, emotionally or financially that it was something we wanted to go through, and we took a few months off from all the “trying”.
Throughout all of this Joe was amazing. In a situation that could easily drive a marriage apart, it brought us closer together. We discussed our options, looked into adoption, surrogacy, and discussed the idea of a life without children. What ultimately made me ready to take the next step was the constant reassurance from Joe that no matter what direction our story went, we had each other. We went back to the specialist and started the process of IVF.
More tests, pills, shots, and hormones… Everything was looking good and again, the doctors felt confident.
Two weeks later we were crushed to learn of yet another negative pregnancy test.
A few months later, slightly less confident, but still very hopeful, we tried again.
By this time, we had shared our story with a few friends and family. I felt overwhelming love and support. Sometimes is takes the hard times in our lives to really appreciate those around us. We went out for drinks, talked about it when I needed to and offered distractions when I didn’t.
Without a reason WHY this was happening, I didn’t feel ready to stop trying for a biological child and we consulted a second fertility specialist in Colorado. He had new ideas and offered a renewed hope. After more testing, we went in for a third round.
A positive home pregnancy test, three blood tests and an ultrasound showing the heart beat almost wasn’t enough to make it real. After five years and countless negative tests, I was pregnant.
When I told Joe he cried and then laughed at how weird it was to be crying when you are happy. Tears of joy, there were a lot of those, and I’m sure there will be many more come April when our little girl makes her big arrival.
I’ve hesitated on sharing my story, feeling ashamed, afraid I would be judged, or thought people wouldn’t care. What ultimately changed my mind was reflecting back on how much it helped me to meet people with similar struggles and to hear their stories.
Infertility (a word I still struggle hearing) is a very personal and lonely thing. When you’re a 20 or 30-something and it feels like everyone around you is having babies, it’s hard to believe that 1 in 10 women have fertility issues. I am thankful for those who have been brave enough to share their story. All of their stories have different paths and different outcomes, but their strength is uplifting.
My hope is that my story can offer support and help to someone else while offering a special thank you to all those who have helped and supported me through it all.