I'm infertile but not defective: how our journey to parenthood is changing

February 1 2012 | Guest post by Dawna
Photo by Megyarsh, used under Creative Commons license.

I'm 40 years old and am looking forward to the day when my husband and I will be parents. After reading the various stories about infertility and fertility challenges here on Offbeat Mama, it felt like the right time to share my story.

I'm one of those women struggling with infertility issues. One: my age. I'm no spring chicken. Two: endometriosis — I was treated for that two years ago after suffering for over a year with crazy painful periods, and after my husband and I had been trying for more than six months. Three, high FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone) levels — it's taking more hormones to kick-start my ovaries and get them working.

There are those who question why some like me wait so long before having children. Women know our reproductive years are only so long, but sometimes circumstances don't seem ideal. For me, it was career, trying to resolve some unresolved personal issues, and trying to meet someone I wanted to start a family with. After seeing a couple of friends go through a challenging time as a single parent (and I admire them for doing it!), I didn't have it in me to go it alone.

My husband and I met almost four years ago, and within six months we had moved in together and were talking lifetime commitments. We figured we were serious enough about each other that if an "oops" happened, we'd deal with it. So we waited for our "oops" to happen. After suffering from unusual and intense menstrual pain, and us not having any success with our "oops," I was referred to a gynecologist who is also a fertility specialist, just in case.

I was diagnosed with a serious case of endometriosis, discovered during a laparoscopy. After some deliberation, we decided to go ahead with in-vitro fertilization in fall 2010.

Needles and I don't always get along — I get very anxious about any needles. My husband was great about giving me the various injections. One in the morning, two at night. It wasn't fun, both getting the needles and dealing with how the hormones were affecting me. We made it through the injections, through egg retrieval (two retrieved!) and embryo transfer. The chances got better and better! And then, 15 days later, a positive pregnancy test. We were pregnant! Through December, the holidays and New Year's, we were ecstatic.

We weren't prepared for what happened next.

All that was in there was a black, empty shape. Neither of the embryos took. It broke our hearts.

In early January, we were scheduled for our eight-week ultrasound to see how many embryos took. Would it be one or two? When our doctor did the ultrasound and then called another doctor in to confirm what she saw, my heart sank. All that was in there was a black, empty shape. Neither of the embryos took. It broke our hearts. My thoughts were self-blaming: I've let everyone down… I should have done this or that… I'm broken… I'm defective.

What happened was something called a blighted ovum. It's an early miscarriage of sorts. After almost a year, we tried it again. A different experience this time — I responded differently to the drugs, but even with that, it didn't happen. We got our negative result just over a month ago now, which was a bit of a blow.

Acceptance is hard, especially now that we're at a point where a pregnancy will likely never happen. To me, acceptance was saying it's ok, it happened, and bouncing off like nothing happened. I've learned that my definition was wrong, though — accepting this is being able to say that yes, this did happen, and yes, it really fucking sucks. It's saying I'll be upset and sad and angry and disappointed, but even with all that it's possible to move forward. I've said goodbye to the embryos and the dreams and hopes we had for them in letters, which I eventually tossed into the waves. And slowly, life is continuing on. It is hard at times to see all the pregnant bellies and baby pictures around when I want to be happy for the pregnant women and parents… but I don't have it in me to be overjoyed. I know this doesn't make me a bad person. It makes me human.

The biggest thing I remind myself of is this — I am not broken. My ovaries might not be working the way they should be, but I'm not broken or defective. I'm still coming to terms with everything — especially the permanence of my infertility. It's a loss, and I'm mourning still… the losses of the pregnancy and the embryos… the dreams, the hopes, the wishes tied in with it all.

But this isn't the end of our story. My husband and I know we'll be parents somehow. We're meant to be fantabulous parents. We just have to wait and see what the next chapter will offer. There are going to be different dreams, hopes and wishes to come.

  1. Oh Dawna. My heart goes out to you and what you've been through, especially after my own struggles with infertility.

    Please don't feel bad about waiting until you're late 30s/early 40s to try to conceive. I know the medical research tells us our chances of conceiving drop dramatically after 35, but from my own life experience, I see people in their 40s getting pregnant naturally and then people in their 20s struggling with infertility. It really just depends on the person, and you don't know if infertility will affect you until you've settled into the right place to start trying.

    You will be parents someday. Someway, somehow, it will happen.

  2. Thanks for sharing this! I have no idea what your experience is like so I really appreciate being able to have a little insight to the terrible struggle that infertility seems to be. I'm sure that you will be an awesome mama one day to a child who surely deserves it! They definitely won't ever doubt just how much you wanted them to be a part of your life! Good luck with it all.

  3. Waiting to try to get pregnant at 39 was the best decision I could have made. It took us a long time to conceive and there was a blighted ovum for us as well. It might have been easier to try when we were younger, but I wouldn't have been nearly the awesome parent that I am now if we had had children sooner. You will be too – however you form your amazing family.

  4. In our adoption training the subject of infertility came up and the social worker told the room that one of the most important things for women who were adopting after infertility to do was to deeply and truly grieve their losses before moving on. Your post here is beautiful and completely right and it sounds to me like you're doing a great job of processing well as you move forward. Wishing you beautiful things!

    • We heard that too (about grieving your losses) but honestly, I think it's a crock of sh*t because I will never not be grieving the loss of our baby, and waiting until we feel "cured" from our grief would just mean I'd be an old, old lady. We started the international adoption process at the same time we started DEIVF and after 6 failed rounds including miscarriage at round 4, we also found out that after 2 years of waiting that Ethiopia had suspended all adoptions. No way would I want to just start the clock now. Two weeks after #6 failed, we did paperwork for domestic adoption and are waiting for a match. With 6-18 months again to wait, there's no way I was going to wait until my grief went away. Adoption agencies often don't realize, infertility and adoption are apples and oranges. One doesn't cure the other, and one never fully stops grieving the loss of their ability to bear biological (or in our case, donor egg) children.

  5. My husband and I have been there and completely understand your struggle. Know that you are not alone and do ALWAYS remember you are NOT broken. Hugs and warm wishes for both you and Steve.

  6. Thanks, ladies. πŸ™‚ I so appreciate your words of support. It was really therapeutic for me to write this, and focus on more than the self-pity and disappointment. I'm slowly healing… I have my good days and bad days… And my friends (many of whom are expecting) are so understanding too.

    Jessi, I'll definitely keep folks updated. πŸ™‚

    And greta, I'm glad you were able to have a natural success and a pregnancy. I wish I had been that fortunate. πŸ™

    • Dawna,
      I asked a question here to related to infertility and found that the comments and support from the other people visiting the site was incredibly helpful, I'm so pleased you found the same πŸ™‚ I just wanted to say that becasue I know how difficult I found it to write my question and comments, and I wanted to acknowledge that in you. Clearly you have a lot of strength, and your path might change, but you're doing all the right things to make it easier (in my experience).

      That's it really πŸ™‚

      • Thanks. πŸ™‚ It was tough to write, but it forced me to move away from the "Wah, poor me!" pity party that I could have fallen into. And reading Ariel's story, along with the others, showed me that there's an importance to sharing the story.

        I definitely don't give myself enough credit where strength is concerned. πŸ™‚ Our path is changing, but it's nothing we can't handle.

        And even better? I'm going to be sharing my story in a national publication before Mother's Day. πŸ™‚

        Thanks again. πŸ™‚ I hope you found the answers you were looking for. There are great folks here.

  7. I've been infertile all of my adult life. I can get pregnant, but a series of medical conditions prevent me from carrying a baby to term. Thank you so much for sharing your story… We are not broken! Sometimes I think the rest of the world needs to be reminded of that even more than we do. I wish you all the best.

  8. My first pregnancy at 22 was a blighted ovum. It's so gut wrenching to believe that you are pregnant, only to be bluntly told that there is nothing and nobody there. My husband and I decided to hold off on our baby plans and take an overseas holiday, only to discover just weeks before said holiday that the miscarriage had thrown off my cycles and I was 5 weeks pregnant! On advice from my GP, who is also an OB, we chose to cancel our trip. The little one has proven to be sticker so far (5 months) but I am constantly afraid that we won't find a heartbeat one day.

    Enduring the loss of a much wanted little one was hard enough, even with a subsequent (hopefully successful) pregnancy. My heart really does go out to you.

    • Thanks for the suggestion, however I don't know that a psychic could help with biological issues. πŸ™‚

  9. Thanks for the well-written story, Dawna! You're a strong woman. Sharing your story has helped a lot of people.

    You have so many great qualities to be admired.

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