by Liz Kim, Birth Center Mama
When you’re in your 20s, no one tells you that you ought to consider your fertility as you dutifully take the pill and try to avoid getting pregnant at all costs. This is especially the case if, like me, you’re pursuing a graduate degree in the hopes of having a career that allows you to be financially independent. And when you’re in your early 30s, no one tells you to consider egg freezing as an option to support your still-fertile self as you focus diligently on your career as I did. So it’s no surprise when at the ripe age of 38, I found myself having a bear of a time trying to get pregnant.
I spent a year charting, timing, and obsessing over my fertile window each month without success before I met with a specialist, who diagnosed me with “unexplained infertility.” That generic term basically meant the medical world had no idea what exactly was wrong, but medical science was now here to assist me. Ultimately, it took 3 in vitro fertilization (“IVF”) cycles at 3 different clinics over the course of a year, and a whole lot of patience, endurance, and luck to get pregnant at 40. My daughter, Ella, is now 14 months old, and we’re so honored and grateful to have her in our lives. She is truly our miracle baby.
Following my experience, I’d like to offer some thoughts and suggestions if you think you might need help:
- See a specialist sooner rather than later. Considering it took me 3 cycles and nearly a year to get pregnant via IVF, I should have gone to a Reproductive Endocrinologist much sooner, rather than hoping and trying in vain for a year.
- Get a second opinion. After you see that specialist, go see another one. Not all doctors are created alike, and different clinics do things differently. It’s worth getting a second opinion when it comes to something as important as building your family.
- Do your research, and ask a lot of questions. Only YOU can advocate for yourself. The world of assisted reproduction is overwhelming and difficult – emotionally, financially, and physically. It’s easy to get bullied into a procedure that doesn’t sit quite right with you because you don’t know any better, and the doctor is always right, right? Wrong. It’s your body and your choice as to what happens to it. Take charge of your fertility by educating yourself, and asking questions.
- Join a support group. Assisted reproduction can be a dark and lonely road. Since infertility is often impossible for friends and family to relate to unless they’ve gone through it, it’s important to find a community of similarly-situated people to talk to. It can be online (check out www.resolve.org) or in person at your local hospital or community space. You’re not alone and it’s important to know and feel that you have a safe space to seek advice or vent your feelings.
- Lastly, don’t give up hope. I started my third cycle on my 40th birthday. It had been nearly a year since I saw a specialist, and I felt demoralized. The drugs, the money, the physical and emotional toll – all of it had wrung me out, and I really felt this cycle would be my last, simply because I wasn’t sure how much more I could take. Injecting myself full of hormones, going through egg retrieval and embryo transfer, seeing an acupuncturist twice weekly, and anxiously waiting to find out whether the embryo “took,” was emotionally draining, and yet, it was important not to give up. Stress and anxiety may beat down your door, but you need to stay positive and focused. Take it day by day, and don’t give up on yourself and your future baby!
Infertility is a life changing experience. But the more you know, the better equipped you will be to weather the emotional rollercoaster. It may take several cycles, or you might get lucky, and get pregnant on the first try. Either way, take comfort in knowing you are not alone and don’t be afraid or ashamed to reach out.