*A Note from A Chronic Voice: The consideration for motherhood crosses the mind of every woman at some point in time, whether she is healthy or ill. Some may decide they never want children but for others, it may be the biggest dream of their lives. To learn that you’re infertile or will never be able to have any is devastating to say the least. Secondary infertility is no less heartbreaking either. Jenni of “Surviving Life’s Curveballs” shares about her tumultuous experiences with doctors, treatments and dashed hopes in this story:
One in eight couples of child bearing age is affected by infertility. One in eight! My husband and I are one of those unlucky couples.
We tried for over a year before I went to the OBGYN asking if there could be a problem. My OB quickly dismissed my worry as I had already had two successful pregnancies in the past. She told me to track my ovulation, increase our sexual activity and surely I would be seeing her next time for pregnancy care.
Stick after ovulation stick, checking my temperature before getting out of bed, and tracking my cycles produced a rollercoaster of hope and disappointment. Another year went by and nothing. It was time for my annual checkup and so I brought up the subject again.
“The chance that you are experiencing secondary infertility is unlikely. We can draw your blood to test your hormones and I can also order a semen analysis for your husband. Is that what you want to do? You realize none of this will be covered by your insurance.”
This statement felt cold and she barely glanced at me while typing away on my chart.
With tears in my eyes, I walked out of the office and called my husband. He agreed it was time to look for a new OBGYN. Naturally, it would be months before I could be seen by someone else, but in the mean time, we would complete the blood and semen testing to be ready for whatever the next steps might be.
A week following our testing we received a phone call stating our results came back abnormal, but they feared the testing had been done incorrectly so, therefore, it was inconclusive. They recommended following up with a urologist. Several phone calls later we booked the first available appointment, two months from now.
At thirty-five-years-old, every passing minute my eggs are growing more defunct. You can tell me I am ‘not that old’, or ‘still so young’, but the science plainly shows that their viability is rapidly declining. Once I am forty-years-old my ability to conceive will be cut in half.
Call in the Fertility Specialists
Our visits to the new OBGYN and the urologist occurred the same week and both with the same outcome: it’s time to see a fertility specialist. Neither physician could find any obvious reason we had been unable to conceive.
An appointment to see the fertility specialist would be another month from now. Hurry up and wait over and over and over again.
Insurance covers nothing for infertility treatment. NOTHING.
“Hmm, the sperm count is ¼ of what we prefer to see, but a semen analysis from any hospital is unreliable. We should have another one completed by our lab, but first, let’s try a few other things. Let’s have your blood drawn to check your hormone levels. Once we get those results back we can determine if you would benefit from Clomid. After taking Clomid for a month we will have your blood drawn again to determine if it has had any effect. Then we can run another semen analysis.”
We both left with our heads swirling. We had just spent $200 to see this specialist and were leaving with a list of to-dos. Not to mention every item had an associated price tag.
- Doc visit: $200
- Blood draw: $80
- Repeat blood draw: $80
- Semen analysis: $300
- Clomid: $15
- Total: $675
“How long have you been trying to conceive?”
“You are on day 3 of your cycle now, if it is okay with you I would like to go ahead and try an IUI.”
“Yes, please let’s do something.”
For the first time in three years it felt like there was some sort of action. We were ready to pick up some momentum. Of course, all this action came with its own costs.
- Doc appointment including an internal ultrasound: $300
- Blood draw: $80
- Hormone shot for IUI prep: $100
- IUI including a semen analysis: $500
- Total $980 – $300 saved from my husband’s appointment (no semen analysis now needed as it is included with the IUI): $680
- Total for both of us: $1355
None of this takes into account the hundreds of dollars spent on regular OBGYN visits, ovulation and pregnancy tests for three years leading up to finally seeing the fertility specialists.
Sex and Money
The most common fights in all relationships are over money and sex. Can you imagine the strain of infertility in a relationship? It’s all about sex and money.
Yeah, all the sex, when you’re trying, is fun. That is until you fail for 36 months straight to make a baby. That’s 36 months of hope followed by disappointment. Eventually, you begin to prepare yourself mentally for the impending disappointment. Every so often you might be able to perk yourself out of the doom and gloom, but the reality of those first few red spot in your panties are sure to bring it right back.
Sometimes sex turns sad after so much failure. The fun part of the act is clouded. Then you start to avoid it. It becomes more mechanical, more purpose driven and less in-the-moment pleasure.
Add to that the financial strain of paying for all the doctors, labs, and procedures. Now you are now looking at a double-whammy. So together you have to navigate murky waters of emotion and money. How much do we spend before we call it? What is a baby worth? These are not questions you want to ask yourself and especially not each other, but here you are asking them. What are we willing to give up?
The thing about infertility that so many people don’t understand is that it’s ongoing, chronic, long term. There is no quick solution. It’s a lot of appointments, trying different things, and waiting. Every four weeks of your life you are on a roller-coaster.
- Week 1 start with the disappointment of yet another period.
- Week 2 you are both refueling each other’s hope as the ovulation window approaches.
- Week 3 you cross your fingers and hope that this time things are going to work out.
- Week 4 you are holding your breath and also trying to prepare yourself for the disappointment you have felt so many times before.
Our mailbox and facebook are full of baby shower invites, birth announcements, and positive pregnancy tests. For everyone. But me.
Not me. Not us. Not now.
Like salt on the wound pregnancy seems to come so easily for everyone around me. It’s not that I want anyone else to suffer through this mess because truly I do not. It’s that I want so desperately to post my positive pregnancy test, to delight in the kicks of the baby growing inside of me, and to prepare for the birth of the child we have yet to create.
We Did Everything Right
We were ready mentally, physically, financially before we ever started trying. We planned, laid the ground work, checked all the boxes (marriage, savings, house) and THEN decided to pull the trigger. We did everything right. So why has this been a nightmare?
We want this so bad, but it just seems to get further and further away from us. Each month we fail. Failure after failure.
How am I Doing?
“How are you doing?” You ask.
“I’m okay.” I don’t say ‘good’ anymore because I’m not good and honestly I haven’t been for quite some time. I am over here surfing a rollercoaster of hope and disappointment month after month. Every baby announcement is like a kick in the gut, a harsh reminder that my womb remains empty, uninhabited, that my family will not welcome a tiny miracle within 9 months. Maybe not ever. I’m sad, mad, anxious, fearful, and sometimes just okay so that’s how I will answer your question.
Yes, I’m happy that others are having tiny miracles of their own and when I meet them I am flooded with love, amazement, and gratitude for you. I am also grieving for my barren uterus, for the son or daughter that I have not met, for the memories that cannot exist without them.
Stop! Just Stop Talking
“When are you going to try for a baby?”
“We’ve been trying, for three years.” This is how I answer your question now. No more, “Smile and look away out of courtesy so as not to embarrass you. This pain I live with every day that I try to hide you so freely bring to the surface. So I will share it with you, just a taste of my torment in this tiny moment. You will become embarrassed and change the subject, but I also know you will not bring it up again.
“At least you already have two.”
Why would you say that? Of course, I am grateful for the two miraculous humans I am lucky enough to call my sons. Please do make me feel guilty for wanting a third child, or selfish for the associated sadness of secondary infertility. Have you ever gone through this? Are you me? No, oh ok, then you don’t get to share your opinions with me. If you must judge me, do it silently, from afar. I don’t need your emotional manipulation on top of everything else I am feeling right now. What I really need is a friend, but if you’re too busy judging me you can go away.
Where do We Go from Here?
I wish I knew. It seems I have more questions than answers for my life. For us, we are going to give IUI a try. If it works, there would be no great joy. If it doesn’t, then we will continue the Clomid without any other intervention. We have drawn a line with our finances, at some point I think most people have to. There is no relief, only a constant state of what ifs and how much. Fingers crossed with hopeful hearts.
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For More Insight:
- When IVF Waiting Feels Endless (article on The Mighty): https://goo.gl/pcf3FQ