In honor of National Infertility Awareness Week, we asked women who are dealing with fertility issues to share what they wish people knew about their struggle.
Some suffer in silence. Others open up to those closest to them. Many carry their painful memories of infertility into motherhood. Many more carry guilt, shame, or blame for not yet (or not ever) fulfilling their dreams of mothering a child. All grieve the lows and rejoice the highs of this journey. They are your relatives, friends, colleagues, neighbors. We asked a few of these women to share what they wish others knew about their struggle.
Infertility takes on many forms.
"My story is like so many other women's stories. I've lived a healthy life and have always played by the rules. To me, that meant I was going to have no problem conceiving. There is no one 'type' when it comes to infertility. It can strike anyone at any time." —Sara Haas
"I [was] born with a birth defect called uterine agenesis, the [scientific] term for my-body-never-created-a-uterus. When the source of the problem was found after a late-night ER visit for a high fever, I'd already been living that way for nearly sixteen years, but it had gone undetected." —Nik Mabry
"I was diagnosed with premature ovarian failure in September 2015. However, it began in March 2015 when I abruptly stopped having my periods. I went through stages of anger, hopelessness, depression, and acceptance when the specialist told me there was nothing he could do to help me have children except egg donation." —Tracy Zarate
"My husband and I have been diagnosed with unexplained infertility and recurrent miscarriages." —Jennifer and DJ Cavenaugh
"My husband and I have been trying to have a baby since 2009. I have many medical conditions causing our infertility—endometriosis, hypothyroidism, prolactinoma, and MTHFR gene mutation." —Melissa S. Myrick
"I have something called a balanced translocation. This caused little bits of two of my chromosomes to break off and swap places. As a result, the information gets lost when paired with someone with normal chromosomes and can cause infertility or recurrent miscarriage, sometimes even both. There's no cure and there's no magic pill to help either. It's all about hoping and praying for a 'good egg.'" —Danielle Dunn
Our individual struggles and conditions matter.
"Infertility is a loss. It's a loss of a future with a family. I think it should be brought up more. More often than not, we feel alone and alienated. I look forward to Infertility Awareness Week so I can share our story and to let people know there are more people struggling with this. One in eight couples, they stay quiet." —Jennifer and DJ Cavenaugh
"Balanced translocations [condition] should have a bit of light shed on them. They affect one in 600 people, so they are surprisingly common and could be someone's answer they've been waiting for through their struggle. I believe karyotyping should be more widely tested for this reason." —Danielle Dunn
"We hear a lot about PCOS [Polycystic Ovary Syndrome] and endometriosis, which are very important to talk about. But we don't hear enough about DOR [Diminished Ovarian Reserve] or those approaching DOR, and [it] causes many women to give up hope when not all is lost." —Melissa Thayer
"It's not so much about [getting] a positive pregnancy test as it is [about] everything that happened before it. Long story short, out of 56 eggs retrieved over four tries during IVF, I was only able to get two viable eggs. Although I went through a deep depression, I was determined to keep going." —Desiree Jones
Infertility treatment options are often expensive—and complicated.
"When the specialist told me there was nothing he could do to help me have children except egg donation... my dreams were crushed. However, the hardest part to overcome is the financial aspects. Egg donation would cost me approximately $25,000 out of pocket. I am, unfortunately, unable to build a family as I cannot afford the treatment. I am hoping infertility will soon be covered by insurances to make treatments more affordable for all." —Tracy Zarate
"Adoption, IUI, IVF, AI, surrogacy—they're all crazy expensive, are not guarantees, and take months, if not years, to complete. Please do not speak about these options as if they are free or easy to accomplish. ... Adoption is not for everyone, so please do not suggest it. Before anyone can even consider adoption as an alternative family-building method, they have to grieve the biological child that will never be. And that takes time—sometimes forever" —Nik Mabry
"I am blessed to live in a state where there is mandated infertility coverage. Otherwise, I don't think we would have been able to afford it." —Melissa Thayer
"We've done several infertility treatments, I've had four surgeries. It's been a really rough six-plus years." —Melissa S. Myrick
"[Over] seven years, we've done three IUI's, four IVF retrievals, 10 transfers of a total of 22 embryos transferred... we've lost five pregnancies... with no live birth. This is the worst emotional roller coaster you could be on." —Jennifer and DJ Cavenaugh
"So many of us are grasping for anything that's offered up as a 'quick fix' or 'cure' for infertility, but the truth of the matter is, it doesn't exist. In fact, I encourage you to be skeptical of anyone making promises like this to you. This is where you have to be your own advocate. Do your research." —Sara Haas
There are ways to support us—or at least not make us feel worse.
"Want to offer support and don't know how? Say that! Literally, say, 'I want to offer you support, but I don't know how.' That's perfect! Those words are the supportive ones we'd like to hear." —Nik Mabry
"People going through this need so much support, and you can do that with something as small as a question. 'Are you all right?' 'What's else can you do?' ... Don't hide pregnancies or baby news from us. Even though we are hurting that doesn't mean we're any less happy to celebrate with you! " —Jennifer and DJ Cavenaugh
"If you know a couple who's without children, I'd highly recommend refraining from asking the questions, 'When are you going to have little ones?' As much as we know this is coming from the heart, it pierces like a dagger each time we replay the words." —Elizabeth Shaw
We cope in different ways.
"I have helped start a general infertility support group here on Long Island and I hope to get the word out that this is a topic one in eight are struggling to work through." —Tracy Zarate
"This is a situation that is so out of our control, and despite our desire to regain control, it's not always possible. What we can do is find comfort in making our health a priority, focusing on nourishing our bodies with nutrition, doing meditation, and reducing our stress. Writing about this journey and sharing my love and passion for food as a registered dietitian nutritionist has been so therapeutic for me, while helping others along the way." —Elizabeth Shaw
Infertility doesn't define us.
"Infertility doesn't have a particular stereotype. We don't walk around with a badge on us that says, 'infertile,' though we may feel like it at times." —Elizabeth Shaw