Infertility Was the Hardest Thing For My Marriage, But It Actually Made It Stronger
The first time my husband, Ryan, and I tried to have a baby I was convinced, rather naively, that it happens immediately. At 30 years old, even though I admit I wasn't completely ready to be a mom, I really believed it would be that easy for me. After all, I was healthy, I exercised regularly, ate a well balanced diet, and came from a family of women who got pregnant at the drop of a hat. I had no reason to think it would be any different for me—but I couldn't have been more wrong.
The weeks of trying turned into months, and soon we were waiting for nearly two years for any sign of pregnancy. I can't tell you how many times I was convinced that a new craving or the fact that I felt oddly tired or bloated meant something. And let's not forget about all those ovulation sticks. The temperature taking. The frantic calls to my husband to make sure to be home on certain days. It became almost like a job that we, a goal-oriented couple, had to find success in.
Meanwhile, everyone around us was getting pregnant with such ease (or so it seemed)—something I couldn't help feeling resentment toward. And everyone kept asking us when we were having a baby, not realizing how painful that question began to feel.
Our Infertility Journey
I finally decided to go see a reproductive endocrinologist that I found online. All I wanted was for her to confirm that I just needed to relax. That I was still young and it's just stress making things difficult, which was the advice everyone kept giving us.
The doctor ran every test under the sun, including a hysteroscopy. The results showed something I didn't expect: Nothing; no conclusive reason why I couldn't get pregnant. I was prepared for an answer—something concrete that I could point to and that I could fix. And then we put Ryan under the microscope and nothing was "wrong" with him either. So we started intrauterine insemination (IUI) treatments and timed Clomid cycles. The hormonal side effects from Clomid took a toll on me. I felt so incredibly depressed for months. I also felt guilt for ever being nervous about being a mother, when at this point, I felt I might not ever become one.
All the 6 a.m. blood work, the poking, the probing. The waiting. Always waiting. The rampant Google searches for miracle methods. Ryan and I even started acupuncture thinking it was going to be a slam dunk. When nothing worked, we decided to see a different doctor. I guess it helped to blame our first doctor, the protocol, something other than myself.
I went to the new doctor's office alone thinking he would suggest a new test or something different, but when he told me my next option was IVF, I couldn't believe it.
I quickly realized infertility doesn't discriminate. We fell into the category of "unexplained infertility," which is the case for up to 30 percent of couples dealing with infertility. That felt even more infuriating, not knowing why in our early 30s we couldn't have a child on our own.
We started discussing the possibility that IVF might not work either, as it isn't always successful. We set our expectations pretty low, but we felt that at least we were doing everything we could. I began to feel like I had some control, when truthfully, you have none.
I decided to be positive and optimistic, nonetheless. I smiled through the shots, even though I was bruised and in pain. I didn't cry even though I wanted to. When the numbers didn't reflect my hard work and my optimism, I lost hope again. On my transfer day, I had one embryo frozen and one embryo that was soon to be my baby girl, Zena. In the IVF world, this meant my odds were low. If this transfer was unsuccessful, then I would have only one other cycle.
But finally, this time my odd craving for bacon cheeseburgers and eggs were indeed a sign of pregnancy. I managed to emerge a mom. I no longer felt unready and I was the happiest I had ever been before. I learned to be more gentle and not blame myself. Instead of feeling broken, I felt stronger than ever and I was determined to be the best mother I could be.
Infertility Made Us Closer
As I look back on the journey we went through, I wouldn't change any of it even though it was the most challenging experience of our lives. The stress and anxiety of not being able to get pregnant took its toll and tested us in many ways. I didn't recognize myself many times. I lost that light and bubbly disposition I always had, but never appreciated until now.
But I wouldn't change the opportunity to get to know my partner through a new light. Fumbling to deal with it all, there were epic lows, but there were also enlightening highs. My husband and I got to see one another demonstrate strength we didn't even knew we had, while learning to accept and even respect our weaknesses in the process.
- RELATED: How Infertility Made Me a Better Mom
We bonded more than ever before. I finally stopped expecting him to be a superhero with the ability to read my mind and started to understand him more. I respected him for stepping up and really being there. In many ways, I'm grateful we got the time to rebuild our relationship with an even stronger foundation, before we welcomed our daughter.
To the couples out there going through their worst while trying to conceive: You're not alone. (That's a big reason why I wrote the children's book, To the Moon and Back for You.) Yes, you may lose a little part of your old self that gets chipped away at, but with it you gain a little piece of a new self. A new chapter and a new "us."
A stronger one.
I know most days this is easier said than done, but I hope couples take a minute to take pride in this newfound bond they are building with each passing day. No matter your path to parenthood, try to embrace and remember what connected you in the first place.
Emilia Bechrakis Serhant is an international attorney living in New York City with her husband, Ryan Serhant, of Bravo's Emmy-nominated show, Million Dollar Listing New York. She holds three law degrees from top U.K. universities, and she followed her husband into the world of reality TV and real estate. Her children's book To the Moon and Back for You was released in March 2020. She currently enjoys devoting time to the family real estate business, as well as several children's charities, and raising her daughter, Zena. Follow her online on Instagram and on Twitter.