First comes love, then marriage, then scheduled sex and back-to-back rounds of fertility treatments with a middle-aged doctor constantly looking between your legs. Welcome to the world of making a baby. Well, for some of us.
Although I ended up on the “desired” end of infertility and am more grateful than I can ever articulate for currently being pregnant, I will never forget what it was like to experience “infertility” for a year. (And, yes, my husband and I fully realize that in the grand scheme of things, one year is not that long of an “infertility” journey.)
Still, for those 12 months, I was overwhelmed by feelings of loneliness, loss and self-loathing. But once I started blogging and opening up, the “trying to conceive” (TTC) community helped me de-stigmatize this touchy, oh-so-personal subject and made it OK to talk about, which, for me, was healing. So while every person experiencing infertility will cope with it differently, here’s eight things I wish I knew before I went through the journey.
1. Infertility Isn’t Reserved for “Geriatric” Women Over 37
…Or even women with diagnosable issues. I fell into the “unexplained infertility” category at 29/30 years old. Nothing was wrong with me or my husband—his swimmers looked great and my eggs were primed to make an omelet. There’s no reason sperm didn’t meet egg for 12 months, but low and behold, we needed some assistance (i.e., IVF) to get that Tinder date going. Every couple is different and no woman’s body is the same.
2. Time Feels Like the Enemy
When treatment doesn’t work time and again, every month seems like you’re walking deeper into Harry Potter’s Chamber of Secrets and you’re about to face Voldemort one-on-one without your wand. With each passing month, your options become more limited and after a certain period of time, many women feel like they’ll never be able to conceive. I certainly felt this way.
3. Being Around Kids Is Hard
In fact, being around parents who have kids is hard. Seeing a stroller on the street is hard, and seeing a woman with a pregnant belly is hard. Because, see #2.
4. Treatment Is Damn Expensive
They say babies are expensive. To that I say: Ha! Making babies is expensive. Depending on your insurance (or lack thereof), each round of hormone treatment (which lasts around a month or so) can cost $1,000 plus. If regular hormones don’t work and you need to go the IVF route, tack on $20,000 to that price tag. Is it worth it? Absolutely. But that’s still an expensive pill to swallow.
5. Infertility Is All-Consuming
A week can seem like a month, a month can seem like a year, and a year can seem like a lifetime when you’re trying to get knocked up. When your life is controlled by doctor appointments, blood work and weekly vaginal ultrasounds (sexy!), it’s hard to think about anything else.
6. Hormone Therapy Is No Joke
When you’re experiencing infertility and are in treatment, you get pumped with hormones like a Russian gymnast getting doped up. It affects everything: your emotions and your physical body. For the better part of a year, I looked like a 14-year-old boy smack in the middle of puberty because my acne was so bad. Add in a few extra LBs around the tummy area, and dang was I feeling attractive. Women can look and feel pregnant as a result of hormones and not be pregnant. It’s a sick joke.
7. The Desperation Is Palpable
Women going through infertility will go to great, strange lengths to make a baby. If they hear, “X will help you get pregnant,” they’ll do it. Chinese herbal drop with questionable taste? Check. Conception meditation encouraging you to envision your womb as a safe, warm and cozy place? Check. All natural hygiene products made from only grass products? Check. When women start to believe it may never happen, they do crazy things.
8. Social Media Is the Devil’s Spawn
When you’re of baby-making age, every single post seems to be about gender reveals, baby announcements or adorable photos of young parents frolicking through the autumn leaves with their babies laughing in the sunshine. In addition to changing so much of your lifestyle, women experiencing infertility often have to change their social media habits, too, to avoid these daily reminders of what they don’t have. Otherwise it just becomes too much.