A Mother's Silent Struggle with Infertility

 

When my husband and I decided to start trying to have a baby, I was nervous but hopeful. We had been married for about 4 years before we decided to start trying. It felt almost surreal to be in this phase of my life where I might actually get pregnant and have a baby. It was such a new phase of life we were looking at. 

The Beginning of Infertility Treatments

Unfortunately, my body was struggling to function the way it should and after a year of trying, I was still not pregnant. It felt very discouraging and helpless. I decided that I would go to a fertility clinic to try and get answers and help (my OB had really not been helpful in addressing my concerns.)

Luckily, I found an amazing online resource (Fertility IQ) that has so much useful information about all things infertility. This really helped me know what I would be getting into with fertility treatments.

Unfortunately, the doctors were unable to figure out why I could not get pregnant and we were left with the frustrating diagnosis of “unexplained infertility.” Despite this, we decided to move forward with fertility treatments in hopes of getting pregnant. I am the type of person who is guarded and doesn’t want to get my hopes up too high, however I also could not really imagine that I would not get pregnant or that I would really have to go through a lot of fertility treatment.

I really thought that the first intervention would probably work for me.

We moved forward with doing our first IUI (Intrauterine Insemination). After three attempts with this...I was still not pregnant. I knew that it is pretty standard to try three IUI’s and if that doesn’t work, IVF is the next step. This made finding out that my third IUI didn’t work so difficult. It was a really hard thing to me to wrap my head around. IVF felt like such a big thing… something people do when nothing else words… a last effort to have a baby. I could not imagine that I was here. It did not feel real.

The Silent Struggle of Infertility

Up until this point we had not really told our family that we were struggling with infertility. I definitely feel that infertility is a silent struggle. No one can “see” the infertility.

If someone has an illness and is hospitalized, or needs surgery, or breaks a bone, people know. People reach out and support them and help them.

But with infertility, no one knows you are struggling unless you tell them. But how do you tell them? Even if you’re comfortable talking about it or want to tell people so you don’t feel as alone, how do you bring that up? Just out of the blue say, “Hey by the way, we can’t get pregnant.” And then what? A lot of people who don’t struggle with any sort of infertility can’t really understand why it is so difficult. At least, that is what I experienced. This was honestly a huge struggle for me; feeling like no one knew and no one really understood. So it was hard to get support. It was hard to feel validated in the struggle that was so hard and painful.

Finding Support During Infertility 

When the time came that we knew IVF was our only option, we decided it was time to tell our family and friends. We knew we would need more support. IVF is much more of a burden physically and financially than anything we had tried so far. Luckily for me, I did have a few friends who were supportive and who helped me feel more seen and made this less of a silent struggle. However, I still experienced feelings of the “silent struggle” and had many other people in my life who really just did not understand. 

I initially thought that IVF would be really hard physically. And don’t get me wrong, it was. The shots were not fun, the severe abdominal pain and bloating after the egg retrieval and finding out after implantation I would have to do TEN more weeks of shots was all quite difficult. But I think the hardest part was the unknown and the fear. Worrying that this also might not work. Trying to be hopeful but always fearful that I still might not be able to have a baby.

Luckily, everything went fairly smoothly throughout the whole IVF process and I was blessed to get pregnant on our first try with IVF. I really could not believe it and I was so excited...and cautious. I wish I could have had a joyful pregnancy, but if I’m being honest, I was definitely worried the whole time. I was blessed to make it to 40 weeks +6 days and gave birth to my healthy baby girl Hallie. I remember sobbing when she was born from happiness and relief. I couldn’t believe I really had my baby girl. 

Motherhood is a Journey Not a Destination

Now that I had Hallie here with me, things didn’t just fall into place. My post-partum journey is definitely the hardest thing I have ever experienced – yes, even harder than going through IVF. Unfortunately, this journey started out with two nights of no sleep before Hallie was even in my arms, hemorrhaging during labor and losing a significant amount of blood and feeling extremely weak, struggles with nursing, and Hallie being admitted to the hospital when she was 3 days old because she had stopped breathing. These experiences definitely made my start to motherhood much more difficult than I would have expected. 

Despite being 30 years old (older than most first time mom’s I know), having done a lot of research and being well versed in mental health, being a mental health therapist, I still experienced severe post-partum anxiety and some postpartum depression. It seems as though no amount of researching or planning can truly prepare you for the actual experience of becoming a mother.

Throughout this whole process, I have learned so much. Before I had Hallie, I knew it would be hard. Honestly, that’s why we waited for 4 years to even start trying to have a baby. I knew it would change my life. But I had no idea how much. 

I’ve learned that sometimes, not matter how much preparation you do, you may still struggle. I’ve learned that I have to allow things to be messy and crazy and that things rarely go according to my plans. I’ve had to let go of having things be the way I want them, organized and scheduled, as babies are constantly changing. I’ve learned that being a mom is a journey and not a destination. I’ve learned that most of the things I thought were important, like having a cute and perfect nursery or having the perfect outfit for her or the most expensive stroller or bassinet really don’t matter that much. I’ve learned that I had to let go of my ideals I had for myself, like being able to nurse my baby or feel like I “had it all together.” 

Final Thoughts...

Something I am constantly reminding myself is that whatever difficult stage I am currently in in my motherhood journey, it will eventually change. It will not be this way “forever.” When we were struggling with complete lack of sleep and I genuinely thought I might die from never sleeping again, that eventually changed and Hallie now sleeps through the night. When I had severe anxiety and thought I could never function normally again, that changed. My anxiety eased as Hallie got older and as she changed. When Hallie would not nurse without screaming and pulling away and I thought she would never gain weight or be able to eat, we figured this out and she did wonderfully drinking formula. Things are always changing. It will get better. It will also get harder in some ways. But one thing I can count on is it will be changing.

There will be new hards and different hards. And there will be new and different things Hallie will do that melt my heart and are exciting and adorable and so much fun. There will be so much joy. Things rarely go as planned. But they can still turn into amazing blessings and miracles. While this journey has had many bumps in the road and has been the most difficult thing I have ever experienced, Hallie is truly the best thing in my life. 

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