Things to Do - Talk About Infertility

Over the last year or so, my friend Cathi has written periodic posts about her work with Moms Demand Action and common sense gun control laws (click here to read her latest post) (by the way, as someone who is pro-gun control and pro-hunting (yes, the two can co-exist), I'd like to give a huge shout out to my husband for shooting two deer this weekend - we now have SO MUCH FOOD!!).

Anyways, the response to Cathi's posts has been wonderful (thank you everyone!!), so I've decided to branch out and ask other friends about issues that are near and dear to them.

For today's post my friend Kelly has written a wonderful piece about her struggles with infertility, including links to resources and support networks. So if there's anyone out there struggling with similar issues, remember you're not alone. And if any readers have an issue or cause they'd like to write about, please email me!

My Journey to Parenthood - by Kelly Maguire

Four years, four miscarriages, four treatment cycles (in vitro fertilization and IUI) and $40,000 later my husband and I welcomed our first child, a son, into our lives in 2005. This was not the journey we imagined, dreamed, hoped or planned for, and it was hell along the way. But, the journey to parenthood ultimately has impacted our lives in ways for which I am forever grateful.

Infertility is a disease of the reproductive system and is defined as the inability to conceive after 1 year for women under the age of 35, or 6 months for those over 35. It affects approximately 10% of the United States population, which means that it’s likely that your neighbor, colleague, cousin or college suitemate are having issues building a family.

After trying to conceive for a year with no success my husband and I went to my OB/GYN for evaluation. There’s a standard battery of tests to make sure the pipes are open, ovaries are plump, uterus is hospitable, and swimmers are healthy. Like many couples we “passed” these tests. While we were grateful there wasn’t any devastating news, we were looking for answers and had none. We were then referred to a Reproductive Endocrinologist (RE) for further evaluation.

The RE sells treatment. Yes, they are there to do further evaluation, but they basically have a toolbox of alternative ways to get pregnant and depending on your age, test results, tolerance for invasive treatment, and depth of your pockets you can choose from the low-budget option (e.g., intra-uterine insemination or IUI) to more invasive in vitro-fertilization (IVF). While a doctor oversees and recommends option there is nothing short of a menu to choose from, most with “payment plans” for the more expensive options.

We found the choices bewildering, the decisions overwhelming, and the process intimidating. For the price of a new car I had around a 15-20% chance of getting pregnant. (www.sart.org publishes all sorts of statistics by clinic across the U.S.) I wouldn’t take that bet in any other situation, but somehow our family’s future was riding on this unpleasant lottery. In order to help navigate the options we were fortunate enough to both stumble upon and seek out resources that provided significant insights, additional information, and most importantly, a sense of normalcy about our situation.

RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association (www.resolve.org) became our go-to resource for education and support. RESOLVE is the premier patient resource for all-things infertility. We attended a local conference is 2002 and immediately felt a sense of relief. We heard from a variety of medical professionals about various treatment possibilities and were able to explore options for building our family, such as adoption, surrogacy, and donor eggs. Equally important was the opportunity to meet people who were facing the same fears, hopes, and concerns as us, as well as seeing families that were built in creative, unique, yet entirely normal ways.

I ended up becoming a RESOLVE volunteer and started coordinating their education programs. It felt good to channel my own fears about family building in a positive way. But, more importantly, I made friends. People from all walks of life who were facing the same thing I was. It normalized what I was going through and at one point I thought, “all my friends are infertile.” We had our own little club and I kind of liked it! Funny how life takes funny twists like this. To this day, my RESOLVE friends are some of my closest and while we’ve all “resolved” our infertility in different ways we remain connected through this unique experience.

I also found a great therapist who very quickly diagnosed me with “unresolved grief.” Through talk therapy and a few concrete activities I was able to address and move through the never-ending stream of losses that come with infertility. There is a Native American tradition that if you write a letter to a loved one who has died and plant the letter at the roots of a tree as the tree grows it carries your message to the heavens. We aren’t religious people, but this was right up my alley. I wrote a letter to all the losses we had experienced . . . the miscarriages, the failed treatment cycles, and the lost years of parenting. My husband dug the holes and we planted the letters and then the trees. Acknowledging the losses, and honoring them, provided immediate relief.

Finally, a few books became invaluable resources. Ali Domar’s Conquering Infertility gave research-based information about the mind-body connection. Toni Weschler’s Taking Charge of Your Fertility taught me more about the female reproductive system than any science class I took in high school or college. And Randine Lewis’s The Infertility Cure talked about alternative resources when it seemed like traditional medicine was not going to be enough.

While the infertility journey is the lowest period of my life and still causes pangs of sadness, I’ve woven it into my life in ways that I hope have made me more understanding and sensitive of what others might be going through to build their families, or just navigating life in general. And, when I look at the 3 children I have I am both amazed and grateful for the journey to bring them into this world.

Kelly Maguire lives in Arlington, VA with her husband and 3 children, ages 8, 5, and 19 months.

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  1. Thanks Kelly - this is such an important topic to be sharing on and really appreciate your story - I have a spot on my blog called Taboo Topics where we look at topics people rarely speak about and Infertility is one of them and it has been amazing watching some of my good friends share their stories on a topic that we never really hear about because it is such a personal and painful thing and for a lot of people carries a sense of shame i imagine - http://brettfish.wordpress.com/2012/06/14/taboo-topics-infertility-intro - so always appreciate when others come forwards and share and these resources you have given will be super helpful as well so thank you...

    love brett fish

  2. Kelly- I had no idea! What a great story (and info) with 3 happy endings. :)



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