Infertility, defined as not being able to get pregnant after one year or more of unprotected sex, affects about 12% of women ages 15 to 44. Turns out, I’m part of that 12% and while it’s not ideal, going through it has had many positive effects on my life.
I’ve always known I might have trouble conceiving naturally. When I first got my period, it was extremely irregular. I went on birth control pills immediately and was on them for years. I tried twice to stop taking them, but both times I didn’t get a period naturally, and the only solution my doctors gave me at the time was to go back on birth control. If I could go back in time, I would’ve never started taking it because maybe things would’ve been different.
When my partner and I decided we wanted children, I was in for a shock. Even though I figured it might be difficult to conceive, I wasn’t prepared for how bad it would be. I was off of the pill for two years, didn’t get a single period, and wasn’t using any other type of contraception. There are many causes of infertility so I had no idea what was going on. When I finally saw a specialist, I was diagnosed with hypothalamic amenorrhea, which is when your body stops producing the hormones it needs for regular cycling. I needed in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatments to have any hope of having children.
I didn’t expect the mental effects of my infertility diagnosis. Depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, sleep disturbance, social withdrawal, and constant feelings of worthlessness are some of the symptoms experienced by people struggling to get pregnant. I had depression and anxiety and definitely felt worthless. I also felt guilty for not being able to give my S.O. children; I often thought he deserved someone better. My overwhelming sadness dominated my thoughts to the point that I could barely think about anything else. I’d always been able to work hard to get things I wanted, but this was out of my control and it made me feel like the biggest failure.
It’s hard for normal people to understand. Finding out that your body is incapable of doing what it was biologically meant to do is devastating. It’s impossible for the fertile population to understand or to know the right things to say, which makes sense because they haven’t been through it, but it makes us infertile ones feel isolated. I was afraid to talk about my journey at first, but now I feel that more awareness could help lessen the stigma surrounding infertility.
Every journey to parenthood is different and mine was no exception. My partner and I tried to get pregnant with natural methods for years before getting help from a doctor. I then suffered through multiple failed IUI (intrauterine insemination) attempts. The next step was IVF, and I got pregnant on the first try, which was shocking and amazing because some people go through many rounds of IVF before having success or are never able to conceive at all. When trying for my second child, it took two rounds of IVF to get pregnant and I felt beyond lucky. However, I have a lot of guilt because so many others have had it much worse than I did.
I think I could’ve eventually come to terms with not having biological children. It just might have taken some time to get there. It’s possible to be fulfilled despite infertility challenges, which is important to know and believe. For those that can’t conceive, there are other options. There’s adoption, but this process can be extremely financially and emotionally difficult (though it’s worth it in the end). There’s surrogacy, but this comes with challenges as well. Becoming a step-parent can fulfill your dreams, or if you’re happy being an animal parent, you’re still a parent in your own way. You don’t have to have biological children to have a happy life.
I’m so thankful that modern science was able to help me out. If it weren’t for fertility treatments, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Infertility and IVF took a mental and physical toll on my body, but I’m so grateful for every part of my journey including each needle and painful procedure because it gave me two perfect girls. I feel like the most blessed person in the world.
I know it sounds bad, but I feel like I appreciate my kids more than some other parents. Because it wasn’t easy for me to get pregnant, I don’t take a second with my kids for granted and I don’t get mad at them for small stuff. Some parents I know struggle so much that they wish at times they didn’t decide to have kids and I could never feel that way. Sure, I miss the kidless life sometimes when I want a minute to myself just like other parents, but I wouldn’t change it for the world.
I love and appreciate life in general so much more because of how lucky I feel. I don’t rush through the days anymore and I enjoy every minute I get to spend in this world, especially if it’s with my kids. It sounds corny but it’s truly how I feel. I don’t want to waste time being unhappy about anything because I know how precious life is, and what a miracle it is to be able to bring a life into this world. My dream was to become a mother, and I’m so fortunate that my wish came true.
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