Ok, so it was last week. But better late than never!
I have much to be thankful for. Despite my struggles with fertility, I was lucky enough to conceive and give birth to two healthy, beautiful boys. But on my journey, I learned a great deal about (in)fertility, and I joined a club of which no one wants to be a member.
Before I had trouble with infertility, I never thought much about it. We have family friends who have adopted, I have friends who are adopted, but no one ever talked much about infertility, and I certainly never knew about those friends of my parents, or parents of my friends, who had struggled to conceive their own children. I always assumed I would have no trouble, since I have a wonderful family history of fertility (my mom says she got pregnant with me the first month she tried, and with my sister the second because she was "so stressed out the first month that it didn't work"). So I was very surprised when things did not go as planned. And as time went on, and I was open about my difficulties, I found just how common infertility is.
At the time I was diagnosed with PCOS, I only knew two women who were also dealing with infertility. One woman, now a friend, had started trying to conceive in late 2005 (her journey continues to this day; visit her blog at www.jesstutt.blogspot.com). And then another friend of mine began trying to conceive, without success, in the fall of 2007 (she is now the mother of boy-girl twins). When I began having trouble in 2008, these women and I grew closer as I went to them with questions about reproductive endocrinology, hormones, and medications. These were members of my club, and our infertility brought us together. These were the only people who understood what it felt like. Online, I found an infertility message board with hundreds of other women whose lives resembled mine-- disappointing and scary doctor's visits, menstrual periods when all you want is a positive pregnancy test, crazy hormones and their scary side effects. In real life, other people got pregnant the old-fashioned way, and as much as they said they were sorry for my struggle, they had no idea what it felt like.
Infertility shook the way I saw myself. I had always seen myself as a strong, healthy person whose body did whatever I asked of it. If I exercised more, I got stronger. If I ate well, I felt good. I was never sick with more than a cold. But all of a sudden, I saw my body as damaged and inadequate. All my life I had thought that I would be a mother, and imagined myself as one of those glowing pregnant women. And in the moment that the doctor told me I had PCOS, that dream disappeared. Suddenly I knew that getting pregnant would mean medication and doctor's visits, at a minimum. I could not have fathomed that I would end up doing IVF. As the months wore on, I felt worse and worse about myself. I felt like a failure. I felt unattractive as a result of bloating and weight gain from medication, and our sex life all but disappeared. I obsessed over my fertility problems, and other people's pregnancies and babies and how easy it was for them. These experiences are common for women having fertility problems, and frequently dismissed as all in their heads, or the stress that is keeping them from getting pregnant. But these experiences are real, and painful.
Despite the pain of infertility, I'm thankful for all the friendships I have made or strengthened with other women in the "Infertility Club." I have met people through message boards online that have become friends in real life, and have grown my friendships with the women I already know who are having similar experiences. I now know many women who have dealt with infertility-- a neighbor, a high school classmate, friends of my mother; when I open up about my story others open up to me. Although I would never have wanted to be a member of the club, I am lucky to know these women and I admire their strength. I am happy for all of the women who have already had their babies, and wish for healthy and easy pregnancies for those who are currently pregnant. And I have so much hope for those who are still hoping themselves.