My fertility journey began over two years ago when we finally made the decision to start a family. Like most people I believed becoming pregnant would happen easily and this is why the decision to finally start took so long. I was under the false impression that becoming pregnant was within my control. I believe this came from a few different factors. My parents had a friend growing up who had a baby at 38. I remember as a young girl, at ten or twelve, wondering why the adults kept saying, “I know she’s 38. And the baby is healthy.” This planted the kernel that I could wait too; after all if it happened once, it could easily happen again.
I grew up in a small town and in high school when a girl got pregnant we used to say, “It must be in the water.” Becoming pregnant seemed easy and in many ways undesirable because it altered your life plan. There were also countless stories of celebrities who gave birth in their 40s to healthy babies. I thought if they can do, I can too. Of course, there were no mentions of IVF or donor eggs in these articles, words that had I read them at the time, would have sounded like Chinese to me. Less understandable than the squeaks my cat makes when I pet her.
But, perhaps, more than these factors the reason for my delay is that I wasn’t ready. I wanted to travel, to study, to discover more about myself. And I did. I made choices, one after the other, right or wrong, and these choices have led me to this point where I have to make some hard decisions.
After making the decision to start a family, to my surprise I become pregnant quite quickly. In fact, I was in denial for a few weeks, even though my symptoms told me otherwise. Once I allowed the truth to sink in, I began to become very excited. There are some moments in one’s life that happen that feel exactly right and bring a sense of honey bliss that this feeling is all one thinks about. This was one of those moments. Since I’m a book-worm and extremely analytical, I took to google research with the fingers of a wizard and gobbled up everything I could about early pregnancy, what to do lists, and information on miscarriages, the latter with some trepidation. I had more than a few friends who had miscarried their first child, so for me I took this as a real possibility. Due to my age or the clinic I went to, I started seeing nurse practitioners almost immediately. My life began in a very short amount of time to revolve around this baby that was coming. And even though I had read it was better to not tell people you were pregnant until after the first trimester, I gushed the news quite quickly to my family and close friends.
Around nine weeks, I had a spontaneous abortion or miscarriage that started at work and went into the middle of the night. I went to two different emergency rooms and by the dawn of day I was no longer pregnant. I remember my husband asking the ER doctor when could we try again and this forever sealed our fate. I was devastated by the loss, but not completely overwhelmed with despair. I would become pregnant again. Soon. Or so I thought.
Around the time that I was pregnant the first time, other friends had become pregnant as well. So instead of going through the process with them, I was now left behind. Reading their posts on FB and looking at their ultrasound pictures began to wear on me a little, but I felt reassured that I would become pregnant again soon. But their babies were born and I was no closer to my desire than before. Each month I went from hopeful to emotionally wrecked. Nervous breakdowns became a part of my existence and their wake was something I didn’t share with anyone. You see, as much as people love you (family and friends), they each have their own feelings and thoughts about motherhood, fatherhood, babies, fate, etc. Some women can’t possible understand what is like to struggle to conceive because they have never experienced it. Or women with children who find it difficult to be mothers themselves, view you as lucky. Some people view parenthood as a wrong choice for the planet. So this made me feel all alone. Also, fertility is a deeply personal issue, one that I find hard to share with just anyone. I did have one really close friend who was going through the same thing as me. I spoke to her daily and found as I became more and more obsessed she did too.
Then one day, she called me up to tell me the big news. I responded shrilly with what I hoped sounded normal, “Congratulation. I’m so happy for you.” It wasn’t that this wasn’t true, it was just I knew deep down that my journey towards motherhood had only just began. She had gotten a ticket off this boat of statistics, wrinkles, and defeat. She was on the other side with the fertile women; whereas I had no idea when I would be allowed to leave.
After that, I found it difficult to talk to her. She would call or email me but I couldn’t rejoice in what I knew was wonderful and exciting for her. Unfortunately, this only made me feel even more alone. This is when I began Bikram yoga. I pulled in front of a studio I found on the Internet and decided to do 30 days in a row. There were more than a few days where tears rolled out during the breathing exercises at the end. But yoga made me stronger, more capable to handle the stress of monthly tries and consistent arrival of the defeating no. I started a writing group, in hopes of surrounding myself with strong, creative people. I found that it was a band aid. Then, one of the women in the group became pregnant and naturally I found this hard to handle. After this, I made the decision to finally go to a Reproductive Endocrinologist. I had numerous tests done and basically the outcome is that I have diminished ovarian reserve. During this consultation, I was given the option of IVF with my own eggs for a whopping $28,000 (all the bells and whistles, of course) and IVF with donor eggs for $38,000. I asked how most people paid for these treatments to warm but apologetic accountant who then pushed towards me a brochure for a medical loan. The IVF with my own eggs has a 40% chance of success and IVF with donor eggs has a 80% of success. So, do you buy the trailer next to the sand dunes or the lake house next to the pond.
My choice seemed grim. Not just because of the price tag, although this was an important factor but because I had now been distilled down to a series of numbers. Yet, there was something reassuring about being in the hands of a RE, a IVF Coordinator, an accountant that gave me the impression that I could be fixed. There was a path to a baby. After all, 80% is a high number. It’s much better than playing black jack or even flipping a coin (something my husband and I did later at home to check our odds. Sadly, I called tails four times and it hit heads each time). You can’t laugh at 80%. But you give up your genetics, this connection that stretches back generations. Although, there are a few genes in my pool that I’d rather leave behind, so perhaps this isn’t such a bad idea. I do have the annoying habit of twirling my hair constantly. Oh, and there are a few cases of mental illness.
Right around this time, through reading numerous blogs, I came across a book called Inconceivable by Julia Indichova, who was diagnosed with poor ovarian reserve like myself who eventually conceived naturally at 42. As I write this, I haven’t finished the book but it has planted the seed that I might have given up on myself too early. Perhaps, my eggs are still good. Perhaps, there is a moment where I too, like millions before me, can get off the infertility boat. It is possible. I just don’t know where to get off.
This has begun my research into medical tourism. I’ve decided to take a two-pronged approach. One that is natural and includes acupuncture, yoga, visualizations, proper diet, and mental practice. And one that utilizes the latest medical advances in fertility. I know that I can’t afford IVF in the United States. To be honest, the loss would be even more devastating because of the cost. Not only would I put myself through weeks of procedures that would stretch me emotionally, physically, and spiritually, only to be possibly wrecked financially in the end. The same procedures in clinics with the same or better care exist in many countries outside of the United States. In fact, the quality of care that I have received in the medical system in the United States has been appalling and shocking at times. So, my first step is to research clinics in Mexico. I live in San Diego, so this seems like a natural choice.
This blog begins at this point in my journey. I hope that those who are delayed mamas find some peace and reassurance in my words. My heart is with you. And for those who are supporting men and women struggling with trying to conceive, I want you to know that you’re not alone.