Infertility is Not a Competition


I am part of the sisterhood… you know, the one where women undergo blood tests, injections of numerous hormones, one too many pelvic exams…the fertility treatment sisterhood. That was my life for 12 months; month #13 was lucky for us, though! We had IVF and implanted one healthy embryo which developed into our daughter. We were thrilled and are so lucky to now be planning for her 4th birthday.

This past year, however, was difficult again as we were rolling the dice and hoping one of our four frozen embryos would implant. Twelve months of four individual transfers brought only heartache. Our last was the saddest, as I had to listen to the nurse on the phone tell me, “I am so sorry but your embryo did not survive the thaw.”

So, here I am, extra hormones out of my system and finally feeling more normal than I have in the past year… and I feel alone.

Why do I feel alone when I have great friends and new “in the trenches” fertility pals from the sisterhood?

It goes something like this…

Unhelpful person: “You only went through one IVF? I went through many IVF attempts to have my kids.”

Me (thinking in my head because I am a nice person at heart): Um, hurray for you? We don’t have money just sitting and waiting to pay for IVF! I’m almost 40 and my physical and emotional being probably cannot tolerate any more hormones at this point. I’d like to remain married to my wonderful husband, who went through the worst of fertility treatments with me (very bad moods) and would like my daughter to have a relatively normal Mommy. I simply cannot put them through this again and I have too much self respect to do it to myself at this point. It is not just about me anymore.

Inner monologue over, sort of.

When I share my experiences with infertility and those I share with need to demonstrate that they went through it worse, I feel completely invalidated. Honestly and personally speaking, I don’t want to be lost. I don’t want to share my thoughts and feelings with someone who has “been there before” only to then hear, “You think that was bad, well I went through it worse than you.” At what point did that conversation become a competition, and a horrible competition at that?

We need to hear each other more, really listen to the words, and validate each other with “I understand” or “ I get it.” Take a breath and dismiss your own “baggage” and just listen. Be part of a conversation and while sharing your own experiences, bring it back to the other person.

I hope, especially for my own daughter, that women can start to not only hear what other women are saying but really listen.

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Risa Sugarman

Risa is mommy to a fabulous 5-year-old girl and wife to an amazing husband. She has lived in Boston, New York City, and now lives in Central CT. She has an MSW from Fordham University and a BA from Columbia University. She has written for Huffington Post, Psych Central, Keshet and Stigma Fighters and on her own blog, sillyillymama.blogspot.com

The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. Comments are moderated, so use your inside voices, keep your hands to yourself, and no, we're not interested in herbal supplements.

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