That I will be a mom someday has always been a given, and like all other things in my life, I have always known that if I plan and try, I will achieve my goals. This is what my own mom taught me. She is the quintessential mother, who gave up a career to raise us not because she was supposed to, but because it was what made her the happiest.
When my husband and I first talked about building a life together, we decided on an order for things. First, we would travel. Then, we would have babies. At 32 we were married, at 33 we traveled the world for a year, and at 34 we returned to have babies. As a librarian, I am an information seeker, so we did it correctly, right from the start. With the fanciest ovulation monitor, and the will of two people who are used to getting their way, we wasted no time. At the six-month no-success meeting with my doctor she told us that this is the meeting where she just makes sure people are doing it right. You two, she told us, are doing it right.
Well, here we are, three years later, and a year into assisted reproductive technology (IUI and IVF) still doing it right, and still child-free. We have watched friends and family get pregnant, have children, have first birthday parties and have second children, while still we wait, feeling like our life is passing us by.
The word “infertility” has a lot of baggage. Getting pregnant and having a child is meant to be a joyful and uncomplicated part of life. I remember in Torah School learning about the life cycle, and while I can now see a multitude of issues that might come with teaching life in such a simplified way, the one I fixate on is this one: starting a family. Starting a family. When it goes wrong, it can feel like you have failed at being a woman, a wife, a daughter, a sister.
Infertility is a disease affecting one in eight couples (2002 National Survey of Family Growth), and it is defined as the inability to conceive after one year of unprotected intercourse or the inability to carry a pregnancy to live birth. In our case, the infertility is unexplained. We have passed every test with flying colors, but have never once seen a positive on a pregnancy test. We have undergone four cycles of Intrauterine Insemination, one cycle of In-Vitro Fertilization and two additional Frozen Embryo Transfers.
A lot of people mistakenly believe that once you relax, pregnancy will happen. Infertility is a disease, and, this is just not true. A lot of people are under the impression that IVF is a guaranteed success, but 30-40% of people will not get pregnant through their course of treatments. Adoption sounds to some like an easy answer, but it is an expensive and potentially emotionally painful process that requires first mourning the loss of the pregnancy envisioned.
So, where does that leave me? It leaves me feeling constantly left out of a club that I am desperate to be a member of. It leaves me researched and ready to be the best mother I can be, childless and jealous of baby bumps and sleepless nights and spit-up. It leaves me stuck in an exhausting cycle of hope and despair, enduring physical discomfort and financial hardship.
It also leaves me strong and secure in my relationship with my husband, knowing that together we *are* a family. It leaves me grateful for the support of people who care about me. It leaves me proud to be fighting my own shame and embarrassment in order to bring a voice to this disease that is often misrepresented because those of us with the most information find it so scary to talk about.
I hope that by sharing some of my journey, I can help light the way for others who may be experiencing the pain of infertility. I also hope that you amazing beautiful mothers out there think about the one in eight who may be silently suffering and wishing for your life, even in its most frustrating challenging moments. This disease will resolve somehow, and I will find peace. The state I am in now, though, is far from peaceful.