Infertility exiles you to an invisible island. You’re standing in a crowd, surrounded by family, friends, and co-workers, but you feel alone, isolated. The problem you face is not one people openly discuss. There are plenty of misconceptions about infertility, including the belief that it isn’t a medical condition. This inaccuracy finds its way into comments by well-meaning friends who say, “Just relax and you’ll get pregnant.” No one would ever tell a person with a disease that relaxation alone is the cure.
There’s a powerful truth in C.S. Lewis’ statement. I want people facing infertility to read my book and know they’re not alone. My book’s dedicated to them because, like Hatty and John in INCONCEIVABLE!, they deserve a happy ending of their own choosing and on their terms. This book’s also for those who know someone going through infertility. I hope the story gives you a glimpse into what it’s like to experience this kind of struggle. Infertility often unfolds in the midst of a love story between two people. So, I decided my book needed to focus on the relationship between two people and how the unexpected heartbreak of infertility interrupts their happily ever after. Using the perspective of a royal couple gave me a compelling framework in which to tell the infertility story.
My Infertility Story
When Patrick and I decided we wanted to have a baby, it was such an exciting time in our lives. We had been married for several years; we had jobs we loved, a house with two empty bedrooms, and hearts full of love for our child-to-be. Even way back in high school, we had dreamed about what it would be like if we got married and had kids. So, there was a lot of expectation, hope, and excitement built into our decision to try to get pregnant.
Fast forward ten months. We hadn’t had any luck, so I went to see my doctor who just happened to be very pregnant. She assured me that my youth (mid-20’s) and overall good health would allow me to get pregnant. All I needed was time. She said for someone my age, the odds were overwhelmingly in my favor that I’d be pregnant in the next couple of months. That visit calmed my worries for a time. However, when another six months passed and there wasn’t any hint of double lines on the pregnancy tests, I went to see a different OB/GYN.
Because it had been over a year since we started trying, he suggested in utero insemination (IUI). This was after he ran the usual battery of fertility tests and found no problems. An IUI is a relatively easy and affordable procedure (not covered by insurance), so we agreed. We did two or three of those and had no success. Next, he suggested I have a laparoscopy, outpatient surgery, during which he could try to get a visual on what might be causing us problems. I’d never been under general anesthesia, and that worried me. However, my desire to have a child was extremely strong, so I decided to do it. The surgery didn’t offer us any definitive answers, nor did it allow us to get pregnant.
Keep in mind that during all this anxious waiting, testing, and monthly failures, we carried on with our lives. Very few people knew about the anxiety and anguish our fertility problems caused us. Like so many people who face infertility, we kept it private and held onto our pain in silence. That began to change when we found two other couples through our church who also were going through infertility. When we connected with them, it was like we stumbled into an oasis in the middle of our desert. They could relate to how we felt, the medical tests, and the uncertainty about what to try next. Though I wouldn’t wish infertility on anyone, it was such a relief to find out we weren’t the only ones suffering through this process.
We decided to make one final push to get pregnant. One of the world’s most renowned fertility specialists had a clinic three and a half hours from us. We signed up with him to do one IVF cycle. It was expensive, not covered by insurance, and we had to drive seven hours round trip for every appointment. Once the cycle started, we made the drive multiple times a week for monitoring. In addition, IVF requires women to give themselves multiple shots each day to suppress their body’s normal cycle and override it with medication.
After all the injections, my body only produced three follicles. It was three times better than none, so we were happy. Outpatient surgery allowed the doctor to remove the follicles from my ovaries. Another doctor performed the difficult task of inserting the sperm directly into each egg, minimizing the chance of failure. This tedious work paid off and we had three textbook-perfect embryos. Patrick even named them.
The doctor transferred the embryos into my body, a procedure for which I stayed awake, using relaxation techniques the entire time. Afterward, we stopped at a local pizza joint to celebrate. Two weeks later, I finally had a positive pregnancy test! Everything looked great, and all I had to do was go back to my regular OB/GYN for monitoring.
And that’s when things went downhill.
The Death of a Dream
About six and a half weeks into the pregnancy, the ultrasound tech didn’t find a heartbeat. Then, a few days later, I had a miscarriage. For me, it was the lowest moment in our journey. After an initial cry, I went numb. We even talked to a counselor because I thought I needed to do more wailing and screaming. She assured me it was perfectly appropriate and normal to feel empty, unable to produce anymore tears. Every cell in my body felt barren.
The IVF failure was the turning point for us to talk more seriously about adoption. We realized what was most important to us: having a child, not a pregnancy. I still grieved the loss of biological children, but I was ready to move forward with adoption. Little did we know that each adoption would come to fruition only after we overcame significant difficulties. Still, infertility taught us to persevere, and we did. Three times.
So, I also dedicate my book to the three children who gave me an extraordinary gift: they made me a mother.