A failed IVF cycle may not be the definition of loss to many, but to me, it was the loss of the potential of what could have been, and it was one of the greatest losses I’ve ever experienced.
My husband and I have been married since August 2008. No, we didn’t do IVF right away, and trust me, it took a while before we both were on board with in vitro fertilization. We were already well over nine years into our journey to conceive before making the decision and it was still one of the hardest decisions we had to make. If we do IVF does that mean we lost our faith in God? If we don’t do IVF, are we limiting God?
Do you know how if feels to experience infertility? Like you’re standing near the gate at the airport hoping to board a plane, yet, you’re watching everyone around you get on the plane and take off. There you stand, just waiting until it’s your turn. That’s what infertility feels like. Every. Single. Month. Watching all of your friends, family, neighbors – everybody, get pregnant while you’re still left waiting, hoping, praying.
My journey seems to be a never-ending one, full of highs and lows, loss, and faith. A story filled with too many blood draws to count, endless ultrasounds (the not so fun kind), invasive tests, and spending ridiculous amounts of money just for the possibility of what others take for granted everyday – children. Unfortunately, the journey to conceive is not always easy and one in eight couples will face infertility. We started trying soon after getting married and we quickly learned that getting pregnant wouldn’t be as easy as we had hoped. We tried tracking ovulation with apps, high doses of fertility drugs with crazy side effects, disgusting herbal supplements, and even some “non-traditional” remedies that I am too embarrassed to mention. You name it, we probably tried it.
After visiting several doctors and undergoing some testing I found out that I had uterine fibroids and my husband suffered from male factor infertility. In 2012, my husband had a varicocele surgery to correct a varicose vein and help with sperm quality. We attempted two Intrauterine inseminations (IUI’s) in 2013 and 2014 and we thought “for sure, this is it!” Unfortunately, both of our IUI’s were unsuccessful and we were devastated. In 2016, I was advised to undergo an open myomectomy to remove 13 fibroids in hopes of finally being able to conceive. Sadly, despite everything we did, we still had no success. After my surgery and a grueling six-week recovery, we relocated to Arizona from Michigan and found that new surroundings and a fresh start was just what we needed to regroup. In Arizona, I found a new reproductive endocrinologist (RE) and we were told our only chance of conceiving would be with IVF. We began IVF in August 2017.
IVF is one of those things where you have no idea what you’re getting yourself into until you begin. I was thinking, “oh, a few shots and some pills, I can do that.” Little did I know the mental, physical, and emotional toll IVF would have on me, my body, my mental health, and my marriage. At one point I was giving myself up to five shots everyday for almost two weeks. Soon, your life revolves around the pills, the shots and the doctor appointments. It almost becomes a part of you. You do everything “right” and there are still no guarantees. You begin to question, “how many eggs will be retrieved, could I have made more eggs, will the eggs fertilize, will there be any embryos left to transfer or freeze?” This is where the mental anguish kicks in. The worry, fear, and waiting to hear the next update from the doctor’s office. IVF by far is one of the hardest things I have endured.
As if IVF wasn’t hard enough, I was caring for my terminally ill mother. I had no idea I would have to deal with my mother passing away right in the middle of my first IVF cycle. Can you imagine having to wake up the morning of your mother’s memorial service and give yourself injections? I still have no idea how I got through that season of my life! Our first IVF cycle (and yes, there was more than one cycle) we ended up with two perfect embryos viable enough to transfer. We thought, “for sure, this is it!” We transferred our only two viable embryos and we were yet again heartbroken when we learned that our embryos implanted, but had stopped growing. Those two embryos were all we had left and we had nothing to show for all of the money, time, and painful injections endured. After a few months of grieving both my mom and the two embryos we lost, my husband and I worked on our physical and mental health and decided to do a second round of IVF. We started the second IVF round in December 2017 and this time we have three viable embryos. My next embryo transfer in April and I am proceeding with cautious optimism.
Infertility is one of those things that people suffer in silence with, especially in our community. I searched online for resources while undertaking IVF, and sadly, there were very few people that looked like me talking about it. In 2017, I felt led to be more open with my story in order to encourage others. I started my YouTube channel Fruitful and began documenting my journey, while providing support to others in the wait. Sharing my story has been both cathartic and terrifying, all at the same time, but I have received nothing but love and support from others.
If it wasn’t for my faith in God, I know I would not have been able to make it almost ten years on this journey. I know everyone has their own set of beliefs, but when battling infertility, I think it is crucial to gather your strength from a higher being. My advice to other women of color battling infertility is to never go through it alone, find a trusted resource or a close friend and talk about it. It can be frightening at first, opening up about something so personal, but once you do, you’ll feel as if a weight has been lifted off your shoulders. It is unfortunate that infertility and loss are not discussed enough in the minority community. Many people of color are left to feel shame, embarrassment, or isolated in their struggle. This is why I choose to share my story and will continue to do so until all of my sisters in the wait are comforted and encouraged! I want you to know that you are enough, you are worthy, you are not inferior! Infertility and loss may be a part of your life, but it does not have to define you. You are not alone!