Infertility – an emotion packed term that effects millions of couples in the United States, “11% of the reproductive-age” women, according to The American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM). For these couples, having a doctor confirm their fears is both a punch in the gut and a reassurance that they’re not crazy – they are struggling and now there is something to rally against.
Maggie and Brandon are one couple finding their way through this “tiring and ugly and emotionally draining” process. They’re naturally a joy-filled, faithful, and fun-loving couple who knew from the moment they met that they would be a family. Realizing that dream hasn’t happened how they thought, though, and it’s been rough, but they’re not alone.
Maggie admits, “When we started this journey, I didn’t know how many people had actually been down this path.”
Isn’t that what many of us think when we’re facing something so hard to swallow? We often feel alone and scared, even if we’re determined to move forward or fight for our goals. Maggie was no different as she started questioning why she and her husband weren’t conceiving after a year of fooling around like newlyweds do. At that point they weren’t doing anything to protect against getting pregnant, knowing and hoping they could make a baby! Even though they weren’t applying pressure to each other, they weren’t pregnant either. And that is the definition of infertility – a year or more of unprotected intercourse without a resulting pregnancy.
They may have begun to wonder after that first year of practice-makes-not-so-perfect, but they didn’t see a doctor for a few months more, still hoping things would work out but also worrying there might be something wrong. Thankfully, when they did, the first doctor they encountered didn’t patronize them. Instead, he reassured Maggie by telling her, “That I should never feel like my concerns weren’t valid just because I wasn’t over the age of forty with standout issues that would explain my infertility.” These were words she hung on to as she faced many less considerate comments and even a slew of helpful hints – link how to eat, what position to have sex in, and suggestions of doctors to visit. Most people were well-meaning, but even well-intentioned comments were sometimes hard to hear.
Maggie and Brandon, both in their early 20’s, went through tests to determine the nature of their infertility, finding out that they are considered an “unknown fertility case.” This puts them in the company of almost seven percent of the couples diagnosed as infertile, according to the ASRM. Without knowing what the exact issue is, they have tried a few different treatments. They’ve gone through Chlomid treatments, Intrauterine Insemination, and Letrozole shots. The side effects (nausea, headaches, fatigue, spotting) and stress of these treatments were compounded by an intense Naval career and schedule, with unpredictable hours, times away from home for Brandon and even a cross-country move. After settling into their new home they met with another new doctor – at the third hospital they’d been referred to. They discussed more treatment options, maybe trying some of what they’d already done again. In the end, Maggie decided to stop all treatments and let her body rest. “For now, we are having lots of fun practicing!” Good for the two of you, I say!
During the time the couple wondered if something was wrong, got confirmation something actually was, and still didn’t get pregnant – they did their best to keep their spirits up. These were the first years of their young marriage and they were poked, prodded and questioned by so many – including a doctor who unfortunately told Maggie that her, “Concerns are premature and I should be grateful I’m healthy.” They leaned heavily on family and friends to help them stay positive. Two of Maggie’s best friends are nurses, and she showered them with questions and tears. “It was such a comfort to have them there to explain doctor talk and what I should do. The best piece of advice from them was that I had to be my own advocate.”
I asked Maggie what advice she would give to others discovering they’re in the same boat. Her answer is beautiful.
“I want to say, ‘Don’t stop loving each other.’ Through all the talks of what to do next for treatments, or when will we make the decision to proceed or not with what treatment next, or when I was having those huge emotional breakdowns because I felt I was failing him as his wife, he said to me, ‘I love you. We will figure this out, but no matter what, I’ll always love you.’
At the end of the day, he’s my reason for wanting children. I met that man and I knew I wanted to have my children with him. We have loved as best friends from the beginning and we have loved through the hardest times together. Don’t stop loving each other! Just don’t!”
Maggie and Brandon are an example and inspiration to all couples, whether we’re infertile or not – “Don’t stop loving each other! Just don’t!”
Maggie and Brandon are moving forward in their desire to have a baby. Today Maggie started a blog to share that continued journey. Please visit it and support them with your warmest wishes, positive energy, and prayers.
You can find more information regarding infertility at www.asrm.org.
This was first posted in the online publication HaveHeart Magazine. Please check it out for more of my writing and some other wonderful works as well.