I’ve always told myself that I would share my story of infertility after I got pregnant or had kids. But almost 6 years after Dwayne and I started trying to build our family I’ve realized that the ascent up the mountain of life doesn’t happen in a straight line. There will be rocks to climb over and even dips along the way. You might not end up being able to take the original path you set out on or even make it to the top. And while this is by far the most vulnerable story I have ever shared, telling it now feels right in hopes that I can not only offer some support and compassion to myself but to anyone else who might be suffering with their own challenges.
Our story starts off on a happy note when a little less than a year after we first decided to start our family I found out I pregnant. As someone who has always been conscious of her health I was surprised by how long that seemed to take compared to most of our friends. Still seeing those positive pink lines was one of the happiest moments in my life.
But it wasn’t even a week later that I knew something was wrong when I started bleeding and having cramps. Without trying to worry too much I went to the emergency room where I spent hours waiting. I was sent home and then to a larger hospital the next morning where after many tests I was told I had a miscarriage. It was one of the saddest experiences I’ve had to endure. For the next week I couldn’t move far from the couch as I grieved the precious baby we were already so excited to bring into the world.
But something still didn’t feel right.
I continued to bleed and have cramps for another week. My doctor told me not the worry however as this can be normal with miscarriages, but would send me for ultrasounds and test just in case since my HCG levels were still rising. Of course a small glimmer of hope rose up in me but I tried not to get excited knowing how hard the past week had been.
Another week had passed and I finally got in for my ultrasound. Nothing showed up on the regular ultrasound but thankfully the tech wanted to do a trans-vaginal just in case. There she and the radiologist discovered an ectopic pregnancy in my left fallopian tube. Due to how long it had gone undetected I was immediately sent upstairs to have emergency surgery given the life-threatening dangers an ectopic pregnancy causes when the tube ruptures if left too long.
After the surgery I woke up feeling even more grief than before. Not only is it impossible to save the embryo with an ectopic pregnancy, but they had to remove my left tube as well since it was too damaged. I had to grieve the loss of our baby not once but twice within a few weeks.
Almost 5 years after my surgery, several trips to the IWK and fertility clinic, and many tests later we have been diagnosed with what’s called “secondary infertility”. That means there is no known reason why we haven’t been able to conceive again. And while this sounds like it should be a positive thing, this also means there is nothing for us to be able to specifically treat and it definitely gives us no closure.
Of course the good news is that it doesn’t mean we won’t be able to conceive a child. But it’s also hard for me not to think that something is wrong with me and to look for the cause so that I can “fix it”. Trust me when I say we have tried almost everything (including taking a year off “trying”) and it is emotionally and physically draining.
Infertility has been the hardest and most isolating challenge I have ever experienced. And while I have had some great support in the process, both from those who have gone through similar situations and those who haven’t, it’s not something anyone else can truly understand because each of our stories and cases are different.
While there has been more and more awareness in recent years infertility is still not something that is talked about openly. There is a stigma and shame that is associated with infertility, assumptions, and lack of knowledge. Talking about it can make others feel uncomfortable or even say things they might not realize are hurtful. I’ve heard them all…
“Trust me you don’t want kids.” OR “You’re better off without kids”.
“I’d never want to have kids in today’s day and age”.
“Don’t stress. It will happen when you least expect it”.
“My friend tried x, y and z and it worked for them”.
“Your so lucky you don’t have kids”.
Just to name a few, each one as painful as the other because they all come from people who are not in our situation. We want to have a family and that is OUR choice. And while I generally try to brush them off or chalk it down to people not knowing what to say it’s one of the main reasons I haven’t told my story until now.
If there is one thing that infertility teaches you quickly is that many of us actually have a lot less control over our fertility than we realize. But we’re unfortunately not usually taught that which can make those of us struggling feel shame, unworthy, and like something is wrong with us.
As young girls playing with dolls we are told we will make a good mommy someday. And then when we are a young newlyweds not wanting to start a family quite yet we do everything we can to prevent it. Then when the desire to start a family grows we’re not taught how long it takes takes on average for a couple to conceive, how that changes as we age, or how it doesn’t necessarily happen for everyone. It’s often not long after marriage our families and friends start asking us when we are having kids, or even telling us we don’t want to have kids assuming we have a choice or that they should impose their opinions on us. It’s no wonder there is so much stigma, shame, and misunderstanding associated with infertility.
While infertility is a medical condition it is often not recognized by others because it’s an invisible illness. But studies show that the stress of infertility is similar to the stress of cancer and other serious medical conditions. That means the mental health implications of infertility are the same as these serious conditions, so asking someone not to stress about infertility is the same as asking someone not to stress about cancer. But the deference is most people would never tell someone with cancer not to stress…
Of course I’m a big believer that a positive mindset, gratitude, and faith can help you cope with any challenge. It’s what’s helped me get though these past 6 years. But it certainly hasn’t been an easy road so compassion for myself and taking care of my mental health are key.
Not all days of my journey are bad days. In fact I have good ones more than not. But even so the little reminders are always there.
Every month when my period show ups. Every baby shower. Every pregnancy announcement. Every time someone asks us if we have or want kids. Every special moment I spend with my friends’ beautiful children.
Don’t get me wrong I love my friends kids and enjoy seeing the joy their children bring. But I’ve realized it’s ok to be happy for others and sad for myself at the same time especially when becoming a mother is something I’ve desired most of my life. And that’s where self-love and empathy come in. I know we will have a family of our own someday whether it’s soon or in paradise. And until then I’m not giving up hope.
If you are reading this and are struggling with infertility, pregnancy loss, or any other challenge I want you to know you are not alone even though I know it often feels that way. You are not broken and there is nothing wrong with you. You are resilient and as much as it is hard you will make it through – one day at a time.
With all my love,
Krissy – xo