Infertility is the diagnosis given when a couple is not able to become pregnant despite having carefully timed, unprotected sex for one year. There are more than 200,000 cases of infertility in the United States each year.
The causes of infertility may include inadequate levels of hormones in both men and women. Women who have difficulty with ovulation may be at risk for infertility as well.
Treatment may significantly improve your chances of becoming pregnant. Treatments for infertility include hormone treatments, fertility medications (IVF), and surgery. Various medical techniques can also be used in assisted reproduction to fertilize an egg.
April 24th through April 30th 2016 was National Infertility Awareness Week and it prompted us to open the door to this blog post.
Infertility has somehow become a "taboo" subject and one that many who are experiencing it, don't feel comfortable talking about openly for fear of being judged.
For many families, infertility can be a very lonely place.
It is difficult for those who are not experiencing infertility to be empathetic and supportive of those who are, simply because they don't understand it or the reprucussions that accompany it.
We reached out to Elizabeth, a former client, and relative of Northeast Doulas co-owner, Debbie Aglitetti. We asked her to share her story of infertility with us in hopes of removing the "taboo" for our readers.
Buckle up. Infertility is one hell of a roller coaster ride.
When Elizabeth and her husband, Ray decided to start their family they became pregnant right away.
"When we went to our 3 month prenatal appointment, the baby had no heartbeat... that was the first one." Elizabeth shared.
After being made to feel like they were 'just a number' at a large practice, Elizabeth and Ray switched to a local provider that would give them the attention they needed.
Again, Elizabeth became pregnant only to endure the same devastating news, no heartbeat. This time, Elizabeth was being closely monitored and they found out very early on.
After their second miscarriage, the hopeful couple decided to see a specialist. Under the care of the specialist, Elizabeth suffered two more miscarriages.
"Next, we switched to Boston IVF and were seeing a doctor there who said to us, "you guys should probably just consider adoption."
After Ray and Eliszbeth's experiences in Boston they broadened their search and started seeing a Doctor in New York.
Elizabeth remembers taking the bus down to Chinatown to get soy infusions. She jokingly referred to this bus as "the fun bus."
"A different Doctor in New York who gave us so much hope. Put me on a whole different coctail of medication." says Elizabeth.
Elizabeth had 10 miscarriage total.
Next came a reference to a Dr. Brian Berger.
Elizabeth shared that during the consult with Dr. Berger, he looked through all of their records and noticed something that all of their other providers had overlooked.
A septate uterus is a common type of congenital uterine anomaly, and it may lead to an increased rate of pregnancy loss.
"I had more miscarriages with him and we went through IVF."
Elizabeth recalls the moment she realized...
The couple began the adoption process and were planning to do an open adoption. "We had our case studies done and everything was ready to go" Elizabeth said.
But when they went back to Dr. Berger he said,
"If you are open to adoption, why not just use a donor egg?"
He explained to the couple that they would be able to control so much more of the process. The doctor asked us if there was a family member that we would feel comfortable asking.
Elizabeth doesn't have sisters but she and Ray began to considered her cousin, Catherine.
Ray and Elizabeth asked Catherine at their family's Christmas party and she quickly said, "yes, of course."
"It is a big decision and I want you to talk it over with Ryan (her husband) and spend some time on it before you decide," Elizabeth said.
"Catherine came over a few months later on Easter and gave us this egg. The egg was symbolic of her answer that she would do it for us."
That summer Catherine went through IVF and spent the summer with Ray and Elizabeth.
"We chose two embryos and implanted both. That was Henry!" Elizabeth shares.
The couple had four frozen, and when Henry was 10 months old, they tried again for baby #2.
None of the embryos survived the thaw.
Elizabeth's brother stepped in and called Catherine's husband, Ryan. He said, "Elizabeth and Ray really want to have another child but they don't know how to approach you guys becuase it was such a big deal the first time" and Ryan said "They should just ask, I am pretty sure it would be fine."
They made the phone call and as Ryan suspected, it was fine!
and then came... Anna!
We share Elizabeth and Ray's story with you in hopes of shining a bright and hopeful light on the dark days of infertility. As doulas, we are witness to and know the strength of desire a family has when they wish to conceive. We are hopeful for those who are facing this, and we encourage you to find compassion for those who struggle with the devastation of infertility.