This past April Husband and I officially met the clinical definition for infertility. We had timed, unprotected sex for 12 full months and did not get pregnant. It’s hard for me to believe that only one year ago I was overjoyed at the prospect of becoming pregnant, of carrying life in my body, becoming a mother and seeing Husband become a father. The past year has been the most difficult of my life. I’ve had to relearn how to handle my raging hormones and pms, deal with the repeated let down of getting my period, keeping the secret of our plight and the isolation that comes with it.
The past month has been by far the worst. Infertility is no longer an abstract idea, something that exists only in our minds, it’s real. We are now among the 1 in 6 couples in America that experience fertility issues. Dealing with this is hard, like, really hard. No one prepared me for this. No one thought to tell us that getting pregnant isn’t easy. When you’re in sex-ed at school you’re told that you have to be SO careful to not get pregnant because it ‘only takes one time’. I can’t even count the number of times we’ve had sex in the past year with no baby. Part of me feels betrayed, like I’ve been lied to this whole time.
Later this month Husband and I will go to our first appointment with a reproductive endocrinologist, a fertility specialist. After a month of doing preliminary tests, and dealing with the beast that is our insurance company, we can finally begin to move forward.
Let me just say, dealing with the insurance company has been nothing short of a nightmare. We have an HMO, we got this plan because it was less expensive and we didn’t think going through a primary care physician would be that much trouble. As a woman, I am allowed by our plan to see a OB/GYN within my network without a referral. Enter: Amy, my midwife/women’s health care physician. I’ve been seeing her for all my check-ups and preliminary fertility tests. When Husband and I signed up for this insurance plan, we choose our insurance group because of Amy and the team she works with. What we did not realize is that this group has religious affiliations, and will not send referrals for any kind of reproductive health. No abortions, no sterilizations, and (I still can’t get over this) no fertility services. I spent a month trying to get this referral before I was told I needed to call my insurance company for it. After an hour on the phone (most of that spent on hold) being transferred from department to department I was finally sent to a lady who listened to my request, typed a few things, ran down the line of “have you been having unprotected sex for a year” questions, asked what doctor I’d like to see, and then said “ok, I’ve just sent your referral, I’d give the doctors office a couple hours to get that processed and then give them a call.” She was so chill while I’m on the other end of the line with obvious relief and surprise in my voice, “Really? That’s it? Oh my gosh, thank you so much, I’ve been trying to get this figured out for a month, thank you so much!”
The emotional toll this process has already taken on me is immense. For several months I’ve noticed that I am sad, stressed, overwhelmed, (take your pick) more often than not. I started to realize I don’t feel like myself, I’ve fallen into a pit and I can’t seem to pull myself out. My primary care physician gave me the preliminary diagnosis of ‘moderate depression’ or ‘reactive depression’, and referred me to a therapist. I am now in therapy for the first time in my life. It’s strange, I never thought this would be me. I have, for many years, said that mental health is important and there should be no stigma or judgment for those who need mental health services. I’ve urged people to seek help if they aren’t okay, to not be ashamed of metal illness. Now I find myself in that position and I do feel the stigma, I’m afraid of being judged, or being thought of as weak. As the 3 people in my life that know I’m in therapy have been nothing but compassionate, understanding, and supportive, this is largely in my head. Yet, what’s in my head, was put there while growing up in the south, hearing over and over again people talking in whispers about whoever that was in therapy or someones relative that was “crazy” and needed meds to be normal. “Why can’t they just be happy?” or “If they’d just work on their relationship with God, they’d get better.” The stigma and the judgment is real, as much as I wish it weren’t.
I’m not ready to ‘come out’ to my family and friends (other than my closest friends), and that’s okay. For now, I’ll come out anonymously, to the internet. In conclusion of this admittedly rambling post, I’ll say these few things: Infertility is hard, it sucks, and it’s completely unfair. But it’s also common, no one is alone in this. Depression and other mental illness is real, it’s hard, and it sucks. Get help if you need it and do not feel bad or ashamed or weak for it. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength.
From a Ted Talk I heard recently:
“Talk to your friends. Talk to your loved ones. Talk to health professionals. Be vulnerable. Do so with the confidence that you are not alone. Speak up if you’re struggling. Being honest about how we feel does not make us weak; it makes us human.” -Sangu Delle
Full Talk here: