Decisions is a series dedicated to the choices we make in our lives and the factors that led us to our given resolutions. We welcome guest posts to this series to hear about how you’ve tackled a life decision. Email your story ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.
In today’s post, I talk about how my husband and I decided to move forward with fertility treatments so we could have a kid.
Making a baby should have been easy. Birds do it. Bees do it. Even educated fleas do it! Teenagers do it all the time, according to MTV reality shows. And yet, this nice married lady with a stable job, common sense and a great husband COULD NOT DO IT.
I was relatively young (under 30) and otherwise healthy when I was diagnosed as infertile. But the facts are clear: My ovaries didn’t (and don’t) produce mature eggs without pharmaceutical help, and those eggs are essential to creating babies. I wasn’t going to get pregnant naturally, no matter how excellent my husband’s sperm nor how frequently we, ahem, practiced.
So my doctors prescribed pills, which were easy enough.
>A larger dose of pills followed. Then another dose, above the FDA-recommended amount. Still no results. As a last-ditch effort to try “the easy way,” my doctor agreed to try a different type of pill (typically prescribed to postmenopausal breast cancer patients but could also be used stimulate ovaries in younger women).
During this period of several months, I’d play the Annie Lennox song “Little Bird” and cry in my car. It was these lyrics that really sucker-punched me at the time.
My my, I feel so low
My my, where do I go?
My my, what do I know?
We were down to a couple options: We could wait, indefinitely, to see if my ovaries might, someday, start working. Or we could take the plunge and do in vitro fertilization, a process that would require weeks of pills, shots, blood draws to monitor hormones, and ultrasounds to monitor my lady parts. If things went well, we’d end up with a whole bunch of eggs that could be fertilized with my husband’s sperm, which would lead to an embryo that we could transfer to my uterus, which would become a baby. If things didn’t go well, we’d end up with no embryos, I could potentially get “hyperstimulated” and end up hospitalized with fluid in my abdomen, and we’d end up with no baby.
Here’s what pushed us to do IVF:
Factor 1: I wanted to experience the joy of my own kids and being a mom.
From the age of 13, I baby sat for kids that lived down the street and offspring of my parents’ friends. In high school, I’d been a part-time nanny to a music teacher, spending two afternoons a week with a cute toddler. Kids were funny and delightful to me. My own mom is wonderful and loving. Motherhood was never a question for me; I saw it as a certain part of my future identity. Infertility meant that “identity” could be off the table, but IVF would give me the chance to make this dream a reality.
Factor 2: My husband wanted to have kids and be a dad.
I married a funny, nerdy, great-with-kids guy. He wanted to be a dad. He even worked at a toy and baby store, and he knew all about car seats, strollers, the best toys for each age group, and how to handle cranky pregnant women. Becoming parents was something we both wanted. It was a terrible irony that he’d coupled with an infertile lady, while working with irritable, needy pregnant women for several years.
Factor 3: We had great health insurance in a state with good fertility coverage.
For a lot of couples, fertility treatments are so expensive that it’s impossible to consider them. If you don’t have health insurance at all, you’d have to pay out of pocket, which can cost thousands of dollars, depending on what tests and treatments you need. But a lot of health insurance plans simply don’t see infertility as a condition that warrants treatment. And state laws vary about what is mandated coverage for different treatment options. Fortunately, we lived in Illinois at the time, which has some of the better state laws on the topic. I also had great health insurance that covered not only most of the procedures, but also a good chunk of the pharmaceuticals.
Factor 4: I ran out of “easy” options.
If those pills had worked, I’d have stopped there. If acupuncture had worked, I’d have stopped with that. If crying on the phone with my parents had done ANYTHING other than make me feel like an emotional wreck, I’d have called it a day. If attending a support group with other infertile women had given me a baby, I’d have stopped there. (They did make me feel connected and informed, and I can’t put a value on how helpful that was, though.)
I did all that. And none of that made a baby.
Factor 5: Our lack of religious ties cleared the path for any murky ethical discussions about our embryos.
My husband and I aren’t tied to any religious groups. He leans toward atheist and I sway toward humanist-agnostic (though I used to be churchy as a teenager). There are a few religions that frown on IVF as interfering with God’s will, or where ALL embryos must be transferred to respect life (despite current medical recommendations to transfer only one embryo in women under 35).
But we didn’t have any religious reasons to skip IVF. This was science and medicine offering a solution to a health condition.
And bonus: The laboratory where our remaining embryos are stored allows donation to other infertile couples who may have sperm- or egg-quality issues. We feel a tiny bit better that another couple might benefit from those embryos. (Some labs allow you to donate frozen embryos for research, which will ultimately help them get more couples pregnant in the future.)
Factor 6: I didn’t really want to give myself shots, but I could DO IT.
No one WANTS to give herself shots in the legs, belly, and bum, but I don’t have a fear of needles or any history of passing out from seeing blood. This was a manageable task. I could do it. People with all sorts of chronic medical conditions have to give themselves shots, so I could certainly do it for a few weeks.
Enter Annie Lennox again.
Give me the strength to carry on
Till I can lay this burden down.
Give me the strength to lay this burden down…
I’ve got a feeling that it might have been blessed
So I’ve just got to put these wings to test.
We marched forward with in vitro fertilization.It wasn’t fun, between the shots, frequent doctor’s appointments, anesthetized medical procedure, painful bloating, and waiting to find out results.
But for an infertile lady, I got lucky. The first time worked.
Now, three years later, I have a crazy toddler who doles out occasional hugs, is starting to parrot back “Love you!” and occasionally has tantrums that can be resolved with candy bribes. He likes playing with trains, watching YouTube videos of people opening “surprise eggs,” and eating fancy cheese. A few days ago, he started saying, “Thank you for the kiss,” when I gave him a peck on the cheek.
What I’m saying is: I can finally listen to Annie Lennox without crying. And those shots in the bum were totally worth it.