Infertility is defined as the inability to get pregnant after 12 or more months of regular unprotected sexual intercourse. It effects 1 in 8 American couples and can be caused my numerous underlying conditions or may simply never be explained at all. What the medical definition doesn’t tell you is the following: the jealousy, the emptiness, the bitterness and the overall hurt that comes with this diagnosis. It doesn’t come with a warning label detailing the embarrassing personal invasive tests and procedures, the countless vials of blood, the (oftentimes not-so-pleasant) side effects from medicines, and the months of testing.
The only thing that statistic tells you is that chances are someone you know is struggling with the inability to get pregnant, and you might not even know it.
While it is recognized as a disease, it is not treated as one. Only 15 states have laws requiring insurance coverage for infertility treatments. Many are left to pay out-of-pocket for expensive treatments that are their only hope of experiencing pregnancy and having their genetic child. Many have to face living child-free when they are unable to afford treatments or adoption. There is no way to put into words the emotional heartbreak one feels when faced with living child-free because you cannot afford treatments or adoption.
Many people choose to fight infertility alone and not share their battle. Many who choose to share their journey are faced with friends, co-workers, family, who want to help but cannot begin to comprehend the emotional aspects of infertility. Those with infertility often feel isolated – they feel like a failure. After all a 16 year old drug addict has no problem getting pregnant multiple times, why can’t I? They feel like they are letting their spouse and family down. They feel lost and broken. They grieve each failed cycle. They grieve the inability to have a child with their genetic make up. They grieve the loss of being a parent. They grieve the loss of giving their parents a grandchild. They grieve the loss of the ability to be hopeful and excited because they have been let down one to many times.
However, are there positives that can develop from this journey. You can either choose to strengthen your marriage, or let this battle tear you apart. I’ve chosen the first option, but it wasn’t always that way. When we were first diagnosed with infertility over 4 years ago, I quickly became angry and bitter. I often took out my frustrations on the one person who was also suffering through this with me, my husband. I have learned a great deal about the whole “For Better or For Worse” part of the vows I took nearly 6 years ago. I have learned what it really means to talk through the difficult things, and listen – I mean really listen to what your spouse has to say. I’ve learned not to place blame, either on my husband or myself. I’ve learned to be honest, with my spouse, with family and friends, and most importantly with myself. I’ve learned the importance of celebrating each other, instead of losing myself in the notion that we are not yet a family of 3 – that we make time to celebrate what time we have left as a family of two. You can either choose to thank God for the abundant blessings He has already bestowed upon your life instead of dwelling upon the fact that He has failed to answer the one prayer you ask of Him daily. That’s what I’ve chose to do, but again, it wasn’t always that way. I got so comfortable with the daily blessings that I overlooked them, and it’s taken this significant trial in my life to realize now how much I already have to be thankful for. Infertility left me with strength, strength I didn’t know I had deep within me to pull through the hardest parts of my life, a strong marriage having faced this journey together, and has strengthened my faith far beyond where I thought possible.
It might sound odd to some that I’ve chosen to look beyond the diagnosis of infertility and focus on the good that has come into my life because of it. While I didn’t choose this diagnosis, I did choose how to respond to it, because we are 1 in 8.