Almost twenty years after my seventh IVF, five children, and some four household moves later, I can’t bring myself to get rid of my IVF paperwork. I still have the daily instructions for every cycle, pictures of all of my embryos, and summary charts on each procedure. It’s also still hard to reduce this part of my story into a few sentences, as it always seems shallow and a disservice to the twenty-three-year process to even try and sum it all up. I mean, as you now know the story can fill a book (link to book here)!
Early into my infertility journey, I read a statement that disturbed me: “My infertility resides in my heart as an old friend. I do not hear from it for weeks at a time, and then, a moment, a thought, a baby announcement or some such thing, and I will feel the tug – maybe even be sad or shed a few tears. And I think, ‘There’s my old friend.’ It will always be a part of me.”1 At the time, I rejected this idea entirely. Today, I get what the author of this quote meant. From my viewpoint now, infertility is both my enemy and my friend. The truth of this statement is why I can’t simply discard my IVF paperwork. Although my husband and I now have a “quiver full” of children, we remain infertile. It has never really gone away; it’s grown with me and just become part of who I am.
This page is not meant to be a comprehensive guide on the subject of infertility. Instead, I just hope to pass along some of the wisdom I gathered while journeying down this road, which included a total of seven in-vitro (IVF) and many other procedures during the years we sought treatment.
You are not alone, don’t lose hope.
1. Barbara Eck Menning, Infertility, A Guide for the Childless Couple (New York:Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1988), p. 177.
If you are struggling with infertility, please know that you are not alone. According to RESOLVE, the National Infertility Association, 1 in 8 American couples face infertility today. That is a staggering number and one that just keeps growing. When we first saw a doctor for help in the late 80s, that number was more like 1 in 10 couples. There are many reasons why people have difficulty conceiving. My understanding is that roughly 30% of the time infertility is caused by female factors, 30% of the time it’s male factors, and 30% there are problems on both sides, or the infertility is unexplained.
Regardless of the reason, it’s a lonely diagnosis and one many couples decide to carry in silence. For me, it became important to associate with others who understood how I felt and the pain I carried. RESOLVE offers local support chapters all over the country, in addition to their online communities. There are also many wonderful faith-based support groups on Facebook and other online forums. I’ve listed a few recommendations below in the resource section of this page.
Facing the truth is also very important. It may be tempting to ignore the problem thinking it will go away and you will “get pregnant next month.” However, according to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (link to: https://www.reproductivefacts.org/faqs/frequently-asked-questions-about-infertility/q03-how-is-infertility-diagnosed/), you should seek medical care if you are younger than 35 and unable to get pregnant after a year of unprotected intercourse (if older than 35, seek help after six months).
Speaking of medical advice, I have two words I only wish someone had shared with me:
Please, please, please do not waste your time, money, and emotions on discussions and treatment plans for infertility with an OB/GYN – I don’t care how much you love them or how much they assure you they can help. I wasted so much time with doctors who are not specialists in this area. Seriously, if your doctor offers you a round of Clomid to help you conceive, run the other way. A reproductive endocrinologist will evaluate both partners to determine the exact nature of the problem and then present a targeted treatment plan.
I cannot tell you how amazing it was to finally connect with a team of professionals who truly understood and could treat our problem. Understanding there is not always a solution and that carrying a baby to term might not be possible, there is still tremendous peace of mind that comes from finally getting to the truth and understanding your options.
For us, treatment meant in-vitro, specifically ICSI, but that is not always the case for everyone. We were in the unique position of being ahead of the technology curve and had to wait on the refinement of the procedure we needed. However, there are several other levels of medical intervention that are not as expensive or intrusive. A reproductive endocrinologist will help you develop a treatment plan that is best for your diagnosis.
While treatment presents options, it also presents moral dilemmas. We had to consider our religious beliefs and determine what choices we believed to be ethical and in keeping with our Christian faith. Concepts such as “selective reduction,” “donor sperm,” and the “life at conception” were all issues we had to wrestle through with our doctors and our faith. For example, we had to freeze embryos in one procedure and were forced to comprehend our responsibility to the potential of life these embryos contained. In the pursuit of making a baby, we found that our faith had to inform our decisions and could not be set aside simply to fill my arms. There were many cautious and prayer-filled choices we had to make during our 7 IVF’s that spanned from 1992-2001.
As a point of conclusion, we did eventually have three biological children. My daughter Lydia was born after our fourth IVF in 1997, on what I considered at the time to be my final attempt at treatment.
Miraculously, we learned I was finally pregnant with our first child 10 years to the day after we started trying to conceive. After several more failed procedures, I was blessed with a second pregnancy when Lydia was 4 years old. On my seventh IVF procedure in 2001, we were given our twins, Michael and Isabelle. The day after they were born, I knew my treatment days were behind me and that I would never be pregnant again – I simply knew it was time to close that door.
Parenting after Infertility
As my “miracle children” have started launching into their own lives, I’ve found myself unprepared for the next phase of life – seemingly more so than many of my peers. In this new reality, I keep finding myself viewing parenting through the lens of loss. I’m becoming aware that “my old friend of infertility” is likely still informing my emotions and perspective. As children are not an eraser to the condition or trauma of infertility, I recognize how infertility has likely skewed my parenting.
Parenting after infertility is a complicated issue that not only affects the parents, but the children they are raising. This is an issue that has not received much study, especially the long-term effects on previously infertile parents who are in the phase of launching adult children. Considering that as many as one in eight couples today face infertility, how parents fare after infertility is an important topic worthy of research and discussion. Especially since the trauma of infertility may not be resolved after parenthood, which makes the launching of young adult “miracle children” very challenging.
I believe there is hope and help for those of us who are parenting after infertility. As a Christian, I’m turning to the Bible for answers and hope for this next phase of my journey. I’m also launching a Facebook group to support others walking this same path. I invite you to join me in this discussion whether you became a parent after primary or secondary infertility; have suffered multiple losses through miscarriage, child loss, or the death of a child; or become a parent through foster care and/ or adoption. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been a parent after infertility. We can all learn and support each other towards wholehearted parenting despite the losses we’ve faced on the pathway to our children.
- Baby Hunger – Beth Forbus
- Barren among the Fruitful: Navigating Infertility with Hope, Wisdom, and Patience – Amanda Hope Haley
- Empty Womb, Aching Heart – Marlo Schalesky
- Hannah’s Hope: Seeking God’s Heart in the Midst of Infertility, Miscarriage, and Adoption Loss – Jennifer Saake
- How to Get Pregnant – Sherman J. Silber, M.D.
- In Due Time: Hope and Encouragement in the Waiting – Caroline Harries
- Infertility and PTSD, The Uncharted Storm – Joanna Flemons, LCSW
- Longing for Motherhood: Holding on to Hope in the Midst of Childlessness – Chelsea Patterson Sobolik
- Pain Redeemed, When Our Deepest Sorrows Meet God– Natasha Metzler
- The Infertility Companion – Sandra L. Glahn and William R. Cutrer
- The Long-Awaited Stork: A Guide to Parenting After Infertility – Ellen Sarasohn Glazer
- 31 Days of Prayer During Infertility – Lisa Newton
- Water from the Rock: Finding God’s Comfort in the Midst of Infertility – Donna Gibbs
- When Empty Arms Become a Heavy Burden, Encouragement for Couples Facing Infertility – Sandra L. Glahn and William Cuter, MD
- Dancing Upon Barren Land – Spiritual Nourishment for the Infertility Road – https://dancinguponbarrenland.com
- Hannah’s Prayer Ministries – http://www.hannah.org
- Moms in the Making – Online Infertility Support Group Christian Faith-Based – https://www.momsinthemaking.com/online-group/attachment/online-infertility-support-group-christian-faith-based/
- RESOLVE – The National Infertility Association – https://resolve.org
- Parenting After Infertility Christian Support Group- https://www.facebook.com/groups/parentingafterinfertilitychrisitiansupport
- Sarah’s Laughter – Christian Support for Infertility & Child Loss – https://www.sarahs-laughter.com
- Waiting in Hope Infertility – https://www.waitinginhopeinfertility.com
ASRM – American Society for Reproductive Medicine – https://www.asrm.org