By the time you reach your 30s, the “F” word thrown around in girls’ night out dinner conversations is much different than the carefree version from your 20s. The other “F” word I’m referring to in this case is fertility—or more specifically, infertility. I always thought I had at least until age 40 before I really needed to worry about my chances of conceiving a child, but I was shocked to learn the at-risk age is actually 35. My biological clock was tick-tocking away. I had officially bypassed my “fertile” years, according to nature. It’s certainly possible to have a baby in your 40s—women do it every day—but it comes at a greater risk of complications, birth defects, etc. Come to find out, the window to conceive is extremely narrow…unless you’re a 17-year-old virgin on prom night!
Now I realize that in today’s day and age, mid 30s is not too late as many women are choosing to conceive later in life once they’ve graduated college, gotten married and established a career. Also, the medical advances in recent years have made thousands of parents who would otherwise never have been able to have children on their own. There is definitely no limit of options available to a fertility-challenged woman who wants to have kids. However, the physical, mental and emotional roller coaster that accompanies fertility treatments is no picnic.
As I sit here typing this article with a 5-month-old baby at home, I wonder if I even have the right to pen a blog about fertility issues. BUT, I will say that even though we were blessed with a perfectly healthy, precious baby boy, the road to get there was not without its challenges. When Jeremy and I started our journey to have kids and it didn’t happen right away, it was very disheartening. I always thought it would happen whenever I was “ready.” (Is anyone really ever ready?) Like life-altering illnesses, fertility problems are not really relatable unless you’ve experienced them first hand. Most of us know at least one or two couples who have tried countless times and failed to conceive, but we never really know what it’s like until we’ve walked a mile in their shoes. Of course, why would anyone expect you understand the pain and suffering if you never struggled to get pregnant? I certainly never “got” it before it became my own reality. When had I become the girl who cried in the car on the way home from a friend’s baby shower? Now granted, it may have been a result of mixing a champagne cocktail with PMS, but still. Something inside me began to feel broken. The ability to give birth is one of the oldest and most natural acts in the world, yet somehow, my body had failed me.
Finally after several months of trying, a visit to the fertility doc revealed I had polyps blocking the opening to the cervix and a misshapen uterus with a septum. We were advised that I needed to have surgery to address the problems before continuing on with any type of fertility treatments. After the surgery was completed, we tried IUI (intra-uterine insemination). When that didn’t work, we were ready to bust out the big guns and go straight to in vitro fertilization (IVF). I was anesthetized and my harvested eggs were extracted. Once the retrieved eggs were fertilized, the embryos were frozen. What next? A waiting game. Once I started my next cycle, it was time to implant the frozen embryo. However, we never made it that far as the very next month, we conceived naturally by the grace of God. To this day, we have those three frozen embryos in storage. Should we not end up needing them, we’ve decided we’d like to donate them to a less fortunate couple who cannot conceive on their own.
My fertility trek, though a short one, gave me a glimpse of the sadness and emotional rollercoaster that is infertility. My heart breaks for those couples who struggle to conceive as I’ve been there, done that. Again, unless you’ve experienced the emotions firsthand, it’s difficult to understand the pain. I’m much more in tune with people’s feelings and rarely ever ask, “So why don’t you have kids yet?” You never know what’s going on beneath the surface. It’s not always a couple’s decision to forgo having kids.
Perhaps my experience was intended to give me empathy for others who struggle. If that’s you–hang in there. My mom always told me to trust God’s perfect timing in life. I’m glad I did. I never thought I would get married, but at 33, I walked down the aisle and married the love of my life. Then at 35, I gave birth to the most precious baby boy who ever lived. Do I wish I had started younger so as not to be the “old mom” by the time my son graduates high school? Sure, but that was not part of the greater plan—and now I cannot imagine it any other way.