One of my biggest goals, in being open about my infertility, is to spread awareness and I love being able to do so through this blog, especially when it becomes an outlet for people to tell their story and offer their perspective. A week and a half ago, I participated in The Walk of Hope (post and pictures coming soon) and also had a dear friend volunteer to share her story here.
Leah and I became acquainted through the online infertility community and she and her husband have decided to pursue adoption earlier than they had originally planned, due to infertility. Without further ado, here's Leah!
I’d like to start by thanking Sam for inviting me to share my story. IF is not something that is often thought of or discussed, but it’s something many of us struggle with. And while I am so grateful for the different options that are available now to “treat” infertility, it’s something that becomes a part of you and forever changes the way you think and view the world.
How long have you been trying, what is your diagnosis, what treatment methods have you tried (and if you feel comfortable) what has been the financial cost of treatment?
I stopped taking birth control in November 2012 and we started trying in earnest in January 2013. After a year without success, we went to have testing done at the RE. Unfortunately we were diagnosed with unexplained infertility, which essentially means that the testing is not advanced enough to actually be able to define the cause. We both had some borderline lab abnormalities, but nothing that was obviously the cause of our IF. Prior to having IF, I had decided that I never wanted to undergo IF treatment, so it was quite the internal struggle after hitting the year mark and trying to decide what to do next. However, in looking up adoption, I realized what a huge financial commitment adoption is, so we decided to do a few treatment cycles of clomid/IUI before pursuing adoption. Unfortunately my first cycle got cancelled due to over-response on the low dose clomid (which is why you NEED to be monitored while on clomid. I had 6-7 follies on 50 mg of clomid; there was no way I would have known without ultrasound monitoring). The next 2 cycles we had 1 and 2 follicles respectively and were able to do the IUI, however unfortunately both ended in BFNs. We were lucky enough to have insurance coverage for testing (except for random bills that got rejected ~$5-600), but treatment is 100% OOP for us. For those three cycles, with one cancelled, we probably spent between $3-4,000.
How has infertility affected your life?
Infertility has had a huge effect on my life. Many negative, and some that are positive. I have never been as sad/close to depression as I was while coming to terms with IF and going through failed treatment cycles. I feel like it’s also made me more pessimistic/bitter. Sometimes it’s hard to imagine that good things can really happen when you’re faced with so many failures. On the positive side, I do feel like I’ve become more empathetic. You never have any idea what people are going through. My decision to do treatment after deciding that I “never” would also helped me to appreciate how easy it is to judge people’s decisions, but unless you’ve been in the place to have to make that decision, you have no idea what you would really do. I think that’s a really important thing to keep in mind instead of making snap judgments about others. Another positive is that through IF, I have met the most amazing, supportive people.
What is the hardest part about treatment?
The BFNs. As hard as natural cycle negatives are, the treatment cycles are so much worse.
What made you decide to “come out” about your infertility?
I decided to come out about my IF because I’m a pretty open book. Plus I hate the stigma that IF has. If you tell someone you have diabetes or had appendicitis you get offered sympathy. If you tell someone you have IF they tell you to “relax” or “just get drunk.” Plus, I felt like I was carrying around this terrible burden that I couldn’t share with anyone. There are just certain situations that are difficult to be around while struggling with IF. And at least if people know, there can be some understanding about why you might not be able to hold your friend’s newborn baby or why you might leave a baby shower a little early. Luckily, everyone has been super supportive since I’ve come out about our IF.
What made you decide to move on from infertility treatments to adoption?
Adoption has always been something that I’ve been interested in. In an ideal world, we would have had 4 bio children and then adopted or fostered once our kids were older. So when it came time to decide, IF treatment or adoption, we were happy to go ahead and get testing done. If they could just tell us what was wrong and there was a treatment/fix for it. Unfortunately, we got the dreaded unexplained IF. Which in a way gives you hope that maybe someday you’ll get pregnant naturally and you just need more time, but in another way just says they don’t really know what’s wrong or how to treat it. As I mentioned above, the only thing that really pushed us towards IF treatment in the first place was cost. After a few failed IUI cycles, my husband and I had to sit down and have the talk about whether we were willing to go forward with IVF or adoption. I know that people do more IUI cycles than we did, but being 100% OOP, we just needed to do something with higher success rates. The pricing between IVF and adoption around here is about comparable, especially if you have to do more than one cycle. And since adoption was what was really in my heart rather than more IF treatment, we decided to go ahead with adoption at that time.
What has been the most difficult part of your adoption journey?
I think the two most difficult parts about adoption are the financial burden and the unpredictability. Going with domestic infant adoption, you’re looking at pretty significant costs, especially when you don’t make tons of money and have a lot of school debt. We’ve had to make pretty significant changes in our money spending patterns – missing my good friend’s wedding in Mexico being one of them. We also have looked into more unique ways of saving money like plasma donation. Now, don’t get me wrong, I do not regret any of these things for one second and it is SO worth it. But on bad days it just seems unfair to think of much you are financially invested into something that for many people happens for free. Plus then after you have this huge investment you still have all the same costs that other parents have. The unpredictability was also a huge struggle for me. At least with IF, I knew approximately when I was going to be disappointed every month. With adoption, you can go from having a totally normal day, to finding out that a baby was born and they need to know rightthissecond if you’d be interested, to being devastated that the mother chose someone else all within a 24 hour period. It’s really hard to reconcile all of those feelings and still go about your normal day. And I guess I’ll add a third thing that I’ve struggled with: that feeling of not being worthy. At least with domestic infant adoption, it’s the expectant mother who hand picks which couple is chosen. Which is great, I’m happy that she has the opportunity because I’m sure that makes this terribly difficult decision just a little bit easier. But on the other side as prospective adoptive parents, every time a parent chooses another couple you suffer from that gnawing fear that you’re not good enough. And maybe you aren’t really meant to be parents. As someone who has never in my life won a popularity contest, I had many days that I feared that we would never be chosen. Even though in my heart I KNOW we’ll be great parents.
What is something you would really like people to understand about infertility and moving on to adoption?
My biggest pet peeve is the countless number of people who like to tell you about their friend xyz who adopted and then all of a sudden got pregnant. This bothers me both from an infertility perspective and a hopeful adoptive parent perspective. First, from the infertility standpoint, this is essentially saying that relaxing or not trying is the cure for IF. Which, clearly it is not. And it’s so hurtful that people think that’s an okay suggestion. And secondly, from a hopeful adoptive parent standpoint, this REALLY bothers me. To me, if feels like people are saying that you’re just adopting in hopes of having a biologic child. People saying that makes it sound like the child that I hope to adopt is not as desired as the child I could carry biologically. And that is absolutely and completely not the truth. I hope and dream for this child that I can adopt. While I may or may not ever have a biologic child, which is something that is completely separate from my desire to adopt. So please, don’t ever, ever tell someone going through the adoption process that now they’re going to get pregnant.