Surviving Infertility: The Dark, the Humorous, the Supportive

Being diagnosed with infertility, whether male or female factor, is a devastating diagnosis. I heard those words not once but twice, 2004 with my husband’s male factor and once again with my diagnosis in 2007.

I knew more than I wanted to know about my husband’s sperm: count, motility and morphology…we commonly referred to it as the wicked trifecta. Certainly takes the romance out of conceiving a baby. Then in 2007, I was diagnosed with Elevated Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH). In normal “Joe Bag of Doughnuts Speak,” my diagnosis meant that I was running out of eggs and my egg quality was diminished due to my advanced age of 38. As a result of my old and decrepit eggs walking around with canes, my possibility of miscarriage skyrocketed.

Sitting in my reproductive endocrinologist’s (RE) office and hearing his words made my head spin. In my younger years, I could have majored in passing out and I also came from a long lineage of passer outers. Between my sister and I bets were placed at the beginning of every Mass.

Side Note: To my mother’s chagrin, God rest her soul, I once passed out in communion line at church. My swooning was a mixture of not eating breakfast and the excessive heat from a failed air conditioner. At the front of the communion line, my father swooped me up into his arms to carry me outside, caught the edge of my mother’s summer skirt in his hand and lifted it to the entire congregation of St. Michael’s Catholic Church – talk about a godly experience for the congregation and out of body experience for my mother.

Back to my story…being a professional passer outer, I was close to putting my head between my legs as the color drained from my face and my vision began to go black and white. “You see Kristin, I hope you take this the right way but…you’re only as good as your highest FSH. Your FSH is 24 and 25 is the cut off for In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) so as you can see you are not even a candidate for IVF. Injectible fertility drugs and Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) is your only option,” said my RE.

I slumped into a horrible place. While doing so, I had family and friends making all sorts of comments to me that only added to my inner turmoil…”You’re not going to make that boy an only child are you? Why did you buy this big house if you weren’t going to fill it? Maybe you’re trying to make something happen that you’re not meant to have.”

A colleague of my husband’s had a neighbor once say to his wife, “Maybe God doesn’t want you to be a mother.” As a half-breed Italian here’s something I could sink my teeth into… God had a vendetta against my husband or me, maybe both. Maybe in typical Godfather style I should ask, “Godfather, I need a favor from you.”

I wonder if we understand the impact our words have on others. Sometimes in the routine of our daily lives we forget what is old hat or funny to us is fresh news or a hidden heartache to someone else. As I left my RE’s office, all that kept echoing in my head was “you’re only as good, you’re only as good, you’re only as good as your highest FSH.” My life, my reproductive status, my womanhood was diminished to one number, 24. Yet I could not let go of that saying, “you’re only as good.”

My maternal grandmother had a saying about people who talked a lot and rarely listened, she called it a terrible case of “diarrhea of the mouth.” My best piece of advice is to dig deep and find that sense of humor you know you have. It so often can turn a terrible hurt into a crazy, stupid moment for someone else. To climb out of my dark abyss, regain my strength and begin living life again I took a few steps and these steps are the same suggestions I have for you:

  1. Find Yourself a Coach: Having a coach is a great way to vent and expel your demons of the day, get focused on the mental and emotional balance that supports conception and pregnancy and counter the negative blather that can sadden you to the core. I’m a firm believer that everyone should have a coach.
  2. Start the Best and Brightest Club: Build a small circle of friends, family and professionals that can support you in your efforts. There’s nothing like the feeling of being surrounded by love and support at a difficult time.
  3. Make Self-Care a Daily Do or Die: You must create the life you want. At the end of the day, only you can truly make yourself happy. Reminding your kind soul that you are there to take care is of immeasurable value ~ nourish and protect yourself.

Last but certainly not the least, print this quote and read it everyday: “Pursue your dreams not because you’re immune to heartbreak, but because your real life, your whole life, is worth getting your heart broken a few thousand times.” ~ Martha Beck

This blog entry is dedicated to Dr. Pamela Aasen
My dear coach and friend Pam, you have had such longevity in my life; we dance in and out of each other’s lives at times, but always come back together as if we have never skipped a beat. Without your strength, your compassionate guidance and wicked sense of humor that matches mine…I don’t know where I would be. You have helped me travel many of the most challenging miles in my life:

  • Horrific grief of my mother’s passing from ALS
  • Infertility and Miscarriage
  • Feeding issues with my eldest son that lasted almost four years
  • You kept my eyes on the prize for the beautiful birth of our second son who we were supposedly destined to miscarry in the first trimester.

Pam, thank you for always seeing what I can’t. You have always given me hope, been the most awesome cheerleader and the mother’s love and voice that I have missed the last 13 years of my life. I hope you know what a beautiful gift you are in my life and all those in which you touch.

Love, Friendship and Health to You Always,

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