The Loss of My Fertility Doesn't Define Me

young yoga woman at sunrise mountain peak
young yoga woman at sunrise mountain peak

Last year, I was devastated by the loss of a pregnancy. I was 36 at the time, and we had just gotten married in front of 180 of our closest friends and family in Portland, Ore. We were able to conceive very quickly, which was exciting and unexpected given my age. However, at 12 weeks, things took a turn for the worst and after several weeks of complications, we lost the pregnancy.

Months passed as I mourned the loss of what could have been. I packed up all my maternity clothes, books and CDs and hid them in the back of my closet, blocked friends on Facebook who were having babies and tried to move on. But as the months went on, I wasn't getting better. I tried to go off of anti-depressants, and then quickly realized my body was struggling to process the grief. I was also dealing with the grief differently than my husband, and felt frustrated that I wasn't bouncing back like I knew I probably should.

It wasn't until my due date came and passed that I was able to really start healing. At age 37, I knew my window for having a healthy baby was getting smaller and it was time to pull myself back together. So, I went back on anti-depressants, went on vacation, made an appointment with a fertility specialist and braced myself for bad news.

After several rounds of tests, I learned that I have Diminished Ovarian Reserve (DOR). I had very abnormal AMH and FSH levels, only nine follicles, an indicator of how many eggs I could produce, and my chances of conceiving naturally and having a healthy pregnancy were very small. I was devastated. My fertility had been stolen from me. I felt like after all the years of trying to not get pregnant, the moment I decided to try, things went terribly wrong.

I tried to explain it to my husband that losing the ability to reproduce made me feel like I had been stripped of the one beautiful gift that Mother Nature had given exclusively to women. Deep down--in some irrational place--I also feared that my husband would feel tricked and cheated.

I am surrounded by fertile women and really big families (I was raised Mormon, my husband Catholic). On my dad's side, my great-grandmother had my grandmother at age 43, my grandma had my aunt at age 43 and my aunt had her daughter at age 43. On my mother's side, my grandmother had my mother at age 42 and my aunt had her last of eight children at age 42.

How on earth could I be infertile? What could I have done differently? Why did I wait so long to have kids? Why didn't I live a healthier lifestyle? Should I have frozen my eggs (which, by the way is very expensive)?

In the end, my doctors recommended we go straight to in-vitro fertilization (IVF). While I had heard stories of women successfully conceiving with IVF, I was overwhelmed by the fact that my body had failed me, how much it was going to cost, how my body would react and whether all of this would be for naught.

Since learning of my diagnosis, I knew I had to do something to take care of myself and get through this. I started going to acupuncture once a week, which is really good for fertility, changed my diet to mostly organic, went on a strong cocktail of vitamin supplements, essentially stopped drinking caffeine, turned our spare room into a yoga studio, taught myself how to meditate and have a wonderful therapist who practices mindfulness-based stress reduction.

The loss of my fertility is not going to define me. I do not want people to feel bad for me. I don't want people to question why I need to do IVF because I got pregnant so quickly the first time. I don't need questions about everything we have tried. I don't want people to avoid bringing their kids around me (remember, I want my own kids, not yours). I don't want to hear about how there are millions of kids who need to be adopted (trust me, I'll really understand that!) And I do not wish to hear the term "IVF baby" -- it's just a baby.

I also know that no one is ever going to say the right thing to me. I've decided to just know that they are well intentioned and they luckily don't have to know what it's like to go through.

Regardless of what happens, I know that we are going to be wonderful parents. Things might just look a little different.

I start my first IVF cycle in two weeks and remain very cautiously optimistic. All I can do is give my body up to my doctors and know I am in good hands. The rest will just have to figure itself out.