Four years out from ending our own infertility journey and the difficult decisions of the infertility journey are still part of my daily life.
In full disclosure, we ended our journey without the intended, hoped for, dreamed of and paid for ending of happy, healthy babies in our arms.
Professionally, I have been working with clients through and after the infertility journey for the last three of those four years; had to work out my own stuff first.
Throughout these three years I have worked with women in every place of the infertility and loss journey; years of trying, all levels of treatments, miscarriages, stillbirth, secondary infertility and everything in between. I, especially, have found a true gift in walking alongside someone during the pregnancy after the infertility and loss struggle.
I have also been honored with witnessing and guiding my clients through some of the toughest moral, ethical and relational decisions of their lives.
Because making a baby in 2016 is not simple for over 7 million of us.
It is those tough moral and ethical issues no one ever really thinks about when they embark on the infertility journey that, I think, have great potential to destroy us. They are for sure the things that our society almost never has to think about and are quick to judge on. At the end of the day, none of us ever want to have to think about them let alone live them.
We lie to ourselves and try to believe that the dark is safe. Three years ago I vowed to break this silence of infertility and loss. I have battled every day since then to change the conversations that are in and surround this journey. I am tired of seeing it destroy relationships and people, leaving them shells of who they once were.
I believe our lives are at stake if we do not change the conversations, break the silence and do the work around the devastation of when life does not turn out how we hoped.
These tough moral and ethical questions and decisions are no different.
It is time to shine the light and talk.
Here are some of the tough questions you might need to ask before, during and after the infertility journey. As uncomfortable as these conversations with your parenter are they are important to be sure of what your feelings/thoughts/beliefs are throughout. Be brave and have the difficult conversations, there are many reasons, hopefully, you are wanting to make a baby together. You are a team.
- A good old fashioned oops.
- The we-pulled-the-goalie but aren't trying (which is really trying).
- Trying during those elusive two days when a woman is most fertile.
- Ovulation kits and planned sex.
- Medications such as Clomid.
- Medicated or unmediated IUIs (the catheter makes sure the sperm gets to where it is needed, doctors required).
- Medical procedures or even full on surgeries for diagnosis and treatment of infertility diagnoses.
- Full on IVF (lots of doctors, nurses, medications and money required).
- Sperm or egg donors.
- Foster care to adoption and adoption (domestic or international).
- Surrogacy (traditional or gestational).
- Embryo adoption.
- Chosen family.
- Do you consider these 8 celled blobs of science or your children?
- Does your partner feel the same?
- Yearly cost to keep them frozen (can be anywhere from200-800 per year).
- Do you use them? All of them? No matter how many rounds of IVF are required?
- Donate them to science (which ultimately destroys them and helps science).
- Adopt them to another couple.
- There is no definitive answer on what this look like. Will we get a baby? How far will we have to go?
- The statistics are really about 30% success rate (baby in our arms) not the 70% (pregnancy achieved) that is boasted by many infertility clinics unless you read their fine print.
- How much money can or should we spend?
- What will these drugs and hormones do to my body long term?
- How will this change our relationship?
- How many losses will we have to endure?
- I can't start that graduate program yet.
- We can't schedule that vacation (even though it is our ten year anniversary or your birthday and we haven't had a real vacation in over five years because we've been trying to have a baby for that long).
- That house remodel will have to wait.
- I can't leave this toxic job I hate because insurance at least covers the blood work of infertility treatments.
- We can't afford the marriage counseling because we have infertility bills.
- We can't afford the last round of treatment we budgeted for because each treatment went over the estimated cost.
- Insurance does not cover this.
- Insurance covers X rounds of treatment, we think we need to be done for our sanity but we have one covered round left.
- This costs thousands of more dollars that insurance almost never covers.
- This greatly helps with increasing the likelihood of a healthy pregnancy and child, which means a couple may not have to endure so many losses.
- Do we really want to know everything?
- What do we do with that information once we know?
- Could procreating with known issues cause problems in future generations, are we passing on hardship to our children?
- How do we make sure this stays about healthy babies and not about choosing the gender (outside of medical reasons) or eye color of our future child?
- How much do we tell them?
- When do we tell them?
- Do we tell others?
- When do we tell others?
- For that matter, what about children conceived through other infertility treatments, how much do we tell them about how they were conceived?
- Life is lived in 28 day cycles and 2 week waits.
- Do we have a money limit?
- Do we have a round limit?
- Do we have a loss limit?
- How can we talk to one another about what our limit is?
- How do we talk to one another about when we change our mind?
- How do we tell our loved ones?
- What if we have to change our definition of the happy ending?
- Do we tell our family and friends? How much do we tell them?
- What are the risks of being transparent?
- What are the risks of keeping silent?
- How do we respond to people's ignorance?
- How do we respond to people's judgments?
- How much do we explain about our decisions throughout?
- How do we set healthy boundaries when it comes to what we want and need throughout the journey.
As overwhelming as this list is, it is by no means exhaustive. The journey to make your family may be the toughest battle of your entire life.
One that is worth it in every way, even if it doesn't turn out how you hoped.
Take it from me, the woman who it did not work for and yet the woman who defined her own happy ending.