When diving into Infertility treatment, the knee-jerk reaction is to “not give up” until you reach parenthood. However not everyone who goes on the path of infertility treatments has this ending, and that is okay. I am on a mission to make sure women and men understand that there is a fulfilling and empowering life beyond a baby.
TIA’S INFERTILITY BACKGROUND:
My husband and I spent six years trying every possible biological angle to get and stay pregnant. In the “let’s just see what happens” year, I purchased every possible test and used every possible method imaginable to try and conceive.
When we began testing, all of our initial testing came back rather normal. However, when our first three Clomid cycles failed, it was recommended to us that we chat with a Reproductive Endocrinologist. He recommended we move forward with our first IUI and we jumped at the chance. Another piece of knowledge he recommended was genetic testing for both us. Turns out, we were both carriers of MCAD, and our IUI was quickly canceled. Although our chances of conceiving a baby with MCAD was only 25% (1 in 4), we believed those odds were too high.
Our only way to eliminate any genetically abnormal embryos was to move forward with IVF stacked with PGD and PGS testing. We are lucky to live in a state that has mandated Infertility coverage, and after buying my own individual insurance, we hit the ground running in 2016 with back-to-back retrievals in an attempt to “bank” embryos for testing. As if genetic abnormalities were not tough enough, we quickly learned my egg quality was extremely poor and my hormone levels were out of whack. By the end of summer 2016, we finally banked five embryos for testing and received the amazing news that we had two genetically normal embryos for transfer.
Our first transfer was a complete failure; not even a hint of a positive. Per our doctor’s instructions and my stubborn attitude, I pushed to have an endo scratch and a different suppression method (lupron vs birth control pills). Our second transfer was a success! My beta numbers held high and continued to climb. I watched, week after week, our baby boy growing right on track. It was simply a miracle. Our world came crashing down when I miscarried abruptly the day after Christmas 2016, at 11 weeks and 3 days along.
In a haze of grief and depression, I immediately refilled all my prescriptions and demanded we try again in 2017, but at a much slower pace. I needed to heal, which required a lot of therapy and understanding to grasp what had just happened. Finally, in the spring of 2017, we did one final retrieval, which yielded a perfect embryo to transfer. We transferred that last embryo in the fall of 2017. And I got pregnant again, but I knew in my heart it wasn’t going to make it. The test lines were much lighter, and within a week, I miscarried again.
My husband was always my cheerleader, even when I pressed to keep going. But after that third transfer failed, I knew I was not destined to be a mom. The grief, worry, financial and emotional stress that comes with trying to find success with IVF was too much for me. I couldn’t imagine starting from square one again. It was never in our hearts to try alternatives such as donors or adoption. From that point on, we have chosen to move forward as a family of two and have found a beautiful amount of success and happiness as we heal.
WHY TIA SPEAKS NOW:
My reason for speaking out and embracing my new non-mom life is to help break down the stigmas surrounding alternative endings with Infertility. Finding success by having a baby doesn’t automatically guarantee a happy ending. For a long time, I believed having a baby would automatically make all the sacrifice to myself, my marriage and my career worth it, but I learned through all the failure that a baby would never be a cure-all for any sort of lingering anxiety or depression I held onto.
Stopping was an easy decision, but following through was difficult and took almost a year of mental energy to embrace my new lifestyle. My heart and my brain were always in two separate places. I could see the chaos surrounding infertility treatments taking a toll on my quality of life, my relationship with my husband, our finances, and my career, but I kept pushing everything to the side to try and find success with IVF. My brain always wanted to keep pushing forward to “get my money’s worth and show everyone else I could succeed if I just kept trying” but my heart knew better. My heart and my intuition told me no matter how hard I tried; I was just digging a deeper hole that I may not ever be able to get out of. What’s the point of having a child if you lose your husband, you get fired, and you lose your own identity?
Grief is going to come up, likely at inopportune times. Don’t push it away. Sit with it and understand where your triggers are. It’s the only way to keep moving forward. Don’t compare. I am on my own path and it looks NOTHING like anyone else’s. Others may have had similar treatments, but everyone’s body is different and will yield different outcomes. Celebrating the sad milestones, year after year does not help you move forward in a positive way. I did this for a solid year and realized how ridiculous it was.
Celebrations are supposed to be for happy times, not for tragedy. It’s okay to find ways to honor lost ones, but there is no need to dedicate a solid 24 hours to tragedy. Going with your gut and staying true to your own convictions, and not outside societal pressures, is key to finding happiness and fulfillment in our own lives. If IVF and other fertility treatments are only successful 20-30% of the time, there is a MUCH larger community of women without children than we are giving ourselves credit for. Reach out. Find your people. Lean on the good ones and dismiss the naysayers.
WHY TIA STARTED THE INFERTILEAF SUMMIT:
I have always wanted to speak on stage, and have come to realize there are very few stages meant to include the non-mom, so I created one. With the help of my co-Founder, Lindsay, we have been running at the speed of light to create a revolutionary movement.
The common goal is to validate our successes beyond the pregnancy test. That our choices and our journeys are supposed to happen, just as they are, and there is no wrong way to do Infertility. Women and men that have chosen to walk away should feel just as validated as those that found quick success with treatment. The goal of the summit and the InfertileAF company is for each guest to walk out of the venue wearing their Infertility as a badge of honor, rather than feeling minimized by a label.
Details can be found at infertileaf.org