Why can’t anyone get pregnant?

February 2, 2012

in All Things Fertility,General Health and Wellness,Women's Health Insights Contest

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Leslie Goldman, a Women’s health writer and body image expert shares her Insights on Infertility. She writes a blog Health Breaks Loose you should have a look at. If you like her insights be sure to leave a comment below to help her win the $150 AMEX card!

Why can’t anyone get pregnant?

“Ugh.”

That was my husband’s reaction when he opened our mailbox last month and pulled out the new US Weekly, plastered with a sad photo of Khloé Kardashian alongside the desperate headline, “I’ll do anything for a baby.” (A few months earlier, it had been Giuliana Rancic, revealing how a surprise breast cancer diagnosis had temporarily derailed her IVF struggles.) Dan’s response was visceral and strong, and just like many mothers who grow to learn their babies’ various cries, I knew exactly what that “ugh” meant.

For perhaps the only time in our lives, we had been in this Kardashian’s position, too. Trying to conceive, month after month, only to come up empty. The thought of it being broadcast on a national level felt sickening.

Not that Khloé has anything to be ashamed of. One in eight U.S. couples struggle with infertility, which makes it about as common as breast cancer. But while glossy pink ribbons serve as a badge of courage and pride, with people walking for three days straight in mass parades to raise awareness and funds, infertility remains cloaked in secrecy. In fact, when you’re going through it, waking up at 5am to rush to the reproductive endocrinologist’s office for a quick blood draw and ultrasound before work, or when you’re shooting up straight estrogen in a Caribou Coffee bathroom, or when you’re couch-bound for two days straight after being put under anesthesia to have 20 eggs harvested through your vagina, it feels like you are the only woman alive living through this pain. And then, because a common side effect of injectable hormones is tunnel vision, you only notice the women around you who are pregnant. I remember once texting Dan a list of about 14 girls I knew on a very close basis (either friends I spoke with multiple times per week, coworkers or family members) who were all knocked up, punctuating the message with a self-pitying “WHY NOT ME?”

But if you allow yourself to open up, if you talk about it even a tiny bit, you’ll start to see that, actually, you’ve landed yourself a spot in an entirely non-exclusive club. The moment I began writing about our struggle, women leapt out of the woodwork, revealing their own battles to me. Recently, I celebrated a “coming out” of sorts when I blogged about our IVF experience and posted it to Facebook. By the end of the day, no less than four friends and three editors of mine (I’m a writer for various women’s magazines) had privately messaged me, telling me of their IUI babies, their Clomid toddlers, their IVF failures.

A few weeks ago, on the plane ride home from our babymoon in Puerto Vallarta, I was writing an essay on infertility and going organic for Natural Health magazine. I got into a conversation with the woman next to me, who was told she could never have kids, so she adopted a four-year-old…only to spontaneously conceive a few months later. Her biological daughter used IVF for all three of her sons. Later that night, Dan was forced to trudge out to the grocery store at 2am to procure cold medicine, kefir and watermelon for me, thanks to an unbearable hacking cough that had been causing me to pee all over myself throughout our romantic Mexican vaycay. He called me from the 24-hour pharmacy, saying the pharmacist on-call thought I should try Mucinex. As I frantically Googled “Mucinex AND safe AND pregnancy” in between body-wracking explosions of phlegm, I overheard the pharmacist ask Dan, “First baby?” Dan confirmed. And then the pharmacist asked, “IVF baby?” Turns out he was a kindred spirit – his wife had delivered a baby boy eight days prior, the result of four rounds of IVF. He recognized a freak when he saw one; after you go through what we went through, you aren’t taking any chances. Even if it means sticking your finger down your throat in a restaurant because you’re worried the bleu cheese that was sprinkled on your salad might be unpasteurized (which happened to me when I was five weeks along.)

In the locker room at my gym, I chatted with a girl from my yoga class who is expecting twin girls in March, via surrogate. Two hours before, I had spoken on the phone with a friend who is in the midst of adopting baby #2.

At my baby shower, I calculated that eight of the 20 or so women in attendance had used either Clomid, injectables, artificial insemination, IVF or adoption as a means of creating their family. Eight out of 20.

Perhaps it’s an age thing: More of us are waiting to have children, fooling ourselves into believing that regular gym sessions and a Flexitarian diet will somehow freeze our eggs at mid-20s status. Or a result of chronic environmental insults – pesticides, pollution, canned tomato sauce brimming with fertility-sapping BPA. As my acupuncturist once opined, “You think girls living on the family farm in Arkansas are having trouble getting pregnant? Of course not.”

For now, I’m finishing up Week 38 of our hard-won pregnancy, and it’s unreal how the intense pain of those awful months has faded into the background. Last weekend, I attended a boozy brunch where I enjoyed the fun attention typically lavished on a woman brandishing a fitted sweater-clad baby bump. I chatted with two other pregnant ladies and convinced them to shell out $75 for an elective 4D ultrasound like we did last week – one of the smartest moves I could’ve made in terms of bonding with our baby. I didn’t even mind the fact that I was surrounded by off-limits champagne and mouthwatering pomegranate vodka punch. Which brings me to another tip for my friends still embroiled in their struggle:

Drink wine. Lots and lots of wine.

And enjoy it while you can. :-)

{ 38 comments… read them below or add one }

Kristen February 2, 2012 at 3:43 pm

Leslie,
Thank you for being brave enough to bring a voice (especially a witty one) to the struggles couples face when dealing with infertility. It affects so many of us, yet we tend to go it alone. The more we discuss infertility, the less shame will be associated with it.

Beth February 2, 2012 at 3:55 pm

Great post, Leslie! Can’t wait to meet the babe :)

Kristen February 2, 2012 at 4:19 pm

Leslie,
Thank you for being brave enough to bring a voice (especially a witty one) to the struggles couples face when dealing with infertility. It affects so many of us, yet we tend to go it alone. The more we discuss infertility, the less shame that will be associated with it.

Maris February 2, 2012 at 5:36 pm

Really interesting Leslie, thanks for sharing your journey! So excited for you!

Sarah February 2, 2012 at 5:49 pm

You are so strong to share this. It’s so devastating to want something like this and have a hard time creating it. I also found the more I talked about the craziest lows of this whole process the more I found other women who had gone through exactly what I had as well. Love you, girl!

Sharon February 2, 2012 at 5:55 pm

Funny, brave and moving. You’re bringing infertility out of the closet and providing hope and support to so many women.

JULIE February 2, 2012 at 6:06 pm

I love that kefir was on the “must have” list;) Like with so many things in life, when you share, you find you have more in common then not. We are all connected. Thanks for sharing your story and fighting the “secret”. However a child comes to us is a miracle and a blessing. Just wait till you hear her cry for the first time;)

Fallon February 2, 2012 at 6:12 pm

Such a thoughfiul blog…
Wish you and Dan all the best and can’t wait to meet the little babe!

pmalter February 2, 2012 at 6:17 pm

Thoughtful, insightful and heartfelt!

Cristina February 2, 2012 at 6:43 pm

Wow, this is a very eye-opening piece, Leslie. Thank you so much for sharing. Can’t wait to learn more about this topic from you.

Randi February 2, 2012 at 6:45 pm

Thanks for sharing your story Leslie. I know you gave voice to many, many women who share this struggle.

Keri February 2, 2012 at 7:15 pm

Such an incredible story! I am beyond thrilled that you will soon join the wonderful world of parenthood and cannot wait to read your blog entries about your journey as a mother!!!

Vicky February 2, 2012 at 7:48 pm

Such a well written, touching and insightful story. As a labor and delivery nurse I meet so many amazing couples who have tried so hard and in so many ways to have a child. ALL of your stories are inspirational! I wish you all the best in your L&D experience and the beauty of what lies ahead……..life that was created by love.

charlotte February 2, 2012 at 8:45 pm

Beautiful and brave! I too have many friends that have had or are having fertility struggles and it’s heartbreaking but it doesn’t need to be so isolating. This: “But while glossy pink ribbons serve as a badge of courage and pride, with people walking for three days straight in mass parades to raise awareness and funds, infertility remains cloaked in secrecy.” is sadly very true. Thanks for speaking up about your experiences!

Diana Semmelhack February 2, 2012 at 9:36 pm

Amazing! Your courage is inspiring.

Kim L February 2, 2012 at 9:45 pm

Awesome blog Leslie. You’re honesty is refreshing.

Donna February 2, 2012 at 10:21 pm

Brave, courageous and inspirational. Thank you for sharing your story and may all of your dreams come true. Looking forward to hearing about baby stories.

Derek February 2, 2012 at 10:30 pm

A delicious cocktail of humor and honesty. Thanks for sharing.

Becca G. February 2, 2012 at 10:41 pm

Thanks for sharing, Leslie. Everyone, no matter how you become a mother, has a story – some have easier journeys then others, but when you want something so much, it doesn’t much matter in the end how you get there. You are about to join a wonderful community called motherhood – best of luck on an easy delivery and good health to all!

Zoe Cohen February 2, 2012 at 10:45 pm

Great blog Leslie! And having been here myself I relate to everything you wrote. Thanks for your honestly and insight!

Yana February 3, 2012 at 3:08 am

Oh happy day!!! Thank you Leslie for sharing this very important subject, and Julie for bringing it to our attention! Enjoy motherhood, everyday is a miracle!

Dana February 3, 2012 at 8:12 am

Great job!

Robert February 3, 2012 at 8:51 am

Thanks for your insight and humor about it all.

Jenny February 3, 2012 at 9:13 am

very VERY well said, LG!

Heidi February 3, 2012 at 11:47 am

You rock, Les! What a great role model you will be to your daughter.

Christine February 3, 2012 at 11:54 am

I had no idea that many people struggle with infertility. Awesome blog post!

Trish February 3, 2012 at 2:25 pm

Great post, Leslie! Imagine how your little one will feel someday knowing how hard her Mommy worked to bring her into the world. She will be so worth it!

Debbie February 3, 2012 at 2:39 pm

Great article Leslie. You’re one of the very few writers who can make me laugh and cry at the same time.

Allyson February 3, 2012 at 4:08 pm

It is amazing how once you start to discuss something you realize that you are not alone. Thanks for sharing your inspirational story.

Pete February 3, 2012 at 4:11 pm

Thanks for sharing your experience and the struggles; it’s been a great help as my wife and I have been going through the process a few months after you. Keep up the great work.

Jamie February 3, 2012 at 8:40 pm

would be easier for everyone if it we all we’re more open like this!

Paul February 3, 2012 at 9:19 pm

Thanks for sharing Leslie. It’s hugely important, often misunderstood and rarely discussed openly. My brother and his wife went through IVF for 4 years before finally succeeding and their baby girl is a blessing :-) Their second baby girl took a few more years of trying and was naturally conceived, just as they were about to try IVF again. I wish you and your husband so much happiness with your new baby!

Eden February 4, 2012 at 12:03 pm

Nice post. The parental worrying starts at conception, or for those struggling to get pregnant and experiencing infertility, even pre, pre-conception. And the worry continues from that point on. I guess it’s what bonds us as parents to be and even “seasoned” parents –something we all have in common regardless of our unique experience. Look forward to reading more as your journey in to parenthood continues.

Kaisa February 4, 2012 at 2:14 pm

I know that your words will help others….woman should never feel alone. Thank you!

Wendy Baz February 4, 2012 at 10:41 pm

So generous of you to share your experience with others and with such honesty (and humor, too). We’re so excited to meet the lil’ gal—sugar and spice and everything nice…that’s what little girls are made of…watch out world for the Leslie+Dan creation!

Erica February 5, 2012 at 7:21 pm

Amazing blog Leslie! Thank you for sharing this info and your story! You will be an amazing mother! :)

Mort and Jean Schur February 23, 2012 at 10:19 pm

Just came across the Infertility issue trying to clear up my computer. I don’t inquire on subjects of that nature….I leave that to you and Dan…..all I know is that you delivered a gorgeous, vibrant and healthy girl and your lives are now …All about Eve…

We are so proud of how you both maintained care and meticulous planning from day one…..We love you all !!!
G & G

Kelly February 28, 2012 at 4:29 pm

Thank you for sharing! We are 5 weeks along with our miracle IVF baby, so the pain of infertility is all too fresh for me. I vowed that I wouldn’t forget it or stop talking about it once I became pregnant, and I’m glad that I wasn’t the only one. Congrats on your miracle!

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