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Coming out of the infertility closet

Guest Opinion: One Seattle woman's struggle with her infertility.
Cathy Merchant and her husband Sameer.

Cathy Merchant and her husband Sameer.


Hi, my name is Cathy. I’m 28 years old. And I have problems with infertility.

If you’ve never struggled with infertility issues before, you might think that the above sentence would have been easy to type, but you’re wrong. Mind-bogglingly wrong. As open as I am about my personal life, as comfortable as I am with my body, I was in no way prepared for the identity-shattering shame fest that hit me this year when I suddenly found out I couldn’t just get pregnant. Think you have low self-esteem? Try our new product – infertility! Your sense of self-worth will hit record lows within six months!

In the beginning, my husband Sameer and I were confident that we’d be preggo in no time. Surely the fertility gods would grace us with a spring baby that would be nicely conceived and hatched before the end of the calendar year. But after months of no baby bump or even clear return to my monthly cycle, the doctors confirmed our suspicions my body had traitorously forgotten how to ovulate after years of being on the birth control pill. While apparently most ovaries return to their monthly programming within just three months, mine were indefinitely on strike. The lazy bastards.

(Mind you that I had asked my doctor about this very thing long before we started trying, and she assured me that the pill would have no affect whatsoever on my future fertility plans. More fun with medicine!)

And so, over time we have added more and more totems and rituals and snake oil to our pregnancy repertoire, hoping that just one of the countless fertility tips we read and are given constantly could help get my body back into baby business: daily temperature charting, CM monitoring (don’t even ask – it’s gross!), cervical check, eating yams (for some reason), ovulatory test kits, weekly acupuncture, unprouncable Chinese herbs, extra folic acid, all the vitamins in the world, less stress, no wait – more stress!, more yoga and hiking, no wait – less strenuous exercise, absolutely no soy, less caffeine, acupressure, not even thinking about it, praying to all versions of God, etc, etc. (I am now a fertility expert, by the way, if you ever want to know anything at all about the female body..)

Nine months into this glamorous ordeal, Sameer and I thought we had finally struck gold – we were freaking pregnant! I was nauseous and tired and dizzy and most of my torso was in pain, and by God we were with child! Finally after trying for so long! Except then we weren’t. We had what is apparently called a “chemical pregnancy,” also known as a very early miscarriage that happens less than six weeks into the baby-production. And so we were back at square one, plus some additional blood and pain.

So here we are now, at our 10th month of TTC (“Trying to conceive” for those of you who have thankfully never been privy to the infertility message boards). Everything’s the same, except this time our new lucky charm is Clomid, a fertility drug that doctors sometimes prescribe to kick ovulation back into gear. I just finished my monthly dose yesterday and besides the mood swings and headaches and hot flashes (OMG, did I skip my fertile years entirely?!), I am feeling fine. Just sad and irritated and lonely.

Lonely because no one in our society talks about these things. Everyone is afraid to mention fertility and miscarriages and pregnancy tests. They will gleefully ask if you and your husband have thought about 'trying' or remind you that you 'need to start early' if you want a big family, but then they pretend that the rest of the process involves more storks than human biology. They will say callous things about 'selfish women,' who resort to fertility specialists or who 'put off' having babies for too long without even thinking about what the couples around them might be silently going through. They will tell you to just 'relax and let it happen' just before smugly recounting how they themselves got knocked up while casually brushing past their husbands on the way to the bathroom. Instead of acknowledging the anger and sadness that naturally come with losing a baby, they will tell you that you are acting crazy and that you should just relax and try again.


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Comments:

Posted Fri, Nov 2, 6:51 a.m. Inappropriate

Lots of kids up for adoption.

Cameron

Posted Fri, Nov 2, 7:55 a.m. Inappropriate

Talk about TMI.

Goforride

Posted Fri, Nov 2, 9:43 a.m. Inappropriate

Cathy,
Thank you for your vulnerability and openness. My wife and I have so many friends and family who have dealt with miscarriages and fertility problems. This issue is so much bigger, and so much more meaningful for those who are walking it out than some of us may realize.
The decision to have a child is a major, life altering (in a good way) decision. My wife and I have been overwhelmingly blessed (and sometimes tested) by our now 2 1/2 year old son.
It's not as simple as "Lot's of kids up for adoption." While it is a "fact" that many children need good foster homes and adopted families, that statement doesn't add to the discussion. In fact, making such a statement shows how ignorant a person actually is on this issue. To assert that the decision to stop trying (that was hard to write, and Cathy, I hope you know what I mean) and move to adoption is to a certain extent more significant than the decision to try to have a child in the first place. Furthermore, the mere fact that this article may contain too much information (TMI as Goforride puts it) further illustrates Cathy's point. Infertility/miscarriage/fertility issues, etc, is a mind bending, heart breaking, devastating reality that so many of our friends, neighbors, family members and coworkers must struggle through. I lack the skills to say this any more eloquently than Cathy has, and won't try.
The least that we can do is say we love you, we're praying for you and we hope that your story helps the countless "Mom's at heart" know that they are not alone. Cathy, for you and your husband, I hope and pray the best for your health and heart.

dchoffman

Posted Fri, Nov 2, 9:49 a.m. Inappropriate

Thanks for your article. As the first two comments illustrate, ignorance is rampant on the issue.
I think I may be on your boat so it's nice to hear I'm not alone.

jessS

Posted Fri, Nov 2, 2:39 p.m. Inappropriate

Dear Cathy,
You’re brave to come out of the “infertility closet.” I came out close to 20 years ago, and I haven’t stopped talking about it. Publicly. There are many, many people who are talking about it in many different ways. So you’re going to have to choose which story you’ll buy into. I do hope it’s not the story of seeing your ovaries as “lazy bastards.” I think I hear what you mean; I hear that you’re angry. But maybe it’s not about Clomid or any other fertility tips you might’ve received. Maybe this is about discovering your own power to speak up for yourself, your body, the truth. You’re not sharing specifics about your FSH, or AMH, so I can’t tell you that I have seen women in your situation give birth to healthy babies. I have certainly seen women with menopausal symptoms recharge their ovaries. I also know that if you’re having the kind of symptoms you mention, you’re going to have to advocate for yourself, learn how to support your body regardless of how you eventually become a mom. Maybe this is about you speaking up so that other women who are told that birth control pills are quite harmless for all, can be forewarned. Mostly, though, my wish for you is that you fin a way to turn this challenge into something that will enlarge your life, not diminish it.

Posted Sat, Nov 3, 7:28 a.m. Inappropriate

Nice to see the vitriol over the suggestion of consideration of adoption. Ignorance cuts a lot of different directions.

Cameron

Posted Sat, Nov 3, 8:20 p.m. Inappropriate

First World problem.

sarah90

Posted Sun, Nov 4, 5:27 p.m. Inappropriate

What insensitive comments.

Cathy, It took great courage for you to write this. On behalf of others who struggle with infertility and difficulty getting and staying pregnant, I say thank you for helping to educate the rest of the world about this often hidden issue.

-Jason

jshindl

Posted Mon, Nov 5, 7:20 a.m. Inappropriate

You are insensitive for suggesting that a couple that is struggling with infertility issues consider adoption? People like Jason, Jess, Julia and dchoffman please get a life, your suggestion that I do not wish the best for Cathy and her husband in their quest is pure tripe. I hope the journey ends they way they want with a successful pregnancy and birth.

Cameron

Posted Mon, Nov 5, 3:48 p.m. Inappropriate

There are so many variables involved in getting pregnant and delivering a healthy baby. My wife and I tried for over 4 years. Early in our efforts she got pregnant, but miscarried after a few weeks. She had surgery to remove fibroids in her uterus, and we started again. Fertility treatments, IUI, etc. all to no avail. Since it was the viability of her eggs that seemed to be the problem we looked at using an egg donor. If she had a younger sister that would have been the route we likely would have taken, but again, no such luck. But then we were told about frozen donor eggs. We found a set of eggs from a donor that matched much of my wife's ethnic and educational background, so we tried that. Now we are the proud parents of an extremely healthy, beautiful little boy that we have been just head over heals in love with since first seeing him in the delivery room.
Those who say this is just a problem of the well to do, or say just go adopt someone, are not only displaying their complete ignorance of the situation, but are being insensitive to the emotional toil this process takes on a couple. Don't give up. There are many different options available. Our son was one of the first 1,500 kids in the world born from a frozen donor egg. It's no longer considered experimental. And I can attest that we couldn't have hoped for a more perfect little guy. I think those of us who have to try so hard wind up being better parents for the experience. You are not alone. I wish you all the best.

crash63

Posted Tue, Nov 6, 5:58 p.m. Inappropriate

You guys are right, all things considered you probably shouldn't adopt.

Cameron

Posted Wed, Nov 7, 11:19 a.m. Inappropriate

Thank you for sharing your story. I had no idea that so many women had trouble coming *off* birth control and getting pregnant until it happened to me. I can relate to your comments about how this affects your self-worth. I think about it every day. I just want you to know that I appreciate your openness and want you to know there are many women who share your struggle.

bluesouth

Posted Thu, Nov 8, 4:25 p.m. Inappropriate

What is this bru-ha-ha over adoption? Cathy even mentioned it as a possibility in her article.

We adopted a "special needs" boy from China and it is the best thing we have done with our lives. I think genetics are over-rated, especially in my case. The little guy is already smarter than I will ever be.

andy

Posted Sat, Nov 10, 7:13 p.m. Inappropriate

OMG. How freaking immature. You whine but disguise it as a message to others, as if this information was somehow never-known-before-you-experienced-it.

Puhleeze.

It's no secret that birth control can affect your bodies for a long, long time. Other drugs do too.

Life hands you lemons, Cathy and Sameer. It is up to you to deal, without the whining please.

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