In case you find yourself free to peruse various blogs or television shows, take the time to read about my friend Holly’s struggle with infertility. Holly is a friend from high school …who happens to have her story featured tonite on CNN’s “This is Life With Lisa Ling: The Genius Experiment.” So, read the answers to some questions I asked Holly, and then tune in to the show at 10 pm (PST) – but in the meantime, if you are or know someone who is struggling with infertility, practice kindness.
1. Holly, tell us about yourself. I am the lucky stay at home mom of my amazing little boy, who will be three in December. Before he was born, my jobs were to teach middle school students language arts and try to become pregnant.
2. And, let’s cut straight to the point: will you share with us the one paragraph journey you’ve experienced with infertility? My husband and I tried to have a baby for over three years before we were successful. We tried the traditional route of course, followed by a series of increasingly invasive and expensive methods until we successfully became pregnant via IVF in April 2011. Our little man was born in December of 2011! We became pregnant once more with our left over embryos in October 2014, but I miscarried twins in December 2013. We transferred two more in April 2014, but they miscarried very quickly. We transferred our very last lonely little embryo in May 2014, but it didn’t take at all. In June of 2014 we learned my eggs were no longer viable and if we wanted to have more children we would require an egg donor.
3. What led you to open up to sharing your story? The day after I learned I would need an egg donor to have a second child, I visited a website called www.parentsviaeggdonation.org. I noticed a post from a production company called part2productions that was looking for people going through a donor IVF cycle, or who had already gone through the experience, that were willing to speak with the producer about their journey. I have no idea why I emailed the producer telling him I would be happy to speak with him. That is extremely out of character for me, but that is how it happened! I do remember feeling extremely protective of any children I may have using a donor; that I would never allow anyone to make them feel like they were “different.” I started to feel that way almost to the minute that I even learned I would need donor eggs. The mother bear instinct is strong!
4. Your sex life and/or your decision to have (more) children: Is it anyone’s business? When a couple cannot conceive a child naturally, their sex life and their goal of conception become two entirely separate entities. I can discuss our infertility journey in detail with the goal of encouraging others, without ever needing to discuss any details of our sex life. At all. Thank goodness.
5. I’m sure you’ve experienced your share of inappropriate commentary – what advice would you give to the general public when it comes to the question of procreation? I have really had very little to deal with to date regarding inappropriate commentary. I did have a casual acquaintance mention once, shortly after my son was born, that he truly was a blessing despite the fact that he was conceived in a way that God surely considered to be an abomination (IVF). My little blessing/abomination and I no longer casually acquaint with that person.
I have also had a few people ask why we do not just adopt. I think the public opinion on this is that there is a baby store somewhere full of infants just waiting to be chosen. Or maybe even a Cabbage Patch somewhere, where you could go harvest your own baby from the soil. I will be exploring this topic in greater detail shortly on my blog, but for now I will share that we have looked into it, and it is even more daunting than the extremely daunting path we are currently taking.
6. How has your story had an impact on other people? How do you hope your story has an impact on other people? I hope our story has an impact on people that are suffering in silence. Infertility is a nightmare, and it gets worse the longer it continues. It is extremely important that couples experiencing it have the tools to support one another, as well as seek support from other sources. In my case, what helped me was reading the stories of other people online, what they had tried, what worked and what didn’t, and how they felt about it. I needed other people who were actually experiencing the same thing I was, and in many cases I touched base with them and developed virtual support systems. It is also vital to share what is going on with close friends and family, and many infertile couples are hesitant to do this. They may feel that not being able to conceive on their own is their own fault and something to be ashamed of, even if they realize logically that is not the case.
I would love it if even one infertile couple heard our story and was encouraged to stay the course. Although our attempt at baby number two has been a challenge, the fact remains that we were successful with our attempts with baby number one. We waited a long time for our little guy and had to be so, so patient. Patience is not one of the character traits I embrace. I was tested almost to my limits struggling to become a mother, but when it finally happened every single trial I had experienced didn’t matter anymore. The proverbial “Keep Your Eyes On the Prize” definitely applies to infertility.
7. What books, organizations or online resources would you recommend? I love going on WordPress and just reading about other people’s infertility journeys. I don’t know them, of course, but it’s comforting to know there are other people traveling the same road I am.
8. What have you learned about infertility in the midst of your journey? What I’ve learned about infertility during the midst of my journey is that it is much more common than you would think. Almost everyone knows someone who had to take Clomid, or see a fertility specialist, or use IVF. However, not many people are comfortable discussing what they are going through at the time they are going through it.
9. Obviously, the feature this weekend with CNN is rather exciting; tell us more about how that happened and what folks will see when they tune into it on Sunday. To my surprise, the producer I talked with way back in June ended up asking us to be interviewed on camera for a documentary about genetics and infertility. It made me nervous, but I figured it was a great way to do my part in uncloaking the secrecy behind infertility. Shockingly, my husband felt the same way. Never in a million years would I have guessed he would be willing to be involved in a documentary. The best part about all of this is that it is for Lisa Ling’s new show on CNN. For those of us who grew up in a “Channel One” town, Lisa Ling is seared into our teenage memories. When they came to film, it was rather surreal. I kept thinking, Lisa Ling is in my house. Didn’t I just see her on the TV in Mr. Pauley’s class reporting on the Unabomber?
My hope is that when people watch the show they will see how the fertility process has evolved. The documentary begins with a sperm bank in the mid-1980s that was founded on the premise of only offering “genius” sperm. It ends with us and our search to find a suitable egg donor, and what we consider to be the most important characteristics. Being a genius is not one of them. You will see me get pretty excited about a donor who describes herself as family oriented, loyal, and a hard worker.
10. On your blog, you refer to infertility as “the big secret that never was” – dissolve this myth for us. When I was in the midst of my IVF cycle three years ago, I had no choice but to be honest about it right from the get-go. For one thing, I immediately gained 10 lbs from the fertility drugs. Also, I developed the infamous “Progesterack” which is a drastically increased chest measurement associated with Progesterone, a drug you must use in IVF. If I had chosen to hide this from people at work, they would have assumed I went on a fooder and then got breast implants. Being truthful was the less painful choice. As time has gone by, I am very proud of my decision to be forthcoming because infertility isn’t something to be hidden; it should be acknowledged like any other health condition that requires treatment.
I am so proud of my brave friend. To hear more, check out Holly’s blog by clicking here. And be sure to tune in to CNN tonite at 10 pm (PST) and watch “This is Life With Lisa Ling: The Genius Experiment.”