It’s 8:00 am. You are walking through long, narrow, never ending hallways to the doctor’s appointment. People are walking by and saying good morning, but you do not notice them. This appointment has been thought about for years now and it is finally here. That moment where you know your life is going to change the minute you sit down in the exam room, is finally here.
Your fiance checks in with the receptionist, but you just take a seat. You wait and inside you feel like you are dying; you cannot breath. Every breath, you are fighting to take. Do you know that feeling you get when you are walking down the steps and you miss one? Your stomach lurches and it takes a second for it go away. This time that startled, scary feeling does not go away. You sit… and you wait. You wonder if the others in the waiting room are feeling the same thing. Maybe they are here for a completely different reason but probably not. As sad as it is, it is comforting to know you are not alone, that others share your journey. You pretend that they know what you are going through and share your pain . Some people are smiling; others have their heads buried in their phones. Some are talking to their significant other. You try to distract both of you by looking at funny jokes on Pinterest. Anything you can think of to take away the fear, you try, if just for a moment. It does not work, you know you cannot fool your brain to feel safe, but you try. You cannot get rid of that feeling… that terrible falling down the steps feeling. Finally, they call you both back to the exam room. You find it hard to believe, but your nerves are rattled even more now.
You cannot escape this moment. You can not ignore it. The moment is here and you must face it.
As the nurse takes you to the exam room, you see the doctor is sitting in the room waiting for you both. This isn’t typical and you know here goes another fall down the stairs. The first words out of his mouth are, “So how are you feeling?” with a look you recognize as disappointment on his face. You sink deeper into your chair. You slipped on the never ending staircase again, but this time it feels more like you are not going to make it; you are just going to keep falling. Your fiance tries to save you by responding that you’re both feeling pretty good. But the doctor seems surprised. Why?
The first blow. Testosterone levels are not where they need to be and they keep getting lower.
The second blow… that family you long for, the one you’ve been dreaming about since you first started playing with baby dolls, is going to be difficult to have.
Low testosterone, low sperm count… Not just the low sperm count where you have 20,000 sperm (normal is 50 thousand). The low sperm count where you may have a few hundred but most of them are abnormal. The type where ICSI is your only option.
Let’s step back about 2.5 years before this appointment. My fiance, Kevin, was deployed in Afghanistan. On June 24, 2012, Kevin stepped on an IED. He was thrown face down into the mud. When he was rolled over, he knew it was not good. His right leg was missing below the knee. His left leg was heavily damaged. Kevin’s pinky was gone and his wrist was severely injured. And then there was the injury that every man in the military fears, blood in his lap. Kevin’s one testicle was severely damaged in the blast and had to be removed. His life would never be the same.
Kevin was on testosterone patches for 2.5 years. This medication works just like birth control for women. It makes them not produce sperm. He stopped the medication in the fall of 2014 so we could start testing and figure out our situation. Test results are consistently saying that IVF/ICSI will be our only way to have children. I want so badly to look at my children and see my husband in them, his smile, his laugh, and his love for life.
We will be choosing when we become pregnant. The surprise is gone. The cute t-shirts, the surprise sonogram picture in a picture frame that says Grandma/Grandpa, might still happen, but the surprise factor is gone. I am saddened by this the most. I have always dreamed of the ways I would tell my parents that they are going to be Grandparents. Now, I know I will not be able to go through this process without their support. They will know when it happens and we will not get that priceless moment when we tell our parents. That somewhat exciting and somewhat terrifying moment when you are wondering if you are pregnant or not will be different for us. A doctor will tell us; we won’t get to find out the happy or heartbreaking news in the comfort of our home.
I have an amazing support system in my family and friends. They will be there for me during this process. However, it is still a lonely process. They do not know what it will be like. They can give me some advice but it is not from experience. Sometimes you just want to know you are going to survive it and when you see someone else survive, you have hope. Hope is what I will cling to!
One out of eight couples experience infertility issues. We are 1 out of 8, us, the people you grew up with, the people you used to go out to the bar with, the son, the teacher, the soldier, the mid-twenty year old, the friend, the sister, the neighbor, the daughter, the brother… it is us. We are 1 in 8. We are not some distance person that you may never meet, we are all around you, we may be you.
Kevin and I decided to be open about our journey with infertility so that others do not have to feel alone. Our infertility is a result of a war injury. We started a support page for families who are impacted by war related infertility (join if this is you, Families Impacted by War Related Infertility). Currently, the VA and Tricare, for retired veterans, will not cover the cost of IVF, even if it is the result of war related injury. There are thousands of couples in the same situations as us. We have already had people post on our Facebook support page that they had no idea that other people were dealing with this. They thought they were alone and that breaks my heart. No one should ever feel alone, especially when thousands of people are going through the exact same thing. I know it is embarrassing and feels very personal. But, the more we share our heartbreaking stories, the more comfortable people will be talking about it themselves. The more that people talk about it, the more interested doctors, lawyers, politicians and the public become interested in helping and figuring out why this is happening to so many people.
Kevin and I are just starting our journey with IVF. We have tests to complete before we do the actual embryo transfer. This week, I have the mock trial embryo transfer. It is going to be a long and painful process, but we are in this together. We have hope, we will survive, just as the thousands of other couples do.
Please do not be embarrassed or ashamed if you are dealing with infertility. Reach out to your family, friends, online communities, support groups, etc. As scared as I was to first share our story fearing people would judge us, I am so incredibly thankful I did share. I started thinking about it like this; I should not feel embarrassed or ashamed, the only people who should would be those who judge someone in this situation. Once you share your story, you hold your head high, because little do you know, you will impact someone; you will make a difference. I know that it has helped me to read others story, whether they are sad or happy, because either way it helps me relate and know that I will get through this.
You do not have to be alone, there is hope and there is support. Let’s get through this journey together! We are 1 out of 8 amazing couples, with incredible strength and courage, who will do anything to make their dreams come true!
Please feel free to share this post and help spread the word!
If you would like to find more information about National Infertility Awareness Week please check out these links from RESOLVE:
http://www.resolve.org/about-infertility/what-is-infertility/ (Basic understanding of the disease of infertility.)