About Sadia

Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the divorced mother of 7-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. She lives with them and their 3 cats in the Austin, TX suburbs and works full time as a business analyst. She retired her personal blog, Double the Fun, when the girls entered elementary school and also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.

Baby-Maker’s Guilt: Spontaneous Conception in an Infertile World

(By Sadia.)

I was new to motherhood when I realized that being a twin mother made a tourist in the Land of Infertility. I remember the exact moment that it happened.

I was at a meeting of my Mothers of Multiples group. Our featured speaker was done speaking and our questions had been answered. We were all gathering up our things to head out to dinner together when my friend said casually, “Hey, who else is going to the fertility clinic reunion?” A couple of the other moms responded, just as casually, that they’d see her there.

I fiddled with my purse, avoiding eye contact, overcome with the realization that for these moms, the “Are they natural?” question wasn’t just an opportunity to shake their heads at strangers’ ignorance. It was a cut to their hearts, a reminder of a long and hard journey to become parents. I thought back on everything I’d said that evening. Had I inadvertently offended anyone with my question about breastfeeding and birth control?

I was aware of the statistics. I knew that fertility treatments had resulted in a 76% increase in twin births between 1980 and 2009. I just hadn’t paired those statistics with my friends’ life experiences. With so many infertile women around, the guilt of being able to conceive easily is very real. The guilt that settled in at that moment has never quite left me. Conception was so easy for me.

We scheduled it just so. I finished up psychotherapy to make sure that I’d vanquished the demons of my childhood so I wouldn’t introduce them into my kids’ lives. We’d starting building our first home. I’d learned to drive, found a solid job, and bought a car. I spent a year on both prenatal vitamins and birth control to prepare my body. We were ready. We decided to schedule my pregnancy for while my husband would be in Iraq. The baby, we thought, would never know that Daddy was away.

We gave ourselves a 4-month window for conception and achieved success in the first month. Seven months later, I had two beautiful little girls. My husband hadn’t even had time to deploy before our twins were home with us. We used the second pregnancy test in the two-pack we’d bought only because I’d taken the first test way too early to detect anything.

It was so easy for me. How was that fair? I would have perfectly satisfied with adoption instead of pregnancy, but my husband wanted one biological child before adopting. And here were these mothers, these wonderful, inspiring mothers, who’d had to spend thousands of dollars, to endure disappointments and losses, to get there.

When women approach me and my children in public to ask whether they were conceived with fertility assistance, on occasion I see a hopeful light in their eyes. I feel awful, telling them that no, my daughters were conceived spontaneously.

Why do I feel guilty for the fertility that allowed me to be a mother? Motherhood is guilt-infused enough as it is! The guilt can be gift, though, just a reminder of what a miracle it is that I get to experience every day. Every conception is a miracle. Twins, even more so. And my identical twins, these brilliant, funny, energy-saturated, amazing little girls calling me Mommy every day? They’re the greatest miracle of all.

Infertility TalesThis post is part of Infertility Tales 2014, How Do You Do It?‘s series to raise awareness about infertility and its impact on families. Please take a moment to read through some of the personal stories of loss, pain, fertility treatments, and success.

Infertility: It Still Affects Me

(This post was submitted anonymously.)

I’ve run the race, and I have not one, but TWO t-shirts to prove it.

I traveled the path of infertility. It was long. It was hard. But I have my twin girls to show for it. I am so very, very lucky.

My girls color my world with love and joy, the depths of which I never could have imagined.

Infertility should be a thing of my past then, right? A chapter I closed, to focus on the happily ever after.

It’s not, though.

Infertility isn't easy to leave behind, even as motherhood takes precedence.

I always said I wanted two children, and that’s precisely what I got…two brilliantly amazing children, whom I love more than life. I could not be happier.

Why, then, do I wince a little when I see a glowing mother-to-be?

Why do I switch to the other side of the mall, to avoid walking past the maternity store?

Why does it sting to hear about the “oopsie” babies…the declarations of “we want a big family”?

Why can’t I bring myself to read the “how do you know if you’re ‘done’” posts?

Infertility still affects me.

I know it will always be a part of who I am, and I hope it at least makes me a more compassionate person. But the pangs of wanting I feel? They are isolating, and they come with a lot of guilt.

Why can’t I just be happy with what I have, content with the gifts I was {finally} given?

I am. I am so very happy. And I can’t imagine feeling more content than I do, walking hand in hand with my girls down the street, or snuggling with them on either side of me, reading books.

Had I been able to have my two children by conventional means, would I still feel this way? I don’t know.

I don’t know the answers. I just know how it feels. I hope I can one day move past the rawness of the emotions.

Infertility TalesThis post is part of Infertility Tales 2014, How Do You Do It?‘s series to raise awareness about infertility and its impact on families. Please take a moment to read through some of the personal stories of loss, pain, fertility treatments, and success.

“Legitimately” Infertile?

(This post was submitted anonymously.)

Starting in about July 2012, I started to get the bitter feeling about not being pregnant. I was upset for days when I would start my period, knowing that another month was wasted and a failure.

In September, I started feeling upset towards friends and others that were pregnant because I wasn’t.

In December, I officially associated myself with the infertility community after we saw the results from our testing. But I had a problem: in the IF world, you are usually considered infertile after 12 months with no success. By the time I got pregnant with my twins in March/April, we had only been “trying” for 10 months.

How much pain and waiting before a couple can really consider themselves infertile?

So, where did we fit in? Were we infertiles? Could we call ourselves that? After all, I DID get pregnant through IUI. Or, did we just speed up the process, and would we have been able to get pregnant on our own, just after some more time? Was my self-made IF label a hoax? Was I just trying to belong to that community, or was I really in it?

What do you think? Is there a bright line dividing the infertile from everyone else? Who is legitimately infertile?

Infertility TalesThis post is part of Infertility Tales 2014, How Do You Do It?‘s series to raise awareness about infertility and its impact on families. Please take a moment to read through some of the personal stories of loss, pain, fertility treatments, and success.

Buy One, Get One Free: Affordable Fertility Treatment!

(This post was submitted anonymously.)

This isn’t some heroic tale of how I overcame years of infertility followed by thousands of dollars worth of fertility treatments to eventually bear children. My experience was cheaper and of shorter duration. The end result was a beautiful pair of b/g twins. I’m sharing this for those women who are afraid to speak with a fertility specialist. I want them to know that sometimes there are easy answers.

Fertility treatments can be covered by insurance!

For six months we tried to get pregnant. Each day would begin with me lying in bed, thermometer in my mouth ready to capture my basal temperature. I would diligently chart every rise and fall, and spend hours studying the resultant graph, trying to make sense of my cycle. But I was generally confused by the timing of things, and was becoming more stressed with each passing day.

Each month progressed in a cycle of excitement and anticipation followed by disappointment and fear. I was a health-conscious teetotaler following ovulation, only to become a careless lush with the onset of my period, my need for release fueled by the emotional roller coaster I was riding.

I felt inadequate, scared, and sad. I had always held this belief that the women in my family were highly fertile: my maternal grandma had three children, my mom had three children, my sister was pregnant with her third. Was it possible I was wrong all these years? I stopped visiting my sister – her growing belly a constant reminder of what I didn’t have. I worried that stress was preventing me from getting pregnant, and became more stressed as a result. Everywhere I went I saw babies and pregnant women.

I would read news stories of child abuse and would curse the heavens for allowing these parents to bear children, while I, who wouldn’t so much as slap a child, remained barren. I became frustrated with the daily temperature tracking and would boycott the thermometer for weeks at a time. I began discussing alternatives with my husband and was disappointed to learn that he was against adoption. I felt lost and alone. I felt like my body had betrayed me.

In retrospect, six months seems like a short duration, but at the time it felt like an eternity. I was 33, and could feel the pressure of time running out. I worried that I had waited too long to get pregnant. Most guidelines recommend that women under 35 try for a year to get pregnant before consulting a fertility doctor. I ignored this and made an appointment after six months. I was too close to 35 to wait a year.

The fertility specialist began by inspecting all the equipment, so to speak. The appointment was scheduled after my monthly ovulation so they could examine my ovaries. With ultrasound they could tell that I had ovulated. They also examined my uterus via ultrasound to ensure a hospitable environment. They filled my uterus with water and blew air through my cervix to check for blockages in my fallopian tubes. This was the most painful procedure and unfortunately, the only one at which my husband couldn’t be there to hold my hand. The specialist also examined my husband’s sperm to ensure quantity, morphology, and motility.

All of this was covered by insurance. The insurance company covered any tests to determine a diagnosis of fertility at 100% of costs, (less the typical copay and coinsurance and after meeting the deductible). Treatment, however, would be out of pocket.

Much to my relief, the tests hadn’t revealed any problems in my own anatomy. The problem was likely my husband’s sperm, which had moderate agglutination. This means the sperm tend to stick together, and is likely caused by illness or injury. Basically, he had plenty of sperm with strong motility, but because they liked to travel in groups, they struggled to get through my cervix and up the fallopian tube. I was further relieved to learn that the solution was simple: intrauterine insemination or IUI.

With IUI, the sperm are washed, which facilitates separation, and inserted directly into the uterus. I was prescribed Clomid and told to use a daily ovulation test kit to determine the moment of ovulation. This would ensure that conditions were optimal for impregnation.

Like many people, we assumed that fertility treatment would cost tens of thousands of dollars. For some who undergo multiple rounds of treatment, this may be true. Fortunately, I had a friend who underwent IVF, and as she explained, the procedure had only cost $1,000. IUI was even cheaper: $465 a pop and about $10 for a dose of hormones.

Two days after my 34th birthday, I underwent the procedure. The result? Twins! After nine months trying to conceive, it seemed fitting that we would get two for the price of one.

Infertility TalesThis post is part of Infertility Tales 2014, How Do You Do It?‘s series to raise awareness about infertility and its impact on families. Please take a moment to read through some of the personal stories of loss, pain, fertility treatments, and success.

How to Support an Infertile Friend… When You’re Not

5 ideas for supporting someone infertile, when you're not

It’s hard to know what to say or do when a couple we love learns that they’re infertile. It’s especially hard for those of us who had no trouble conceiving. It can become suddenly awkward, wondering what we’re doing or saying without even thinking about it to reopen the wound on their hearts. Being supportive without going overboard, especially when I have no real idea what they are going through, is a narrow road to walk.

I’ve been in this position several times now, and I’ve learned a few general lessons about what to do.

  1. Assume nothing. This is the big one. Don’t assume that you know how your infertile friends feel, what they need, or what comes next. Infertility is, by definition, a morass of the unknown. Ask questions instead of making general statements. Find out about your friends’ individual situations.

    Some questions you can (and perhaps should) ask:

    • Who are you telling about your infertility? Should I keep it a secret?
    • How are you feeling?
    • What are your hopes and fears?
    • What do you need from me? What do you want from me?
    • Do you want to spend time with my children. Would you prefer adult-only time with me?
    • Should I keep news about my pregnancy/children to myself?
    • If your friends have been through miscarriage:
      • Do you want to talk about the experience?
      • How do you want me to refer to the baby or babies you’ve lost? By name? As “the baby”? As “the fetus”?
      • Do you want to acknowledge the date of their death?
      • Do you want to acknowledge their due date?

  2. Recognize that every infertile couple is different. Knowing what one infertile couple has gone through gives you no understanding about the next couple you encounter. Every journey is different, from the emotions to the process to the eventual outcome.

    One couple may start seeking fertility treatment after 6 months of trying to conceive while another doesn’t think of their situation as infertility until 5 years down the road. One couple may be drawn together by their struggles while another is ripped apart. One wife may want to pour her heart out while another has a stiff upper lip. One husband may resent their inability to conceive while another doesn’t understand why his wife isn’t ready to adopt.

    I have two friends whose first pregnancies ended in miscarriage before they each gave birth to two healthy children. One considers herself the mother of 3, the other a mother of 2.

  3. Be there. Of course, friends are there for each other. It’s not so simple, though, when you’re a mother and your friends are battling infertility. Does it hurt them to have your kids around or hear stories about them? It can feel easier to just back off and let your infertile friends take their journey solo than to have difficult conversations. Do not retreat from your friends. Let them retreat from you if they choose to, but don’t assume that they’re better off without you.

    You don’t need to live nearby to provide support. A letter, card, phone call or text can mean as much or more than a hug or hot meal.

  4. Listen. It can be tempting to try to offer comfort in the form of positivity and advice. Resist that urge and listen to your friends. Let them communicate their pain, frustration, anger, amusement, bemusement, relief or whatever they may be thinking or feeling. Unless your friends are incredibly negative people, they’ve probably told themselves every positive truism in the book already. You can choose to be the friend who listens to them instead of telling them what they should do, should feel, should think.

  5. Cry with them. Laugh with them. Infertility can be devastatingly painful. It’s hard to look it in the face and let it rip at your heart if you have the option to avoid it. But if you really love your friends, you’ll let yourself feel their loss and pain alongside them.

    I’ve cried myself to sleep for my friends’ losses. I’ve felt the burn of anger on hearing news of yet another abandoned child, pondering the lack of justice that my friends, who would be such great parents, haven’t had the chance. And I’ve felt the flush of embarrassment and silly laughter hearing about the shenanigans that go on when the medical community gets involved in my friends’ private parts.

  6. Don’t say, “You can always adopt.” Trust me, they already know that adoption exists. Your friends will consider it when and if it suits them. Yes, we’re all well aware that there are many, many children in the world who need loving homes. But right now, we’re focused on your friends, and they’re focused on trying to conceive. If they choose to adopt, you can support them through that too. But it’s not your place to remind them about the adoption option.

    If they’re unaware of it, and the experience of pregnancy is their focus over genetic relationship to their children, you can mention embryo adoption. But do not say, “There’s always adoption.”

I’ve been in the unique position to offer two other kinds of support.

  1. Couples starting to use assisted reproductive technologies are often very concerned about the risk of conceiving multiples because of they know that there’s an increased risk of complications in a multiple pregnancy. My twin daughters serve to remind my friends that prematurity isn’t a life sentence, and I’m also sure to point out all the full-term multiples I know. Our family also demonstrates that having multiples doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Having several kids all the same age has its own special magic.
  2. I have offered to be a gestational surrogate to 3 couples I’m close to. None of them has taken me up on my offer, but I am fully prepared to host their babies in my womb for 9 months if that would help them achieve their dreams. I take prenatal vitamins regularly. I’ve talked to my doctor about it. My daughters and I have talked about what surrogacy would mean, and they understand that the baby would not be their sibling, that I would be the “belly mom”, standing in for the real mom during the pregnancy only.

If you’ve contended with infertility yourself, please share your story with your friends. Listen, first, but also let them know that they’re not alone. You can support them in ways I never can.

Simple steps to support an infertile friend.

What advice do you have on how to best support couples facing infertility?

Infertility TalesThis post is part of Infertility Tales 2014, How Do You Do It?‘s series to raise awareness about infertility and its impact on families. Please take a moment to read through some of the personal stories of loss, pain, fertility treatments, and success.

A Support System to Help You Through Infertility

(This post was submitted anonymously.)

I heard her mention it in passing, long before we began making plans to start a family. It was an offhanded comment about her infertility, made during a company dinner, something everyone around her seemed to take in stride.

I don’t remember how it struck me at the time. Did I pity her? Did I think it was strange? Uncomfortable?

For whatever reason, that slight comment stuck with me. And then, a year or so later, when we began to realize that infertility was going to be part of our journey, I thought about it a lot.

A support system to help you through infertility

I wondered if I should call her. Would she mind talking to me? Was I ready to open up with where we were?

I found myself traveling with her on a few business calls, the first time the two of us had ever spent any time alone together. Over dinner one night, I told her I wanted to ask her a question.

…see, we’ve been trying for a while now, and things haven’t happened for us yet.”

She was so compassionate, so supportive. She told me all about her experience, and gave me a general sense for what I might be able to expect.

I was very grateful for the opportunity to talk about our situation. Little did I know at the time how deeply she would support our journey.

Following our time together, it was she who initially reached out to me. She lived 2500 miles away, so I very rarely saw her, but she inserted herself into my life on a very regular basis.

Especially as we delved into the more aggressive treatments, she kept track of my every appointment. “Message me with your numbers!” she’d say. If I didn’t call her on my way home from the clinic, she’d call me. “How did it go?” In the depths of shots and prods and pokes, I looked forward to hearing her voice…she was my cheerleader, my confidante.

Of course my husband was supportive, accompanying me to appointments as often as he could, but her having experienced the trials before me provided an entirely different dimension to my support system.

When I look back on that time in my life, particularly with us having made the decision to keep our journey mostly to ourselves, I see her face. I hear her voice. From halfway across the country, she walked that road with me.

I send her a card on Mother’s Day. Not only is she a beautiful mother herself, but I can’t think of my journey to becoming a mother without thinking about her.

I can never repay her for what she did for me, but I can try to pay it forward.

Not talking publicly about our infertility makes it difficult, but I have served as a resource for a former colleague who approached me very sheepishly, asking if we’d had “help” with our girls. By the incredibly respectful way he asked, I knew he had a reason. I was so thankful to be able to cheer him and his wife on as they trekked to appointment after appointment.  And every time I see pictures of his children, I feel a special sense of joy.

women_support_groupsI share this part of my story to underscore the importance of a support system when you’re going through infertility. Whether that support comes from your partner, your friend or family member…or from someone you rarely see or know only online…reach out. You don’t have to travel this journey alone.

And for those of us who’ve been there, may we remember the things that helped us along our way. May we look for opportunities to pay them forward.

Infertility TalesThis post is part of Infertility Tales 2014, How Do You Do It?‘s series to raise awareness about infertility and its impact on families. Please take a moment to read through some of the personal stories of loss, pain, fertility treatments, and success.

My Story: Taking Our Infertility One Step at a Time

(This post was submitted anonymously.)

I got married young, at 23, but the plan was for us to focus on our careers for a while. We worked hard, and we played hard. We loved those first few years of marriage.

As I entered my late 20’s, having been married five years, and having reached a really good place professionally, we started thinking about having a baby. The time was right, and we were ready.

As a Type A person, I had everything planned out. I stopped taking birth control in late 2004. We waited a few months to officially start trying, and in the meantime, I stopped drinking caffeine and started eating by the Food Guide Pyramid. I read the book Taking Charge of Your Fertility[although I skipped the chapter on infertility; that didn’t apply to me]. I was charting my cycles, taking my temperature each morning. I wanted to be pregnant by the time I turned 30, in February 2006.

One step

After charting my cycle for a few months, I noticed my cycles were really long…55 to 60 days. I didn’t want to believe anything could be wrong, though. It was just my body adjusting to being off the birth control, right???

The books said that a woman at my age should be pregnant within a year. I vowed to be patient…but after six months, given what I was seeing with my cycles, I made an appointment with my OB/GYN.

He ran some preliminary tests, and my husband had a sperm count done. Everything checked out, so my doctor put me on Clomid. Again, I vowed to be patient, not to stress about it. It would happen, right???

After six rounds of Clomid, my OB/GYN referred me to a reproductive endocrinologist in the nearest metropolitan area, about 75 miles away. I got to know every stretch of that 150-mile round trip all too well.

During my first vaginal ultrasound, I heard the term “string of pearls” said by the technician to the doctor. My heart sank. By that time I’d read the chapter on infertility, and I knew that meant something was wrong. I was diagnosed with PCOS.

My husband also underwent more testing. While his sperm count was normal, an SPA test revealed a low penetration rate. The normal range begins at 5.0, and his was 1.7.

At least we had a diagnosis, though. It was validating to know that it wasn’t just me “not having been able to relax”. (That makes my blood pressure rise just to type it!) Having a diagnosis meant we could move forward, right???

Psychologically, a big part of my coping mechanism was taking things slowly…believing it would happen for us…forcing myself to step back from the calendar, from my biological clock. In stark contrast to my Type A personality, I vowed to be patient, to go with the flow.

Ultimately, we did six rounds of Clomid…then four rounds of Clomid + IUI…followed by three rounds of injectables + IUI…before we considered IVF. I wanted to follow the least-invasive method. We gave it our best shot.

With those options exhausted, we met with our doctor and decided that IVF with ICSI was the next step for our family. It was a huge relief to have made that decision. I felt like we had “paid our dues” through the process (part of the psychological game I played with myself). I felt confident. I felt excited.

We had a couple of setbacks leading up to IVF. A problem was discovered with my thyroid, and then I had an abnormal blood screening. That was my lowest point. We’d taken all the steps, and then made the Big IVF Decision.  I broke down. I went from feeling confident, to feeling defeated. What if this wasn’t in the plans for us???

Although that news delayed our progress for a couple of months, we were able to control my thyroid pretty easily, and the abnormal blood screening turned out to be a fluke. Finally, we were ready to take the plunge in May 2008.

We implanted two embryos, and in January 2009, I gave birth to our twin girls.

It was a long, hard road. Not only has motherhood changed me, of course, but that experience did, too. I never would have asked for that to be our path, but I am a stronger, more compassionate person because of it. That long, winding road brought us to our children, and we are eternally grateful.

Infertility TalesThis post is part of Infertility Tales 2014, How Do You Do It?‘s series to raise awareness about infertility and its impact on families. Please take a moment to read through some of the personal stories of loss, pain, fertility treatments, and success.

My Story: Our Infertility Journey, Complete with ICSI

(This post was submitted anonymously.)

We were a bit later to the marriage party, both 33 when we got married. I was itching to stop birth control as soon as we tied the knot. My husband wanted to wait just a little bit. We kind of accelerated the whole courtship process. We were engaged after just 10 months after our first date, closed on our house 3 months later and got married just 3 months after that. He thought we might want to slow down a bit. I think I held out for about 4 months after we said “I do” to start trying.

I thought it would just happen instantly. You know, like they tell us in health class, but it didn’t. I remember crying every damn time I got my period. I quickly became frustrated. I made an appointment with an ob/gyn before the first year of trying was even up.

Then the testing started… We quickly figured out what the problem was, but that didn’t mean we needed to keep having more tests and see more specialist, looking for something to fix it, looking for an answer. We knew we were dealing with male factor. My husband was producing few healthy sperm. I was devastated. I was quickly imagining all the pain and heartache that lay before us, never mind the potential to spend thousands and thousands of dollars. We had no idea what we were getting into.

One of the biggest supports to me was an online support group at www.dailystrength.org and the infertility board. I watched women’s stories unfold and learned about the tests and procedures we were in for. I asked questions and shared our story. By the time we got to the fertility clinic I knew what to expect, what questions to ask and what the risks were. We chose a hospital in a state where infertility coverage is mandated so they were doing it a lot. In fact they had the highest success rates in the state that year.

Hurdle #2 was finances. Unfortunately, neither of our employers’ health care policies covered the treatment we would need. There was the some coverage for testing and diagnosis. Every time some minor claim went through it was a victory. So we saved and we saved and we saved. I would feel guilty buying two boxes of tampons and I jumped down my husband’s throat when he joined a golf league that summer. Our clinic takes back medication that women don’t need, like if they have to stop mid cycle. The nurses started saving what we would need because they knew we could use it.

#ICSI (intra-cytoplsmic sperm injection) was the answer to this couple's infertility.

We dived in big time – IVF with ICSI – or in vitro fertilization with intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection. I wore patches, I used vaginal suppositories, and my husband shot me up with drugs. We held our breath as the doctors harvested 16 eggs and were able to fertilize a dozen. After day 3 we implanted 2 eggs and froze 3.  After day 5 we froze 2 more. At that point, it is all about the numbers.

It worked! We got pregnant! And we had some in storage!

In June of 2009 we welcomed our amazing little boy into the world. While I was home maternity leave I knew I wanted another one. I couldn’t just do this once. Besides, boy clothes were dumb. I wanted pink frilly dresses. So a couple of years later we looked into FET or frozen embryo transfer. A few more tests, some faults starts and some more money, we did it again!

A son and daughter after infertility

Our baby girl will turn two this summer! It was by far the most difficult journey I have ever been on. The biggest challenge our marriage has ever faced. And it has the most amazing reward. Those snuggles and smiles and kisses and sweet smells make it all worth it. Sometimes we just have to remind ourselves when both kids are screaming at dinner and we are exhausted at the end of the day!

Infertility TalesThis post is part of Infertility Tales 2014, How Do You Do It?‘s series to raise awareness about infertility and its impact on families. Please take a moment to read through some of the personal stories of loss, pain, fertility treatments, and success.

Kristin’s Story: From Endometriosis to IVF Quadruplets

This story was submitted by reader Kristin.

KristinG2I met my husband in an area of Illinois known as the Quad Cities. We were both working at a TV station. I was a reporter. He worked behind the scenes in production. We were friends for a long time and then a romance blossomed.

When we married in 2001 we knew we wanted to have children, but we didn’t want them right away. By this time we were living in Ohio and working in a town that had been suffering from a lockout at a major employer. Morale throughout the town was low and we had no desire to begin our family in this particular area. We moved to Michigan in 2002, became homeowners and knew we were ready to start our family. If only it were that simple.

During a “routine” check up with my new OB/GYN it became clear that something wasn’t right. The doctor told me I either had ovarian cysts, endometriosis or ovarian cancer. Having lost my mother to breast cancer about a year before this check up, I felt myself slipping into panic mode.

Not cancer. Surely it can’t be cancer. Fortunately it wasn’t, but it turns out endometriosis is no walk in the park.

Endometriosis occurs when tissue that normally lines the inside of your uterus (the endometrium) grows outside your uterus. In endometriosis, displaced endometrial tissue continues to act as it normally would. It thickens, breaks down and bleeds with each menstrual cycle. Because this displaced tissue has no way to exit your body, it becomes trapped. Surrounding tissue can become irritated, eventually developing scar tissue and adhesions.

Growing up, my friends always complained about how bad their menstrual cramps were. Mine were ridiculously painful, but I just assumed all females had at least one day of the month where their cramps were so bad they didn’t want to move. My lower back would ache all through my cycle.

On the advice of the obstetrician I had laproscopic surgery to remove the buildup of scar tissue caused by endometriosis. One year later I was no closer to being pregnant and we were referred to a Reproductive Endocrinologist (RE).

Endrometriosis to Quads. Infertility with a happy ending!

I went through yet another laproscopic surgery to remove the scar tissue that had built up during our year of trying to become pregnant on our own. Then we turned to Intrauterine Insemination (IUI). Fortunately, our insurance covered most of the tests and medication leading up to each IUI attempt. After three failed IUIs the RE told us In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) was probably our best chance at conceiving.

It took us time to decide what to do. We knew IVF would be expensive. We knew there were no guarantees. We had already started exploring adoption and had attended an initial meeting with an agency that works with other agencies outside the United States.

In the end, I decided to give IVF one go. I didn’t want to live with the “what ifs” of not doing it. The process leading up to the actual embryo transfer was brutal. The hormones made me a mess. I was either in tears or yelling at people. I had night sweats from the medications. One of medications had to be injected in my lower back/hip area, so my husband, who hates needles, had to give me the shot.

Like IUI, the majority of tests and medication leading up to the embryo transfer were covered by insurance. But there were other expenses to consider… the 2 ½ hour drive to the clinic for every appointment, the hotel room we had to stay in the night before the IVF procedure and the cost of the embryo transfer.

When my embryos were removed to be fertilized there were three viable ones. All along the plan had been to transfer two embryos. On the day of transfer the RE recommended transferring all three because the third one likely would not survive being frozen and thawed. He pointed out that this would increase our chance of multiples, but said the chance of triplets was slim. We transferred all three and then played the waiting game.

After the transfer I spent three days on bed rest, bored out of my mind, hoping to never spend this many days in a row in bed ever again. About a week after the transfer I went in for a blood test and then the call came. I was pregnant!!!! Don’t ask me what else was said in that phone conversation. I know the nurse said my hormone levels were high, but I can’t tell you the number. I focused on the important part of that phone call… I was pregnant!!!!

Three weeks into the pregnancy I became very ill. I can’t call it Morning Sickness because it was All Day, Round the Clock Sickness. This coincided with my first follow up with the RE. On the way to the appointment I told my husband we should be prepared for twins because of how fast and hard my Morning Sickness came in. (I realize this may in no way be a sign of multiples, but my skills of logic and reasoning were severely distorted due to constantly vomiting).

At the appointment the woman who did the ultrasound didn’t initially point the screen in a way that I could see it. A funny look crossed her face. “How many embryos did we transfer?” she asked. My heart sank. I knew she was going to tell us something was horribly wrong. She left to get the RE. He came in, looked at the screen and said “Yep, four heartbeats.” Four? Yes, four heartbeats. I would love to tell you my husband and I had some epic freak out or spouted profound words of wisdom but really, we didn’t say much, although we smiled a lot.

Three embryos transferred and four heartbeats? That’s right. One of our embryos split into two viable embryos, going on to become the identical pair among our otherwise fraternal quadruplets.

Becoming pregnant was just the beginning of the story. I was diagnosed with severe hyperemesis and was put on bed rest 5 weeks into the pregnancy. For most of the pregnancy I would go to the hospital every other day for IV fluids. Luckily I only spent one week of the pregnancy on hospital bed rest. At that point I begged my obstetrician to admit me because I couldn’t even keep down Twizzlers. Fortunately, after a week of round the clock fluids in the hospital I was able to go back to my own bed, where I would spend the duration of the pregnancy.

Our plan was to get to 32 weeks. My water broke at 28 weeks and 2 days and four teeny tiny wonderful girls began the fight of their lives. They weighed between 1 ½ pounds and 2 pounds at birth. Two girls left the NICU after 63 days. A third came home after 74 days and the fourth one finally left the NICU after 89 days.

These quadruplet sisters were born at 28 weeks.

Here we are 8 years later and I know I am truly blessed. I have four amazing daughters and a husband who is an equal partner in raising them. When diapers needed changed he would do it. We both worked during their first year of life so he readily took on some of the overnight feedings. Even now he pitches in to make school lunches or help with homework. This life would not work if we were not both on board.

8 year old quadruplet sisters. You'd never guess they were born at 28 weeks and spents months in the NICU!

It annoys my husband to no end when people ask how we ended up with quadruplets. I get his annoyance. It’s really no one’s business. But I’ve found more often than not after I answer I tend to find myself talking to someone with similar struggles. If I can lend an ear or a shoulder to cry on to another woman or couple struggling with infertility, then I do what I can.

Keep in mind as you contemplate my story, it could have had a much different ending. The area where my husband and I met was originally called The Quint Cities!

Infertility TalesThis post is part of Infertility Tales 2014, How Do You Do It?‘s series to raise awareness about infertility and its impact on families. Please take a moment to read through some of the personal stories of loss, pain, fertility treatments, and success.

The Roller Coaster of Emotions: The Things that Hurt When You’re Infertile

(This post was submitted anonymously.)

Infertility Roller CoasterLet me tell you about the emotions that come with everyday interactions with the outside world when you are trying to get pregnant.

It is really difficult when you are going through infertility, not just because of the desire to be pregnant and the loss when you find out you aren’t, but also for the day-to-day life and troubles that causes.

First, you have to deal with people talking to you about having kids:

  • Oh, you’ll understand when you have kids of your own” used to be a phrase of which I would roll my eyes and say okay. Now, that phrase makes me tear up and want to scream, “I WANT TO HAVE KIDS OF MY OWN! I CAN’T HAVE KIDS OF MY OWN AND IT’S KILLING ME!
  • When do you plan on having little ones?” was once an innocent, curious question. Months ago, people would get the response, “We’re trying,” and they would be so excited for us. Now, they still get the affirmative “Hopefully soon,” but it is with a sad, despondent look in our eyes.
  • I bet your mom is really anxious to have a grandbaby!” Yes, as we are excited to have one of our own. So is our doctor, who would really like to be able to tell us some good news for once. So are our friends who have been walking on eggshells for months around us. So are our siblings. So are our extended family. So are the strangers who get dirty looks when I am in one of my moods. Everyone wants us to have a baby, but us most of all.
  • Oh don’t worry, don’t stress. You just need to relax and it will happen to you.” Oh really? Relaxing is going to get me pregnant? I wish you had told me that months ago. Oh, and can you tell my doctor that this is the real reason why I’m not pregnant, because I haven’t been relaxing? I’m sure he just didn’t realize it. Oh that’s right, because RELAXING WILL NOT GET YOU PREGNANT! Well, for some it may, but we unfortunately cannot just wave a relaxation wand and POOF I’m pregnant. I wish it were that easy. I could have saved a fortune.
  • Do you have something to tell us?” People don’t actually ask that, but they do have this excited, questioning look on their face whenever you sit down to talk to them. It’s like they are excitedly waiting for you to announce your pregnancy, only to have to start every conversation with “I’m not pregnant.” Do you know how difficult that is to say out loud, when it is what you want more than anything?

Then, you also have to deal with the outside world.

  • Babies are all around us. Snookie is pregnant. Princess Kate is pregnant. Stupid Kim Kardashian is pregnant. So are all of my friends. Yes, all. Every single day, someone else is popping up on my Facebook newsfeed announcing their pregnancy. Woo. Good for you. This is actually really difficult, because I truly love my friends. I wish them the best, and I am truly happy for them. And then the wave of bitterness, anger, and upset washes over me, and I want to shut myself off from the world.
  • It’s amazing how often you see mention of babies. See pictures of (or real life) babies. See pregnant women. Hear about pregnant women. You don’t realize it until you are trying and failing. It becomes physically painful over time. I can attest that I actually have been in pain because of this. At a health insurance informational meeting, for example, I was in one of my especially sour anti-baby moods. I actually did a tally chart to see how many time babies were mentioned in the 1.5 hour meeting. The total: 7. Seven times, there was the mention of babies, having babies, getting pregnant, healthy childhood, etc. The hardest part of these baby mentions are that each time, I want to scream out “Stop talking about that!” or I just want to burst into tears. I’ve gotten really good at keeping my tears in check, quiet, and contained. I usually let it out once I get home. Again, poor hubby has to deal with this. He is a saint, especially because he is going through all of these emotions right along with me.

What are other things that hurt when you’re infertile?

Infertility TalesThis post is part of Infertility Tales 2014, How Do You Do It?‘s series to raise awareness about infertility and its impact on families. Please take a moment to read through some of the personal stories of loss, pain, fertility treatments, and success.