In-Fertility and Friendship

Have you ever felt all alone? I mean really alone? No one else you know has your problem. You just cannot seem to get- or stay - pregnant no matter what you do. You are surrounded by people who are pregnant or who have just had babies. All of your friends and family members are pregnant either with their first child or they are eagerly awaiting baby #2 or #3. Of course, you are happy for them, but their success and joy just reminds you of how alone and unhappy you are. You are continuously being invited to baby gender reveals, baby showers, baptisms and christenings, kids' birthday parties, etc. etc. And Facebook and other social media sites are just smothered with friends pregnancy and family pictures. You just don't seem to fit in with any of your peers.

You watch the news and you see people in war-torn countries who are holding babies. You wonder, how on earth can these people get pregnant when they are fleeing for their lives? I can't get pregnant and I live in cushy suburbia, have a great husband, and a wonderful career (working with kids no less... but still a great career).

I get it.  My husband and I tried for a decade to get pregnant. We did every infertility work up known to man. I have had so many diagnostic laparoscopic surgeries that my belly button looks like a wagon wheel! I married a United States Naval Officer and we had 14 moves in the first 12 years of marriage. Every time I'd have to find a new reproductive endocrinologist, I'd have another laparoscopy. Every doctor wanted to see for himself what was going on with my reproductive organs. I lost count of how many IUI's I'd had... it was upwards of 15!! I had 4 IVF's and 2 ZIFTS and 2 combination IVF/ZIFTs. I had over 40 embryos transferred either into my uterus or my fallopian tubes. During the course of my infertility treatment, I had a whopping 21 surgeries! At one crazy point when I was consulting with a doctor, I said, "It'd be a lot easier if you just put a zipper in my body, so you can unzip and zip it back up whenever you need to." 

I often suffered in silence. I could talk to my husband... when he wasn't as sea... but he really didn't know what to say to make me feel better. None of my family members understood the depth of my despair. I remember coming home from a day of teaching, curling up in the fetal position and just crying myself to sleep until I had to get up the next morning, go to work and teach other people's kids. I wanted nothing more than to have a child of my very own. 

In-Fertility & Friendship Cards: Imagined by Sue Johnston Illustrated by Madeleine Kimble

In-Fertility & Friendship Cards: Imagined by Sue Johnston Illustrated by Madeleine Kimble

Infertility is lonely.

Your body is betraying you.

Your biological clock is ticking.

You are in a chronically uncontrollable situation and you want out.

You need support in order to cope with the overwhelming physical, financial, spiritual and emotional burdens of infertility. You see, even though they say that one in eight women suffers from infertility, there really isn't that much support available. Of course you can go to a psychologist or try to talk to a girlfriend or read a book on infertility.

What I needed more than anything when I was going through infertility was a friend. Someone who understood me and helped me navigate the twists and turns, the roadblocks and setbacks of the infertility "detour." But most of the books I've seen out there on infertility are very clinical. They don't have real people sharing real stories about their struggles. In our book Detours: Unexpected Journeys of Hope Conceived from Infertility, you will meet ten friends who had ten different outcomes that cover the gambit of ART (Assisted Reproductive Technology) including: donor egg, multiple miscarriages, anovulation, vanishing twin, child free living, unexplained infertility, IVF, ZIFT, GIFT and much, much more. 

Eventually, I finally did get pregnant. After a decade of trying, one of those 40 transferred embryos took. It was an IVF/ZIFT combination that finally worked for me, so I don't know if our son was an IVF baby or a ZIFT baby.  I just know it worked. It is still a mystery to me why it took so long. I had "unexplained infertility."  My doctors said everything was picture perfect with my cycles, but it still took so long and my "detours" were many.

Infertility affected me profoundly. It has been a balancing scale for the other adversities in my life. Nothing else in my 5+ decades has been as painful for me to endure. This is why I vowed to use my infertility pain for the greater good. I am called to help others who are facing similar struggles.

I am a bit older now. My son is a senior at the University of Michigan studying Earth and Environmental Sciences. Ever since he was a young boy and we explained to him how he came to be, he said, "I'm a science experiment! That's why I love science!" But, infertility still affects me because it changed me. In a strange sort of way, it made me an even more compassionate person. I always was a giver and a people person. This is why I wanted to write a book and provide support to others who are challenged with infertility. I want to make a difference. I want to be the friend that you might need at this overwhelming time in your life. I've learned a few valuable lessons along the way and some things I wish I knew when I was going through my treatments. So please, order Detours, start a conversation on my blog, send me an email or just pick up the phone and call me. Maybe, just maybe, I can help you, too.

You are not alone.