I was ready to collapse into bed. Just 10 more minutes of reading a bedtime story to my 2-year-old, and it would be lights out.
He had other plans.
I told him I was going to run downstairs to look for his favorite stuffed animal. As I quickly glanced back, he made a strange face that felt like it was in slow motion. The next thing I knew, he was projectile vomiting everywhere.
Welp, there went my night.
My husband and I hovered over him for the next 10 hours as we continually changed sheets and pajamas and fed him an electrolyte drink through a syringe to prevent him from getting dehydrated.
Two days later, my 4-year-old and I both caught his stomach virus and we were down for the count.
As strange as this may sound, and as tired as I am as I write this (because as you may already know, sleep is hard to come by in our household), what I had prayed for was this scenario. Not cleaning up vomit but rather the beautiful chaos that I live in now. And I can’t imagine life without it.I had cried enough tears to fill a well when I learned that my husband had male factor infertility and I had low ovarian egg reserve. Fertility clinic waiting rooms with sullen faces consumed my mornings for nearly two years.
Pumped full of hormones, and with failed intrauterine insemination attempts and a marriage on the brink, we finally became parents thanks to in vitro fertilization, more commonly known as IVF, in 2017. I had been convinced up until this point that we would not have biological children of our own.
A difficult road shared by many
When my husband and I went public with our fertility struggles with the announcement of our pregnancy on Christmas Day 2018, we received countless messages from friends and strangers around the world sharing their journeys. Infertility felt like a dirty little secret for us and for other people, and we realized it didn’t need to be. My husband and I decided in that moment that we were going to keep talking and being transparent about what we’d been through, and it has been liberating. Over the past four years, we’ve done countless podcasts, written numerous articles and appeared on panels.To bring attention to male factor infertility, my husband started a fundraiser called Run for a Chance in 2021. He ran 50 miles across Westchester County in New York and raised over $80,000 to cover fertility treatments for individuals at the Ronald O. Perelman and Claudia Cohen Center for Reproductive Medicine of Weill Cornell Medicine, where we went through IVF to have our children. Fundraising is essential, since one round of IVF in the United States can cost upward of $12,000 — not including medication, according to the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital. In the United States, only 19 states require some level of insurance coverage for infertility, according to the national infertility association Resolve. That means that in the other 31 states, insurance companies in the fully insured market (when a company purchases a plan from a commercial insurance carrier) don’t have to offer fertility benefits.
Find your resolve for an uphill battle
I totally get it — the logistical hurdles can seem insurmountable at times. But in response to the one question I get on a nearly weekly basis from people struggling to create their families, I always give the same answer: Don’t give up.
I wasn’t happy with my first fertility clinic, so I found my way to Dr. David Reichman at Weill Cornell Medical College. I always tell people to advocate for themselves — and if something doesn’t feel right, then find something that does.
But it didn’t get better right away. Up until we had our first successful round of IVF, two years into the process, I felt sick over every baby shower invitation. I found even running errands to be devastating as every pregnant woman made me sick with envy. Yet although I felt broken, I didn’t let it break me. I kept waking up each morning and making a conscious effort to develop a new plan each time things didn’t go our way.
I wish at the time I knew about places that could have brought me some sense of community during this difficult period of my life. Now I’m involved with organizations like Resolve: The National Infertility Association, that provide state by state guidance and support groups.
I know that not all journeys will result in a baby, and they might not result in a baby that you give birth to yourself. But I hope you come to an answer that is right for you, whether it’s adoption, surrogacy, or egg or sperm donation. You don’t know what is ultimately going to happen, but you won’t know if you don’t try. I know it’s painfully hard, and sometimes you don’t even want to get out of bed. But please, get up, stay strong and try to find the right options for you.
I think about those two years of struggling to get pregnant, and I remember sometimes when I am cleaning up after my sweet and boisterous and sometimes projectile-vomiting sons how grateful I am to be their mom.