I was 27 years young when I was propelled head-first into the world of fertility treatments. My husband and I had only been married for 3 months when I decided to go off of the birth control pill. We didn’t necessarily want to start trying to have a baby right then, but after 11 years on the pill I wanted to get it out of my system so that we could start trying in a couple of months.
A few months later, I still hadn’t gotten my menstrual cycle back. After running some tests, I was officially diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), a hormonal disorder that affects 1 in 10 women of childbearing age and one of the leading causes of infertility in the U.S. At that point, my OBGYN told me if I wanted to get pregnant I would need to see a Reproductive Endocrinologist who could prescribe me Clomid to help me ovulate. And that’s when I discovered that if you don’t ovulate, you can’t get pregnant. I didn’t know it at the time, but that was the first of many lessons I would learn on a year-long fertility journey that would both challenge me and change me.
Following my diagnosis, I had so many questions. What exactly is PCOS? What would it take for me to get pregnant? Would I have to do IVF? What would the timeline be? Would I ever be a mom? Despite constant reassurances from my doctor that I was “so young,” in a matter of a few days I had gone from not being totally ready to become a mom to suddenly feeling like I was against the clock when it came to my fertility.
I quickly learned that infertility is not a one-size-fits-all diagnosis. Neither is PCOS. Doctors can run all of the tests in the world, and each cycle will still be a process of trial-and-error to see what works—and doesn’t work—for your body. I always say that I feel like I was physically going through the motions of fertility treatments for a long time before my mind finally caught up, and to be totally honest, I’m still not sure I’ve completely processed everything I went through to become a mom.
Looking back now, I realize that when I walked into the initial consultation with my fertility doctor I had absolutely no idea what I was getting myself into. I didn’t know that committing to fertility treatments would be like having a second job on top of my full-time career. I had no clue about the physical and emotional toll that countless failed IUIs—and then ultimately, IVF—would take on me. No one had warned me about any of it. The next year of my life was a whirlwind of doctor’s appointments, blood draws, ultrasound wands, hormones, shots, tears, and failed cycles. It was all-consuming and, despite my support system, I felt completely alone.
At 27, I had approximately one friend who had even tried to have a baby, and of course, she had gotten pregnant on her second attempt. My mom never had trouble conceiving, and the rest of my friends weren’t even married yet let alone thinking about starting a family. I discovered the hard way that you can have the most incredible family and friends in the world, but infertility is one of those experiences that is tough to fully understand until you’ve actually been through it yourself.
At first, I didn’t think much of it. During those first couple of months, I leaned on my husband, my mom, and my best friends more than ever. But negative cycle after negative cycle, and infertility began to take a toll on me. I became tired of talking about it with people who didn’t get it, no matter how hard they tried. My fertility clinic didn’t offer any support groups, and I desperately wished I had someone that I could turn to who understood firsthand the heartbreak I was experiencing month after month.
You would think that the fertility clinic waiting room would be full of women eager to make connections with others going through similar experiences, but I actually found even less support there. After one too many appointments yielded countless unreturned smiles, I swiftly discovered the unspoken rule: no eye contact is allowed in the fertility clinic waiting room. You’re supposed to walk in, sit down, and stare at your phone until your name is called. Forget about small talk. Don’t ask, don’t tell.
With 1 in 8 couples in the U.S. struggling to conceive or sustain a pregnancy, it didn’t sit well with me that such a stigma still existed surrounding infertility and pregnancy loss. With so many people navigating the confusing and isolating world of fertility treatments, I was shocked that there wasn’t more support and resources being offered to patients.
They say if you can’t find it, create it, so when I got pregnant with my twins and the stress of IVF was finally behind me, I set out to create the infertility support community that I wish had existed when I was going through treatments. What resulted is The Fertility Tribe, a lifestyle brand & online community giving a voice to every unique path to parenthood, from infertility and IVF to adoption and surrogacy. Our site and Instagram page feature stories from others who have walked the walk, and our brand new infertility support community offers real-time support where you can talk with others who understand what you’re going through.
They say it takes a village to raise a child. Well, I say it takes a tribe to make a mother. Despite the images of positive pregnancy tests we see in the media, the truth is, the road to motherhood isn’t always straight. Those stories need to be shared, and the more we talk about our experiences, the less isolating they become. That’s why finding a community is so important when you’re trying to conceive, and that’s why The Fertility Tribe’s mission statement is, “Redefining Fertility Together.” Because no one can get through a fertility journey alone, and no one should have to.
This article was originally published on Natalist.com.