I was 27 years old when I heard the words no woman wants to hear:
Diminished Ovarian Reserve, a.k.a. Premature Ovarian Failure. Yes, you read that right: FAILURE.
I knew from an early age, around 17 or 18 years old, that I was going to have issues. I felt it in my bones. My periods were always extremely painful; further, I was diagnosed with endometriosis around 21 years of age. It was then that I knew in my gut that I would have issues conceiving in the future.
At 21, though, it wasn’t at the forefront of my thoughts. I was focused on getting my Bachelors and Masters degree before even beginning to contemplate marriage and family. It became real for me that we needed help to conceive when I had been married for approximately 6 months. My husband and I had tried diligently to conceive on our own; I knew when I ovulated and was very familiar with my cycle, due to using reverse family planning for years prior to trying to conceive.
My body reacted poorly to birth control, and I tried several different kinds before deciding it wasn’t for my body. Had I only known then what I know now, I may have frozen my eggs in my early or mid twenties to use later in my thirties.
Struggling with fertility is such a sensitive subject, our society doesn’t often address how it affects a woman psychologically when we have difficulty conceiving a child. It’s so easy for toxic, insidious thoughts to creep in:
‘If I can’t make a baby–what am I as a woman?’
‘My body is damaged.’
‘My uterus is worthless, so I am too.’
‘My husband is going to leave me.’
‘My family is going to be disappointed.’
‘My parents are going to be sad that the only daughter they had can’t give them a grandchild.’
‘My older brothers will think less of me because I’m not a “real woman” who can “just have sex and get pregnant.’ ‘I am not enough.’
The spiral went on and on. It was a very, very dark time for me at the onset of my diagnosis.
It may seem counterintuitive, but the best way to move forward in my experience was to do just that: continue to live my life, as if I were not diagnosed. This is easier said than done- but the cycle that we finally conceived was when my husband and I had both kind of given up hope on treatment, and were contemplating living a child-free future by choice.
We ended up setting up a cycle of IVF (In-Vitro Fertilization) in a different city, with a different doctor and we were going to pursue this different course if the last IUI (Intrauterine Insemination) failed. We had done two IUIs prior to this, had done 6 months of traditional pill medication and timed intercourse prior to IUIs, and we were almost certain this last and third IUI wouldn’t work. So certain, in fact, that we scheduled our egg retrieval during the two week wait of that last IUI.
It’s ironic that we had given up hope, but because of that, we inadvertently started to pursue our everyday lives the way we did prior to starting treatment. The night before I was to take a home pregnancy test, I had my first glass of wine in months. I figured one glass wouldn’t hurt if I was pregnant; but also, I didn’t think I would be pregnant after all of this time and heartache.
I took a test that next morning — the Saturday before Mother’s Day Sunday — and for the first time in my life, I saw TWO lines instead of one. It worked. We were pregnant.
No matter what your process has been, I’d strenuously advise every woman to take care of your mental and physical health. It’s so easy to be in the throes of treatment and let go of yourself in those two ways, but they are so important. They help you to process everything that your body and mind is going through. Infertility is known to tear marriages/unions apart, and it is most likely because of the mental strain it puts on both partners. It is incredibly frustrating and financially draining, and it can be world-shattering. If you don’t take care of your mental health, it can and will destroy many things in your life.
Running my small business, Kora’s Creations, has helped me tremendously, therapeutically speaking. It has allowed me to connect with other men and women who have or are experiencing infertility. I was a counselor prior to staying home with our miracle baby, so it has given me the outlet to connect with others on a deep level, something I would otherwise be missing a great deal.
It has also given me an outlet for creativity, and given me purpose outside of being a mother — not that being a mother isn’t the most important thing I’m doing right now, but it is nice to use my brain in other ways besides figuring out how many toys I can pick up in the amount of time it takes my daughter to nap! Crafting and creating unique items for others gives me motivation and drive; it ignites my soul. I love knowing that the items I make create joy and spark happiness in other people’s lives.