1 in 8 couples struggle with some sort of infertility and require fertility treatment to get pregnant. Physically a woman’s body goes through the ringer by being pumped with exceedingly high levels of hormones. Emotionally it takes a toll on your mental health.
Unfortunately not every treatment outcomes a living child.
Agnes shares her journey through infertility and child loss.
“Due to Covid restrictions, your husband cannot be with you for the insemination. I am so sorry!” said the secretary at the doctor’s office.
I laid there, clutching the scan table with no hands to hold. The procedure was carried out with my husband on a video call sitting in the car at the parking lot. That’s how much infertility has robbed us of. It stripped down the innocence and the intimacy of our relationship.
I dreamt of motherhood even before I knew what puberty was and when I wrapped my mom’s saree around me and played with a doll. After my PCOS diagnosis in my teenage years, fear took hold of me. The fear that my road to motherhood won’t be a walk in the park.
To add to this, I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism and endometriosis. More conditions made it evident that I am up against something bigger. I tried to console myself that all this doesn’t mean that there isn’t a way for me to be a mother, but just that it may take some time or a slightly different path than I imagined.
We entered our marriage in 2017, knowing what we are up against and with a lot of hope. But hope is not a certainty. We struggled to conceive naturally. It wasn’t a surprise and yet, It was a big step for us to start seeking medical help. I felt angry towards my body that it couldn’t do what it was meant to.
Infertility affected my relationships, career, and life.
I never felt more alone, even when I have a very supportive husband right by my side.
He always kept assuring me that we were on this journey together. He really put up with all my tantrums and mood swings.
Except for a couple of people, no one knew what we were going through. In the Indian community, you are looked down on for not falling pregnant within the first year of marriage.
Somehow the world around me made me believe that my ultimate goal in life is to be a mother. My rational mind knows it’s a lie and that my worth doesn’t depend on my reproducing abilities. But it did not stop me from thinking about it and made me feel like a failure.
It felt like a stab in my heart when people were always, asking, “Any good news?” or “Isn’t it time you start a family.” I remember someone close to me saying, “Next time when you come back to India, you should be three!” And all I could do was smile and say, “In God’s time or keep us in your prayers,” and in my head, I was screaming and silently dying inside.
Whenever I tried to be transparent about my journey, that we are seeking fertility treatments, People were quick to tell me, “How I should believe in God and pray more,” and “How much I lack positivity!” and someone close to me said, “Don’t tell this to anyone, it makes you look bad. People will talk!” This made it a very lonely and isolating journey.
Fertility treatments weren’t easy and pulled me further into a dark hole.
It included a number of tests, doctor’s appointments, ultrasounds, injecting myself with hormones, and the entire process is mechanical. The pills and the poking and the large doses of hormones left my body sore, nauseous, and brutally exhausted. And it quickly became my full-time job;
I canceled plans, withdrew from friends, and went into the darkest place where I needed to be alone to make sense of it all. Because this is not how I imagined bringing my children into this world.
For an extensive planner like me, I did not know what my plans for the next week looked like, let alone a month or a year ahead. Days dragged, and the waiting seemed endless. I have stopped planning my life.
It felt like I had to pause everything else to make this happen.
And I had to gather up the courage to tell my team (who are all men) what we have been going through.
Doing everything right, eating healthy, following the doctor’s advice, and still was faced with nothing but heartbreak every cycle. And wherever I went, I saw big round bellies, the whole world looked pregnant but me.
And every pregnancy announcement was a cruel joke. I always told myself, “you never know what they went through to get there!” That calmed my raging mind.
I live in this parallel universe, where I constantly juggle between- faith and fear, hope and doubt, being happy for my pregnant friend, and sad for myself.
Feeling completely exhausted, but still finding the strength to say, it’s still not over yet.
I remember the day so vividly. July 21st, 2019, the day I was instructed to take a home pregnancy test. I shut my eyes for 3 minutes which seemed like forever. The timer went off on my phone and I took a tiny peek and saw the second line. I sat on the toilet frozen, with tears welled in my eyes, shouting for my husband to come. A pure moment of joy.
Finally, our 3rd round of IUI (Intrauterine insemination) treatment worked.
Infertility had scarred me, we tried to remain cautiously happy knowing that 1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage.
I did not take any pictures in the first twelve weeks. But our boy held so strong. Slowly, slowly the reality of us being parents kicked in. Our love and bond becoming stronger day by day.
We had everything ready for our child – Crib set up, the room decorated, stroller bought, clothes and toys piled up. However, life took a different path. On February 25th, 2020, 36 weeks into my pregnancy, we found out that our baby boy’s heart had stopped beating.
It was life’s cruel, cruel joke to lose our child before we got to say hello. Giving birth to him and not bringing him home is the hardest thing I have ever done. I felt so stupid for not taking a picture for the first 12 weeks because pictures are the only memories I have.
And just like that, here we are, back to square one, with our hearts wholly crushed and ripped into pieces.
Now, I journey through a different kind of motherhood, through loss and secondary infertility.
The thought of going through it all again scares me to the core. But, I have learned that it is ok to feel fear, anxiety, hope, and courage, all at the same time, and that one does not negate the other. Without fear, there is no courage. Without doubt, no hope. One hour and one day at a time is all I can do. And I realized sometimes it’s all that matters.
Through it all, these things have saved me – my husband, our dog Barney, and finding a community of fellow loss mothers and infertility warriors that understand the depths of what I am going through. They validate my feelings and emotions, and their stories made me feel less alone.
“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I’ll try again tomorrow.”- Mary Anne Radmacher.
Agnes lives in Denmark with her husband Jeppe and dog Barney. Their son, Elliot calls heaven his home. Elliot was stillborn on 27th February 2020, 36 weeks into the pregnancy. Agnes is passionate about ending the stigma around child loss, grief, and fertility issues. You can follow her journey on Facebook and Instagram @agnesrjensen