I remember when my husband and I first decided to start IVF, I sat my parents down and told them the situation. The conversation is worthy of screen play format:
SCENE: Parents' kitchen table. Dad is watching NASCAR on mute. Mom is nervously pouring another glass of wine.
ME: We've decided to go ahead with IVF in order to have a baby. It's really the only option given my inability to ovulate and TR's almost complete lack of sperm.
MOM: I don't understand why you would rush into something like this. Why not give it some time to see if it happens naturally? That's what's wrong with you kids. Always in a rush.
ME: It's not about rushing, Mom. The andrologist was only able to find one single sperm in TR's last specimen... one.
MOM: Well it only takes one, honey. Give God a chance.
ME: Correction, Mom. It only takes "one" egg. It takes about 600 million sperm. We're 599,999,999 sperm short.
MOM: I still don't understand why you won't try on your own for a while first. Give this whole IVF thing a rest. Your father used to just walk up the stairs behind me and I'd end up pregnant. We're very fertile.
ME: Okay, I'm done with this conversation. That was totally gross.
I share this story because it's so common. The more women I talk to about it, the more stories I hear about unsympathetic parents or relatives who just can't seem to accept the scientific aspect to infertility.
It makes sense though, really. Our mothers and grandmothers didn't know all that much about infertility, and they certainly didn't have many options to address it.
My grandmother had PCOS, like me, and was able to get pregnant after a D&C. She had 3 children, one right after the next, but as a farmer's wife, she was expected to have many more. She said she always wished she was able to have more children, but it just wasn't in the cards for her.
My great uncle was injured during World War II and, after his wounds healed, found that he was sterile. He and my great aunt never had any children because of it.
To this day, my great aunt is probably my biggest supporter. She understands the heartbreak of infertility and, despite her deeply religious convictions, prays constantly that each IVF cycle will be a success. She didn't have the option of IVF, but she never once suggested that I give it a rest. She knows what it means to want to succeed at any cost, and I find a lot of my strength in her encouragement.
I tap into that strength when I hear things like the following (list is not exhaustive):
- Don't you worry that when you get to the pearly gates, St. Peter will be standing there with all of the embryos that died during your cycles?
- Maybe this miscarriage was God's way of saying you should put this whole IVF thing to rest.
- (As the RE is wheeling me in for my egg retrieval) I don't know where she gets this! Infertility does NOT run in my side of the family!
- I think IVF is selfish. You're doing it because you can't accept that God made you infertile.
- You know all these fertility drugs are giving you cancer, right?
- IVF? What, is your husband shooting blanks?
So, despite the incredibly insensitive comments we may hear, and the cutting retorts we swallow in order to keep the peace, we carry on... plowing ahead, doing what's best for our families, finding solace in the fact that only the infertile can understand the plight of the infertile. We turn to our great aunts and grandmothers who silently cheer us on with an understanding hug or a nightly prayer and ask for the strength to persist through the "advice" that nags at us every so often.