Our New Year Revelation

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Natascia Armitage
United States

I have debated long and hard whether I should share something so deeply personal with the world. But I decided to go ahead and tell all because it needs to be said, no matter how uncomfortable it makes me.

We now live in a world of instant sharing and the reality is, we are constantly showcasing the best aspects of our life on social media, the perfect moments, flattering photos, the things that make us smile, creating the impression that our life is just one good time after another. Reality is what is lost on social media. We emphasize the best versions of ourselves instead of the real versions. And I am guilty of it. For the past few years I’ve been living some of my greatest moments and I’ve been privileged to share some of it with all of you but the truth is that I’ve also been living in my darkest moments too. We seem so afraid to take off our masks and get real with one another; even when we choose to get real it isn’t really until we share our deepest straggles that we become relatable to one another.

And so as we enter a new year, I want to bring light to the social media driven world we live in. I want to bring light to the fact that everyone no matter of how big or small is going through something. To everyone who is suffering in the midst of so many blessings I want to say that it’s ok to not be ok. We all are battling our own silent battles.

For the past few years Dustin and I have been on the emotional roller coaster ride of infertility. Unless you’ve experience this exact problem I’m not sure you can completely understand just how hard this past few years has been on the both of us. Infertility is too often a hush-hush subject. So many couples are dealing with fertility issues in silence. Infertility is a very personal battle. And this struggle…this fight…this abyss of sadness is something we tend to keep to ourselves. Perhaps by sharing my story I can step out of that silence. And the truth is that it’s much more common than people realize. Infertility affects 1 in 8 couples and usually couples struggle in silence. So, there is an excellent chance that someone around you is struggling with it or knows someone who is. To not be able to reproduce is a devastating feeling. I’m a pretty tough cookie, but this has taken Dustin and I to hell and back many times. But we’re not giving up, if anything we’re just getting started. I am not ashamed, I am not embarrassed. I am embracing this journey, it is part of our history.

My wish is to spread awareness about infertility because it’s amazing how many people know nothing about it. So here is how  In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) works. First off, IVF is the most common, most effective and most invasive type of assisted reproductive technology (ART) to help women become pregnant. A single cycle of IVF takes between 4 and 6 weeks to complete. What they do is they aggressively increase the woman hormones through daily (multiple shots twice a day) dose of hormone injections, so rather than give out 1 or 2 eggs a month if you are lucky you give out 15 or 30 eggs. Your ovaries that are normally the size of a walnut can grow to be the size of a cantaloupe and we have 2 of them. So, pause for a moment and think of the worse PMS you’ve ever experience personally or with a lady in your life.  Now, increase that tenfold or more. During a cycle you visit the clinic many times for blood and ultrasound tests to monitor your progress. Your privates are no longer privates, your  sanity and ability to think straight flies out the window and you hold on to your health while these hormones 10 times the natural level raves through your body. Next comes the egg retrieval procedure, where a woman will be heavily sedated while the doctor will surgically remove the eggs from her ovaries. This procedure leads to nasty and painful side effects. Then the “magic” happens…In a lab “sperm meet egg” in a Petri dish, then left together in an incubator overnight and checked the next day for signs of fertilization. In our case of  male factor infertility some more guidance is needed and, the lab embryologist performs Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI), a procedure where a sperm is injected directly into the egg. In a fresh transfer cycle after a 3-5 day waiting period, usually one or two embryos are placed into the woman’s uterus, then it’s the dreaded “ two-week wait”; the time between embryo transfer and the blood test that will reveal whether you are pregnant or not. In IVF with PGS (Pre Genetic Testing), which is what we have done, an extra step is added of testing the embryos for abnormalities before implanting them into the uterus. In this case a Frozen Embryo Transfer (FET) is what comes next and this process is way longer!

Going through IVF is a highly emotional, physically demanding and stressful experience. It’s a long  process with seemingly endless doctor’s appointments – mostly consisting of ultrasounds, needles and blood draws – that quickly cause you to start feeling like a lab experiment or human pin cushion. Dustin (yes I trust him with my eyes closed) has been jabbing me with needles and so far into our journey he gave me 119 shots! None of it feels normal. One of the hardest thing during this whole process is the waiting. You wait to get into your doctor, then you wait to see the specialist then you wait for more appointments and then you wait for insurance approval and then you wait for the day you start the fertility meds and then you wait for the ultrasound and then you wait in the waiting room and then you wait for your period, every single month. That said,  you likely already understand how the act of getting pregnant can lose its magic, when everything is scheduled, analyzed and lab-based.  Anyone who has dealt with infertility knows firsthand how this process can suck the romance right out of the relationship. And it’s not surprising that the relationship suffers because infertility invades the bedroom. What’s supposed to be a low stress, high pleasure  experience becomes filled with expectations, disappointment, and high hopes.

Determined to conceive we did everything, we saw a number of different doctors, we changed fertility clinic, we did acupuncture regularly, we took new supplements, then more supplements, I gave up coffee, sugar, gluten, chocolate, ice cream (got the idea?) and  worse  of all for me I gave up running and with each failed cycle felt more devastating and with each failed cycle I felt even more out of control.  And for lack of a better term, got back on the saddle and try again.

What this journey is teaching me though is to live in the present moment, where life is happening and to not worry about the future or dwelling on the past.  I learned that I have no control, and I have to be okay with it. Things don’t always go the way you predict; you have to be able to ride the waves. I am learning to love and accept myself, which is something I’ve been working on my whole life and this process doesn’t make it easy. My body and my lifestyle changed since I started IVF, and I had no choice but to embrace it. I learned that I had a choice, I could dwell on the heartbreak and choose sorrow and depression or I could choose hope and joy, learn from it and grow into a better person than I was when our journey began. But most importantly I’ve learned to live, to cherish the littlest things and be so grateful for all the blessing that I do have.

Everything we are going through is molding us in such a unique way. What’s  different I guess is the raw vulnerability that comes with surrender and the quick learning that happens when you are on a free fall. I know so much more about the way my body works and what affects it. I have a new level of compassion for those in my life and Dustin & I relationship has grown immensely through this trial. My greatest hope is that my vulnerability in exposing some of the raw and authentic moments of my journey will bring you hope and joy. If you have fertility issues, know that you’re not alone. Don’t be ashamed of it. We need to talk about infertility to educate others, build awareness and support one another.

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