This is the part I never share, but here goes.
I believed I caused my infertility. My brain needed a story for it to make sense as to why I was not getting pregnant. Two years before we started trying to conceive, the condom broke one evening. I was in my mid twenties, thriving in my career, my soon-to-be husband in his Masters program at the University of Central Florida, and we were not ready to be parents. I drove to the closest pharmacy, and purchased Plan B. Little did I know that Infertility would shackle itself to me for 10 years, and swallowing that pill would haunt me for years.
We got married in July 2009, and we started trying immediately. I have always wanted a large family of my own. In my dreams I saw myself wrangling 3 kids, breaking up sibling rivalry, cramming ourselves into a minivan going to soccer practice, and three little faces that looked like a beautiful blend of my husband and I staring back at me at bedtime . I saw this image clearly in my head. Pure love, in the middle of chaos. That is what I wanted. What I yearned for. My husband wanted that too.
In September 2009, I went to the OBGYN for Clomid. They say you should try for a year, but my gut told me to go. Maybe it was the years of unprotected sex and no surprise pregnancy, or the eagerness of wanting to become a mother that had me lying to my OBGYN when she asked If we had in fact been trying for a year.
I did 7 cycles of Clomid. No pregnancy. No answers. By this time the pain of not getting pregnant and watching all my friends around me get pregnant started to weigh on me. I felt lost, like my purpose was unfulfilled, I felt like I was keeping my husband from being a father, a role I knew he would be so good at. I started to feel like nothing. Empty.
After our attempts to get pregnant with Clomid cycles failed, I decided to go to a Reproductive Endocrinologist. By this time it was 2012, and I joined Instagram. I came across a profile of a woman sharing about her failed IVF. She had a blog where she chronicled her journey. I suddenly started to feel less alone. She was the FIRST woman I have ever known to share her Infertility story.
My RE found uterine polyps and mild endometriosis. “Now you will have no problem getting pregnant !” I remember him saying as I was coming out of anesthesia from my hysteroscopy.
He was wrong.
In 2013, I went to a new RE. We had moved out of state and immediately started on IUI’s. I still hadn’t gotten pregnant. No double pink line. The Infertility community started growing on instagram and I slowly started to share my story to my friends and family. By that time, I hadn’t given anyone a glimpse of what I was experiencing. Mainly because I didn’t classify myself as “Infertile”. For me the word “Infertile” translated to senior women with no eggs. Obviously I was wrong and naive. We did 7 IUI’s before deciding to do IVF. The only support I had was the online community. My husband was coping with the pain silently. In 2014, I changed RE’s again. I know, I know it sounds exhausting right? But, when I came to meet with my doctor at the time with questions about particular tests, or studies I had read about or many women of the infertility community recommended, he shut me down. He was not open to having a conversation with me about it. So I thought that if I was going to spend thousands of dollars to try to have a baby, I wouldn’t give it to this (insert expletive).
My new RE was great, she got me in quickly to start IVF and I transferred 2 eggs (the only ones I was able to get from the cycle ) and then IVF #1 failed. It was a chemical pregnancy. It was also the first time I had heard that term. Later my doctor would tell me I had Unexplained Infertility. “The diagnosis with no plan,” I thought to myself. I planned IVF #2, right away. My husband said that he would not give his sperm to the doctor unless I started therapy. So, knowing I needed it to start IVF , I annoyingly found a therapist who specialized in Infertility and Loss.
Therapy was the greatest gift I could have given myself during that time. I started to find pieces of me again. She asked me thought provoking questions like “What would your life look like without children, how could you find happiness”, “Is your goal to be a mother or to be pregnant”, “What brings you joy today” etc. I was gaining tools to help me with triggers, she empathized and gently challenged my thinking, she was caring, and thoughtful. My therapist started an Infertility group therapy where she invited me to join 4 other women. It was amazing to be amongst women like me. Similar paths, the exact pain. Healing together was powerful. I was grateful. I was a grittier and refined braver version of me.
IVF #2 failed in 2014. I transferred 2 embryos and was able to freeze two. I miscarried right after my second Beta. I found out on Christmas Day. It was crushing. An Instagram TTC sister reached out to me to recommend an out of state clinic. She said “Marilyn, my friend got pregnant there and she has poor egg quality, and I have a feeling that this is the clinic for you”. So I booked a flight to Colorado and went to the new clinic for a one day workup. I remember telling my husband that I had a little bit of gas left in my tank to do one more IVF. This would be our 3rd. If that one failed I was ready to live child free and rescue dogs.
I started stimming March 2015. They did not want to take my frozen 2 embryos from my previous clinic, they wanted to start fresh. So $25K later, It was September 2015 when I flew to Colorado to transfer the only 2 genetically normal embryos from a fresh to frozen cycle at the new clinic. I went into this transfer absolutely neutral. I felt the support from the Infertility Community on Instagram, I had the tools from therapy and group therapy, and I had done everything I could possibly do. I went into it knowing I had done my absolute best.
So imagine my surprise when I received my beta. I was pregnant. I didn’t believe it. I spent my weeks waiting for the other shoe to drop. It never did. My first ultrasound would confirm I was pregnant with one. My One. The One. She was born June 2016. My miracle. Mila. Her name was inspired by the word milagro, which is Miracle in Spanish.
In 2019, I decided to transfer the 2 frozen embryos I had stowed away from IVF #2. It failed. I was okay. I am okay. I have learned and refined qualities of myself that I wouldn’t have had, if pregnancy had come easily. What I learned were that there are 3 pillars that anchored my healing and refined my voice: #1 The importance of Self-Advocacy and doing your research and asking your doctor hard questions and learning about your body is doing , this is what every woman needs to do regardless. #2 Community, lean into the Infertility Community, there is wisdom, experience, knowledge, friendship, support, hope, trust, care, and everything you need to survive. I have met my very best friends here. Most are women I have never physically met. So powerful. Infertility is hard, and you should not navigate this alone. Ever. #3 Healing: therapy during infertility and starting to heal the pain you are enduring and partnering with a licensed therapist that can guide you and help you with tools to use is powerful. You can have the tools at hand to help you navigate through triggers. For me, my therapist helped me see how I can rewrite my narrative, my dream/vision and create a new one.
I decided to close the chapter of expanding my family and embracing and normalizing having one child when society expects you to have one more. Each day I choose to write this new story, and I really like that I can. Throughout therapy, I realized the pressure family and society puts on people. The expectation of owing a child a sibling so they won’t be ‘lonely’, not knowing a child cannot miss something they’ve never had. What a child craves is love + safety from their parents. Deciding to close the chapter of family expansion brought me back to me faster after 10 years of succumbing my body to science and then giving my body to my newborn for nourishment. Taking my body back for me allowed me to connect with myself again. My hope is that others are self-aware of the capability we have to write a new story, our own way.
Marilyn Gomez is an IVF mom and founder of Infertile Tees, an online store with a collection of t-shirts that inspire women to own their journey, while knowing they are not alone. Check out infertiletees.com for unique and curated pieces that tell your story in your own way!