It's your fertility journey, and you can cry if you want to. 

Seriously, it’s okay to cry. 

People say that having kids is not for the weak, and that is probably true. But I would like to make another, equally true statement: infertility is not for the weak. It takes a lot of courage to temper that kind of hope and disappointment each month. 

However, I don’t know if infertility is for the strong, either. Anyone who has ever experienced infertility will tell you that they wish they never had to go through it in the first place. That’s true for me, at least. 

My fertility journey is definitely something I thought I would be on the other side of by now. And while I’m not there just yet, there are some things I’ve learned along the way that have made things a little bit more bearable. 

1. I've learned to throw my expectations out the window. 

Although I have a history of endometriosis, fibroids, and PCOS, I thought I would be pregnant by now.  I have a great husband, a house, two college degrees, a decent income, and no baby.  

I try to live a healthy, active lifestyle free from drugs and excessive alcohol use. My routine check-ups show a clean bill of health. And I’m a loyal wife and friend, with healthy interpersonal relationships. The point is, by many people’s standards, I have done everything I was supposed to do, and I feel more than ready to become a parent. Yet, it seems that while everyone around me is making babies, I'm only making ovarian cysts, fibroids, and extra endometrial lining. 

What I’ve learned is that while my current situation looks good on paper and will ultimately contribute to me being able to better support my future child, hard work unfortunately does not equal a baby when it comes to infertility

2. I've learned to expect the unexpected. 

After several IUI cycles using the same protocol, I quickly learned that every cycle is different. In three cycles with my Reproductive Endocrinologist (detailed below), my husband and I have only been able to attempt an IUI once.  

Cycle attempt #1

  • Provera to induce menstruation, Letrozole(5mg) CD5-9, Three mid-cycle Ultrasounds: (CD13, CD15, CD17), trigger shot taken,  IUI (Unsuccessful/Not Pregnant) 

Cycle attempt #2

  • Natural/Unmedicated menstruation, Letrozole(5mg) CD5-9, Two midcycle Ultrasounds (CD14 – Not ready to trigger,  CD17 – natural ovulation had occurred before the appointment), Trigger/IUI Cancelled, Natural Conception Attempted, Cycle Unsuccessful/Not Pregnant

Cycle attempt #3

  • Natural/Unmedicated menstruation, Letrozole(5mg) CD5-9. Two midcycle Ultrasounds: (CD15 – Not ready to trigger, CD17 – follicles shrunk unexpectedly), Cycle Cancelled 

Over the past couple of months, I have come to expect the unexpected on this journey, and while I can’t say I’ve completely accepted it, I’m trying my best to roll with the punches and stay positive. We’re currently on cycle #4 on the maximum dose of Letrozole and praying for the best!

3. I've learned to take care of my mental health.

Acupuncture has been amazing for my mental health on this journey. It has improved my stress and anxiety, and I also believe it has helped me have both natural menstrual cycles and ovulation throughout this process. 

If you’re struggling with your mental health while struggling to conceive, I would suggest speaking with your doctor about acupuncture or alternative treatments, keeping in mind that you should always consult with your RE prior to starting treatment. To help with costs, FSA or insurance will sometimes cover these alternative therapies. And for acupuncture specifically, you can even look into acupuncture schools in your area for discounted prices.  

4. I've learned that someone's ability to get pregnant has nothing to do with my inability to get pregnant and/or stay pregnant.

Let’s face it: when you’re going through infertility, pregnancy announcements can be extremely triggering. It especially stings when someone who “wasn’t trying” announces that they are pregnant. Throughout my fertility journey, I have heard so many women say things like, "Why does she get to have a baby?" While I can’t say that I haven’t had similar thoughts, I try to always remind myself that someone else’s pregnancy, baby, or highlight reel on social media has nothing to do with my fertility. Nor does it decrease my chances of getting and/or staying pregnant. 

5. I've learned what my emotional triggers are, and how to avoid them (the best I can).

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I recently came to understand two things: people will ask difficult questions that I won’t always have an answer to, and people will make insensitive comments about personal matters that do not apply to them.  

“When are you getting married?” “When are you having a baby?” “When are you having another child?” “When are you going to buy a house?” These kinds of questions and comments can serve as harmful, emotional triggers, especially for someone struggling to grow their family. 

While I now know that I can’t stop people from saying what’s on their minds, I have started to prepare my responses in advance to (hopefully) limit the amount of emotional pain they may cause. My husband and I have prepared answers to many of the most frequently asked fertility-related questions, and they usually shut down the person’s curiosity pretty quickly.  

6. I've learned to lean on my spouse, family, friends, and even strangers on the Internet.

In addition to my husband, family, and close friends, Reddit has been a major support for me on this journey. It feels good to speak with others that are experiencing similar fertility challenges and to know that I am not alone. Rescripted also offers a free fertility support community, which you can join here

Lastly, I recently hired a fertility Doula who can go to appointments with me, discuss my plan of care, and serve as an outside advocate between myself and my husband with the medical staff, which has helped tremendously.  

7. I've learned that you never know who else has had infertility challenges.

Believe me, I know it’s hard to receive that baby shower invitation when you’re struggling to conceive. But over time, I’ve realized that not everyone can fully understand the complexity of an infertility journey or know “infertility etiquette 101.” So, I’ve had to find a balance between celebrating my pregnant friends while also taking care of my own emotional health. The way I see it is, I don’t always know what someone has been through to get where they are today, and when it’s my turn, I hope they’ll return the favor and come celebrate with me. 

8. I've learned not to neglect my other health needs.

I need to have surgery, but my doctor refuses to do it if I'm pregnant. In the past, I have delayed scheduling the surgery because "I might be pregnant." But I recently went ahead and scheduled the surgery for next month. If I am pregnant, I'll cancel. If I'm not, I will go forward with the surgery. It’s easier said than done, but my advice would be not to put your other health needs on hold due to infertility. 

9. I learned that there's no right or wrong way to feel, and it’s okay to cry.

I consider myself to be a resilient person, but I have cried so many tears on this journey. I even cried writing this blog post. But I’ve learned that it’s okay to cry, and if infertility has taught me anything it’s that it’s also okay to grieve the way I thought things were supposed to go. My feelings are normal and valid, and yours are, too. I’m praying that we all get a BFP (big fat positive) soon.