Infertility sucks every day, but especially on Mother’s Day

To all the struggling mothers-to-be out there, this is for you.

I’m one of those women who you could say is ‘leaning in’. I always thought that having children was just a given and that I’d timed things perfectly. I prioritized my career in my 20’s, met my now husband at 30 while getting our MBA, got married at 34, and decided to spend a couple of years being married and getting our careers situated before becoming parents. I’d left my secure job at Apple to start a venture backed company and my husband had decided to pursue his PhD. I desperately wanted a family, but had taken a cue from my mother that doing so should not compromise my career. And I figured, like so many women around me, that having children in my mid to late 30’s was totally doable and normal. And at worst, there was IVF right?
So when we started trying a couple of years ago, I had no real worries. A year into trying, as many friends around me started getting pregnant, I began to get anxious. However, with some assistance, we got pregnant quite easily and on the first try. My blood work showed that my hormone levels were in good shape and that my egg count was high so there were no immediate reasons to think that childbearing was going to be out of reach for us.
Unfortunately, a miscarriage at 8 weeks, led to not one, but two MUAs (Manual Uterine Aspiration), to remove the ‘articles of insemination’. I was so busy dealing with the devastation of the miscarriage, that the procedures themselves, while quite painful, paled in comparison. As a former athlete, a type-A human, and a CEO and founder of an early stage startup, grit and perseverance were attributes I’ve relied on to get through every obstacle I encounter. If it takes more effort or strength, that’s something I know how to do. But this, which I felt like I had no control over, left me incapable of functioning at the high level I was used to. I found myself breaking down in tears, avoiding social gatherings, and feeling a general state of disorientation.
It was like my most powerful inner voice was having a tantrum full of desperation, sadness and fear. For the first time in my life, I felt truly broken and I felt alone. Was it my fault? Was something wrong with me? Had I waited too long to try to be a mom? Was this going to happen again? Was I ever going to be a mother? And that last question, was the question that truly haunted me. For the first time in my life, I was afraid that having children might not be in my future.
The doctors assured me that this was normal. I learned that 25% of pregnancies result in a miscarriage and that 99% of people go on to have a successful pregnancy. So we waited for me to heal. I poured myself back into my company, but when 1 month turned into six months and I still hadn’t gotten a proper period, I worried something was wrong. After consulting with the doctor, we decided to undergo a hysteroscopy to see if I had scarring in my uterus. The painful procedure consisted of inserting a camera and tiny scissors into my uterus. Sure enough, they found scarring at the top of my uterus, an unfortunate, and rare, consequence of the MUA procedure I’d had months before.
I remained optimistic as we waited 30 days for the results. Unfortunately, another ultrasound revealed my uteral lining, which is meant to be a minimum of 7mm thick at ovulation, was measuring under 5mm. I’ve tried everything since then. I’ll spare you all the details, but I’ve had a total of 4 hysteroscopies, tried Mayan massage, did acupuncture and herbs… but nothing has been the miracle cure to healing my scarred uterus.
So I sit here on Mother’s Day unable to celebrate being a mother (for the exception of our awesome dog Henry) and unsure if I’ll ever give birth to my own child. I’ve come to recognize that the path to motherhood is varied and that many woman struggle with fertility. I’ve also come to see that it’s the end result of a healthy, happy child that is what really matters, but I can’t pretend that today, or any day for that matter, is easy. I continue to wake up every day with an emptiness inside of me that I’m still figuring out how to heal. It’s the one thing in my life that I have very little control over, and yet it has had total control over me.
For all of the women out there who are struggling on their path to motherhood, I feel you. I understand the fear, the despair, the loneliness, and the sorrow that emerges along that path. I’ve always believed that things happen for a reason and I don’t yet know why I had to go through this, but I can say that I’m tired of letting it own me. Someone recently told me that “what we don’t own, owns us.” So there it is. That’s my story and it doesn’t yet have a happy ending. But I’m ready to own it. Sharing my story is perhaps the scariest thing I can think to do. And that is exactly why I decided I had to do it because on the other side of fear, is power!
“What we don’t own, owns us.” AND “on the other side of fear, is power.”