The Weight of Infertility on her Shoulders

Shortly after meeting him 10 years ago, I said to my best friend at the time that I had met the future father of my kids…

Little did I know that ten years later I would feel so guilty about not being able to give him these children I had seen in my vision. When you fall in love, start a life together and get married, you expect that the next step will be to have children. So do others of you. Not that we got married to have children right away. We consciously got married, simply out of love and we wanted to celebrate it with friends and family. We already had the dream of having kids by then, but that’s exactly what it was: a dream and no concrete plan yet.

When we finally decided to start trying, it felt like the beginning of a great and exciting adventure. Alongside our own adventure, several of our friends had embarked or were embarking on the same one, and news of friends getting pregnant were pouring in, one after the other. I remember hearing friends of ours telling about their pregnancy and I felt so emotional and touched by that news, that we knew it for sure: we too were ready for this adventure. We were ready to have kids!

Searching for potential names had become one of my favorite activities. Finding new names online and asking my husband what he found of them. Trying to find nice names we both liked and that were original enough. Checking out lists on the internet, but making sure that those names were not too popular or fighting their way to the top 10 of that year.

And when we heard about friends getting pregnant, I started dreaming about sharing at least a few months of pregnancy with some of them. Maybe their last and my first few months? And maybe our kids would grow up together?…

The first times I got my periods were disappointing, but didn’t feel like a drama. How could we expect to get pregnant right away? My husband knew it for sure: it would take us between three to six months, and then we would know the same joy more and more of our friends were experiencing. But when the six months were over, I started worrying. When would it be our turn?

As my periods were not regular, I asked my doctor about it, asked if it would be an obstacle for us to get pregnant. But the only answer I got was that I needed to be trying for a year before being sent to a specialist and having tests done; even though I could feel that there was something wrong, that I should see a specialist…

Having talked to friends around me about my doubts and worries, I already had an idea about what might be ‘wrong’ with me. And if my friends were right, I just needed a hormonal treatment. And I didn’t have to worry much, because friends of them had had the same symptoms, followed that kind of treatment and got pregnant within only a few months. So, that was it, I still had to wait a little longer, start a treatment and our dream would finally come true. It was only a question of time and I would finally see a ‘plus’ or stripes on a pregnancy test. I couldn’t wait!!

The first year of trying, hopes and disappointments was slowly coming to an end. But that also meant the right to go see a specialist. But not right away of course! No, that would be too easy. After the doctor gave me the letter for the specialist, I had to wait a month for the first appointment, which only consisted in filling in a list of questions. And then followed the tests and some more appointments. But no one had warned me about doctors contradicting each other, saying that the one I had seen last time should have done things differently, or in another order. Did they realize how these remarks made us doubt and actually crushed us little by little?

All in all, it took about 4 to 5 months from the moment I got the letter to go see a specialist to the time I started treatment. Even though I was right all along about what I needed! But it was worth it, right? Because just like the friends of my friends, it would only take me about 2 to 3 months to get pregnant. Maybe it would even work out the first time. So exciting…

But that was too optimistic of course! One thing was positive though: the treatment gave me the regular ovulation I was missing at first, and by that time we had moved and I was transferred to a hospital where doctors didn’t contradict each other.

But there again, time passed without succeeding in getting pregnant. That also meant the growth of my sadness and desperation… And it is so ironical how your body (and most probably your mind too) can play tricks on you. From the moment I started taking hormones, the symptoms I experienced before getting my periods strangely resembled pregnancy symptoms and changed from one month to the other: from lively dreams to strong reactions to certain smells, from feeling nauseous to having painful breasts, etc. I can’t even recall how many times I thought I was finally pregnant! It’s like the mix of hope, wishes and treatment results in some kind of insanity.

Insane is also how I would qualify my state of mind after we were transferred to a third hospital. Not because we had moved yet again, but for a second opinion. So we were sent to one of the best hospitals of the country. Not only did I have PCOS, a syndrome causing me to have few to no spontaneous ovulation, but tests had also shown that my endometrium was close to impermeable (meaning that sperm could hardly get through it). But when we got to the new hospital, we heard that they didn’t rely on those tests anymore and wouldn’t take them into account. Enough to drive you insane, right?

In the meanwhile, months were passing by and still no pregnancy… Disappointment was slowly but surely becoming an understatement and the pressure was weighing on our relationship.

It is actually impossible to realize the weight of the ordeal on a person and on a couple: it doesn’t stop with the five pills you take every month, it’s the side effects of those pills, it’s the hope that gets crushed every month, it’s the number of friends getting kids around you, it’s the many appointments at the hospital and the invasive tests, it’s the fact that I had to set my alarm every morning to take my temperature, which made it impossible to forget about the situation, not even one single day…

To the point that this wish and this treatment were taking all the space between my husband and me. As my desperation was growing, so was his will to flee and ignore the very same desperate situation. And as I witnessed this changing dynamics, guilt and sadness made the worst of allies in my mind, planting ideas like that it was all my fault, that I was the one depriving him of a kid and that he would be better off with a woman who could give him children… Pure torture, but I guess it’s a natural process. But this ‘process’ was slowly driving us apart.


And then came the time that we had to move on to the next step: insemination. I had to trade the pills for needles to stick into my belly. Something I still can’t really get used to. And with the needles came the heavier side effects and the even more frequent visits to the hospital. But on the other hand, no more alarm in the morning to take my temperature, so once in a while I could almost pretend like this wasn’t a part of my daily life.

But who was I kidding? Yes, I could pretend it wasn’t part of my daily life, but it clearly was. Despite what many people tell you and advise you, there is no switch-off button. You can’t just stop thinking about it, simply because you’ve decided it. People have good intentions when they tell you you shouldn’t think about it so much and that if you are, you are creating your own psychological blockade. Unfortunately, in their good intentions, they don’t realize the extra guilt they put on your shoulders. That’s also another burden of infertility: the opinion of others.

Everyone has an opinion about it: if you’re really hoping it has worked out this time and are consequently avoiding alcohol and certain types of food, then you’re focusing too much and should let go; but if you’re expressing your hopelessness, then you can be sure it’s never going to happen, because you should always be positive! And in the meantime, guilt keeps on growing inside you… If you don’t really care about it and if you don’t let it influence you, it’s not such a problem; but I happen to be highly sensitive, so I can’t shut down and simply ignore what others say. And when the subject is itself so sensitive (which, let’s be honest, is always the case for a couple facing infertility), words can have an even stronger impact.

So when someone tells you they know a couple who finally got pregnant after six years, what you hear is that there is still a long, very long road ahead of you. You also don’t want to hear that others have or have had a tougher path than yours, because you are not wining, your pain is real and you need it to be recognized! And hearing that others share the same ordeal doesn’t make it any fairer, for no one!

Not to forget that all those things are said to and heard by someone whose body is propped with hormones. It is quite well known what hormones do to a pregnant woman, or even a woman on her periods. So try to imagine what the effects can be on a woman taking extra hormones every month for several months, or even years… Not only the unfulfilled dream and the sadness change you, the hormones really do too, maybe even more!


We are now  three and a half years later. Still no child, still no pregnancy. Many tears have been shed. My marriage has survived a huge crisis and is now stronger than ever. But one thing has changed: I’ve decided to leave the treatment behind me for a while. I want to be myself again: no needle in my belly, no hormone in my body, not the sad woman desperately hoping to be a mom, not the patient at a hospital… Simply me! My wish and my grief have taken over my life and the hormones have taken over my body and my mood. I simply need to find myself again and drink one wine too many with my friends without feeling guilty. I need to be and feel like a young woman again, as well as a wife and a lover. Some ‘me-time’ to be one day, I hope, an even better mother.


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