An Open Letter to the Infertility Warriors
[Trigger warning: this post mentions loss.]
Who is an infertility warrior? The warriors I am referring to are the women and men on a mission to start, expand or cultivate a family.
I am by no means an expert in all things infertility. I am, however, a woman who never expected things to be so difficult when the time came to start a family.
If I can offer a glimmer of hope, support, or a safe space to anyone going through this, I would have fulfilled my mission. As my fertility journey has now come to an end, my goal is to help and give back as much as possible by advocating for and providing a supportive outlet for anyone in need.
I know how much it helped when I was on my journey to speak to anyone who had gone through a slightly similar experience.
Unfortunately, that was not a common occurrence or easy find for me. Dr. Google became my friend, and much of the information I found was either in a more general form or from real people but grossly outdated. That did not help – it only made my mind wander more and more.
As a fellow warrior, I know all too well how counter-productive a wandering mind is to the already hectic fertility process. I hope to add more of a personal and relatable source of support and information to the infertility community.
My name is Marline C. Duroseau. I am a financial executive serving as the chief financial officer for a healthcare company. I am a doctoral student and accounting instructor. I can officially add author to my list of roles as well. I am now 40 years old.
My fertility journey started when I was 23 years old. I have gone through many ups and downs on this quest, and I don’t regret one bit of it as I am now able to help and give back.
OUR PATH TO PARENTHOOD
Just when you think you have it all planned out, the universe has other plans. My story began as a young, married recent college graduate. After ‘trying but not really trying’ for a few years and not having had any pregnancies, my husband and I decided to go and get checked out. I automatically assumed if there was an issue it was me as my husband had a son, Richard, my bonus baby! As time went on and we jumped from one fertility process to another, we quickly learned it was indeed a possible combination of both male and female factors.
It is still a crazy thought to me how anyone gets pregnant because everything, I mean everything, has to line up for it to happen.
We underwent five Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) cycles but to no avail. I then started and relied heavily on acupuncture during this trying time after deciding to move on to In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) cycles as the next steps. I ultimately learned that even after it happens and you find out you’re pregnant, another leg of the journey begins in attempting to stay pregnant. I suffered the loss of our daughter at 22 weeks + 1 day pregnant after undergoing our very first IVF cycle. It happened as a result of an incompetent cervix, which I didn’t know I had until I lost the baby. Devastating is not even the word to describe that horrible event in our lives.
Thanks to IVF FLORIDA and Dr. Hoffman’s guidance, we were able to undergo more treatments and became pregnant again with twin boys. Fast forward to more cervix issues during their pregnancy and the threat of losing them as well. I delivered them via emergency C-section at 26 weeks + 1 day. Then, they had a nearly four-month NICU stay in hopes they would survive. They did!
It was touch and go for many of those grueling days but they made it.
Even after going through all of that, I finally agreed to have another baby after my husband asked and asked for almost 2 years. Before undergoing another round of IVF, it was agreed upon by my doctors (Reproductive Endocrinologist, OBGYN, and Cerclage Doc) and husband to have surgery that would secure my cervix. The surgery—a more invasive approach—was successful.
However, after trying via IVF with a frozen embryo, from the twin’s cycle, we suffered an early miscarriage. We didn’t expect that but that drove me to want to try again.
That meant another fresh IVF cycle.
The fresh cycle did not work and we were confused because all the others had in the past. As such, my doctor decided to do an extra test to help pinpoint the best time to do the embryo transfer to help improve the chances of implantation success. It worked and we became pregnant with our last baby boy. Because of the cerclage, I had placed via the surgery, I was able to carry the final pregnancy to term. We reached our scheduled c-section date with no issues whatsoever.
Our fertility journey is complete. We now have a house with four healthy boys who do everything they can day in and day out to keep us busy and on our toes.
ADVICE TO IVF FLORIDA PATIENTS
If I knew then what I’ve come to know and know now, I would have a much different approach and mindset to the entire experience. Herein is where I can offer my advice to those women and couples still on their journey, in no particular order.
Listen to that little voice inside
9.9 times out of 10, it is trying to tell you something and you should trust it. That is not to say you should analyze and fret over every single little thing. However, when or if you get a hunch about something, trust it and reach out for answers. Contact the fertility clinic staff, your doctor, nurses, others who you may know experienced something similar, etc.
Find an outlet or coping mechanism that works for you
Your feelings are valid! How you feel matters! Do not discount that and brush your emotions under the rug. Your friends and family may listen to you but may not always understand. Some relationships dynamics may even change for you while on this journey. There are ways to get help and answers. During this process, many people feel alone as though no one understands. They also feel that sharing how you feel is burdensome to others. That is far from the truth. I can admit you might not always receive instantaneous responses from those that can help but you will get them if you reach out. Sometimes, taking time off or time away will help as well. It sounds cliché but taking a walk outside, going to the beach, having brunch with friends, setting aside time to talk with your partner about everything else, writing in a journal, etc. There is no right or wrong way to cope but it is important to have an outlet.
Don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself
Always remember you must advocate for yourself. The entire process of fighting infertility involves dealing and interacting with many people. With that said, the relationships that are formed will prove instrumental in your journey.
You have to be able to build and establish a rapport with everyone from the office staff, fertility doctor, OB-GYN and their staff, all the specialists, etc. Establishing these relationships help build trust. You are more at ease when you trust that your team has your best interests at hand. And you want to be certain you are comfortable and confident in the decisions being made regarding your treatment.
Keep the faith and don’t give up
What you see while on the journey may cause you to want to give up. You may cry every day. You may feel overwhelmed, tired and frustrated. All of these feelings and more are normal. If someone went through this without some sort of emotional turmoil, we may need to get them checked out!
Regardless of what you are experiencing, it is important to keep an open mind and stay the course. Don’t be afraid to switch gears. Be open to the idea of possibly having to try different things. While on your journey, there will be many detours, twists, and turns that are not in line with what you had planned. It’s ok to expect the unexpected and know you’ll get through it. The end of your journey may not yield the exact results you were looking for. This means you may still get the family you hoped for but it may not happen how you expected. Keep going.
I am not sure when one can decide it’s time to stop. That is a personal decision. However, that little voice inside will help you through.
Your partner is on the journey with you
Since I was the one being pricked and prodded it felt as though I was going through it alone. I learned much later in the process that was not the case. Men usually take things on in a different manner than us women. It may be hard to understand at first but I learned to allow them an outlet to share how they feel. I also learned it is important to tell them specifically what you want or need from them as far as support goes. While on this rollercoaster, one day you may need one thing and another day something else. If you don’t speak up, your partner won’t know how to help or what to do. I have come to realize I needed to get over the thought “well he should know that I need x.” It just doesn’t happen but it does not mean they won’t or are not there for you.
This process is very traumatic for your partner as it involves giving samples, which can be very daunting to men, almost embarrassing. So yes it’s not as invasive for them as it is for many of us, but they truly understand, more than we give them credit for. If you find it a bit difficult to convey information to each other, consider other options such as therapy. It works!
It’s ok to say no and protect your peace
Just as you’re trying to have a baby, those around you may be on the same journey. It might be “easier” for some, and that comes with its own set of emotions. With that said, there will be pregnancy announcements, baby showers, birth announcements, christenings and baptisms, baby parties, etc. It is okay to decline invitations and not attend. Attending or not has nothing to do with the honoree but rather with your inner peace and well-being. Those who care will understand. When ready to attend these events do so. If not, don’t. It’s okay to send a gift and a nice card.
SHARING MY JOURNEY
Writing was a vital outlet for me. It served as my safe place where I could be honest and open without feeling I would be judged, without feeling I needed to sugarcoat my feeling or experiences.
These journal entries turned into my first published work titled “It’ll Happen by 30.”
This letter is a peek into my journey and there is more that is explained in the book.
Hopefully, sharing my experiences will help to motivate and inspire you on your journey.
Continue to be true to you, your family, and your experiences as they are unique to only you!
You have an ally in this fight – little ol' me!
Marline C. Duroseau
Fellow Infertility Warrior and Ally