Thousands of women are going through something similar to Julia, but so many feel all alone on this journey. If you’re struggling to have a baby, know that you’re not the only one, although it may feel like it at times. Our goal with sharing this fertility story is to provide a sense of comfort and solidarity among women struggling to get pregnant.
Julia, how have you felt throughout your fertility journey? What would you change if you could?
At the beginning, I felt so insanely alone, which was really hard.
But to answer your question correctly, we have to start at the beginning, or go even farther back.
Basically, I find that there are many gaps in our healthcare system when it comes to fertility and having children.
Take my gynecologist for example, who wasn’t able to help me at all. Of course I know that doctors differ, but that was pretty disappointing for me. The idea that getting pregnant is easy and effortless is firmly anchored in our minds. Unfortunately, this simply isn’t true. We learn much more about how to avoid pregnancy than how to get pregnant in the first place. And we never hear about what you can do if you have trouble getting pregnant.
During a routine check-up at my gynecologist’s office, I noticed that everything there is geared towards pregnant women, which really scared me. But so many other couples like us have difficulties having children. I would like to see more support and information for those – it could be something as simple as a flyer in the waiting room. There are brochures on all sorts of other topics like cervical cancer or preparing to give birth. Why is there nothing about struggling with fertility? There’s simply not enough education out there in the places people need it.
For instance, I never thought once about my egg reserve. It was only after I got the results back from my blood test and learned about my low egg reserve that I actually started to think about it. This could have been tested much earlier to give me an understanding of what this means and what problems may be there.
It’s common knowledge that it’s harder to get pregnant when you get older, but I never thought specifically about my egg reserve. I know that if I have no eggs left I can’t get pregnant, but never thought about the fact that eventually my egg reserve would be empty. Why did I learn this so late?
Unfortunately, when I started learning about fertility and pregnancy topics, LEVY didn’t exist yet. I would have liked to see more people talking about this topic and exchanging ideas, and I still do. So I’m grateful for LEVY.
I realized quickly that it was hard to decide where to go for fertility advice. If you type “Kinderwunsch Berlin” (trying to have a baby) into Google, for example, you get this hugely long list, which was difficult to sort through and figure out where to go.
There’s no guidance, no criteria for getting help for fertility problems. I would have liked to have some sort of checklist – “This is what to do if you are struggling to get pregnant.” That was one of the hardest things we experienced as a couple, because we had to make a big decision about something we knew nothing about. There’s so much value in understanding your fertility story and what you can do as a next step. That’s why I think it’s so important that LEVY offers that.
As far as my own fertility treatment, all I can say is, “I never felt so stupid.”
I was sitting in front of the doctors and they asked me if I had any questions, which was nice to hear. I thought, “Well, I have a lot of questions, but I don’t know what they are.” That was really scary because I normally feel very in control of different aspects of my life and I’m usually well prepared. I feel generally good about where I am in life, but because of these fertility issues, I’ve spent the past year feeling completely overwhelmed and like I have no control over what’s happening to me.
During the first 3 rounds of ICSI I had total loss of control and also didn’t quite understand what was going on. I had to rely 100% on my treating doctors. It would have been helpful to get a second opinion, but even that’s almost impossible if you don’t go to a second clinic. I felt very alone, which piled on more stress to this already difficult situation.
Your fertility story puts quite a burden on a relationship, how did you deal with it as a couple?
It actually made us and our relationship even stronger. Mostly because we talked about it a lot and wanted to understand what the other person was going through.
In retrospect, I have the feeling that my husband already had a good idea of what was going to happen. But me, I went into the experience with rose-colored glasses, thinking that everything would be fine and it would all work out. My husband always told me that he would love to have a baby, but the final decision is up to me because I have more to do and he has a smaller role. That helped me a lot. Even if we felt guilty about our own fertility, we managed to avoid placing blame, knowing that we have limited influence on our bodies.
It was interesting to see how differently we dealt with and processed situations. We made a point to consciously spend time together and talk about other things – to take a break and get some distance from what we were going through.
We also talked openly about how we would move forward if things didn’t work out as hoped. It’s important to talk about that too to ensure that one partner doesn’t have different expectations. We decided to figure out later on if we want to try again, depending on how we feel and the medical advice we get. We’re also open to changing clinics again if necessary or going abroad for fertility treatment, if it feels right.
Male partners take on a completely different role in this process and I noticed that it was difficult for my partner because he felt like just an observer. As a woman, I get to see everything up close, whether it’s my fluctuating weight or whatever else is going on in my body. I thought that by age 38 I would know how my body works and reacts – up until I had to take the ISCI medication. That experience made me feel totally out of control, because I could no longer figure out what was actually going on in my body. My husband can only stand by and watch these things unfold. I learned that I need to always explain to him what’s going on with me and why some well-intentioned jokes weren’t funny.
But all in all, we are on the same page and no matter how our fertility story continues, we are a family, with or without a child.
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