Open up almost any magazine, website or video, and you're likely to hear a story about the struggles couples have with infertility and the measures they take to have a baby of their own. As a mother of four, I was lucky enough to be able to conceive easily and naturally, and it is only through speaking with friends and colleagues that I understand the challenges many couples face in trying to have a family.
December 21, 2016 marks the first anniversary of the launch of the Ontario Fertility Program. Designed to improve access to assisted reproduction technologies for the one in six Ontarians living with infertility, the program contributes to the medical costs required for procedures such as intrauterine insemination (IUI), fertility preservation (FP) and in vitro fertilization (IVF).
For a few blissful days in February, I imagined the days leading up to Oct. 15, 2016 would be filled with nervousness, physical discomfort and the anxious energy of a first time mom-to-be. Instead the days leading up to Oct. 15, 2016 are tinged with sadness, but also a desire to want to share our story. To add my voice to the chorus of women who have experienced miscarriage. October 15 is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day.
My brother and his wife were trying to have a baby for the last seven years. With their hard earned savings, they set their sights on pursuing countless fertility treatments. Hanging on to a promise from one clinic that results were "guaranteed," they drove many long hours with remarkable sangfroid to receive treatments. But it was never going to be that simple for them.
Through infertility I became a stronger person. It taught me patience, determination and perseverance.... Your baby is worth fighting for, so although this may feel like hell, keep going. I wouldn't wish infertility on anybody, but I can't say I'd change it now. My little man wouldn't be the same person if I hadn't waited. And nor would I.
The hormones are making me, well, hormonal. I'm crampy. My ass hurts. I have a headache that no amount of Tylenol will touch and just generally feel like I have a really bad flu.. am completely beside myself with emotion.... I feel like time is just ticking away here, as I lie on the bathroom floor in a nauseous, weeping heap worrying how the baby I'm not pregnant with is going to affect the writing career I don't have.
Despite my deep longing to be a mother, I am somehow feeling more resigned now as we wait to hear the verdict of our fourth cycle. I feel much less desperate, much less crazed about it working. Because chances are it didn't, no matter how hard I wish it did. My hope feels irrelevant and in relinquishing it I feel more prepared this time. I am steeling myself off, encasing my heart, bracing myself for bad news.
Cancer. Death. Divorce. Miscarriage. Infertility. What these experiences all have in common is that they make people clam up. People often don't know how to respond, what to say, what to do or how to react. So often, people don't respond. They don't say anything. They don't do anything. They don't react. And that is wrong. Some would argue that everyone is dealing with their own stuff and don't have the bandwidth to take on other people's problems. But if everyone's head is down and people are only worried about themselves, that is a sad and cynical statement about society. Are people really that busy that they can't be supportive of others?
No part of me regrets the decision I made to be an egg donor but I regret how I went about it and the contract I locked myself into. I regret not requesting an open donation. I did not understand the gravity of my decisions. I believed I was mature and now I look back and feel like I was just a kid. That psychological screening, many years ago, had "screened" a version of myself I could no longer relate to. I had no way of knowing that egg donation would impact my life the way it did.
There's much to commend in the new policy; most importantly it covers all forms of infertility, regardless of sex, gender, sexual orientation or family status. The problem lies in what has not yet been addressed by the province -- critical issues that surround both publicly and privately funded IVF -- that demand attention.
You can safely assume by the fact that I had four children in five and a half years, that I did not have much difficulty conceiving. However, two of my very best friends struggled for years to get pregnant, so while I would not want to give advice to someone who can't conceive, I do feel qualified to give advice about what do to when your friend can't get pregnant while you can.
Instead of accusing women of prioritizing career over family, perhaps we should acknowledge that it is simply more challenging nowadays for many women to find a life partner during their fertile years. For that reason alone, I applaud companies for providing women with the opportunity to expand their control over their fertility.
Fertility clinics with low or average success rates, and those not in step with the most recent scientific advances, faced a conflict of interest. Their patients would be more likely to become pregnant with the help of their more competent and cutting-edge competitors, but the clinics would be more profitable if they did not direct them there. With this new found insight, I no longer thought of myself as an IVF patient and began to consider myself an IVF consumer.
While Mother's Day is a celebration of love for many, it is a day of pain and grief for so many more. There are many faces of motherhood, some less obvious then others. There are mothers whose arms are empty; suffering from infertility, miscarriages or the death of a child. The world doesn't recognize them as mothers but they are and always will be.
The recent news that actress Sofia Vergara is facing a lawsuit from her ex-fiancé over the fate of their frozen embryos is shining a light on the embryo freezing process. If a couple separates and fails to agree on what to do with their frozen embryos, a lengthy and emotionally taxing legal battle could ensue. However, if only eggs are frozen over the course of a relationship, and that relationship ends, there is no dispute over who the eggs belong to and who controls their fate.