Two. Pink. Lines.
I’ve never wanted to see anything more in my life than two pink lines.
Two pink lines would mean that I’d succeeded, that I’d been triumphant, that my body did the thing I so desperately hoped, wished and worked for. Two pink lines would mean that I was pregnant. That my dream of motherhood was on its way to becoming a reality.
Each month my heart would pound as I sat on the toilet seat, hovering over a plastic pregnancy test, begging the universe for this month to contain my miracle. And each month, when I only saw one line, I found myself crushed. Tears would fall. Comfort food was eaten. Sometimes cursing would happen. My husband and I would talk. My therapist and I would talk. It seemed like all I did some months was think about having a baby, try to plan for conception, struggle through the two week wait, and then sail through disappointment like I was getting used to the sting.
If these thoughts, this routine, or these moments feel familiar, please, please know you are not alone. I’m coming to you with a deep understanding of life with infertility because I was beyond immersed in it.
It took us almost two years to conceive our daughter, and as my age increased and my patience decreased, I found my feelings and emotions being amplified regularly. After nine months of googling things like ovulation tracking, foods to support conception, vitamins to increase fertility, and any other tips, tricks, tools or resources I could find, I reached out to my OB/GYN. I really just wanted to check in, because my cycle length varied from 32 to 39 days, and I wasn’t sure if I could do anything better to standardize my cycle or increase my chances of getting pregnant. My doctor recommended that I get some bloodwork done, and that my parter have a sperm analysis completed. She said those pieces would help her make recommendations for us. I was so optimistic that we’d be on our way to baby-town shortly.
One week later, my doctor called and referred us to a Reproductive Endocrinologist (RE). She wasn’t sure we’d be able to get pregnant without a “technology intervention.”
I was devastated.
My google searches quickly transitioned from “how to get pregnant?” to “what is infertility?” and everything similar. I knew the only way out was through - that I had to learn about infertility, my body, our situation, and I had to believe that treatments (or interventions) would bring us closer to the baby we’d been dreaming about.
For five more months, we timed intercourse, tracked ovulation, tried to eat well and take care of ourselves, and believe that maybe we’d find a miracle, while simultaneously waiting for an appointment with the RE and undergoing testing to determine the “source” of our infertility.
It seemed that every time I turned around, I was seeing a new pregnancy announcement on Facebook, or getting an advertisement on my screen for conception tools, like ovulation trackers or the Ava bracelet. I received countless invitations to baby showers and links to baby registries each month, and the overwhelming feelings increased my sadness. More than anything, I felt bombarded with how “easy” it should’ve been to get pregnant, and I felt like an abject failure for not reaching that “elite status” yet. I was constantly discouraged about my ability to become a mother while scrolling through social media, and often wondered if I should just remove myself from it altogether.
When we were finally diagnosed with Unexplained Infertility, I felt both grateful and angry. Nothing was “wrong” with either my husband or I, which was great news, but it also meant that theoretically, we should’ve already been able to conceive. This was infuriating! Why wasn’t it happening for us? How could I do more, do better, how could I overcome this challenge?
I felt so conflicted and emotional, and on a whim, I began searching Instagram for the hashtag #Infertility. I learned so much and connected with so many others, and all of a sudden my resentment of social media turned into feelings of gratitude. Instead of getting caught in the announcements of new pregnancies and newborn photos in my feed, I was able to actively seek out others who were walking through the same road I had in front of me, ask questions and gain advice (& support!).
When we finally began our fertility treatments, I told my husband that I wanted to become a part of that voice - the online collective showing the reality of living with infertility, of testing and treatments and the pathway to parenthood looking different than expected. As we walked through four consecutive months of failed Intrauterine Insemination’s (IUI), I shared photos and thoughts with my family and friends about our fertility treatments. I talked about the procedures, my feelings, and the way it was impacting our confidence, our identities and our marriage. It felt liberating to share our story, but it also felt really vulnerable to speak openly about something that came with more stigma than I’d anticipated.
I immediately started receiving countless messages from both friends and strangers with two dominant themes:
My son/daughter was conceived through IUI, IVF, ART, sperm donor, egg donor, embryo donor, surrogate and I’ve never known anyone else who has gone through this! I’m so grateful to talk about our experience with someone who will understand! I’m happy to give you any advice I can!
OMG, Me too! I am struggling through this now, and I don’t know where to start, and I feel alone, and can we talk about every part of this journey?
As my husband and I began In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF), we got louder about our journey. We talked about the needles and the side effects and our hopes and our fears. The messages increased. I was so surprised that there weren’t many voices yet in this space, and I became committed to sharing the ups and downs of our story with the goal of helping other aspiring parents feel less alone. We went through Stims, an Egg Retrieval, a failed Fresh Embryo Transfer, PGS testing and a Frozen Embryo Transfer before we saw our first and only positive pregnancy test. The elusive two pink lines were in front of me at last, and I’d never felt more thankful.
When we announced our pregnancy online, and subsequently, when we announced the arrival of our daughter, both posts included a note to those still waiting for their miracle. I knew there were bound to be friends and strangers alike struggling through infertility when they saw my posts, and I wanted more than anything for them to feel seen and validated in those moments.
Today, I advise my friends and my clients walking through infertility to be conscious of their social media usage. When it’s making them feel discouraged or upset, I think it’s best to change what you’re looking at. I love recommending the hashtag search, and suggest #infertilitywarrior, #infertilitysucks, #infertilityawareness, #unexplainedinfertility, #ivfcommunity #ivfjourney #ttc #ttcsisterhood #ttcjourney or anything with specific diagnoses or conditions. When you find accounts or individuals who you vibe with or identify with, give them a follow. Think about sending them a message. Everyone who chooses to share their story is vulnerable and beautiful and I think it helps for them to know they’re not alone too.
When you’re trying to figure out how (or if) to share your infertility journey, reach out to me to talk. Schedule a consult or book some office hours and we can work through how you’re feeling and how you can ask your people for support while sharing as much or as little as you feel comfortable with.
You’re not alone, even in the ache of infertility. I promise.
This post comes from the TODAY Parenting Team community, where all members are welcome to post and discuss parenting solutions. Learn more and join us! Because we're all in this together.