I’m really behind on the updates. I’ve just been so incredibly sleepy. Some time has gone by since then, but I did have my weeping Hannah moment in church. Ironically, though, it had nothing to do with me or anything I could’ve predicted.
Call it a divine revelation or or a alignment of coincidental thoughts — not that I don’t believe either is possible — but given that this site has been up and circulated, I might call it something different. Whatever it was led to an altar call for “a couple struggling to conceive.” I only recently posted positive pregnancy results, but I knew at time that I was and had told the people most proximate to me on a day-to-day basis. But it wasn’t widely known, particularly not by the person led to invite “a couple struggling to conceive” to the altar.
Don’t misunderstand; I fully believe in inspiration of the Holy Spirit to move a person to say or do something in a way that isn’t based on any prior knowledge. In many ways, I try to live my life with that kind of direction. But to have prior knowledge and to suggest it was revealed by God feels kind of like a carnival show gimmick. Already pregnant and fully aware of it, I didn’t go to the altar, but three women did.
At the moment, I realized that my struggle has not been for me nor has the blessing up to this point. It has been to tell the story of prayer for undeserved favor in an impossible situation, the unrelenting downright stupid-looking faith, and a glimpse of the promise (which is where I feel I am now) to somebod(ies) who feel even more hopeless that I have in the midst of all of that. That was my revelation that night.
I was skeptical of the way it went down, but I thought it was cool that the church, a black church in particular, devoted prayer time to infertility. Rather than let the method of how we got there permanently divert my attention, I directed my energy toward praying for them and just worshiping in general.
And I cried and cried some more, praying that God would show himself strong for those ladies as He has for me.
I’d wondered — with the postive pregnancy test and the ultrasound photos — whether I could still be considered part of the infertility struggle. I know how I felt when I’d read that someone had a successful interuterine insemination or in-vitro fertilization cycle: abandoned and even more like a failure. But my Hannah moment reminded me that the struggle to this point binds me to every woman on the same road.
Not to get too churchy on you, but it was one of my pastor’s sermons that kept me holding on to the idea that God would allow us to become parents. I don’t remember the title (and this tired mama is too lazy to go find her journal), but I do remember the scripture and its context — 2 Kings 3:18. After you prepare, which you’re already doing, you pray and you try to be patient, it’s a simple matter in the sight of the LORD. That’s the New King James Version. The Message translation reads: “This is easy for God to do.”
As hard as the infertility road is, rest with that idea in mind.
The fact that I’m actually doing this in-vitro fertilization thing is really sinking in. I don’t know how I feel about that. Let me think about it — that is try to mediatate on the words that match my feelings, whatever they are … Meanwhile, I know you’ve still got questions. I’ve got answers:
11) How worried are you about the side effects — death, stroke, losing an ovary?
I’ve been well versed in all the risk factors and surprised at the same time. I’m not worried, though. I don’t know why. I’m just not.
12) How much does it cost? Is it expensive?
Expense is relative based on what you value. Eight dollars for a gallon of gas is expensive unless your tank is on “E,” and there’s just one station nearby. Also, not to get religious on you, we tithe at our church, so by God, we tend to have everything we need to keep the lights on and eat well though we likely make less money than you’d think.
13) Will you be another Octomom?
It’s highly unlikely. There’s a reason that the doctor for Nadya Suleman (her NAME, people) lost his license. The American Society for Reproductive Medicine recommends implanting no more than two embryos – fertilized eggs – in women 35 and younger and no more than five for women older than 40. Her doctor implanted 12, and eight survived. As I get deeper into this process, I totally get how the doctor is the most at fault.
In some cases, implanted embryos split and two may become three. It happens, but it’s rare. For me to sprout octuplets, the fertilized eggs that will be returned to sender would have to miraculously split several times over and beyond that. Don’t hold your breath for it to happen. And if it does, like NeNe from the Real Housewives of Atlanta, I’ll be verrrry rich.
Also, on the Octomom thing, jokes about this get old very quickly. Tread carefully.
14) Does infertility run in your family?
I’m one of four, the youngest actually. My maternal grandmother had four children; my paternal grandmother had eight with several losses in between. From that, I’d say no. But then, when I consider that of all my aunts, only two bore their own children, it’s a possibility. Reproductive system issues were rampant, and although my mother was perhaps the most fertile of everybody, she died in 2007 of ovarian cancer.
15) Why you putting all your business out there?
I have several answers for this. You remember when people wouldn’t say “cancer” out loud? It was mysterious, and people thought it was contagious. Now that it’s an everyday word, there are rallies and research and resources for its less affluent sufferers. Do you remember how conversations about AIDS started that way? See where I’m going?
Black people have a tendency to be quiet about the wrong things. Infertility is not a white woman’s condition, and treating it is not a luxury reserved for rich people. We would know that and perhaps encourage women struggling with infertility to reach out for support if it weren’t such a secret. And maybe that support would become universally offered, expected and funded.
That’s the activist in me talking. She can only go on for so long before it gets personal.
I carried this “secret” of struggling to conceive for a long time, especially in the face of well-meaning comments of it being “time to start a family.” I struggled through Mother’s Day and seemingly a million friends showing off 3-D ultrasounds and pictures of new babies. Quite often, I wanted to, like, snap out and just let some folks have it – not quite the Christian approach. I’d told a couple people in an informational kinda way, but really, I was starting to need something more than what even the saint-like Mr. could contain. Honestly, given my own beliefs, I needed some people praying for me.
So, randomly, over breakfast with my beloved fellow singers, I spoke up. Immediately, something lifted. It was clear that all of this is safer for me spoken out loud than trapped in my head. And now I’m writing it because I just can’t talk THAT much.
In the last two months, I’ve taken more license in speaking about why I have yet another doctor’s appointment and why it’s on Sunday morning. Each disapproving look or dumb comment has prepared me for the next one. So, negative ninnies, bring it on.
16) What does your family say about it?
My sister has taken the Malcolm X approach: by any means necessary. I told a brother that we were having trouble, and he said, “The Lord will make it happen when He decides. You can’t do nothing but wait.” Ironically, this is similar to something my estranged father said when my 6-year-old self asked where babies came from. Alas. I haven’t discussed my infertility with any other members of my family.
17) Do you think God is punishing you for something you did?
18) What are your church’s or pastor’s views on all of this?
It hasn’t really come up in church. And as for my pastor, I didn’t think to ask him what he thought. I did, however, slip his wife a note to pray for us and the in-vitro fertilization process.
19) How much does your health insurance cover?
Fortunately, we do have insurance coverage; a lot of women do not or one cycle wipes out their entire benefit. For us, most procedures are covered at 80 percent. The diagnostic hysterosalpingogram, or HSG, was our wakeup call that this process could get pricey. Insurance coverage for that still cost about $500 out of pocket. For the intrauterine inseminations, we paid about $22 out of pocket, but the accompanying drugs carried $75 and $10 copays. Multiply all of that times three, and that’s about the out-of-pocket cost of the drug protocols for one month of in-vitro fertilization. This one cycle will complete my lifetime maximum for my current insurance. Limitations like that fuel the temptation to implant as many embryos as possible, by the way. Decisions on what to do with the remaining embryos raises other issues as well.
20) How do you deal with the dumb things people say when they find out you’re undergoing infertility treatments?
I involuntarily cut my eyes at them before I politely nod and take it as my cue to shut up. Mentally, I acknowledge that it is ignorance and not necessarily malice. I also try to choose people I open up to carefully. I don’t yet have canned responses for the innocent but painful questions about when we’ll have kids. I’ve tried not to take my frustration out on the unsuspecting — even when they deserve it.
(Sigh) If you made it this far down, you’re a trooper. Thanks for sticking around. FWIW, these answers don’t negate my willingness to share other things you may be curious about. Feel free to post a question in the comments section, or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to hearing from you. — MBE
They arrived. That’s a month of in-vitro fertilization drugs.
It occurred to me once I decided to go public with my infertility struggles that people would have a lot of questions. I’ve found that when I open up in a quest for comfort, I instead do more educating than emoting. To remedy that and to avoid repeating myself, I present the most common questions I encounter and answers as they stand right now. That’s my disclaimer for if or when my answers change.
1) Why can’t you have kids?
I don’t actually know that I can’t. I just know that I haven’t. I have a diagnosis of diminished ovarian reserve, meaning I don’t have as many eggs as expected for my age. (I’m in my early to mid-thirties.) Therein lies the challenge and why we – the Mr. and I – are trying everything available to make it happen.
2) What’s that like?
Well, in short, it sucks. It’s annoying. It feels unfair. And I wish it wasn’t so. I get down about it sometimes, and maybe I wanna complain. It just doesn’t make me feel any better. So, I refocus. I write. I pray. I take my prenatal vitamins as an act of faith.
3) Did you pray about it?
Yes, for Christ’s sake, AND in His name with fasting. Intercessors welcome.
I get very tempted on Sundays to throw myself on the altar at church Hannah-style, but I’m pretty sure security would take me down and carry me out before I can say, “Amen.”
4) Are you having enough sex to get pregnant?
(People do ask.) Yep.
5) How long have you been trying?
I’d say not long enough for infertility street cred. Things have moved really quickly, but when I count back, the path to this point feels like a long road. I ditched the Nuvaring the last week of January 2010. I can’t believe it’s almost 2012.
6) What’s the effect on your marriage?
There’s been no negative effect. It was already the two of us against the world. Now, it’s the two of us against infertility. Beyond that, my husband amazes me every day just by being his funny, supportive and thoughtful self.
7) How many kids do you want?
For most of my life, I wanted five. Before we got married, we decided on three. There’s a song from my hometown that’s now my song: “Any way you bless me, Lord, I’ll be satisfied.”
8 ) Why not just adopt?
Oh, why not get a bike instead buying a car? It’s transportation, right? Sorry, that darn humanity. Um, adoption could be considered a “fix” for childlessness perhaps, but not infertility.
9) So you’ll be doing that artificial insemination stuff?
Kinda. Nobody calls it that anymore. For one, there’s not much artificial about it – sperm and eggs are still required. What used to be called “artificial insemination” is modernly known as intrauterine insemination, or IUI. Sperm cells, which usually “walk” to meet a single egg, instead get a bath before taking an express train via a thin catheter guided in most cases by a nurse. The actual procedure takes about a half hour, including time just laying there. I’ve done that three times. No dice. That’s why I’m at the in-vitro fertilization stage. The fur is similar, but it’s an entirely different animal. We’ll be experiencing it together.
10) What do they have to do?
Essentially, with drugs, they’ll suppress my reproductive system, jump-start it with more drugs to make my body produce multiple follicles, which house eggs. Doctors will then go get the eggs, pair them with sperm from the Mr. in a lab, offer them wine and hope they hit it off. Once matches are made in heaven, the doctor will let me hold one or two of them for safe keeping, and I’ll eventually look like I ate a watermelon seed. I’m oversimplifying to explain the procedure without the gory details that – again – I’ll experience when it all happens with you along for the ride.
So these aren’t really mine, but you get the idea.
Here’s a little introductory trivia question, an icebreaker, considering I don’t know you and you don’t know me:
What’s the difference between brown eggs and white eggs? Not much.
The difference lies in the color of the hen that laid the eggs. Brown eggs tend to come from red-feathered chickens, and white eggs come from white-frocked birds. Nutritionally, they’re pretty much the same — just like the chickens. It just doesn’t come up in your everyday conversation.
Neither does infertility among black women. The same problems that white women have with conception and problematic ovaries and wayward eggs are same that black women have. As a group, we just don’t talk about it. Discussing it every day might be overkill, but the silence of it all and resulting isolation is enough to kill the spirit of every woman of color who carries the universal desire to bear her own children.
Wow. That sounded really profound, well beyond what I was going for.
I’m just a brown girl who inherited the genetic reproductive misfortune from the Brown family and finds herself staring in-vitro fertilization in the face. Journalism saved my life once; I figured the foundation of it — writing — might ease the stress of bringing about new life in the form of a round-faced baby or two. Or three. Or eight.
I’m also giving myself and the universe permission to say “black woman” and “infertility” in the same sentence. Part of that will include sharing what I learn about cycles, procedures and shots (oh, my!). There will be flashbacks, observations and blatant use of anonymity to protect the ignorant. You can trust that every raw tale will be true and reflect my most authentic thoughts and feelings about unscrambling my Brown eggs to finally get pregnant.
It’s what all the inquiring mouths are waiting for, after all. So, this is also to shut them up.