I couldn't have known then how complicated it would be emotionally to deal with male factor infertility as a couple.

It didn’t take any time for my husband and me to decide we were ready to start our family. In fact, the hardest part was not letting ourselves start trying until after our wedding in October 2016. In the back of my mind, for most of my life, was the fear that it would be difficult for me to get pregnant. Medically, there was nothing that could explain that fear, but I just had a feeling that it might not be easy for me. So when we weren’t pregnant after 8 months of trying, I was upset but ultimately not surprised.

I scheduled my annual exam in February of 2018, where I mentioned to my doctor my concerns, and she began the process of testing my hormone levels and put me in touch with an incredible fertility clinic in Chicago. It took months to get our first appointment at the fertility center, and then several more months of tests on both my husband and myself.

In July 2018 we finally had our answer – low morphology, low mobility and low motility- quite the trifecta. At the time of the diagnosis, I felt relieved. Relieved to have an answer, relieved to get to start working towards a solution, and secretly and selfishly relieved that our “problem” wasn’t with me. I couldn’t have known then how complicated it would be emotionally to deal with male factor fertility as a couple.

We weren’t the ideal candidates for IUI’s, but they were fully covered by insurance so our doctor agreed it was definitely worth trying. After four failed IUI’s, it all became more serious for us when we were told it was time to move on to IVF. I had never let myself believe it would come to that for me and couldn’t help but feel that it was so unfair what I was having to put my body through, when the “problems” were with my husband.

We did a full medicated cycle in the fall of 2018 that resulted in one low quality embryo that failed to implant. My fertility doctor and my nurses were all so confused. My body had been responding so well to the medicine, my cycle had seemed so great – they were all shocked that we only had one embryo and that made it all the more devastating.

I found it so hard to recover from the first cycle. I felt deeply sad and was no longer confident that it would all work out for us at the end of this fertility journey. My ovaries weren’t recovering well and I had to have a cyst aspirated which delayed my next cycle. My fertility doctor tried me on a Lupron protocol, which my body didn’t respond to and I ovulated when I wasn’t supposed to. I was so beat down and so very sad. I also struggled with how to communicate what I was feeling to my husband. It was so important to me that he not feel that I blamed him, or resented him. But at times I did. Obviously my rational mind knows that it wasn’t his fault, but deep in the trenches, it’s hard to not look for someone to blame.

I credit my close friends and my sister for providing me open and non-judgmental ears as I was in the darkest period of our fertility journey. I could share with my husband my sadness over not yet having a baby and together we could mourn that. But I needed a place to talk about how it wasn’t fair. It wasn’t fair that my body was being destroyed by these drugs when it hadn’t been doing anything wrong. They withheld judgement for comments I made that I’m sure sounded so callous, but it enabled me to let it go and not let resentment enter our relationship.

In January 2019, we began our second full cycle which resulted in six high quality embryos, five of which are currently frozen and one of which has made me deeply tired and uncomfortable as it worked. I was pregnant.

What amazes me most as I reflect on what we lived through the last two years, is how quickly you let it all go. I had been so sad, so scared and so angry. And now, it’s hard for me to remember any of that. I feel strong, battle-tested, and like I’ve already shown myself just how good of a Mother I will be.

Rereading my own words now is quite a trippy experience. Somehow despite how consuming and at times traumatic the fertility experience feels when you’re living it, I have almost completely forgotten what it felt like. I feel stronger for having lived it, and I feel fully recovered from the emotional toll it took on me. You can never know for certain when you’re undergoing treatment that it’s going to all work out, success is of course never guaranteed, but I’d do it all again to get to have the beautiful daughter that I have today. She was meant to be my baby and if it had happened any other way, I wouldn’t have her. So in hindsight, I feel so incredibly lucky for what we went through, because she is perfect.