I know it sounds a bit odd to be talking about infertility on a website called Mighty Moms, but hear me out.
What, exactly, makes a Mighty Mom mighty?
Isn’t it the realization that motherhood isn’t always rosy sunshine? That sometimes it’s a bloody battlefield of self-sacrifice and gritty determination?
Many of us fight even earlier. Many of us fight just for just the chance to be called that special three-letter word – MOM!
Infertility is often the very first battle – a battle that can often feel overwhelming and isolated.
Infertility can make the Family Quest feel like an impossible endeavor. In this emotional adventure full of financial quicksand, medical puzzles, and moral dilemmas, it helps to have a guide who’s been through this rocky terrain and knows the territory.
That’s me, sister. I’ve climbed that Everest, and I’ve learned where to spot those slippery slopes and sharp-edged bear traps. So grab your canteen and mosquito net, and let’s plot out your course!
Infertility Mistake #1:
Not Knowing Your Battle Lines
Okay, first things first. You need boundaries. You don’t want to accidentally walk off the map and end up on the cliffs.
Infertility decisions need to be made together with your spouse; don’t try to “wing it” as you go. Your goals, convictions, and plans may change along the path, but not having any guidelines in mind before you take the first step in your journey is like going backpacking in mountain lion country wearing a meat necklace.
Where are your lines in the sand? What are you willing to try? How much are you willing to spend?
Here are some questions to start with:
- Do you want to try some “natural” methods first or go straight to a fertility specialist?
- Are there any medications/surgeries/procedures you’re not willing to try?
- How do you both feel about in-vitro fertilization?
- When do you decide that the financial burden is too heavy to continue?
- When you’ve exhausted the options you’ve chosen to try, is adoption on the table?
- Is there a certain prognosis that would cause you to walk away? (i.e. Would being told, “You have a less than 15% chance of conceiving a child via a $20,000 round of IVF,” be grounds for forfeiture?)
Some people aren’t comfortable with IVF, and that’s okay! Some people would rather accept their infertility and jump straight to adoption than put their bodies through a lightning storm of hormones, and that’s okay too! Some people have to try every option available to them before abandoning the dream of having a biological child, and there’s nothing wrong with that either!
These are TOUGH discussions! They are not decisions that can be made unilaterally, and if you can have this talk now, before you’re stranded in that mental and emotional swamp without a compass, you’ll be better off.
Never feel you have to justify your difficult decisions. No one else is an expert on your unique situation. Accept that there will always be people who will judge you for those choices, so decide now to simply let them slide right off.
Infertility Mistake #2:
Not Choosing the Right Adventure Guide
If the quest for a successful pregnancy is like a search for an ancient Amazonian temple, think of an obstetrician/gynecologist (OB/GYN) as your skilled pilot who gets you to the right area and can potentially even spot important landmarks or obstacles from the air.
That said, if you need to delve deep into the rainforest, braving dangerous beasts or traps, you need a guide from a local tribe who regards the mysterious ecosystem as well as his own backyard. That’s your reproductive endocrinologist (RE).
Choosing an OB/GYN Guide:
Most people are familiar with what an obstetrician/gynecologist does. They deliver babies and attend to a variety of women’s health issues. Naturally, they have some basic working knowledge of infertility – certainly more than your well-meaning Aunt Udelle with her fistful of old wives’ tales – but they rarely have much in the way of formal training.
So, bottom line, what are the benefits of using an OB/GYN for infertility issues?
- Faster and easier to get into – Since RE’s are much more specialized, they’re often booked up several months in advance – IF they accept you at all without a referral from an OB/GYN. Chances are, an OB/GYN will be able to see you sooner.
- Can run basic tests to see what level of help you’ll require – Your average OB/GYN can run (or order) almost all of the same tests that an RE can, including an ultrasound, semen analysis, HSG test (radiological exam of the uterus and fallopian tubes), and even laparoscopy (minor diagnostic or corrective surgery). These can help identify a number of fertility concerns and tell you whether an RE is even necessary. If tests show an issue on the male side, you’ll likely be sent to a urologist instead of – or in addition to – an RE.
- Cost-efficiency – Medications and procedures are often FAR cheaper with an OB/GYN! RE’s have much higher overhead costs due to their IVF labs and cryogenic freezers and have to charge accordingly. At one point, an RE wanted to charge me $1,600 per month for a medication that I was able to get from an OB/GYN for less than $10 per month!
Choosing an RE Guide:
A reproductive endocrinologist is someone who specializes in the reproductive hormones and therefore is truly a fertility specialist. They typically have IVF labs and a broader range of resources available to them than an OB/GYN. They can take you deeper into the jungle than an OB/GYN, but their expertise comes with a much steeper price tag.
What else does that “steeper price tag” include?
- Efficiency – RE’s mean business! Even when doing a basic treatment that can be done with an OB/GYN, an RE’s office will monitor you much more closely, often with multiple blood tests and ultrasounds throughout each cycle so they know exactly how your body is responding to treatment at any given moment. With that level of surveillance, they can spot problems quickly and take immediate action.
- Knowledge and experience – When you dedicate your entire career to getting women pregnant, you learn a lot more than an OB/GYN who probably only dabbles in infertility from time to time. If you want to explore the Pyramids, who do you think will give you a better tour? A native Egyptian? Or your cousin who read a couple books about the building of the Sphinx?
- Fuller range of treatments – We’re stating the obvious here, but RE’s have significantly more access to cool fertility science stuff. If you suspect you have a serious problem that can’t be fixed with a handful of pills, trying to get into an RE right away will keep you from wasting months – or even years! – with an OB/GYN who just has to refer you on later.
Infertility Mistake #3:
Not Bargain Shopping
You probably aren’t going to find any coupons for intrauterine insemination in your Sunday paper (so you can put down those scissors). However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t other ways to reduce the price of infertility treatments. You’d be surprised what a little smart shopping can do.
Costs for fertility services can vary dramatically by location. If you live in an area where there aren’t many clinics available to you, you may end up paying a higher price due to lack of competition.
When my husband and I were considering IVF, my cousin recommended a reputable fertility clinic with a high success rate that was 1,100 miles away from us. When we compared the prices of her clinic with our local one, the difference was unbelievable! I could save thousands of dollars by going with the non-local clinic, even after factoring in round-trip plane tickets for the both of us and taking an entire month off of work!
If you get creative and explore your options wisely, you can avoid the bottomless pit of wallet drain.
Infertility Mistake #4
Forgetting to Seek More Opinions
Never take the opinion of one or two doctors as gospel truth. We nearly made that mistake with our first doctor regarding a proposed surgery that three doctors later informed us would’ve been a bad move!
And here’s something that’s pretty cool. Some doctors will give second opinions for FREE!
That’s right! If they know you’ve been working with one doctor and just want the opinion of another expert, some specialists won’t charge you! Obviously, this isn’t the case of all doctors, but it’s worth looking for when contemplating getting another opinion.
Infertility is one of the most difficult of medical mysteries to navigate. There are a myriad of trails on the map to follow. My husband and I consulted with FIVE doctors during our twenty-three months of fertility treatments, and every one of them had a different approach.
So if a doctor recommends an expensive surgery that insurance won’t cover (oh, girl, I’ve been there!) or even flat-out says you will never have children (been there too!), don’t put down your battle gear just yet!
Get that second (or ninth) opinion. Yes, there may come a day when you have to move on – I wish it wasn’t so! – but if you’ve only seen one or two fertility providers, it’s worth checking out a new approach.
Infertility Mistake #5:
Not Embracing the Mystery!
Let me do your emotions a huge favor.
Don’t treat fertility like an equation.
It doesn’t always work as simple as Mommy + Daddy + surgery + special pills + IUI = Baby. And many doctors would admit that you can’t always trust test results!
Sometimes doctors have to try some unorthodox methods, and it’s wise to consider alternative options.
Searching For Less-Trod Paths
Let me give you a personal example, so you can see what I mean about “embracing the mystery” by searching out other paths.
I was getting nowhere with traditional fertility treatments! My test results were deplorable, and my body didn’t respond in the slightest to the hormonal or medicinal aids. As far as multiple doctors were concerned, I was hopelessly barren!
My big breakthrough came when an RE – our fourth opinion, by the way! – suggested that despite my healthy weight, I may have an insulin problem. Now, I’d had multiple insulin tests, all of which were perfectly normal, so needless to say, I was more than just a little skeptical. But with a very strict all-natural, organic, borderline-paleo diet and a diabetic medication, in only three weeks, my fertility tests came back with unbelievable results!
I look back now and wonder … if I’d listened to my initial gut instinct and refused his untraditional route, would I have my two girls today?
Look for Your Unexpected Twist
Every good adventure story has an unexpected twist. How many times have you heard a TV character cock his hat and say with a sly grin, “It was under our noses all the time!” Sometimes the goal we seek will catch us by surprise in a place we never would’ve guessed.
Now, I’m not encouraging you to visit a troll under a bridge and buy a magic potion that you slather on your belly and behind your ears in the light of a full moon.
Just keep in mind that fertility and the beginnings of life are still mysterious! Modern science and medicine is wonderful, but there are still a lot of fertility secrets yet to uncover.
Aren’t you glad to live in a world where there can still be wonder and magic?
A Free Printable Map to Your Holy Grail
Every situation and story is different. Maybe at the end of your infertility quest, you’ll bring home the traditional family you always wanted.
But maybe not.
Maybe your family will look different than you expected. Maybe you’ll adopt or perhaps find peace in focusing your energy into other causes or individuals or projects – without children.
For now, though, we here at Mighty Moms thought it might be helpful for you to have a little “map” on good questions to take with you on your search.
Request your free copy of my Fertility Provider Questionnaire, and bring it with you as you meet with fertility providers. It will help make sure that you cover all the most important things, and help settle those butterflies swooping around in your stomach!
Lace Up Your Hiking Boots:
Adventure Is Calling!
No matter where your adventure leads you, I promise you that this infertility fight isn’t going to be boring.
There will be pain, tears, and perhaps even rage, but out of these dark days can come joy, laughter, and surprise endings.
All of this is worth it, my friend. Don’t let infertility decide your future for you. Decide where you want to go, and then fight to get there!
It’s true that not all “happily ever afters” look alike, but the path you take will help mold the person you are meant to be.
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