Infertility - What Comes Next?
About 6-15% of married women aged 15 to 44 years in the United States are unable to get pregnant after one year of trying. This amounts to about 80-160 million people around the world affected by infertility. While more common than we may think, it is an entirely different story when it becomes your story. Oftentimes, women blame themselves, or think something is wrong with them. Many even lose sight of their identity when they hear those dreadful words, "You may have difficulty conceiving a child on your own, possibly at all..."
Creating a family and having a child can look so many different ways, despite infertility. There is still hope. There are still options. There are still ways to raise a child, or make a difference in the future generations to come. The first step is accepting your journey and your story as your own.
What are my options for infertility?
Medications to induce ovulation, increase the number of follicles that contain oocytes, or prepare uterine lining
IUI (Intrauterine Insemination)
IVF (In Vitro Fertilization)
ICSI (Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection)
Sperm, egg, or embryo donation
Assisted Reproductive Technology
Many people's first thoughts are IVF, but that is not always the first step or only option if naturally conceiving a child has not been successful. The American Society for Reproductive Medicine is a wonderful resource to explore on your own. You can also talk to your OBGYN about a referral to a Fertility Specialist to further discuss all your options before making a finalized decision. Getting more information and answers can ease anxieties and offer a sense of calm during a stressful time.
Foster Care and Adoption
There are even many different options within this choice as well. Do you want to foster a newborn, toddler, or school-aged child? Are your hopes in fostering to eventually adopt? Do you want to adopt through the foster care system or through a private adoptions agency? Will it be an adoption from birth, or an older child? There are many things to consider as you move towards growing your family. Spend some time in reflection on what are your values as a family, and how can your choices lead you closer to those values, not farther away. You can read more about adoption in our blog, "Adoption Over The Years", and how much the process has changed.
Now this is probably not your first choice if you are reading this. Maybe you dreamt about having a huge family, maybe you just want one little one to raise and parent. The thought of living child free might scare you, devastate you, and hurt you. Spend some time acknowledging those feelings. Grieve that loss. Find support and connection through others. And then, find ways to be the best aunt, teacher, Sunday school volunteer, or any other way to fill that sense of satisfaction in caregiving, supporting, and impacting the next generation. Your future might not look the way you planned, and there is space for recognizing that, and there's also space for a new vision. I encourage you to spend some time reflecting on what that could look like for you and your family.
“Loving ourselves through the process of owning our story is the bravest thing we will ever do." –Brene Brown
Now remember, whether you choose assisted reproductive technology, third party reproduction, or to live child-free, you made a brave and honorable choice. If choosing to continue working towards having a child, whether through your own biological means, surrogacy, or foster/adoption, it can still be a long and challenging process. Many even refer to it as an emotional rollercoaster.
Here are 6 tips to focus on during your reproductive journey:
Identify your personal strengths and competencies as a woman, spouse, daughter, etc.
Keep engaged in life with things other than your reproductive story
Prepare for any outcome, from not growing your family the way you had planned, to the possibility of still conceiving naturally
Keep hold to your self-esteem and positive relationships no matter what the outcome
Seek professional support through counseling