My name is Hillary Alread. I have been married to my wonderful husband for the last 6 ½ years. Growing up, my period was never regular. For this reason, I always thought that getting pregnant was going to be difficult. I also always remember always wanted to be a mom. I didn’t really know what I wanted to be when I grew up, but I knew I wanted to be a mom.
About a year into the marriage, my husband and I started talking about starting a family. I stopped taking birth control and we waited. A few months after stopping the pill, I still hadn’t started my period. Not totally out of the ordinary for me, but definitely worth getting it checked. After the doctor ran some tests, she noticed that my hormones were way off and that I needed to go to an Endocrinologist. I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism at 14, so I figured it had to do with that. The first doctor I saw was, to put it nicely, a total jerk. Without running any of his own tests, he told me my ovaries could be dead. THIS WAS NOT OKAY! Why he said that to me, I will never know, but needless to say, I moved on to the next doctor. This one was much kinder, but I don’t think really looked at the whole picture. She fixed the thyroid issue and we moved on.
About 6 months after that, my husband and I moved back to New Orleans. He is a Georgia boy from birth but was more than happy to move to Louisiana. When I went to the gynecologist, she too noticed that my levels were off and that if I ever wanted to get pregnant I would HAVE to go to a fertility doctor. She gave me the name of one and we made the decision to call. When we walked into our fertility doctor’s office we were scared, nervous, worried, and had so many more emotions flying around in our heads. After talking for a bit, our doctor decided that because I was under the age of 30 she wanted to run some genetic tests. Pretty simple on my part, just have some blood taken and wait. However, we all know that the waiting is the worst part! About a week went by before we went back to the doctor. In reality, that wasn’t that long, but it felt like an eternity! With a melancholy look on her face, she told us that I had Mosaic Turner’s and the only way I would be able to have children would be through egg donation. I was crushed. My husband was crushed. At 27 and 25 we found out that we could never have children without help. I have to say here that my husband is a rock star! There is no way I could have gotten through it all without him by my side with his patience, grace, love, and devotion.
I was very anxious about using a donor egg. At first, I wholeheartedly said I didn’t want to do that. I would have to figure something else out. However, after some time and many conversations we decided to go for it. It was so scary! We found a donor and started the process pretty quickly. We had high hopes being that I was young and healthy. My husband was positive the whole time, me, not so much! Throughout our IVF journey, I realized that while all of the shots and medicine hurt, it is so much more of a mental game. (I will get more into that later).
The first round of IVF was a success! We were pregnant! Everything was wonderful and we were so happy. However, when we went to our appointment around 8 weeks, we never heard a heartbeat. That was one of the worst moments of my life. It is crazy how quickly you can go from pure joy to pure sadness. I stopped taking medicine and soon after had a miscarriage. We decided to keep going and try again. Unfortunately, after more shots, more hormones, and more tears, we were not pregnant.
Since we had now had two failed attempts my doctor suggested we do a biopsy to make sure everything looked good. Basically, this would give us a few more answers and tell us exactly how many progesterone shots I would need. In case you don’t know, when you get a biopsy on your uterus done, you have to do all of the medicine, do the biopsy and stopped taking medicine. This is where the mental game comes into play. The biopsy was really difficult for me. I could justify the pain of the shots on the fact that it would allow me to have a beautiful baby. The biopsy did not lead to that….and I did it twice!
After getting the two biopsies completed, we were ready to try again. This is where my mental state changed. For whatever reason, I was much calmer this time. I knew I could handle this and I was not going to let the shots bother me. I was SHOCKED at how together I was at this time. Well, it worked because I now have a happy, healthy 18-month-old baby boy. Every hormone, every shot, every tear was worth it. That is my biggest take away from my experience. I am stronger than I think and you are stronger than you think.
Who offered you support during this process that really stood out to you? What did they do? First, I could in no way have done this without my family. My husband was my rock, which sounds cliché even as a type it, but it’s true. He put up with me when I was at my worst and loved me through it all. My mom, dad, and sister were a huge help as well. My dad isn’t a big talker. He keeps emotions to himself a lot of the time, but I knew he was and always will be there for me. My mom and sister were amazing, listening to me when I needed it, offering advice and love.
The other people I could not have gotten through this without are my work friends. I teach kindergarten and my team is very very close. At the beginning of our journey, I didn’t talk much about what was going on. I didn’t want to get weird looks from people or hear people’s comments on the choices that I was making. I was worried I would get negative comments, honestly. Now I realize that other people’s opinions don’t matter for a second. Anyway, my friends at work were always there for me. They helped me when I had to go to appointments, when I was out of bed rest, or when I needed a shoulder to cry on. I don’t think they will ever truly know how helpful there were, and still are, to me.
Are you going to share your infertility journey with your children? While I have not completely figured out how or when I am going to tell my son, and hopefully future children, about my fertility journey, but I do plan on it. I think it is important to be open and honest throughout this whole process. I would never want him to find out from someone else before I had the opportunity to tell him. I would never want him to feel bad about himself or think that there is anything negative about him. Because of this, I believe it is vital to tell him about our family journey.
What is/was the hardest part of this journey for you? There have been so many difficult moments during this. I think the most difficult part is not being able to do the one thing that all women are put on this earth to do, have children. I felt helpless. I grew up wanting nothing more than to be a mother, and I couldn’t even do that in what I deemed to be the right way. It took me a long time to get over this. In fact, sometimes those old emotions and thoughts come creeping back and I feel negative about myself. During these times I have to remind myself how unbelievably lucky l am to have been able to have to help that I did.
What brings you hope during this journey? What brings me hope is that I feel like this topic is being more widely discussed. It is so important for women and men dealing with infertility to not feel ashamed or embarrassed by what they are going through. Often times, infertility is treated as something that shouldn’t be discussed. If it is, it should only be in the dark so to speak. I am hopeful that the tides are now turning and we will now be able to feel confident speaking about our issues. It also brings me hope that science has come so far that doctors are able to do so many miraculous things.
What is the most valuable piece of advice you’d like to share with our readers? Like I said, in the beginning, I didn’t want to tell anyone. I was embarrassed. I now realize that that is completely ridiculous. For anyone out there not wanted to tell people, my advice is to do it. You don’t have to tell everyone, but find a few people that you trust and tell me. It will help you tremendously. When you are feeling low and need to vent, someone will be there. When the shots become unbearable, someone will be there. This will make your journey through fertility much easier.