Why I Felt Oddly Proud & Lucky When I Used IVF to Build my Family

Touch of loveWhen I used IVF to build my family I felt oddly proud and lucky; proud that while having a baby was so easy (and fun) for most others, I was willing to endure the needles, blood draws and stirrups to have a baby if I had to; proud that I would not (could not) give up until I did; lucky that although I did not have insurance coverage for IVF, I was able to find a way to pay for 5 IVFs (believe me, it was not easy); and lucky that I had (and still have) a husband who felt with every cell in his body believed that any challenge we faced in life was a challenge we would face together.

In fact, more than 18 years later I still feel so proud that I talk about how I had my children with pretty much anyone who will listen, although I am careful to ensure that my disclosures are appropriate in terms audience, time and place. Often this has led to an opportunity to help my social companion, his or her family member, friend or co-worker. 

In the course of guiding my clients in their efforts to build their families, I have encountered some couples and individuals who have been determined not to disclose what they are going through to family, friends and colleagues. They feel that what they are going through is an intensely personal journey and I get that completely.

For those who are creating their families with the help of third party reproduction such as sperm donation, egg donation and surrogacy the question of whether to speak openly about their path to parenthood is even more complex. Will they disclose to their child the circumstances of his or her creation? Does their child have a right to be the first to be told? Is it the right of the child to decide if the circumstances of his or her creation will be shared with others?

But I have also encountered clients who have decided not to share with anyone what they are going through for an entirely different reason. They feel embarrassed because they require medical assistance to have a baby. If you are reading this and recognize yourself in this description, ask yourself this: How do you feel about those who are struck with cancer? Do you see them as people who have something to be embarrassed about? Or do you marvel at the strength and dignity with which they fight the challenge life has dealt them? The fact that you are suffering from infertility is a random fact of your life. There is not a single person on the planet earth who is exempt from life’s challenges. It is a simple reality of living. I urge you to see yourself as I see you: as the brave and courageous hero that you are. It requires great inner strength to enter the world of  assisted reproductive technology.

There is something else to consider as well. If you conceal what you are going through from others you may miss the opportunity to learn from others about excellent resources that can help you enormously: world class fertility clinics that have the power to maximize your potential for success; support groups that will wrap you in the warmth of their embrace; top notch reproductive lawyers who, if you are using third parties to help you build your family, can ensure that you are taking appropriate legal steps; and therapists who can help you cope with the stress, anxiety and complicated emotions that are experienced by those who experience infertility.

I acknowledge that if you are open about what you are experiencing you risk being on the receiving end of hurtful comments from those who simply cannot understand what you are going through. When I was in the midst of trying to have my children with assisted reproductive technology some very insensitive statements were made to me. Here are some examples:

Family member: Why don’t you just adopt? At least then you will be guaranteed a “product”.

Friend: I agree that what you are going through is difficult, but it was your choice to do IVF.

Co-worker: My wife and I were really lucky. We got pregnant on our first try all three times.

I believe that the advantage of having access to information about high quality resources (knowledge = power) outweighs the risk of being hurt by comments like these. Your pain will be lessened if you thicken your skin and accept that there is no malice in the insensitive comments people make, but only an inability to understand what you are going through. If you are able to do this their comments will still hurt, but I promise you, they will hurt less.

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