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A Journey Through Secondary Infertility

10.26.2020 / Isabella Brown
A Journey Through Secondary Infertility

Monica Caron lives in Atlanta with her husband and six year old daughter. They moved from New York City two years ago with the goal of growing their family there. Monica didn’t think they’d have any issues with this plan- “When we got pregnant with our daughter, it was seamless,” she said. Monica and her husband had tried to conceive for five months, and got pregnant with no complications. She had been using ovulation strips to track her cycle, and believed she’d understood her fertile window. However, when she and her husband decided to take a break from trying because they both had plans to travel for work during her ovulation window, she unexpectedly got pregnant. “I was shocked that I got pregnant that month. It was so outside of what I thought my ovulation window was based on what these strips were telling me,” Monica said. She had her daughter in October of 2014. When their daughter turned two, Monica and her husband began trying for another baby. 

Two months into trying to conceive, Monica began to feel like something wasn’t right. She went to see her OBGYN, who told her she had nothing to worry about. The doctor said that because Monica had gotten pregnant naturally before, she shouldn’t stress about trying to conceive for a second child. “She wasn’t saying ‘just relax’, but in so many words, she was,” Monica said, reflecting on the visit. She didn’t feel satisfied with this appointment, because in a way she felt like she’d been brushed off by her doctor. Monica had believed something was wrong, but her doctor simply told her to stop worrying about it.

When Monica moved to Atlanta, she had been trying to conceive for a year and a half with no positive pregnancy tests. She went to a new OBGYN, who chalked this up to the stress surrounding Monica’s move to Atlanta. This doctor told her to keep trying for six more months, and if she didn’t get pregnant, to go to a fertility clinic. Monica decided to make an appointment with a clinic preemptively, and six months later, she went. In May of 2019, Monica found out that she has a closed tube on one side, and a lazy ovary on the other side. Her husband went through testing as well, and they found he had morphology and mobility issues. Monica had been trying to conceive for years, and she could barely believe how long it took to find out why she hadn’t gotten pregnant. She’s been to various OBYGNs and expressed that she thought something was wrong. They told her to relax, and that her stress was stopping her from getting pregnant. Now, she knew that she had been right, and she just wasn’t going to get pregnant naturally. 

Monica began trying IUI’s. She did three cycles: one ended in a chemical pregnancy, one in a miscarraige, and one failed. This was upsetting for Monica and her husband, who had already been trying to conceive for two years. They moved forward with IVF in October of 2019, and had their transfer in January of 2020. The transfer was successful, and Monica is now 36 weeks pregnant. 

Monica has been pregnant through the COVID-19 crisis. Reflecting on how this has impacted the experience, she said that all things considered, she’s thankful for their situation. “This pregnancy hasn’t been easy, I just haven’t felt great overall. Being stuck in my house hasn’t been terrible,” Monica said. Her husband can’t go to her appointments with her, but she’s allowed to FaceTime him or record certain moments, which has helped. “We were so lucky that our transfer was on January 30th of 2020. We graduated from our clinic in the beginning of March,” Monica said. She feels grateful that their transfer was not affected by the COVID-19 shutdown. While these past couple months have been crazy, Monica says that she’s feeling thankful that her family is healthy and safe. She’s trying to use this time to spend time with her daughter and husband, and focus on staying healthy.

When Monica thinks about the experience of infertility as a whole, she believes education about reproductive health is wholly lacking. She’s been working in her county to shift the ways in which reproductive health is taught. “Knowing how to not get pregnant is important for young people, but it’s really only one puzzle piece of the story,” Monica says. “I think we should teach kids what they should look out for so that they can be better advocates for themselves.” Monica believes that everyone should be educated about how their reproductive systems work, and what various symptoms actually mean. There are so many young women and girls experiencing intense pain and discomfort, but they’re told that it’s normal. They aren’t taught that certain symptoms actually point to reproductive disorders, which can be managed. Monica thinks the general lack of knowledge about these topics is a huge issue, and one that she is passionate about. “I’m 36 and I just learned so many things about my body that I had no idea about,” she said. She explains how in the first meeting with her RE, she was asked a lot of questions about her cycle and period, which she had never been asked before. Monica learned that many of the symptoms that she experiences between ovulation and her period are indicative of endometriosis.

 Monica has been feeling this intense pain her whole life, and never thought to ask about it. She thought it was a normal part of being a woman. This is a social problem that needs to be changed. Women need to be taught to be advocates for their own health, and this starts with education, Monica believes. She asks, “what can we do to make sure younger generations are more informed about their reproductive health?” This is a vital question to ask, as knowledge of your health gives you power over your future. 

Monica started an Instagram to meet other people who were going through IVF. She hadn’t known anyone who was going through it, or had gone through it recently. It was nice to be able to connect with people going through similar things. It helped to feel supported and less alone. Monica said, “I felt so defeated- the one thing I was put on this earth to do- procreate- I couldn’t do it. But over time, I started to feel strength in my vulnerability. I found an understanding that I was not alone, and that there were so many people going through this.” Because so many people helped her by sharing their stories, Monica wants to continue to share hers. “I want to help people learn how to be advocates for themselves,” she said. “There’s all these studies that show that an infertility diagnosis is as stressful as a cancer diagnosis. When I first heard this, I thought it sounded crazy. But I didn’t know what I was going to have to go through,” Monica said. Between the drugs, medications, and emotional stress, the process was a lot to take on. To those who are embarking on, or in the midst of their fertility journeys, Monica says, “Give yourself grace when you’re trying to conceive. It’s an emotional rollercoaster that is really hard. We’ve been sold, our whole life, that getting pregnant is easy, but it’s not.” Monica wants everyone facing obstacles in their fertility to understand that they’re not alone. She’s an advocate for standing up for yourself and your health, and supporting those who are going through infertility. 

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