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Chelsea Caris on Unexplained Infertility, IVF, and the Importance of Community

12.22.2020 / Isabella Brown
Chelsea Caris on Unexplained Infertility, IVF, and the Importance of Community

Chelsea Caris spent two and a half years trying to conceive naturally. “We did everything. We got the test strips, I was taking my temperature, I was throwing my legs in the air,” she said. Chelsea ended up conceiving three times. The first two pregnancies ended in early miscarriage and the third in a chemical pregnancy. This all happened within the first six months of her trying to conceive. After that, Chelsea stopped getting pregnant all together. “I didn’t understand it at all. It seemed like my body just quit,” she said.

 In January of 2019, after her chemical pregnancy, she decided to visit her OBGYN. The doctor referred her to a fertility specialist. “I just started crying in the office,” Chelsea said. She was hoping that she’d have more options before heading straight to fertility treatments, and she felt overwhelmed. However, looking back, she feels thankful. “I’m really glad that we did because, now we have Adeline,” she said, referring to her six month old daughter. Now, Chelsea and her husband are trying to conceive their second child. She got pregnant, but had another chemical pregnancy. This was difficult for Chelsea, but she is persevering. “I’m trying to keep my head about me, considering everything I went through. I’m not giving up. I’m taking it one day at a time,” she said. Chelsea and her husband are planning to have another transfer next spring. 

Chelsea was diagnosed with unexplained infertility. “I hate my diagnosis, to be honest. It’s basically going in, having a million tests done, and then the answer being, ‘I don’t know’,” she said. It’s frustrating for her to not know the reason why she has trouble conceiving. “You almost want something to be wrong. Because then, there’s something to fix,” Chelsea said. She wishes she had a more concrete answer for her obstacles in fertility. “It’s hard because I like having reasons. I like knowing why things are the way they are.” She feels like she’s in limbo, not sure what to do next if things don’t work out. One thing the doctors did notice after her IVF retrieval is that many of her eggs didn’t fertilize. Out of 13 eggs, only two made it to an embryo stage. They said that her egg quality could be a factor in why she is having trouble conceiving, but they didn’t give her a definite answer. 

Chelsea shares her fertility story on Instagram, which has made a world of difference for her. “It’s definitely helped me to share, because I didn’t know anyone who had miscarriages, or went through infertility,” she said. Chelsea lives in a small town, where it felt like everyone she knew was “popping out kids.” She felt really isolated. Her husband was the one who suggested she go online to find some sort of support system. Initially, when Chelsea joined Instagram, she was simply looking for someone to talk to. “Once I jumped into it and started sharing my story, I realized that the community was a lot bigger than I thought it was,” she said. She didn’t know that one in eight women experience infertility. She didn’t realize how common miscarriage was. “That completely threw me for a loop,” Chelsea said, because before this she did not know anyone who had gone through, or opened up about going through, anything related to infertility. “It’s helped me mentally knowing that I’m not going through this alone,” she said. It’s nice to talk to people who can understand exactly what she’s feeling. 

When Chelsea realized how common infertility was, she was shocked that she had never learned anything about it. She was taught that women get pregnant easily, any time they had unprotected sex. “It just does not happen that way”, she said. “I remember being terrified for half of my life of getting pregnant by accident.” Now, Chelsea has learned that it’s not easy for everyone to get pregnant. But it shocks her how little she knew about her own body. One day in her early 20s, she had terrible cramping. The pain was so bad, she could barely walk, so she went to the OBGYN. Her doctor told her, “It looks like your PCOS is acting up.” Chelsea had no idea what PCOS was, let alone that she had it. As it turns out, Chelsea has PCOS and endometriosis, but as her fertility specialist puts it, they are “barely stage one”. They are both on her right ovary, and her doctor thinks that this isn’t what’s causing her obstacles in conceiving. “There’s so much that we don’t think about because what is ingrained in us is pregnancy prevention,” Chelsea said. She believes that women should be armed with more information about their reproductive health, so that they can make educated decisions about their futures. 

Even though it’s difficult, Chelsea always encourages women to share their stories. “There’s always going to be someone who’s going through the same thing,” she said. She believes that no one has to go through this alone. Sharing her story has made Chelsea realize that she’s not alone in this, and that there are so many people who understand what she’s experiencing. She’s even made close friends through Instagram, who serve as an invaluable support system for her. “The more people share, the more educated people will be,” Chelsea said. Sharing will raise awareness and education about all things fertility, and help those who may be feeling isolated in their journeys. Chelsea has gained so much support from sharing her story, and in doing so, she inspires strength in others. 

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