One of the questions I get asked a lot is why I don’t have children. It used to be asked of me almost daily but people now realize that there are different life choices. Being a mother seems like it should be a choice that any woman gets to make. It’s a given. Our bodies are made to make babies…right? The truth is, that’s not the case for many women.
According to the Mayo Clinic, 10-18% of couples have trouble conceiving or having a successful delivery. Sometimes there’s female factor infertility, other times there’s male factor infertility, and then there are the couples with unexplained infertility. Sometimes, a combination of these factors also contributes to the failure to conceive or have a successful delivery.
Before I continue, I want to explain why I use the term “successful delivery”. When you are trying to conceive, everything matters. Did you know that you could conceive any given month and not even know it? There’s a possibility that you and your partner have created an embryo that implanted but wasn’t in good enough shape to further develop. You lose that embryo before you even know that you were pregnant. Most people would never need to know about the quality of their embryos. All they care about is if they missed their period or start to feel nauseous. Further, a person who deals with infertility may be able to get pregnant but unable to sustain that pregnancy. There are people that consistently have miscarriages. Can you imagine wanting a child, getting pregnant, and then losing that pregnancy…again and again and again. Successful delivery serves as a term to encompass the end goal of actually having a living baby.
I am in that number of women unable to have a baby…a successful delivery. Many, many years ago I was able to conceive naturally. In fact, I got pregnant and that pregnancy ended up being ectopic. An ectopic pregnancy occurs when the embryo implants somewhere other than the uterus. In my case, the embryo implanted in my fallopian tube. I’ll spare you the details but I had to have emergency surgery to remove the fallopian tube, the embryo lodged in it, and my ovary. My situation was pretty dire, and I nearly lost my life. I woke up from surgery in the maternity ward with a c-section incision and no baby. I was 19 years old and not really worried about my chances of having children in the future. After all, I still had my other ovary and another fallopian tube. My chances were still pretty good.
In fact, my chances were so good that I conceived again about a year later. I was young, irresponsible, and unmarried, but I was also in a “committed” relationship. I knew this time that I needed to have the pregnancy checked out as early as possible. I went to a free clinic and let them know that I’d had a previous ectopic. They dismissed it despite my insistence that something wasn’t right. I had a lot of lower back pain and just knew something was off. A couple of weeks later I was in the hospital again with another ectopic and my life on the line. This time I lost my remaining fallopian tube but they were able to save the ovary. This at least gave me a chance to have children via in vitro fertilization (IVF). I could no longer conceive naturally though.
There I was at 20 years old in an awful relationship and no longer able to have children. While IVF was a possibility, the cost was a limiting factor. Most people cannot afford the $20,000 and up associated with this procedure. IVF also doesn’t guarantee a successful delivery. That’s a lot of money to spend on a chance. The good thing is that I eventually got out of that relationship and no longer had to see this person again.
The bad thing, how would I ever have children? In full disclosure, I ended up suing the doctor’s office that refused to take me seriously during my second pregnancy. I won a settlement to help cover the cost of future fertility treatments. I ended up meeting a wonderful man and we later got married. He knew my challenge with having children and still took a chance with me. He ended up enlisting in the military. I later found out that there are military facilities that will do fertility treatments like IVF for a greatly reduced cost. My prayers were answered and now we had a chance to start a family.
I wasn’t quite ready for what happened next.