The Lost Years: Living With Infertility.

I didn’t write about my infertility while it was happening and I wish I had because I know many of you could have helped me. Over the years, I’ve tried to go back and write about it, but that’s been difficult for me. Writing about it after the fact feels a bit disingenuous since I’m no longer immersed in it. While I was going through it, I was a totally different person. I’m not trying to be dramatic here. I was simply different. I’m not entirely sure what that person would have written and I’ve often wondered if I’ll do a decent job.

Toby and I refer to that time as “The Lost Years” because our life together became about one thing, and everything else was put on hold. Our attempt at having another child became our main focus. Well, it became my main focus; I merely brought him into it with me. And I have long since realized that had I married a less understanding man, a less caring person, I’d probably be divorced right now. Infertility puts a massive strain on even the best relationship.

So today, for the umpth time, I’m going to try and write a little about The Lost Years. And maybe if I start, I will find it in me to continue. Because there are so many stories, some of which are even humorous. I sat in that doctor’s office every day for two weeks during every month for a year. I watched countless stories unfold before me. Sometimes they were horribly sad. But on a few occasions I found myself texting Toby Joe and laughing about something I’d witnessed. And many times I’d text him as a way of keeping notes, because I regularly thought, “One day, when you feel better, you need to share this because, bad or good, it’s important stuff.”

I think, if nothing else, it will help me to write it down. And I hope that one day it might help someone else as well.

And so! If you’re reading this, and any of what I’m about to write sounds familiar, please know you’re not alone.

My Recollect

I remember the endless testing, the Clomid, the injections, the daily blood draws, the sonograms; I remember the catheters, the weird headaches, the expense of time and funds, the pregnancy tests, the HCG shots in my ass (administered by a nurse in a line of cubicles filled with other nurses administering shots into other asses).

I remember feeling guilty we had the money to go through it at all, and then feeling pissed off I had to.

I peed on hundreds of sticks, some of which would be a clear negative so I’d throw it out. Then, 30 minutes later, I’d return to the bathroom, dig it out of the trash (even though instructions EXPLICITLY say not to!) and imagine seeing a faint line. And on a few occasions, I would see a faint line—an evaporation line! Oh how I hated those lines.

I would hold sticks under sunlight, in front of TV light, beneath candlelight—any light that MIGHT show me a positive.

I took them apart, believing that maybe the window wasn’t clear enough, that the clear plastic might not actually be clear?

There were the times I would get my period and STILL come up with reasons as to why I could still be pregnant. Implantation bleeding! (On day 28?) I had to hold onto hope somehow even if it meant entering some type of fantasy land.


Hope was my most necessary friend and my worst goddamn enemy.

(Perhaps you’ve met her? She gets around.)

I remember changing my diet based on something I’d read, then doing the exact opposite based on something else I’d read. I remember eating a LOT of pineapple and flax.

And, oh my goodness, the records I kept! You should see my iCal from 2009 and 2010. It looks like the work of an insane person. I thought about posting a screenshot, but I went all out. If you haven’t witnessed the diary of woman furiously charting her cycles, all the while going through fertility treatments, you will not like what you see. Let’s put it this way: on top of the concise (driven by desperation) information involved, there are many, many creative ways a woman can describe cervical mucus. (Too much? My apologies but be thankful I didn’t post an image of my iCal.)

I used to pass pregnant women on the street and feel anger toward them, complete strangers. I’d see women pregnant with their third child and sometimes, on a bad day, curse them for overpopulating the world. How dare they have THREE! Yet, I’d have had three if I could. But when you’re having trouble getting pregnant, you don’t think rationally all the time.

I held onto so much sorrow and that turned into anger pretty quickly. Maybe it was a survival mechanism. I don’t know. But if I let the sorrow consume me, like it did directly after the miscarriage, I don’t think I would have made it out alive. (Not to sound dramatic again, but that sorrow is inexplicable.)

The constant googling in the middle of the night, searching new terms, finding new ways to blame myself for failing at the ONE basic thing I was SUPPOSED to be able to do as a woman. The thing I ironically worked so hard trying to avoid in my 20s. I locked myself away and went temporarily mad.

After the miscarriage, in a fit of despair, I broke down in front of my primary care physician who immediately gave me the name of a shrink as well as some medication to help me feel a little better, just until I got back up again. I took the meds for a while, which made matters worse because I started to blame them for my inability to get pregnant. I went off the meds immediately.

I spent months hating myself, loathing myself for failing. I hated myself even more when I dealt with my emotions in such a childish manner. Each time I had a less than positive thought about another friend getting pregnant, I would add it to the pile of self-loathing.

I pushed away an entire group of friends because of my infertility. My inner turmoil took over completely. My inability to talk to people candidly about what I was going through was new to me as, up until that point, I’d been very open.

Who was I becoming? Why was I so full of anger? Was I a horrible person on top of being broken?

Thing is, had I just told them the truth, had I simply said, “You know something? I am REALLY fucked up right now. I am sad and sometimes very angry. Please try and understand and help me. It’s really not about you at all.” maybe we’d still be friends. Instead, I avoided them like my dog does when she gets beat up at the dog park. But the only person beating me up was me.

Not that any of that matters now. I torched the living shit out of that bridge.

If you can relate to any of this, you’re not alone. You may feel alone, but I sat in that waiting room for countless hours, watching hundreds of couples come and go through those fancy elevator doors. There are so many of us, too many of us. So why are we often too ashamed to admit we’re having trouble getting pregnant? Why don’t we talk about it more often?

Unexplained Secondary Infertility

I have some regrets. Both Toby and I do. Since we already had one healthy baby, we have since wondered if we spent too much time trying for number two at the expense of our first child. Was I too selfish? I can’t get that time back with him. And we have some sorrow linked to that. It wasn’t just OUR life I put on hold. And that thought gives me chills sometimes.

Thing is, I only wanted to have another child for Em. I wanted him to have a sibling. So I’m hoping one day when they’re older and thankful for having one another, I can forgive myself.

There’s another level to all of this, one I still feel uncomfortable writing about. With secondary infertility, you don’t often know where you fit in. Your inability to get pregnant and/or successfully carry a baby to term is very real, it’s painful and horrible and tragic and awful. But! We DO have one child already. So we often feel unfair discussing it at all as there are others with none. So, many of us keep even quieter. That silence is why secondary infertility is often misrepresented. They don’t actually know how many couples suffer from it as many feel bad discussing it at all.

Looking Back

The clarity I have now because of what I went through during that time is pretty great. I am different. I have changed in many ways. Some good, some bad. But I do like myself a great deal more now than I did before. And I know so much about the female reproductive cycle! I could go on and on about hormones and sometimes I do when talking to girlfriends (and someone should probably just tell me to shut up at that point). I’m no longer afraid of needles! So, there’s that as well.

But more importantly, I am not nearly as cynical as I used to be. I try and forgive easily, and I realize that many people are suffering one way or another, fighting a difficult and personal battle. I try and remember that everyone deserves the benefit of the doubt (and maybe an unsolicited hug or two).

Lastly (for today!), I want to reassure you that when you’re in it, there is no such thing as a “wrong” thought. You are not a horrible person for having even the ugliest thought imaginable. You are a human being, one going through something very difficult. You are a woman. You are not broken. You are not alone. Find your people. Ask questions. Know you’re not alone—and that you’ll be OK.

Don’t be silent. Because the loneliness you experience from infertility can be all-consuming. Please speak up. I really wish I had sooner.

One last thing, and forgive me for the language: If someone should ask you why you’re going through all this trouble when there are SO MANY unwanted children in the world, and that you should just adopt instead; OR, if someone suggests that since you can’t get pregnant “naturally” there’s probably a reason for that, tell them Michele said, “Fuck Off.” (Sorry for the language, dad. But I held that one in too many times before now.)


  1. Thank you. This is helpful. I had a miscarriage earlier this year but have a 2 year old and often wonder if this is the start to a whole process… will there be a second? Can I feel bad about not having one? Can I TALK about feeling bad when others don’t have one child? I’ve mostly just kept all the sadness to myself (after the point that I feel like anyone wanted to hear about it). I had never even heard of secondary infertility until last year, which tells you something about how little it’s spoken of. I think this post (and any forthcoming) are really great. Thank you.


  2. Yes. I had primary infertility, and it was the most alone I had ever felt. It was a very isolated and painful time, and I was convinced I was a failure at everything. Thank you for sharing in such a candid manner.


  3. Thank you for sharing this. We’re sort of in the same boat now – healthy, happy, amazing, wonderful 2 year old at home makes me want more. But we were SO lucky to get this one, how dare I ask for more?

    And at the same time, I am so bitter about others’ pregnancies. My co-worker is pregnant with her second and complaining non-stop. (I’d give anything to be pregnant with my second.) She’s afraid it’ll be a girl (she cried last time when she found out it was a girl) because they want a boy. (I should be so lucky to get a second, I don’t care about gender.) She hated how it took four months to get pregnant. (It took me four years and 12K for IVF to get pregnant.) She hates how much weight she’s gained. She hates that after she has the baby, she’ll have to pump at work again. (I hate listening to her whine.)

    Thank you again. I appreciate your honesty.


  4. Jessica: So sorry you had primary infertility. While I can relate to the obsession involved and the failure, I can’t fully relate to how that must have been for you. But I hope that you have found some peace.


  5. Thank you for sharing. I have a child after primary infertility and I can tell you that our experiences are very similar. I maintain that trying unsuccessfully to have baby is painful no matter what the other circumstances, especially when it becomes all consuming – and how can it not? I also wish I had had the nerve, back when I was in the midst of my 1st IVF cycle, knowing it was ending in a miscarriage, to tell the know-it-all next to me at a wedding to “Fuck off.” Because when she said (not knowing my circumstances) that God didn’t intend for infertiles to be parents, I just looked away. And I can’t let go of that grudge today, years later. Maybe if I’d just told her off, I could have moved on.


  6. Thank you for sharing your experience, Michele.

    I am infertile, which I am ok with. Mainly because I was never sure about having children (multiple generations of schizophrenia and alcoholism that I didn’t want to pass on to anyone) or getting married (my mom was married 8 times). I never knew much about the experience of infertility until I joined group therapy in the mid 2000s to learn how to communicate in relationships and met with the same group of people 2 nights a week for 6 years. One of the women in the group was trying to get pregnant for nearly that whole period of time. It was heartbreaking.

    I learned so much about other people’s emotional lives during that time that I would never have been able to fathom otherwise. She did have a baby boy, just before I left the group, though. Oh, did we all celebrate that boy! One of my happiest memories from the decade. And later, she gave birth to two more boys.


  7. I’m glad you’re sharing about this now. For you, and for others.
    I just wanted to let you know I read it.


  8. After my first miscarriage (20w) my mother told me that nature knows best. I swear I wanted to punch her in the throat and may just have if it wasn’t a phone conversation. Of course it was all she could think of to try to help me make sense of it, but at the time it just felt so empty, a silly platitude in the face of my incredible grief. With my second, after my first child, my MIL told me that maybe it was a sign I should wait longer. Right, 38 y/o with a track record of high risk pregnancy. Again, she was just trying to come up with something to try to make the situation more palatable, but it was more like throwing water on an grease fire.

    I’m not greatful for my losses per se, but they have given me a certain perspective on grief and loss that I can now carry forward with me in my encounters with others who are suffereing.


  9. Thank you for writing this! I suffered from primary infertility. My husband and I did 6 IVF cycles w ICSI. We had both male and female infertility issues. Though I never admitted that publicly until now. My husband was my rock during this time but also felt so helpless seeing me go through such heartache. We suffered three losses with those cycles and three didnt work. I remember doing the same thing with the sticks! Digging them out of the garbage! Taking them apart. I would buy different ones just to see how much HCG could be detected. It was a horror show now that I think about it. I blogged through my infertility but it was more of a scientific blog. I never got out my true emotions. So I decided to build another blog that I’m hoping to launch soon that will help me to get over some of my darkest times.

    We did adopt! And I will say without going through those times I wouldnt have my 3 year old today! She is our miracle! But unfortunately she is asking for a sister! And I’m yearning for another child! We can’t afford to adopt again. Too costly. So lately I’ve been thinking about donor eggs. But I’m scared to share it with my husband. I think he is done. And I’m scared I won’t be able to live with his decision.


    1. Thanks for sharing! I kept reading and hoping there’d be a happy ending. So happy to read that you got your baby. We discussed adopting as well. Starting looking at the cost, I’d no idea it was so pricey!

      A friend of mine did donor eggs. She’s got a little beautiful boy after years of heartache. It’s an option! But yes, it can be so hard on our spouses.

      Anyway, please let me know when you start writing again. I want to read your stories.


  10. One of the worst parts of going through infertility is the alienation. I want you to know that your writing about infertility, sadness, and loss has made me feel so much better on more than one occasion. Six years ago when I was pregnant with my first through injectables and IUI, and scared that I wouldn’t bring a baby home. A couple of years after that when I was feeling guilty about wanting another baby when we had an awesome girl and two great foster kids (that we later adopted). And three years ago when our attempt at a second biological child resulted in a dangerous quad pregnancy and some hard, hard choices.

    The message I got from so many of your posts was that I could make it through the sadness even when I thought it was going to crush me. Feeling less alone helped me so much. Thank you.


  11. I love your writing. You are an amazing woman and I’m so glad that I know you and can read about your life in such a meaningful and inspiring way. Thank you for writing about this.


  12. This was a lovely and important post. Thank you for sharing it.


  13. Is it morbid to say, “it’s ‘nice’ to know we’re not alone” if it means others are dealing with the same heartache and pain? Yes and no – I’m glad you posted some of your thoughts and feelings about infertility but I’m sad that you went through the pain in the first place.

    I didn’t go through infertility treatments so I don’t know the rigors of it, but I know what it feels like to be childless when everyone else seems to be pregnant – and, at will.

    I had almost 10 years of uttering “If it’s meant to be, it will be” mantra to everyone, including my husband, but inside I felt like a failure. I knew I’d have problems conceiving, much less carry a child – and had shared the issues with my husband-to-be and we decided on the ‘if it’s meant to be’ attitude but it’s so hard to really understand that your body just WON’T/CAN’T do it.

    I can relate to parts of your story/feelings, and I thank you for sharing them. It’s difficult to share and recollect the past, I know.


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