TTC. 2WW. BFN. MAI.
What may seem like alphabet soup is actually a secret language. One that conveys hope, loss and yearning. One that a surprising number of people know. One that no one ever wants to learn or experience.
It’s the language of infertility: Trying to conceive. Two-week wait. Big fat negative. Miscarriage after infertility.
Three women who are part of this unexpected sisterhood share their stories about living with infertility and finding a way forward. While no one’s journey is the same, no one should feel alone either.
Infertility is a common issue
“Infertility is a common problem,” explains Dr. Genevieve Neal-Perry, director of the UW Medicine Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility Center. “It’s something that affects both women and men but, for some reason, it’s something that people don’t talk about often.”
According to Neal-Perry, a female factor is at play 40% of the time and a male factor around 30% of the time. In a third of cases, both parties have an issue. Then there’s something called “unexplained infertility,” when doctors can’t pinpoint a specific medical reason, affecting about 30% of patients.
Whatever the cause, the physical and emotional toll of infertility is universal and all-consuming for those affected.
“When you’re doing active treatments, your entire world revolves around that,” explains Genipher Owens, who has been trying to have a baby since 2015. “When treatments fail, to me, it feels like grieving the loss of a child every single month.”
Genipher and Michael’s story: Why they turned to holistic medicine
Genipher knew from a young age that she might need help getting pregnant. She was diagnosed with PCOS — a disorder that can lead to missed periods, enlarged ovaries, no ovulation and infertility — when she was just 12.
Fast forward 18 years, when she and her husband Michael were happy to discover she was pregnant. The pregnancy ended in a miscarriage, but the couple considered it a sign that it was time to have a baby.
They spent two years going through a variety of fertility treatments — including timed intercourse and four rounds of intrauterine insemination (IUI) — at a reproductive clinic in Seattle, but nothing was working.
“They sort of ignored my PCOS and kept pushing me through more aggressive treatments,” Genipher says. “I had anxiety attacks and adverse effects from the medication.”
All the while, Michael tried his best to support his wife while also struggling with his own emotions.