As educators, my husband and I are very familiar with teaching students and others how to solve problems. We comfort our students and sometimes our staff when the problem is frustrating and encourage them to persevere. There had never been a problem we couldn’t solve with a little patience and perseverance, then along came the chaos of infertility.
Our story of infertility and miscarriage is not unique, but as a black couple, society is often shocked to hear of our struggle or to hear me speak about it so openly. Infertility and fertility treatments were not something they taught us in school, and our parents certainly never shared that there was a possibility that it would be hard to have a baby. Everything about struggling to conceive was new for me, although apparently I was not alone.
The statistics for black women suggest that Black women may be twice as likely as white women to have fertility problems, but are far less likely to seek or receive infertility treatment.
After learning about this statistic, I wondered if it was because after love and marriage, no one talks about what if there isn’t a baby for the baby carriage or if it is because of something else, like the exorbitant cost of fertility treatments. Either way, I can relate, because my husband and I waited far too long to seek out fertility help. Maybe it was a combination of shame, naive hope that it would just happen or just fear, but either way, when we first sought out fertility treatments while I wasn’t optimistic I knew IVF was our last resort, and I was hopeful that we wouldn’t get there.
Unfortunately that wasn’t our reality, after my first miscarriage I learned pregnancy doesn’t guarantee you your baby, after my second miscarriage I learned that neither do fertility treatments and after my ectopic pregnancy I personally learned that the level of care I received could be affect by my skin color. So by the time we started the IVF process the reality that this was our last chance for me to carry our babies and have biological children created a heavy cloud around me which was a heavy mix of gratitude, grief and anger. Many people don’t realize when we say that we are doing IVF that it is not a guarantee and how much that non guarantee costs financially, physically and emotionally.
I am so grateful that we have the opportunity to afford IVF, and have mostly amazing doctors that have provided us with great care, but I am saddened and outraged to know that this is not the experience of most Black women who even after they seek out help experience racism when they should be experiencing care. IVF is a wild ride that ebbs and flows from gratitude to grief often. There is grief over the loss of how I thought I would get pregnant, grief over surprising my husband with a pregnancy test, grief over knowing I will never have a carefree pregnancy because of trauma and fear, and grief over a change of plans. IVF isn’t what I imagined, when I thought of getting pregnant, but if infertility has taught me anything it’s to keep trying even when what you have imagined is no longer insight, your dream still might be, but to reach it you have to advocate for what you want and be creative about how you get there.
So as we begin to prepare for our first transfer, and our ultimate lesson on perseverance continues, we hope by sharing our story that others might feel less alone with their own.