First came anger, then shame, then depression. But when our circumstances didn’t change, we had to find a way to change our response.
In my family, 29-years old was already way behind when it came to starting a family.
I come from a big family. My five brothers and sisters – even my younger ones – were already parents, and I was anxious to start a family of my own. But after downloading every app, taking every vitamin and trying every other remedy to become pregnant, all I had to show for it was a year gone with countless negative pregnancy tests.
That’s when the doctor suggested having my husband come in and get checked out.
My husband, Cyrus, and I met in 2009. He was playing basketball at the University of Miami, and, I was waitressing at a nearby restaurant. His team came in after summer camp one day, I was their waitress, and as they say, “the rest is history”.
When we got married on December 12, 2012 (12/12/12), we were filled with so much love, hope and possibility. We were so excited to start our new life together as husband and wife, and to start a family of our own. However, shortly before our wedding, Cyrus’s mom, already a one-time cancer survivor, discovered that her cancer had returned. She was given two years to live. Although she was faithful that she would beat cancer again, she wanted to live and experience as much as she could in the time given, including having her firstborn son make her a grandmother. This led to the ‘year of trying’ – to no avail.
Although I was being told to be patient, I felt that there was something wrong.
But I was too scared to go to the doctors and have my fears confirmed. Then, in September of 2014, just shy of our two year wedding anniversary, Cyrus’s mom lost her battle to cancer.
It was a devastating time for my husband and our family. After grieving, I realized that time isn’t promised. I needed to face my fears and get checked out if I really wanted to start a family. I went to the doctor and went through a series of tests for months that all came back negative. It was a very frustrating time for us — I couldn’t get pregnant, but they couldn’t find anything wrong.
When Cyrus went in, it was just to cover all our bases. It never crossed my mind that something could be wrong with him; in my head, only I could be the problem. It took some time to convince my husband to finally go and get checked out, but he did. We were on our way to the airport when the call came in from the nurse asking if we could come in. From the tone in her voice, we knew it wasn’t going to be good news. We were in Panama, my home country, for a week worried about what we were going to be told. Worst vacation I could ever remember.
When we finally went in, the doctor explained to us that Cyrus’s sperm count was very low, and that we would not be able to conceive naturally.
I broke down in tears. Regardless of knowing the possibility walking in, there isn’t anything in the world that can prepare you for that news. All I can remember thinking is why? Why us? We are good people, we love each other, we love kids. Why is it so easy for everyone else, but not us? We were both in shock. It was a surreal experience that can’t be explained.
When I checked back in to the conversation, the doctor was explaining In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) as an option. We didn’t know much about infertility or IVF, so there weren’t many questions we could ask. It was a long drive home, and I had to do my very best to put my emotions aside and be strong for my husband. I didn’t realize how hard it hit him at first. His manhood was challenged, and I could tell he was deflated. I think for men the possibility of not fathering a child is harder to process. I did not want him to feel like anything was wrong with him; this was our problem, and we were going to get through it together.
I had to stop being sad and angry and be thankful that there was still hope.
In my mind, we needed to focus on this IVF treatment the doctor told us about and focus on still having our family.
That hope was challenged a day later when we received a quote from the clinic.
The total amount for treatment was quoted at $16,380 with an additional $5,000-$9,000 for medication, and these were out-of-pocket expenses. Our insurance does not consider infertility a medical necessity and would not cover it.
I got angry all over again. We had already spent so much money getting tested, and now this. Where were we going to get $20K plus for a treatment that for us only had a 40% success rate? It was a painful reality that we were dealing with, and one that we were going through alone.
For over a year we did nothing; we didn’t know what our next step should be or how to get there. I didn’t know what to say to my husband or how to comfort him, so we didn’t speak about it at all, and we didn’t tell a soul.
We went through an array of different emotions. The first emotion was anger. We were so angry that this was happening to us. We did everything that we were supposed to do in order to have a successful marriage and have a healthy family, and we didn’t understand why this would happen to two deserving people. We saw what we viewed as undeserving parents all the time, in our daily lives or in the news, and didn’t understand why God chose us to go through this journey.
After anger came shame. We didn’t know anyone that had struggled with infertility. It seemed that every other day someone was having a baby EXCEPT for us. We felt like we were the only ones that couldn’t have a baby.
Then came depression.
We were the only ones that couldn’t do what we believed we were placed on this earth to do: reproduce. “First comes love, then comes marriage. Then comes the baby in the baby carriage…”; this is what was instilled in us at a young age. For the life of us, we couldn’t get the baby part right. It killed us. Meanwhile, we were watching our nieces and nephews grow before our eyes and getting asked to attend a different baby shower every other week. I hated it. Continuing to go out to places where people had the same comments and questions was heartbreaking: “When are you two having kids?”, “I feel like you’re next!”, “Don’t you want to have kids?” or “You better hurry up and have kids, you aren’t getting any younger”. Hearing them angered me.
Finally, I was just tired of being so angry. That was my “I had enough” moment. I looked at the calendar, picked a date and told Cyrus, “This is when we are going to the doctor.” He said okay, and we have been on that journey ever since.
We finally developed enough courage to escape that dark place we were in. We started by sharing with our family and close friends. Opening up to people was a challenge for both of us. There was still a part of us that felt ashamed. We were definitely using all of our courage to share with others our struggle with infertility. We never knew what response we were going to get from people, and we had to be prepared. Some people were speechless and we would have to get creative to change the topic. Others were as hurt as we were and we had to console them. There have been plenty of times where people, unintentionally, say hurtful things: “Just adopt” or “Maybe you aren’t meant to have kids.” However, we’ve had to learn to not get angry because they simply do not understand. We have made it our job to educate them.
Although one in eight couples struggles with infertility, it’s something that is never talked about. Especially male factor infertility.
We wanted to change the way others view infertility.
No more suffering in silence.
We opened Instagram and YouTube accounts to openly share our IVF journey in hopes of educating others about infertility and helping those going through the same experience. Through our journey, you can see how challenging each day can be. One day you believe you are well on your way to achieving your dream of having a baby. The next you are pulled further away and are forced to consider the possibility of not having one at all. There is a unique pain that comes from preparing a place in your heart for a baby that may never come. We knew that our pain could be a prison or a platform. We have decided to make it a platform to create awareness around infertility.
Speaking out about it has been so much better than being in the dark. We have come across too many individuals that are still suffering in silence and yet, they have shown us so much love and appreciation for speaking openly. That makes all the hurtful comments and adversity we have faced worth it. This is why our YouTube channel is so important. We want to be the voice for couples that haven’t been able to find theirs yet.
You can find us at www.ourivfbaby.com and by searching BabyMcGowan on Instagram and YouTube. We believe that together we can change how others view infertility.
Update: Since the writing of this article Monica and Cyrus have announced the pregnancy of their first child due April 2019 through a successful round of IVF. Keep up with their story at @babymcgowan on Instagram.