This is the part I never share, but here goes.
I believed I caused my infertility. My brain needed a story for it to make sense as to why I was not getting pregnant. Two years before we started trying to conceive, the condom broke one evening. I was in my mid-twenties, thriving in my career, my soon-to-be husband and I were in our Master’s program at the University of Central Florida, and we were not ready to be parents. I drove to the closest pharmacy, and purchased Plan B. Little did I know that infertility would shackle itself to me for 10 years, and swallowing that pill would haunt me for years.
We got married in July of 2009, and we started trying to conceive immediately. I have always wanted a large family of my own. In my dreams I saw myself wrangling 3 kids, breaking up sibling rivalry, cramming ourselves into a minivan going to soccer practice, and three little faces that looked like a beautiful blend of my husband and I staring back at me at bedtime. I saw this image clearly in my head. Pure love, in the middle of chaos. That is what I wanted, what I yearned for. My husband wanted that, too.
In September of 2009, I went to the OBGYN for Clomid. They say you should try for a year, but my gut told me to go. Maybe it was the years of unprotected sex and no surprise pregnancy or the eagerness of wanting to become a mother that had me lying to my OBGYN when she asked me how long we had been trying for.
I did 7 cycles of Clomid. No pregnancy. No answers. By this time, the pain of not getting pregnant and watching all my friends around me get pregnant started to weigh on me. I felt lost like my purpose was unfulfilled. I felt like I was keeping my husband from being a father, a role I knew he would be so good at. I started to feel empty.
After our attempts to get pregnant with Clomid failed, I decided to see a Reproductive Endocrinologist. By this time it was 2012, and I joined Instagram. I came across the profile of a woman sharing about her failed attempts with IVF. She had a blog where she chronicled her journey. I suddenly started to feel less alone. She was the first woman I had ever known to share her Infertility story publicly.
After some diagnostic testing, my Reproductive Endocrinologist found that I had uterine polyps and mild endometriosis. “Now you will have no problem getting pregnant!” I remember him saying as I was coming out of anesthesia from my hysteroscopy. Spoiler alert: he was wrong.
In 2013, I went to a new RE. We had moved out of state and immediately started on IUI. I still hadn’t gotten pregnant. No double pink line. The infertility community started growing on Instagram, and I slowly started to share my story with my friends and family. Up until that point, I hadn’t given anyone a glimpse into what I was experiencing—mainly because I didn’t classify myself as “Infertile.” For me, the word “Infertile” translated to women over 40 with no eggs. Obviously I was wrong and naive.
Labcorp OnDemand Women’s Fertility Package (Ovarian Reserve Test)
We did 7 IUI cycles before moving on to IVF, and the only support I had during this time was the online infertility community. My husband was coping with his pain silently.
In 2014, I changed REs again. I know, I know, it sounds exhausting, right? But, when I went to meet with my doctor at the time about my questions and concerns, he shut me down. So I thought that if I was going to spend thousands of dollars to try to have a baby, I wasn’t going to give it to him.
My new RE, on the other hand, was great. She got me in quickly to start IVF, and I transferred two embryos. Then IVF #1 failed. It was a chemical pregnancy. It was also the first time I had heard that term. Later my doctor would tell me I had unexplained infertility. “The diagnosis with no plan,” I thought to myself. I planned IVF cycle #2 right away, but my husband said that he would not give his sperm to the doctor unless I started therapy. So, knowing I needed it to start IVF, I annoyingly found a therapist who specialized in infertility and loss.
Therapy was the greatest gift I could have given myself during that time. I started to find pieces of me again. My therapist asked me thought-provoking questions like, “What would your life look like without children? How do you think you could find happiness?” “Is your goal to be a mother or to be pregnant?” and “What brings you joy today?” She empathized with me and gently challenged my thinking; and she was caring and thoughtful in her approach. In the process, I gained the tools I needed to help me with triggers.
She even started an infertility support group where she invited me to join along with four other women. It was amazing to be amongst other women also experiencing the pain of infertility. Healing together was powerful. I was grateful, and I became a grittier and braver version of myself through the process.
Our second IVF cycle failed in 2014. I transferred two embryos and was able to freeze two. I miscarried right after my second beta test. I found out on Christmas Day. It was crushing. That’s when an Instagram TTC sister reached out to me to recommend an out-of-state clinic. She said, “Marilyn, my friend got pregnant there and she has poor egg quality, and I have a feeling that this is the clinic for you.” So I booked a flight to Colorado and went to the new clinic for a one-day workup. I remember telling my husband that I had a little bit of gas left in my tank to do one more cycle of IVF. This would be our third. If this one failed, I was ready to live childfree and rescue dogs.
I started the meds for my third IVF cycle in March of 2015. They did not want to take my two frozen embryos from my previous clinic, so $25,000 later I flew back to Colorado to transfer the only two genetically normal embryos from a fresh to frozen cycle at the new clinic. I went into this transfer absolutely neutral. I felt the support from the infertility community on Instagram; I had the tools from therapy and group therapy, and I had done everything I could possibly do. I went into it knowing I had done my absolute best.
So imagine my surprise when I received my beta. I was pregnant. I didn’t believe it. I spent my weeks waiting for the other shoe to drop. It never did. My first ultrasound would confirm I was pregnant with one. My One. The One. She was born in June of 2016. My miracle, Mila. Her name was inspired by the word milagro, which means miracle in Spanish.
In 2019, I decided to transfer the two frozen embryos I had stowed away from IVF cycle #2. It failed. I was okay. I am okay. I have learned and refined qualities of myself that I wouldn’t have had if pregnancy had come easily to me.
What I learned were that there are three pillars that anchored my healing and refined my voice:
Self-Advocacy: It is so important during infertility to do your research, ask your doctor hard questions, and learn about what your body is doing. If you don’t, no one else will do it for you.
Community: Lean into the infertility community. There is wisdom, experience, knowledge, friendship, support, hope, trust, care, and everything you need to survive. I have met some of my very best friends here. Most are women I have never physically met. Infertility is hard, and you should not navigate it alone.
Healing: Therapy can help you start to heal the pain and trauma you are enduring through infertility, and partnering with a licensed therapist who can give you the tools to help you navigate through triggers is so powerful. My therapist helped me see how I can rewrite my narrative—my dream/vision for my life—and create a new one.
I decided to close the chapter of expanding my family. I am choosing to embrace and normalize having one child when society expects you to have more. This story is mine; and I love how each day I get to choose how to write it.
Marilyn Gomez is a wife to Manny and Mama to her miracle girl Mila who was conceived through IVF cycle #3. After a 4th failed FET in 2019 in an attempt to expand her family, she decided to close the grueling chapter of TTC to embrace and normalize having one child when society asks for one more. Marilyn spends her time advocating on social media and in her community. She owns an online store called Infertile Tees and hosts the podcast Mama Vida Podcast. Her goal is to normalize infertility conversations and topics so women can feel seen and heard.