It was 2015 when my best friend and I decided to Emigrate to Mallorca at age 19 in hopes of finding ourselves and exploring the world. We both managed to find jobs, me a little bit after her, but the one thing that caught my eye was her boss. He was tall, handsome, and clearly older than me. He approached me with such confidence and asked me on a date. I was 19 and never had a boyfriend before, but there was something about him that drew me in and we both shared the same life goal of traveling.
Enjoying our relationship, we traveled to so many places: America, Greece, Italy, France. We never had any worries about TTC. Why would we? We were young and so naive about what the future had in store for us. We had never spoken about starting a family; we were just taking day-by-day as it came. After all, I was still only 21.
It wasn’t until we were set to travel route 66 in Chicago that I realized I still hadn’t gotten my period. We never used protection because my period was so regular, and I tracked my ovulation to make sure we would avoid those extra fertile days. How things would soon change. I turned to Ruben outside of the Chicago bean after a ping on my app reminding me to log my period and his reaction was not at all what I expected. We sat and spoke for a while and came to the conclusion that a baby was something we both wanted.
After our discussion, we ran to the closest store and bought the first pregnancy test we saw with sheer excitement. Back at the hotel, I peed on the stick with the door wide open and we both waited anxiously for the results. NEGATIVE. My heart sank a little. Little did I know this would be my first of many negative tests to come. We were both slightly confused as to how we were feeling, but this was the very moment we knew we were ready.
Fast forward to 2019, and we had been actively trying for 2 years. I was 23 and had still never seen a positive pregnancy test. We tried every tip, trick, and position possible to get the results we so badly wanted, but we never did. “It shouldn’t be this difficult,” I turned to Ruben and cried, “Something is not okay.” We were recommended a fertility specialist by my sister-in-law, who now has 3 children thanks to IVF. She swore that if there was an issue, he would most defiantly have the answers.
After many consultations and seemingly endless tests, we were diagnosed with unexplained infertility. Ruben’s sperm was not the highest quality due to chemotherapy a few years before we met, but they were still “good enough,” and the doctor was shocked as to why we hadn't gotten pregnant yet. At this moment, we were advised that IVF would be our best option.
We decided to go ahead and begin our first cycle of IVF in June of 2019. No one could have prepared me for this process. It’s unimaginable until you experience it, and unless you experience it firsthand, you don’t understand it. My first-ever injection was terrifying. I couldn’t build up the courage to do it, but Ruben let me stab him first with an empty needle to show me that it wasn’t a big deal. That part was fun. After 20 minutes of deep breaths, the first injection was finally done. We had jumped the first hurdle together.
Next was our egg retrieval, where we managed to harvest two miracle embryos. I was slightly disappointed in the number of embryos that made it to blastocyst, but nonetheless, we were finally going to be parents! We got to embryo transfer day and I was so beyond excited, only to find out that during the thawing process, one embryo didn’t survive. We proceeded to transfer our one beautiful miracle embryo, but my doctor had extreme difficulty passing the catheter through my cervix causing a lot of bleeding and discomfort. Needless to say, that embryo transfer didn’t “stick.”
At this point, I had accepted that I wasn’t going to live the perfect ideal life of buying a house, getting married, and naturally conceiving—everything I had once dreamed of. I had finally accepted that I was infertile. After taking a few months off from fertility treatments, Ruben and I decided to change clinics. And then change clinics again. 3 clinics, 2 failed transfers, and 4 canceled cycles later, and my entire existence revolved around IVF and fertility groups. I lost myself in all the chaos. For months I had let my IVF journey completely consume my identity and take over my life. I lost friends, I lost hope, and I lost myself. What I’ve come to realize is that no matter how much weight I gain, no matter how much I bloat, bruise, and cry, I am going to embrace every moment of this and work on my new identity with infertility.
The old me with no worries about TTC is long gone. I can’t look at a newborn or pregnant woman and feel happiness anymore; that’s just how it is now. I’m allowing myself to feel sad now, rather than guilty, and I remind myself often that my worth is far greater than my ability to conceive. I can’t change my situation; I can only embrace it. What I can change is my outlook on life and how I choose to carry on. I can sit, sulk and hide from the world, or I can raise awareness by telling my story. For now, we are preparing for our third transfer with our last two frozen embryos. We have faith this time will be our time, and we WILL have a family of our own. We refuse to give up and we refuse to lose hope.
Laura Ashley is working on being a voice in the infertility community, hoping that sharing her story raises awareness of infertility and IVF. You can follow her journey on Instagram at @buyingababy.