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Quitting infertility treatment is OK too

quitting infertility treatmentYou may have heard that Jimmy Fallon has come out about his and his wife’s five year struggle to have a baby. Their daughter, Winnie, was born via surrogate this past July. On the Today show, he talked openly about their experiences and added:

“Try every avenue; try anything you can do, ’cause you’ll get there. You’ll end up with a family, and it’s so worth it. It is the most ‘worth it’ thing. I’m just so happy right now. I’m freaking out.”

via Jimmy Fallon reveals he and wife endured ‘awful’ five-year fertility struggle before using surrogate  – NY Daily News

I love it when celebrities are comfortable sharing about their fertility challenges because they normalize an experience that happens to 1 in 8 couples. The more we talk about things, the less alone people feel and that is GREAT.

But quitting infertility treatment is an incredibly personal decision and not everyone ends up with a family.

While I’m very happy for Jimmy and his wife and I can bet that it’s all worth it now that Winnie is here, safe and sound, I need to point out that his experience doesn’t mean that any other person going through infertility can and should “try every avenue.”

I remember when we were just starting infertility treatments and one of the other moms at my son’s preschool asked if we had any other children. I’d just started Clomid, which made me crazy and vulnerable and sad, so I burst into loud, messy sobs there in the hall. I told her what was happening and she told us that she went through infertility, too, but was able to conceive her two children via the then brand new ICSI procedure. In fact, ICSI was so new at the time that she and her husband flew to Rome in order to work with the doctors who had invented it.

She told me this to inspire me.

“You will stop at nothing to get your baby!” she said, leaning in to hug me. But even then I knew that I would stop at something. I wouldn’t fly to Italy, for example, seeing as how there was no way we could ever afford it.

When it comes to making treatment decisions it’s easy to say YES to something if you know there is a baby at the end of it. After all, when you’re dealing with infertility a baby is worth almost anything. But when we’re making decisions we have to consider whether it’s worth it if there is no baby at the end of it.

I know that’s a depressing way to look at it but infertility treatment gets us going the same way that gambling in Vegas gets us. It becomes addictive.

We think, “One more cycle!” and we grab up our silver dollars and pull that lever again. The more money and effort we put into it, the more we need a pay off to justify all that we’ve already spent. That’s how we end up going further than we meant to, spending more than we can afford, and becoming consumed by the great big treatment machine.

Before we fly off to Rome or hire a surrogate, we need to ask, “If this doesn’t work, will it still be worth it?” It’s all right if that answer is yes and it’s also all right if the answer is no.

The thing about infertility, like the rest of our life challenges, is that it is ours to live. There’s not one right way to do it. Jimmy Fallon and his wife chose surrogacy and it was all worth it. Someone else will choose to live child-free and that will all be worth it, too.

Openness in Surrogacy & Egg Donation


That was the thing about our conception: there were too many players to be jealous of any one. And once we made the decision to have children this way, and put away regret, I felt happier embracing it than just tolerating it. There was even something I liked about the idea of a family created by many hands, like one of those community quilt projects, pietra dura, or a mosaic whose beauty arises from broken shards. If it takes a village to raise a child, why not begin with conception? When I tried to think about why I don’t want to have donor-and-surrogacy amnesia, it isn’t that it seems unfair to them (although it is), but that it erases our own experience of how our children came to be. At a basic level, the fact that our children originated through the good will of strangers feels like an auspicious beginning.

dadpiggyback-insideIf you consider third-party reproduction to be simply a production detail in the creation of a conventional nuclear family — a service performed and forgotten — then acknowledging the importance of outsiders could make it all seem like a house of cards. But if you conceive of the experience as creating a kind of extended family, in which you have chosen to be related to these people through your children, it feels very rich.

via Meet the Twiblings – NYTimes.com.

I really like what the author says about feeling “happier embracing it than just tolerating it.”

Creating our families is a journey that starts with the idea of what (and who) makes up a family and continues for the rest of our lives.

Some of us create family more consciously — when we choose friendships that we elevate to family, when we face unexpected challenges in our reproductive efforts, when we contemplate our choices in a crisis pregnancy.

When we step into a greater consciousness of creating family, we may need to mourn the family of origin we wish we had or the children we hoped to have or the partner we dreamed of having that with.

On the other side of grief is hope and joy and love. It may look different than what we expect, but when we have room to honor our losses, we create space to celebrate those differences rather than deny them.

This post originally appeared on this woman’s work, my now defunct personal blog.

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