Some people want to be moms--really badly--but it's hard for them to get pregnant. Alison*, a San Francisco web designer, thinks about it every day. "My ambition in life is to be a mom," she says. "My career is secondary." But her body isn't geared towards pregnancy, and the list of things she has had to go through to try to get pregnant reads like a medical textbook--biopsies, birth control pills, blood tests, ovulation inducers, progesterone, temperature-taking, sperm-testing. "I feel like I'm waiting for someone I already know," she tells me. "I think about it every day."
It's been 32 years since the first test tube baby was delivered in the UK. Today, fertility clinics offer a whole slew of technologies for getting pregnant (IVF, IUI, GIFT, ZIFT), but they're expensive and can be invasive. IVF--in-vitro fertilization, a common technique whereby doctors inseminate the egg in a lab and then transfer the embryo back to the woman's womb--is safe, but can cost up to $20,000. "If you could get pregnant naturally, you wouldn't need these technologies," says Dr. Masood Khatamee, who is the executive director of the Fertility Research Foundation in NYC. "But if you wait too long, then you might never get pregnant."
My friends Lisa and Marcus went through a similar struggle as Alison. Here's Lisa, recounting their years-long efforts after finding out that Marcus had a low sperm count:
Several years ago, Marcus started taking HCG shots 3 times a week. It made a difference, but not enough to help us conceive. In September 2008, I was diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and was prescribed Metformin and Clomid. Metformin is a sugar/carb blocker--if you eat certain things, you suffer from horrendous stomach cramps and diarrhea. The side effects of the drugs that are supposed to help you conceive make it very difficult to have sex.
Timing is everything. We were using the monthly planning method--sex only when it was ovulation time. IVF was an option we struggled with, but as much as we wanted to have children, Marcus wanted his sperm to have a fighting chance (may the best swimmer win!) and I did not want to take the drugs that are known to have side effects for the woman and that child. We looked into doing intrauterine insemination first, but the timing was off for us because either Marcus or I were traveling during my ovulation.
The whole journey put a lot of strain on our relationship. We were blaming ourselves, and then each other. More tears then I can ever remember shedding in my life thinking that I was never going to be able to have children with the man that I love. Hating my body because it felt alien-like with the side effects of the drugs. Feeling guilty for complaining when there are some people out there that only have the option to adopt.
And here we are now-pregnant and due around December 5th! I cannot express in words what I am feeling. We were very blessed to be able to conceive naturally after being told by our fertility expert that we would not be able to do so. All the side effects of being pregnant? Bring them on!!! I want to experience them all because to be it's a reminder of the amazing human that is growing inside of me.
Lisa and Marcus lucked out--but many of us moms-to-be will have to resort to other means. The answer for some of us may even lie in cloning or stem cells, although that's still far out in the future.
*name altered for privacy