What It’s Really Like to Go Through IVF
Kim Lapides, a mom of two and creator of the popular personal style blog eat/sleep/wear is among the roughly 20% of women* in America who’ve struggled with infertility. Like many, Kim’s road to motherhood has been long and twisty, spanning years of testing, fertility meds, treatments…and so much disappointment and grief.
“The process is dark, lonely, and heart wrenching,” says Kim. “But sharing my story helps me heal and it helps me to connect with others dealing with infertility.” And that’s very important to Kim. In fact, “connecting with other people dealing with infertility—and helping to create awareness around it—has been one of my biggest joys,” she says.
So, in honor of National Infertility Awareness Week (NIAW) Kim’s sharing with us. Here, she answers some of our biggest questions about what it’s really like to go through infertility treatments.
Happiest Baby: Before you were faced with your own infertility struggles, what were some of your assumptions about infertility?
Kim Lapides: I assumed people with infertility just did IVF and it was this instant miracle Band-Aid for infertility. It’s not! Another big lesson I learned was that so many people go through infertility quietly and alone…there are more people dealing with this than you’d think.
HB: How did your fertility journey start?
KL: After my husband and I got married, we started to try for a baby right away. Every month would go by with another negative pregnancy test, so after about a year, I decided to seek help from my gynecologist. There, I tried one IUI. [IUI is short for intrauterine insemination, which involves placing sperm inside the uterus to facilitate fertilization.] Then I quickly realized my doctor was not an infertility specialist—and it would be best to see one. In fact, one of my biggest mistakes was doing some explorative treatment with my gynecologist before seeing a specialist. It’s hard to know what the right steps are when trying to figure out your fertility, but I will say, if you’re starting to investigate your fertility, head to a specialist to get a bigger picture and more specific testing and guidance.
HB: What was your experience with fertility treatments and insurance coverage?
KL: The horrible reality is, most insurance doesn’t cover a lot. Going into things, I assumed we’d have a certain level of coverage…but wow, was I wrong. The medications alone for fertility treatment can be thousands of dollars. And that doesn’t even cover treatments, procedures, or testing. Despite having some coverage, we poured our life’s savings into treatment.
HB: What did the path to parenthood look like for you?
KL: We’re not the happy story of doing IVF, getting lots of embryos, and then having successful transfers. [For IVF, or in vitro fertilization, mature eggs are retrieved from ovaries, fertilized by sperm in a lab, then the fertilized egg (embryo) is transferred into the uterus.] I have unexplained infertility and my egg quality is not good. So, while I produced eggs for my IVF retrievals, I never had many that were genetically normal to be implanted. For my first IVF, I only had one healthy embryo, so one chance to get it right…and it tragically failed. This was one of the darkest moments of my life. We were at the point where having a family flashed before our eyes—and then we realized it might be out of reach for us. It was completely devastating.
I went through a second round of IVF egg retrieval and, again, got only one genetically normal embryo…and failed. So, after some soul searching, we decided that it would be in our best interest to do a third and final IVF egg retrieval. And this time, in some kind of miracle, we had three genetically normal embryos and we got pregnant with my first son Otis! And that miracle is now 3.5 years old.
HB: Was your path for baby number two different?
KL: I thought the process for baby number two would be so much easier because I had some embryos left from my previous retrievals. Wow was I wrong! In a way, it was harder. My embryo transfer date got canceled because of Covid-19 lockdowns. With the amount of physical and emotional prep and medications that go into transfers…this was devastating. But we picked ourselves up and pursued treatment again once we were allowed. But because of the restrictions, I had to go to every appointment and procedure alone, which was tough. And when our first transfer failed, our hearts broke all over again. Our next transfer failed, too. I continued to mourn our losses while also being the mom to a toddler. That was not easy. Clinging onto hope was not easy.
For our last embryo transfer, my doctor switched up our approach and we did a natural cycle FET. [In a natural FET, frozen embryo transfer, the lining of the uterus is allowed to thicken naturally as part of your normal cycle, as opposed to thickened with the help of synthetic hormones.] And in a shocking turn of events, my lining looked the best it has ever looked, so we transferred our final embryo.
Later, when my at home pregnancy test said I was pregnant…I ugly cried harder than I think I ever have! My eyes get teary with gratitude every time I share this. I’m so happy to say our little miracle, Duke, just turned 9 months old.
HB: How has this journey changed you?
KL: The process is dark, lonely, and heart-wrenching. It’s something that never leaves you. It’s changed me in so many ways. It tested me and pushed me. I never could have envisioned having the courage it took to endure the things we went through. My husband and I…we did it all together. I would do it all again in an instant. All our stories are so uniquely different, but something that binds us all together is the courage it takes to put one foot in front of the other and to never give up.
HB: Did you struggle with whether you’d share your journey with others, including your readers?
KL: For my first round of IVF, we went through it completely on our own. We only told our immediate families, but essentially, we were silent. That was very tough. But once I opened up about my infertility, more and more friends, family, and readers reached out with their own stories. Sharing helped me heal and connecting with other people dealing with infertility—and helping to create awareness around it—has been one of my biggest joys. The messages I’ve gotten from so many shows how strong this community is and how important it is for women to know they’re not alone in this.
HB: What do you wish someone had said to you at the start of your journey?
KL: I wish someone would’ve found a way to tell me to search for the bigger picture. In hindsight, I wish I had a better plan upfront, but I know that’s almost impossible when you're just finding out. I also would’ve wanted someone to just be there for me, to hear me…and push me forward toward hope. What I wish people didn’t say to me: “It will happen when it happens” and “Just relax and you will get pregnant.” In the beginning, those types of things were the hardest to hear.
HB: Why do we need National Infertility Awareness Week (NIAW)?
KL: This week will always be one filled with so much emotion. Deep, deep sadness and deep gratitude…but mostly, I’m always filled with so much hope. NIAW opens the door to break taboos and stigmas around fertility about treatments. It helps others navigate these waters—and not feel so alone in these processes. NIAW also helps people who aren’t going through fertility struggles. Many people don’t know the best way to approach those who are going through treatment and then, oftentimes, don’t even reach out in fear of doing or saying the wrong things. I hope that lifting the veil with NIAW helps to open the conversation and help others to be more sensitive in their words and actions.
* This statistic only includes cis heterosexual women, leaving out the fertility struggles of queer, trans, nonbinary folks, and men. (About 10% of males in the U.S. deal with infertility issues.)
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