In honor of Infertility Awareness Week, I am partnering with Northwell Health Fertility, to encourage open conversation about the struggles many of us have had (or are currently having) to get pregnant and bring a baby to term. I never knew how many women had similar experiences until I was going through it myself, and finally opened up to my friends. Then one after the other, they told me stories about miscarriages and years of trying with no success and what eventually worked for them. So much of conception, and even the first trimester, is shrouded in secret, which made it particularly difficult to deal with at work. No one knew what I was going through (even when I got bad news over the phone at my desk), so I was still expected to perform at 100%. The emotional impact of struggling to conceive is tremendous, especially when we keep our experiences to ourselves.

I asked the members of the Remarkably Average Parents Facebook group to share their past or current struggles with infertility (what the process looked like, how it affected their relationships, who helped them get through it, etc.) with the goal of normalizing these issues, preparing people for uncertain outcomes and making people feel less alone in their struggles.

Here are 16 women who wanted to share their stories:

1) “When I was 25, I had a football size tumor along with my left ovary removed. I was left with a giant scar across my stomach. The doctor was not sure if I would ever be able to have children, but he wanted to give me a chance so he did not do a hysterectomy at that time. I got married at 34 and we started trying to get pregnant the following year. After a year with no success, our doctor started me on Clomid and we tried IUI four times. We were unsuccessful, so we made an appointment with a fertility clinic. They ran some tests and told us I would never give birth to my own children. I was too old and only had one ovary. I will never forget the heartbreak I felt hearing those words. I cried for a week. A few months later, I went back to my gynecologist and discussed it with her. She didn’t like what she was hearing and immediately called another clinic. They told us that my chances were lower than most, but they would be happy to try. We started the process the next month. They were only able to retrieve three viable eggs and informed us that the embryo survival rate is less than 50%. On day four, somehow all three were still viable and then implanted. We were so excited but tried not to get our hopes up. Two weeks later, they called to say I was pregnant. Six weeks after that, we heard the most amazing sound— our baby’s heartbeat. We nicknamed her Our Little Fighter. Against all odds, we welcomed our daughter Norah Aubrey in August of 2015 via C-section through the same scar that my tumor and ovary were removed.” – Kerryanne M

2) “I was diagnosed with PCOS in 2007. After three years of trying countless infertility treatments (and putting my body through the ringer), my husband and I finally decided to do IVF. It almost didn’t work for us. We had one lone (imperfect) embryo but in February 2011 my son was born. My OB/GYN at my 6 week postpartum appointment said that since IVF almost didn’t work, birth control wasn’t really necessary. I believed her and then when my son was only 9 months old, we were stuck in the house for a long weekend because he had croup and RSV, and well— that’s how our daughter was conceived! I consider my infertility journey to have been extremely difficult, painful, heart wrenching and I even lost my mother in the process of it all. But, at the end of the day, we ended up with a two for one with IVF. They’re healthy, drive me crazy and make me so happy all in the same breath.” – Sam B

3) “My husband was diagnosed with Hodgkin Lymphoma less than a year after we were married. We hadn’t even discussed kids but all of a sudden we were talking about fertility preservation. We waited a year to start trying after he was declared cancer free. Since tests determined that my husband had no sperm left after chemo, we did IVF with the sperm collected before chemo. It took 2 cycles to get our twins. We have no frozen embryos and decided a couple years ago to not pursue further fertility treatment with the last sample of sperm.” – Amanda H

4) “My husband and I spent 2 years trying to conceive our kiddo. I was thinking it would be easy peasy. I already had one from my 1st marriage and conceived him while on birth control. It was hard. So hard. Seeing everyone around us get pregnant, crying all the time, trying ‘not to stress,’ taking my temp every single day at 6am on the dot (even on vacations out of town), packing my LH strips everywhere, testing every month! Not drinking OJ, but making sure my husband did. A miscarriage. Not going hot tubbing, not enjoying anything. Having the doctor tell us “there is no reason you shouldn’t be getting pregnant.” Having sex daily (sometimes twice,) it became a chore. One that I still have trouble with now because to me it doesn’t equate to intimacy or fun, even now, 7 years later. I had a friend who was in the same boat as us, they were trying for their first and one night, I was sticking my legs (legs only of course) in the hot tub trying to relax and her and I had spoke earlier in the day about the struggle. I just prayed in that moment that SHE would get pregnant. It was such an odd feeling that came over me. I just remember telling God, ‘I have a great kid (my husband had adopted him). If I need to give up having another so she can… so be it. Please let her get her wish, I’ll survive.’ The next month, I was pregnant and two months later, she was.” – Miranda J

5) “I have PCOS and struggled for years to get pregnant. After trying fertility drugs and many medical treatments we gave up. We had been married for 10 years by then. We bought a tiny house and traveled a bit. In January 2014 I was feeling pretty rotten, like a hangover that was lasting too long. I was 37 and we’d now been married for 14 years. One morning, the sight of cauliflower sent me running to the bathroom so I bought a dollar store pregnancy test and the minute I peed on that stick, 2 lines appeared. We were dumbfounded. We had a healthy baby boy. Just 20 months later, I had our second and all of a sudden, we had two under two when we were both 39 years old and married for 16 years! Our handsome healthy boys are almost 3 and almost 5 and we’re about to celebrate our 19th wedding anniversary. We’re pretty exhausted at the end of every day and hope we can stay healthy as long as possible. It hits me every so often that when my boys are 40, I’ll be 79 and it kind of breaks my heart how little of their lives I’ll get to witness. But then again tomorrow’s not a guarantee for anyone.” – Andrea M

6) “My husband and I spent over a year actively trying and could not get pregnant. We reached out to a reproductive endocrinologist and started some tests. At that time, I learned that an abdominal infection I had in college had created scar tissue in my Fallopian tubes. In order to have our own kids, I would need to do IVF. I’m adopted and so are my siblings, so I had a strong desire to feel biologically connected to something. We tried IVF and on the first go round got pregnant with my son. We struggled for a few years after trying again, and then I got pregnant through IVF with my daughter too. They’re five years apart now, but I always say they’re kind of twins because they were both from the same egg retrieval. My daughter was just sitting in the freezer waiting!” – Bryn E

7) “It’s a hard road. We lost our first son after a round of Clomid. Ended up preggo with my first living son. Went to try for number two and did more rounds of Clomid. Had two miscarriages and a little girl born sleeping. I ended up doing shots in my stomach and had another miscarriage. Then I stopped all my treatments and we decided we were done with one. After, I lost about 60 pounds and BAM— turned up pregnant with my rainbow that just turned five! We are done. It’s too hard to struggle through as far as money (shots were $112 per shot ) as well as all the heartbreak and anger.” – Ashley H

8) “We had our first child with no issues. I got pregnant in our first month trying. But the trying for the second has been way more difficult. We’re now going on year three of male infertility issues and have to deal with our insurance not covering any of it! We did one IUI last year and were told, due to my husband’s numbers, the only way to have a baby would be IVF. We can’t afford that so we looked at other ways to boost his counts and are currently waiting for the results.” – Jessica L

9) “For some reason, I knew from a young age I wouldn’t be able to conceive naturally. My husband didn’t want to try right away when we got married at 23. He felt like we had plenty of time but I knew we didn’t. At 26, he was ready but two years of trying with no success proved me right. My insurance didn’t cover anything to do with infertility, so it took another year until we could afford it. ‘Unexplained infertility’ was the final diagnosis. We could only afford to try two IUIs which were both unsuccessful. We looked into adoption, but couldn’t afford it either. I didn’t feel like I could handle the emotions of fostering, so we were stuck. Without any money to continue, I set about convincing myself that a child-free life was still worth living. Then, almost a year ago, out of the blue, a friend of mine contacted us. She’d just had a baby that she was not able to keep. She wanted us to adopt her. We found out on a Sunday and she came home with us two days later. It was a huge adjustment! Six months later, the adoption was finalized. She’s almost one now. I could have never guessed that this is how we’d become parents, but it feels like it was meant to be.” – Amatise P

10) “I got pregnant after only one month of trying with our daughter who is now 4.5. I was surprised, as I only had one ovary due to a cyst that had been removed when I was 25. We started trying again when she was 2, and I had a miscarriage at 6 weeks. Nine more months of trying and I finally went to see a reproductive endocrinologist. They found that I had one blocked Fallopian tube and one “diseased” one (hydrosalpinx). Both were removed laparoscopically and our only option was IVF. 8 eggs were retrieved and 4 became embryos. We transferred a fresh one at 5 days, but it didn’t stick. Two months later, we did an unmedicated frozen transfer… and now our family is complete with our five month old son. Science is AMAZING – that I could have a baby with only one ovary and no tubes is just mind-boggling. I also feel very fortunate that throughout my infertility struggles, I had an online community that was a lifesaver. My heart aches for those who struggle, and for those who don’t talk about it or don’t have a support system.” – Rebecca B

11) “I didn’t have problems getting pregnant, but staying pregnant. I had 4 miscarriages in the span of a year. It was so heartbreaking. Such a rollercoaster of emotions. After the second miscarriage, we started to see a reproductive endocrinologist and they couldn’t figure out why I kept miscarrying. So many tests and no answers. We did a couple of cycles with Clomid and still no luck with each of those pregnancies ending in miscarriage. We then decided to do IVF with chromosome testing to make sure we had ‘normal’ embryos implanted. We were lucky and IVF worked the first round and gave us our fun-loving son! About a year after our son was born, I got pregnant with our daughter. I had a hard time connecting with the pregnancy because I thought there was no way I wouldn’t miscarry. It was a difficult pregnancy (had to have my gallbladder out at 4 months pregnant and was basically sick the entire time) but our now feisty daughter arrived healthy! Definitely a crazy journey but so thankful for the advances in medicine to help us complete our family.” – Corinne

12) “I stopped birth control about two months before we got married and started actively trying right after. BBT, ovulation tests, and TI for about a year with no success. My gynecologist referred me to a Reproductive Endocrinologist, who did the full battery of tests on both of us and were diagnosed with male factor infertility at the time. More recently, I found out that I have endo and fibroids, so I am fairly certain those also contributed significantly. We went straight to IVF, retrieved 13 eggs, 11 matured, 9 divided normally. We implanted 2 embryos and got pregnant with our son. One embryo was high enough quality for freezing. Two years later, we did a Frozen Egg Transfer. It was unsuccessful and we decided to be done. We know how lucky we are to have gotten pregnant during our first IVF round, but knew we couldn’t do the emotional ups and downs again for another full cycle.” – Jessica M

13) “My husband and I struggled with infertility for close to 10 years. We were advised by our doctors that IVF would be the only way we would conceive but our insurance wouldn’t cover it. We couldn’t afford the treatment so we just kept trying until Brian changed to a job with better insurance that covered IVF. A couple of rounds and we finally got pregnant. I delivered our little man on April 10 and we couldn’t be happier. Over the years we got so many questions about when we were going to have kids and I always tried to be honest, even though it’s hard to talk about. “We’ve been trying” or “hopefully someday” most often, but that doesn’t capture the emotional roller coaster that is dealing with infertility. Every month you track and obsess and hope that maybe this will be the month that you get pregnant. And for us, it was years and years of disappointment every month. With the IVF treatment, you take a million medications – pills, injections, suppositories and your hormones are going absolutely crazy. We had to do multiple rounds to be successful and every step of the way is full of hope and fear. It’s all worth it, but it is so hard. My heart goes out to all the people out there that struggle and those who aren’t able to have the children they want at all. I’m one of the lucky ones, who with the help of science, was able to have my baby.” – Gina M

14) “I was diagnosed with PCOS about 9 months after we were married. We had been trying to have a baby for 6 months, but my periods were extremely irregular. I knew that this was sometimes a side effect of stopping birth control, but my gut told me something else was going on. My GYN was great, she said as far as infertility diagnoses this one was the easiest to treat. We did a couple rounds of Clomid and it barely affected my ovulation at all. My gyno then referred me to a reproductive endocrinologist. Without going into too much detail, he was not great. We had to do a lot of research on our own, push for certain diagnostic procedures, and really just did not feel he was invested in us as patients (especially because, at the time, we could not afford IVF). After several more rounds of Clomid and a few of IUI, we just kind of gave up. We were both very disappointed. We had expected to get married, immediately pop out a bunch of kids, and live a normal life. We had not shared much of this journey with family and friends, and so were constantly barraged with “so when are you guys gonna have a baby” and similar questions. It was rough. We would go to church every week and find out another young couple were expecting a child, and it just hurt. One weird side effect from doing all the treatments, was that suddenly I was ovulating on my own very regularly. We had not continued actively trying for a baby, but a few months after stopping our treatments, I did actually become pregnant. It was fantastic, because all seven of us in our age bracket at the church were pregnant at the same time. I took it as a sign, after two years of trying, that God had finally answered our prayers. Unfortunately, I ended up miscarrying at 7 weeks. It was an incredibly dark time for me. I stopped going to church because it was too painful. I distanced any friends or family who became pregnant and really started to resent them. I actively hated (and let them know) women who would complain about how hard pregnancy was. I would not get out of bed unless I was forced to, and it put a large strain on our marriage. We had shared our infertility journey with friends at that point, and the constant “Oh once you stop trying it will work” or “well why don’t you guys just adopt” was killing us. It took several months, but I eventually realized that I needed to see someone and fix my mental health. I saw an amazing therapist, and by working with myself and my husband, she was able to pull me out of that dark place somewhat. I still resented pregnant women, but was able to have relationships with friends again. The therapist also helped me realize that my feelings were perfectly normal and ok. Going through infertility is essentially mourning the loss of a child you will never have, and even early miscarriage is a huge loss that should be acknowledged. She was amazing. Around this time, the state we were in took a huge economic downturn. My job went away, and we were struggling financially. We ended up moving across the country, and essentially starting over. We were now in a different group of friends too. Where back home (in the Midwest) everyone was married with kids by 25, this friend set were all single with no plans until after 30. It was great to be able to escape the pressure. During this time, I became pregnant twice more. Because of my last experience, I did not put any hope into carrying a child to term, and this was extremely helpful when I miscarried. Can’t be disappointed if you weren’t hopeful in the first place. It was a weird dichotomy because I was still disappointed every month that I got my period too. Once we were firmly settled, we decided to see a Reproductive Endocrinologist again. We had heard amazing things about one from a family member, and so made an appointment. This guy was fantastic, and made us feel like family. He also re-did a lot of our testing. It turned out that my husband also had fertility issues, and the chance of us having a successful pregnancy on our own was something like 1%. Luckily, my new job had amazing insurance. We were finally able to afford IVF and went for it. It SUCKED. Like everything about it for me was uncomfortable. It was also incredibly unsuccessful for us. We only ended up with one viable embryo and it wasn’t high quality. Predictably, the IVF failed. My husband wanted to continue treatments, but by then, I was just done. I didn’t think I could deal with that particular emotional roller coaster anymore. I went back to disliking pregnant women and actively avoiding friends with small kids. We briefly researched adoption, but infant adoption was more expensive than IVF, and nobody in our state was working with just adoptive placements out of foster care, they wanted you to foster first. This was not a thing we felt equipped to do. By pure chance, we happened to watch a documentary on eastern European orphanages. The conditions were beyond words. We felt absolutely certain then that we were supposed to adopt, and from a specific country. Since it has no bearing on the infertility journey, I won’t get into the details on that. But after a two-ish year period, we were absolutely blessed to bring home an adorable 3 year old boy. He has been amazing, and while we will still mourn the ability to have a biological child, I am so very glad we were led to our son.” – Sarah S

15) “I wanted to be a mommy from the time I was two. I also wanted to be a flamingo, but gave up on that dream rather quickly. In my late teens I suffered a miscarriage and suffered the same loss again in my mid-twenties. A few years later I was single and decided to seek fertility treatment and do it on my own. It was an arduous process. Within six years I endured 14 failed IUI treatments, lost an engagement, graduated from college with honors and decided to do IVF. I raised the capital in various ways and embarked on the best adventure of my life. The follicle retrieval yielded 34 eggs (I have a great photo of my hand where my endocrinologist had written the number so I would see it when I woke up). Of that, 21 were viable, and of that 16 fertilized. I then suffered from OHSS and almost had to have my abdomen drained, but it resolved within four weeks. I then prepped for the transfer, which was literally one of the most terrifying moments of my life — all of my eggs (well two of them) were in one basket. This was it. If it didn’t work, I couldn’t pay to do it again. I almost passed out when I got the call that the blood test was positive. As I write this I can’t help but ugly cry because it was like yesterday that I was sitting on the floor of a tech closet in my office trying so hard to stay calm and listen. The second blood test yielded excellent results and just like that I went from an “I” to a “we”… it’s the most amazing inclusive pronoun of all time. I had two sub-chorionic bleeds, which was so traumatizing, I can’t even tell you. I have never felt smaller in my life. The bleed never really resolved, so I was on light duty for the entire pregnancy, but I didn’t mind. I would have done ANYTHING for that pregnancy to run its course. My son, Crosby Hanx, was born on Christmas Day, 2015. And my daughter, Tallulah Ruth, also conceived through a long and painful IVF process, was born on October 5th, 2018. I have no idea if I will partner or not, or what I will pursue post-masters — a degree I will have earned in four weeks — but either way my dreams have come true.” – Majken B

16) “We had years of emotional, financial, physical and mental struggles trying to get pregnant. It is the worst not even knowing what piece of the puzzle is missing. We finally gave up and adopted. They are the most wonderful kids and I don’t think I would have loved them any more had I given birth to them myself.” – Ritu P

You can read more women’s stories on Remarkably Average Parents.

I’m proud to be partnering with Northwell Health Fertility to bring National Infertility Awareness Week to light. Northwell Health Fertility is a globally recognized clinic in New York City and Long Island, that offers a holistic, personalized approach to fertility treatments. Though I have not received services from Northwell Health, I am committed to their mission to end the stigma surrounding infertility. They aim to be a resource and source of support for the 1 in 8 women who struggle to conceive. If you’d like to know how to offer support to a loved one currently struggling with infertility, click here.

This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. #ad