Like many we meet through the project, Heidi Hayes’ career has been shaped by her journey with infertility. She shares that journey with us through this guest blog today. Thank you, Heidi, for sharing your story!
I never thought this little word could describe me. For such a small word, it had the power to define my life and lead me to people I would never have otherwise met. It’s not a word that embraces you. It’s a word full of desperation, tears and unrealized dreams.
I was 32 when I first went to a fertility clinic and was diagnosed with unexplained infertility. Even the word diagnosed feels ironic next to unexplained! My husband of 4 years and I were not able to have a baby. We had been trying and each month I was full of hope, only to have it dashed.
We began our journey, like most couples, with IUIs and ultimately we moved on to IVF cycles. I produced lots of eggs and they made lots of embryos— which was great! But I really wish I had been wise enough to do some research on laboratory quality. On our first cycle, they froze our embryos on day 3, even though typically embryos frozen at the blastocyst stage perform better. With each frozen embryo transfer cycle, followed by more IVF cycles, my courage, resolve and spirit were depleted. All of my friends were announcing their pregnancies and month after month, I attended baby showers and new baby debuts.
I remember one day, sitting in my car in front of my best friend’s house. That day signified my loss and utter despair in the infertility process. I was her best friend; how could I miss her baby shower? But my red eyes when I arrived were all she needed to see to understand how painful the day was for me. I stayed for a short time and left before the baby gifts were opened. But I knew she understood that the real gift I brought was my willingness to be at the event in the first place.
How do you get through the pain of infertility? It’s hard not to shut down and crawl into a shell. My instinct was to insulate myself from all things baby. I had to continually fight against the bitterness and envy I felt. I found it difficult to surrender control.
I survived infertility by using 3 coping mechanisms. First, I had to give up the notion that I could control the process. We cannot control our bodies, and by thinking we can, we only place unnecessary guilt and expectations on ourselves. Second, I persevered. I wanted to quit more often than not, but I pushed forward as if in a stupor, unwilling to consider the costs of stopping or even continuing. Third, I stopped telling. I confided in a few good friends, but otherwise I kept my monthly cycle to myself. I found it hard to have multiple people ask me about the outcome of a cycle. It was like reopening the wound over and over again.
After our unsuccessful IVF and IUI cycles, we moved on to adoption. Thankfully, we were successful in this process and brought home a 7 month old baby from Guatemala. Naively we went back for baby number two, 1 year before Guatemala closed its doors to adoption. We fought for our baby girl and traveled to visit her on several occasions. Nearly 6 years later, we were told by Homeland Security that our adoption would not be completed. The loss of a baby I had held and dreamed about was devastating.
Unwilling to be the victim of infertility, we pondered the thought of using an egg donor. Ultimately, we switched our fertility practice and started again. Our first cycle produced 2 very mediocre embryos. Our doctor prepared us for the failure we would inevitably experience. But God had other plans for us. Elated, we gave birth to twins!
As I look back on our infertility, I can still feel the devastation associated with the word. But what was once nothing but grey and black now has undertones of magenta, yellow and orange. My infertility is paying me back for all of the tears I have shed. I have fought the fight and come out victorious with three beautiful children. I wanted them desperately and have pushed aside a myriad of distractions to give them my undivided attention. Infertility has become my life’s work with Donor Egg Bank USA. Helping others to experience the success of having a baby to hold and love is my mission. Would I have felt this way had I not walked as a close companion with infertility? Embracing my infertility has molded me for the best and has given me the serenity to help others achieve their peace as well.
Bio: Heidi Hayes is the CEO of Donor Egg Bank USA, a nationwide registry of egg donors. She has more than 20 years of healthcare experience and has worked extensively in the field of reproductive endocrinology. Through her work, Heidi has helped thousands of couples realize their dream of having family.