Alisia’s story is one of hope for a group of people who are often overlooked when it comes to infertility…women who are unable to carry their own child as a result of other illnesses and treatments.
Alisia is here to #FlipTheScript for national infertility awareness week, here’s her story…
First of all, tell us a little bit about you and your partner….how did you meet?!!
I’m an Air Force brat so I was born in Texas, spent most of my childhood in Okinawa, Japan and moved here to Hampton Roads, Virginia right before I started high school and have been here ever since! My husband Craig, was born and raised in Portsmouth, VA and although he would prefer to stay here forever, I appreciate that he loves to travel and explore other places. Craig and I actually went to the same high school. He is two years older than me so I didn’t know him personally but I knew of him. One summer night in 2006, I was out partying with my friends in downtown Norfolk where Craig and I ran into each other. We started talking because we recognized each other, kept in touch, and eventually started dating. Fast forward five years from there, we got married!
When did you realize that you were facing a diagnosis of infertility, how did you find out and what were the issues that you faced?
In 2008 I received a kidney transplant from my little brother and after having two kidney rejection episodes, my doctors strongly encouraged me not to try to get pregnant both for my health and the health of my unborn child. A few years later, my sister Stephanie, nonchalantly suggested that she would carry our baby for us, but back then I didn’t really think anything of it because I wasn’t yet seriously trying to start a family. Craig and I had a plan that we would focus and enjoy just being married for a few years and then talk about starting a family. So in 2014 we talked to my doctors about our options, again they advised that I not try to get pregnant. That’s when I went to my sister and with no pressure at all I asked her if she was actually serious about being a gestational surrogate. She was!
Where are you on your infertility journey now?
After almost 4 years of appointments, medications, infertility shots, multiple egg retrievals (due to my very low egg quality), various procedures for my sister (to ensure an optimal uterine environment), we are finally expecting our child this August!!
To say this was an emotional roller coaster doesn’t do this IVF process any justice.
Has infertility changed your relationship with your partner?
I believe this process has brought Craig and I closer together. We both have been excited, disappointed, frustrated, completely ignored the process for a while, and even considered a child-free life together. There were times where I felt alone but later learn that Craig wasn’t expressing his feelings in order to protect mine. Although there were times where we were a little down about the whole situation, I think the biggest impact this experience has had on our relationship was our effort and determination to take advantage of the time without a child to focus on doing what we want, whenever we want, either alone or together.
My relationship with my sister has definitely grown stronger. We are 5 years apart so we didn’t always have a lot in common, but now that we are older and are going through this experience, we talk to each other every day now!
Stephanie has an 8 year old son as well and I try to keep him involved and show him as much love as possible since he’s been the only child in the family for 8 years now he’s used to all of the attention. My entire family is doing their best to reassure him that our love for him will not change when his cousin arrives.
How has infertility impacted you financially? Did your healthcare insurance provide coverage for infertility treatment?
I’m not a gambler but IVF is a HUGE gamble. Although we were blessed to have been able to afford everything and come out of all of this process debt free, I can’t help but think of all the money we’ve spent on medicine, appointments, procedures and ultrasounds for all of those failed attempts. My healthcare provider covered a lot of the first IVF attempt and most of the medicines and injections for me. My sister’s company didn’t have coverage for IVF-related services so all of her expenses were out of pocket for us. We also had expenses related to legal fees for our surrogacy contract as well as psychological appoints both required by our fertility clinic for my sister to be cleared as a surrogate.
How have you taken care of yourself physically and emotionally during your struggles?
I have not. The constant disappointment really caused me to become very depressed and sad. I tried various types of therapy, anxiety medications, crying to friends and family, and natural remedies like yoga and meditation but nothing really got be out of my funk. The only thing that really helped was making plans for another IVF attempt. I think it helped because at least I was taking steps and tweaking protocols to better the probability of finally getting that BFP (Big Fat Positive!).
How have your friends and family supported you through your journey? Have you had any experience of lack of support or misunderstandings?
My friends and family have been extremely supportive. I really appreciate those who don’t understand what it’s like to experience infertility not asking me about how things are going and not talking about babies or children.
That was certainly my biggest trigger. I’m not one to really talk about my feelings all the time and most times I just hold everything in. I did my best to avoid conversations about pregnancy, babies and children when by friends started talking. Most of the time they realized I was getting uncomfortable. I hated to be a “Debbie Downer” but I couldn’t help the way it made me feel.
What has been the hardest point of your journey and how did you deal with it?
The hardest point of my journey was when I was seriously considering giving up. I did research on child-free marriages/lifestyles. As much as not having as child gives you the freedom to do so many other things in life, that wasn’t what I wanted for my life. It just made me sad. My inspiration to keep going came from my husband and my sister. I had decided to give up because I was feeling the guilt of taking up so much of my sister’s time from expanding her own family, and I didn’t think we were getting anywhere with the multiple IVF protocols. My sister actually came to me one day and said she thinks we should just keep trying. Craig knew that I had also been looking into adoption and mentioned one day that we shouldn’t give up just yet of having our own biological child either. So, Craig provided another sample for cryo-preservation. In the state of VA at the time, when you use a surrogate, you are required to have your sperm specimen quarantined in cryo for six months before using it for IVF even after passing all of the health screening and testing. The fortunate part was that this wait allowed us to take a break from everything baby-related for six months and just enjoy life.
If you could go back in time, what advice would you give yourself?
I would tell myself to try not to worry so much. I would also tell myself that I’m not a failure and I’m not any less of a woman because I couldn’t bear my own child. In addition, I would tell myself that no matter how many times I hear, “having children is the best thing that has ever happened to me” or “being a mom brings new meaning to life”, etc., don’t let it make you think you or your life is any less important.
As it’s national infertility awareness week, what message do you want to share about infertility to the general public?
Although it is national infertility awareness week, if you are dealing with infertility, don’t feel guilty for not telling people what you’re going through in your own infertility journey.
Who, when, and how much you tell about your experience is up to you and your comfort level but know your story will most likely help someone out there who feels alone or feels like infertility isn’t as common as it is.
Is there anything else you would like to share that I haven’t asked you about?
While I’m super excited about being a parent, I’m sitting here typing these responses, four months away from by baby’s due date super nervous about how my life is going to change, my relationship with my husband may change, and hoping that I don’t mess this motherhood thing up. You’d think that after years of wanting this so bad, I’d have done all the research I could possibly do to feel as ready as I possibly could but I didn’t because I didn’t know if this day would ever come. In the meantime, as I count down these next 4 months, I’m celebrating my “lasts”. My last Christmas without as child, my last Valentine’s Day, and my last weekends of doing whatever I want, whenever I want with Craig, my friends, and family, while shopping, planning, prepping for the arrival of little baby Nixon. 🙂
Please leave a comment or message of support below for Alisia and Craig 🙂