Motherhood

An Infertility Story

Jessica Olien

Three years ago, cartoonist, author and Cup of Jo contributor Jessica Olien and her husband, Tim, started trying to have a baby. Since then, she has undergone multiple fertility treatments, sharing her journey in moving illustrations along the way. Here is her story, in words and pictures…


Jessica Olien Comic

I’ve always wanted children, something I’ve been clear about all along. I got married at 37, and we started trying instantly. Having a baby had always been top of mind. I’d been taking prenatal vitamins for years — hiding them from my commitment-phobic ex-boyfriends — because I wanted to be ready. But I wasn’t prepared for what came next.

Four months in, a friend of my husband’s shared that they had gone to a fertility doctor and I thought, ‘I’m coming up on 38, maybe I should go, too.’ Initially, the doctor said I was younger than a lot of his patients and that everything looked fine. But then my test came back showing that I had a very low egg reserve. It didn’t mean I couldn’t get pregnant, but it meant it would be harder. Where many people undergoing an egg retrieval might get 15 or 20 eggs, I would get two or three. We’re lucky to have very good health insurance through my husband’s work. Without that, there is no way I would have ever been able to do this.

At first, my doctor encouraged me to do IUIs (where the sperm is placed closer to the egg), but looking back, I wish I had gone straight to IVF. The first IVF retrieval was the most heartbreaking thing. I had two eggs, both fertilized. On the day I went back for the transfer, my husband got all dressed up — a detail that always breaks my heart when I think about it. As we were on our way to the doctor, we got a flurry of frantic phone calls from a number we didn’t recognize. It was my doctor saying both eggs had disintegrated.

That was a year and a half ago. Since then, I’ve switched to a doctor who specializes in people with low AMH levels, with many success stories. I’ve done banking, and had four embryos freeze at day three — never day five, as I’m too afraid they might not make it to give them that much time in the lab. I am now in my 11th round of IVF. The likelihood of it working is less than 15% per embryo.

Infertility Journey

This year has been about me trying to decide what I’ll do if it doesn’t work and trying to imagine my life in different ways. Does it mean adoption? Egg donation? Being childfree and okay with that? There’s a tendency for women to try to find a solution — to be neurotic about what you eat, to focus on all the small choices you make, but at the end of the day that’s just another way of trying to punish yourself. There’s no magic bullet for any of this.

Emotionally, I’ve found that infertility is very cyclical, almost like your period is very cyclical. You feel depressed, but you don’t stay down for a long time — it comes and goes. You’re supposed to have hope. You must have hope, right? Otherwise you wouldn’t keep trying. But on a day-to-day basis, I feel pretty cynical about it, most of the time.

Jessica Olien Comic

People always say, “You should have tried to have kids sooner.” But for a lot of women, circumstances don’t work out that way. Maybe they don’t meet someone they want to have a child with until later in life. It’s almost like an invisible infertility, where people who want to have kids can’t, for a variety of factors.

Infertility can be shameful for women, because it highlights how so much of our society is focused on youth and motherhood. From Kim Kardashian all the way back to fertility dolls, there is such an emphasis on age and beauty and fertility. When you’re trying to have a baby and can’t, you notice how much of our culture is about motherhood. It’s everywhere — in every commercial, every show — this message that the meaning of life is about having a baby. Even though that isn’t the case for everyone, there is so much pressure put on women. And if you do genuinely want that, and are struggling, you feel this tremendous amount of failure every time you’re confronted with these things.

Jessica Olien Comic

For the most part, sharing has been very good for me. The first comic I posted was about giving myself a shot for the first time, and I think I just wanted moral support, for other people to be there with me and tell me I could do it. But as I continued to share, the same people would comment and tell their own stories. So many people feel isolated while going through this, including me. But through sharing my work, I’ve formed a true support system — I have a friend in France, who I’ve never met, but connected to on Instagram.

Before I opened up about my experience, I didn’t realize how many people have gone through the same things. Not just strangers, but also people I knew. That was really fascinating, to have people from all different facets of my life message me and tell me that they’d had trouble conceiving, they were trying, they were struggling. Often a person you’d never expect. It all comes back to how you never know what someone is going through.

There’s not really an upside to having to go through this, but it has made me more empathetic, and it’s also taught me a lot about how much people can tolerate. I went from almost fainting when I got shots to being able to give myself all sorts of injections, easily. I feel superhuman in my ability to tolerate medical procedures.

Jessica Olien Comic

If you have a friend who is struggling, giving them space to complain about it, and listening to them, is the biggest gift. When you see someone going through a long, monotonous struggle, it can be hard not to say something to try to make it better, but it’s okay to just be there. Telling people “it’ll work for you” or “stay positive,” though well intentioned, can feel shitty. Sometimes, you have to expel all your negative energy in order to move forward.

Connecting with people who understand, and being there for each other, has been really great. Infertility takes over your life, mentally and physically. You’re constantly getting up early in the morning, getting your blood drawn, getting ultrasounds. Sometimes, I would imagine this army of other women, emerging from the subways and converging to do the same thing all over the city — because I knew they were out there, too. When people share a similar story, it helps you feel like you exist outside of this isolated space. Even when it may feel that way, you aren’t alone.


Thank you so much, Jessica, for sharing your story. We love you.

Jessica’s comics have been featured in publications including The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Washington Post and Cup of Jo. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and their cats. You can see more of her comics here and find her on Instagram @jessicaolien.

P.S. More posts about infertility, including how to help a friend facing infertility and three women share their miscarriage stories.

  1. Elle says...

    2 quick notes as this beautifully written story highlights a couple of the consistent issues I see on Cup of Jo:
    1. Not every birthing person is a woman. As a non-binary person assigned female at birth, the constant and aggressive gendering of birth and fertility stories is exhausting.
    2. IVF and other fertility treatments are a miracle of science. But they are EXPENSIVE. They are not accessible for those beyond the privileged few. For many of us, if children don’t happen – that’s it. So often conversations around multiple rounds of IVF/fertility treatments completely ignore the fact that many folks do not have $10k+ lying around to cover a round of treatment, or insurance that is good enough to cover the cost. As I start my journey toward parenthood, I hope to see more recognition of this nuance and the ways poor birthing people are shut out of fertility treatments.

    • Abby Shull says...

      Elle THANK YOU so much for highlighting the classist, and heteronormative assumptions so common in infertility discussions. I appreciate the emotional labor involved in educating folx about this. As a queer identifying feminist woman with a cis gender man, who actively engages in anti Capitalist and anti racist community organizing, yet also a person of privilege undergoing treatments and in the infertility ‘community’ that may not share a lot of my identity and values, it is many layers to come to terms with and be mindful of.

  2. Claire says...

    I’m crying while reading this. Hugs to everyone going through the same thing.

  3. Sooz says...

    I had secondary infertility when I was 34. It’s totally its own weird beast because I already had a beautiful little boy who was perfect and I should just be happy with him, but in my heart I knew I wanted another baby so bad that I couldn’t stand it. I wanted my son to have siblings and felt like my love wasn’t complete. My husband would have been fine being one and done, but finally caved for me. After seven months of trying, where it seemed like everyone I had ever known was accidentally getting pregnant, I went to a fertility doctor to get tested. He sort of made fun of me because it hadn’t been a year and it was too early, but did it anyway. My AMH was a .03 which is basically what someone closer to 50 has.

    We went straight to IVF and for my first round I had a single viable egg.

    One.

    But that embryo was like the Highlander and 157 shots and a gazillion tears later he made it.

  4. R says...

    Jessica, you’ve put into words and images a something that I have not been able to fully articulate, even to those closest to me. I want to send this piece to everyone I love, so that they can truly know me and what the past few years have been like for me. The image of the dragon makes me cry and cry; I feel it so deeply. Thank you for your gift of illustration and word, and for sharing your story. Sending you so much energy. xo

  5. julie says...

    I think the hardest thing is that realisation and grief it’s not going to happen. I always wanted to have a family but my husband wasn’t well for 18 years. when he started to get better I was 37 and we tried to no avail. I’m 45 now and I think acceptance is always going to be hard. it’s also tricky dealing with people who assume you never wanted/liked kids and no-one ever openly asks. one thing I know is that there are many others in my situt. love to you all out there xx

    • Emma says...

      Julie, I’m with you. I always wanted a family until an emergency hysterectomy for endometriosis changed my path. I’m still very surprised when I think about the older version of myself (currently in my late 30’s), who I always anticipated would have a dinner table full of grown kids. And the people around me pretty much assume that I never wanted to be a parent, or that I should “just adopt”. Not easy on any front. Sending you love and a big hug xoxo

  6. Girassol says...

    Diagnosed with premature ovarian failure at 36, had just got married and about to start trying for a baby. I can’t put in words how difficult it was, after 2 miscarriages I decided that I would be ok being childless. The truth is that deep inside I still had hopes that it would happen by miracle. This was creating a hidden anxiety and frustration. One day, I had to be really honest with myself and ask how badly I want to be a mother? How far was I prepared to go? It turned out that the answer was I wanted to try all I could and donor egg was still an option. I wanted to do for me, for my desire to experience nurturing a baby, and for my other half as well. Best decision I ever made in my life. I write this at 1.am just after I put my little down for the second time tonight. Donor egg is not for everyone, not an easy decision, for some women the genetic link is really important. What I can say is when I look at my little one my heart is filled with love and happiness.
    It’s heartbroken to read your article and I can totally relate to it. I wish I could give you a big hug. I am not sure if donor egg is an option for you but if it is, in fact for anyone reading this now, think about it.

    • Rachel says...

      Thank you so much for sharing this. I am currently moving through the egg donor process, and every day I am so grateful for this option but also grieving the loss of what I thought my path to motherhood would look like. It’s so helpful to hear your perspective. xo

  7. Alex says...

    My sister has had 3 miscarriages (the farthest she went in terms of fertility treatments was 1 month of clomid.. and she got pregnant). and at this point she won’t talk about it and seems to have stopped trying. It’s hard for me to watch because I want to support her (or show her this blog and how many women go through what she’s going through) but she won’t let me, she’s very closed off/go it alone about everything. Given she has gotten pregnant 3 times I think her chances are probably better than many so I wish she wouldn’t give up. Any thoughts from anyone appreciated. Doubly difficult for me to sit by and do and say nothing because secretly I’m frustrated/resentful because I’m single and haven’t even gotten to start trying yet. And if I do have kids I feel like she will have weird emotions about it/feel resentment toward me.

    • N says...

      Hi Alex,

      This is of course just my opinion but since you asked, I do think it seems like you’re projecting your own feelings about motherhood and the lengths to which you might yourself go to have a baby onto your sister. As someone struggling with infertility myself, I’m very clear in my own mind about what I will and won’t try and which point I may have to “give up.” That being said, I haven’t shared these most private, intimate thoughts with anyone except my partner, including my sister, because I don’t feel it’s anyone else’s business what I will or won’t do to my body in order to have a child. I suggest you perhaps work on your own feelings independently of your sister, perhaps with professional help, and let her go through her journey the way she chooses to – it’s no one’s business or body but her own and so, so incredibly hard to have to talk about (especially if you don’t want to!) with anyone including family and especially if that family is spouting advice that is rooted in their own feelings and not mindful of yours. Tl;dr: this might be harsh but butt out of your sister’s life and perhaps get help for your future-based ruminating that’s giving you these negative thoughts.

    • Girassol says...

      Hi Alex, I am sorry to say but I think you are being a bit selfish by thinking how difficult this is for you! You are even predicting how your sister are going to feel about the children that you don’t even have yet. I went through 2 miscarriages and I am very close to my sister, even so, it was hard for me to talk abou it. And yes, there were moments that I wanted to give up and didn’t want even to listen any suggestion about me trying again. Despite being always against me giving up, my sister never for one second felt she had the right to say anything. She only encouraged me when she felt I was ready to try. She always respected when I didn’t want to talk about it, even if deep inside she was dying to say something. However, she will always give her advise whenever I asked and her support on whatever I decided. This is as simple as that, is not about you and the babies that you don’t even have yet. This is about being there to your sister, when she is ready to discuss that with you. Mostly, it is about you being supportive to whatever she decides and remember is her choice to make, only her choice!

  8. Beth says...

    I’ve been following your story and cartoons for a while and I am always rooting for you. Your stories and art are beautiful and moving, and bring life to what’s often a secret, silent struggle. I so hope you find what you’re looking for in this journey. Thank you for sharing your talents and yourself. <3

  9. Erin says...

    The waiting is so horrible. I waited a year for birth control to leave my system to even start trying. Then had a miscarriage, waiting until the 8 week appointment to find out. After another year of trying we were scheduled to start IVF when I found out I was pregnant 3 days before our start date. At the 7 week ultrasound we found out the pregnancy is not likely viable, but have to wait 5 days to confirm. I still don’t know how to pass the time in anyway that isn’t incredibly painful and lonely. And the rage I feel at delaying IVF for a miscarriage feels too cruel to even put in words. Hope can feel impossible, and I know your optimism is hard won.

  10. Bethany says...

    I have a son now, but infertility was the hardest thing I ever lived through (which sounds very privileged, but truly, my life had its share of tragedies and it was STILL the hardest thing I ever lived through.) I absolutely hated fertility treatments and the flippancy of the fertility clinic, who see it all the time and so behave as though it isn’t a huge personal tragedy for each person, and everyone who knows about it is generally kind but say the most wrong, dumb things. I wrote this when I gave up, and of course got pregnant a month later:

    You try and try and nothing happens. Month after month hunched over the toilet bowl, thinking of the irony of it all: The condoms, the birth control, the Plan-B, the urgent calls to a foreign doctor that year you studied abroad, the reluctance to take the medicine that saved your life because think of the impending pregnancy! Protect the baby! You start to hate pregnancy tests. You start to hate pregnant women. You start to avoid eye contact with mothers, worried that they’ll be able to sense your desperation. You start to avoid the baby aisle at Target, because baby socks make you cry.
    After a year, you say, fuck it, and you adopt another dog. You sign up for hot yoga, which you shouldn’t do, because think of the impending pregnancy! Protect the baby! You book a trip to Mexico, where you shouldn’t go, because think of the impending pregnancy! Protect the baby! I’m not protecting a fucking fictional baby any more, you think.
    You’re not sad. You’re pissed off.
    You’d always secretly hoped for a baby, had munched your little sister’s fat baby arms, had stuck out your tongue at small children in restaurants, had cried when the precocious tween you shepherded from school to dance class for $20 a pop had moved away.
    The doctor says: It’s not going to happen for you. 
    You think, dogs are great, too. You think, the way the world is going, it’s probably for the best. You think, we can travel the world and fix up the whole house and buy beautiful clothes.
    But clean white walls and handmade tiles won’t laugh with flashing dimples like his, and you can’t read Charlotte’s Web and Matilda and The Secret Garden to a closet full of cashmere. You had collected watercolor portraits of your favorite female authors in case you had a girl just like you, but if she wasn’t like you, that was okay, too, and you’d told yourself as a teen that if you could just survive this, you’d fix it with your own family one day, and you’d asked that therapist to ensure you’d never be your mother, and she’d reassured you that you couldn’t be, you weren’t, and, well, she was right. You could never, never, never be your mother. You will never, never, never be a mother at all.
    The bitterness coils itself in the space right under your ribs. It makes you nauseous, but you won’t mistake it for morning sickness. Not again.
    You want to be tragic, stoic, brave, but sometimes you’re simply so angry you can’t breathe or see or get out of bed in the morning.
    Month after month after month the bitterness curls into the space under my ribs and I feel like crumbling into dust and floating off into the wind.

    • pmia says...

      right there w/ you, Bethany. The fear and rage and sadness (and then the hope that keeps coming back, darn it all) .

    • marie says...

      wow. Your writing is so spot on and absolutely perfect. Thanks for sharing, Bethany.

    • Ashley says...

      This literally just brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for sharing!

    • Jess says...

      I feel this so deeply

    • Mackenzie says...

      “think of the impending pregnancy”, that really hits so close to home. From buying the extra travel insurance 2 years ago “in case I’m pregnant and can’t travel overseas” to waiting to buy a dress for a wedding “just in case” only to be crushed and embarrassed you ever had the thought to begin with. To the even more painful making real plans for the pregnancy that did work, only to have those hopes dashed at 10 weeks. So much thought/planning for something that isn’t real, may be real, might only be real for a moment.

    • Kelly P says...

      Wow, this really put words to all of the complicated feelings I have had. I held on to hope for 8 years, second guessing every medication, vacation, exercise plan (?!?) for how it would impact a potential pregnancy. The last few years it’s started to subside and now at 42 the hope is mostly gone. I don’t feel quite so raw all the time and I can finally enjoy other people’s babies again. It’s still so fucking sad (and rage inducing) though. Thanks for sharing this.

  11. Libbynan says...

    I feel immense sadness for people dealing with the entire range of experiences covered by the word “infertility.” I won’t say I feel empathy because I am from a family that runs toward super fertility and we’re far more likely to dread pregnancy. It’s hard for me to imagine striving for pregnancy, but I entirely sympathize. Both of my children are childless by choice. My daughter married an older man who already had as many children as they were prepared to raise; and my daughter-in-law has severe PCOS and neither she or my son wanted to deal with the infertility industry. They felt that they didn’t want a child badly enough to go through the emotional roller coaster that it would involve.
    There are no easy paths or easy answers to the problem of desiring children you are unable to conceive or carry. Heartbreaking is really not a strong enough word for it. All someone like me can do is pray that those suffering are heard and receive either satisfaction or acceptance. God bless you all.

  12. Elise says...

    This was beautiful. I’ve been going through divorce and custody litigation for the past two years (a much, much different situation, and I won’t relate it to infertility), but I can relate to the ongoing battle, and the shame of sometimes wanting to give up, and seeing the value in recognizing what you can’t control.

  13. M says...

    Thank you for sharing this story. Infertility impacts so many lives and yet there is so little discussion about it. I would love to read a piece about male infertility – as I think there is even more shame and less openness around it. As someone who went through ivf with donor sperm because my husband is not able to have biological children, I felt so isolated. Even now after having 2 children, I feel I can’t talk about it with anyone because he’s uncomfortable being open about it. I feel like a horrible person but it filled me with resentment that I was the one who had to go through all the physical and emotional trials of ivf and could not be as open about it as I would have liked. I think hearing from other women who may have gone through something similar would have helped me a lot.

    • A says...

      Me too! We are going through IVF due to my husband’s MFI. If the IVF doesn’t work, my husband does not really want to use donor sperm, but I still want to experience pregnancy. Not sure what we’ll do….I’d love to hear more from couples who have gone through this already.

    • R says...

      M and A. We are in the same situation. So hard to not have people to talk to about this. A if you don’t conceive this way- we ended up talking to a therapist who specializes in reproduction that over time helped my husband agree to donor sperm. I think whether or not he agrees in the end – therapy about it is important to prevent you from being resentful.

    • Jessie says...

      me too! heading into our 4th IVF cycle due to MFI (cryptospermia/ non obstructive azoospermia without known cause). It definitely is it’s own category- even our very well regarded, academic infertility center had a lot to learn! I do feel fortunate that both me and my husband are very open about it so we have a large support system who all know what we are going through. My advice is to advocate for yourself and seek out experts for 2nd opinions.

  14. Wow, this post and all the many comments are so supportive. I miscarried in December and then again just 3 weeks ago. For something that many women go through, it can be so isolating to experience. We do have a toddler, but it doesn’t lessen the pain of secondary infertility.

    I try to imagine that the pregnancies I couldn’t complete are finished by moms in the after life who were unable to bear children while on this earth. The thought that my lost babies are still loved and cared for is a great comfort to me.

    • Lily says...

      I’ve never thought of it that way! I miss my missing babies so much, especially my late term loss. I hope she’s got a mommy in heaven.

    • Kelly P says...

      I’ve never considered that and it is such a lovely thought. Thank you.

  15. pmia says...

    This is beautiful. Thank you for helping us all feel less alone, Jessica.

    I went through a similar struggle–four years of trying and 2 years of IVF (soooo many rounds), three miscarriages and one ectopic pregnancy. And all the things you say: lots of shots (sometimes in weird spots, like a rest stop on a highway or at a music festival), no drinking, no caffeine, no diet drinks, change the way you eat, get more exercise, YOU MUST BE PERFECT / YOU’RE INFERTILITY IS YOUR FLAW, and so on). The feelings are constant, too–like you said, the constant state of anticipation/waiting …disappointment followed by the “one more time” hope. It’s hard. It also took a real toll on our physical relationship. I no long feel sexy or even like a woman. For me, sex still feels like a failed act–I know it’s irrational but I can’t seem to shake it. So, even now–four years later, I’m feeling the echoes of my infertility.

    As a bit of a epilogue (trigger warning for those still trying) – I did have a baby. He will be three in June. We used donor eggs, and I could not love anyone–literally anyone–more than I love him.

  16. Tina Crisas says...

    Oh I so agree about the iui. My doctor also recommended trying iui first, we did 3 and I so regret not having gone straight to ivf. We changed doctors and started ivf. I too read about women having about 15-35 eggs at retrieval! We had five, three good. Luckily, just shy of 43 years old, I gave birth to a healthy baby girl on our first and only round of ivf (in Greece, luckily a big chunk was covered by our insurance). I know it’s a gruelling process, but I’m so thankful I went in with a light heart, I was super happy and content throughout the process and didn’t really think about it, I think that really carried me through personally as I really do understand how hard and heartbreaking it can be.

  17. Shannon says...

    This is gorgeous and heartbreaking and lovely.

  18. Tricia says...

    Jessica, your story is so similar to my own. My heart is so full of love and compassion for you, and for all the women who may be reading this who can also relate. ❤

  19. Theresa says...

    Thank you for sharing your story. I’m sending so much love and light. I was diagnosed with unexplained infertility at 38 after trying for a year. A miscarriage, so many invasive tests, shots, repeated IUI’s, didn’t have money for IVF, etc. etc. It was the most lonely I have ever felt in life and the most depressed. One of my so called best friends got mad at me for not attending her daughter’s birth three days after my miscarriage. I felt so much misunderstanding and weird “comforting”…so much isolation for three years. I say this, to say you are not alone…so many women have been on this infertility journey with different outcomes. Sharing your story will help so many and hope it brings you comfort to express yourself through words and art. All the best to you!

  20. J says...

    Reading this and many of the comments just made me feel so much less alone.

  21. Patricia says...

    My son and daughter-in-law have been struggling with infertility for 5 years. They have been through IVF and had 3 miscarriages. After the last miscarriage (a year ago) they never talk about their plans or treatment. My son never wants to talk about and I don’t know how to broach the subject with my daughter-in-law without sounding like I am being too intrusive or pushing for a grandchild. I feel so helpless. Everyone says to be supportive but I don’t know how.

    • K says...

      Patricia, without knowing the details of the situation, it sounds like just following their lead (by not addressing it at all, *especially* if they’ve specifically requested not to talk about it) is the most supportive course of action here. If your daughter-in-law hasn’t specifically asked you not to talk about it, you could always say “I don’t bring it up because it seems like you’d rather keep your plans private, which I understand and respect. I just want you to know that I’m here for you if ever you do want to talk about it, but I’ll continue to keep quiet otherwise.” And then leave it at that. If you need help handling your own disappointment/fears re: this situation, turn to others in your circle. When it comes to son and daughter-in-law, the only thing you need to let them know is that you love, support, and respect them no matter how the situation plays out. <3

    • pmia says...

      I went through this, too–but as the daughter-in-law. We also kept everything to ourselves. Feeling (or even imagining) others’ anticipation, concern, hope, etc., added a layer of stress, grief, and sadness for us–even as we were trying to process our own feelings. If your son and DIL are staying silent, I think the best thing you can do is just love them for who they are already, and respect their choice to be quiet and private for now. The more space you give, the more free they will feel. I say this without judgement — I imagine you are already doing just that, and that you have only love and best intentions at heart. It’s hard for you, too– . <3

    • L says...

      As someone who is on the other side of this, I agree with PMIA 100%. We chose not to share anything regarding our infertility treatments or miscarriages with our families. There is so much stress, anxiety, and uncertainty in the process, that it was just too much to handle the expectations of others at the same time. Maybe one day I’ll feel differently, but right now it’s simply a coping mechanism. It sounds like you have the best of intentions, and I’d recommend just following their lead and letting go of your own expectations as best you can. If and when there’s something to share, they will tell you.

    • Christina says...

      Please, please, please do not bring up the topic about having babies or fertility treatments or anything of the like with your daughter-in-law or son. The best way to be supportive is to let them bring it up with you if they choose to.

    • B says...

      Totally with PMIA on this as well. We didn’t tell my in-laws what we were going through though they knew we had been trying for years. I knew how much my MIL wanted grandkids and that she was concerned/anxious about us, but she was really sweet and never ever once pressed us for details. What I appreciated most was how she loved and treated me exactly as she did when I first joined the family. It felt really reassuring and eventually I got comfortable enough to share some (not all) details of what we were doing and that worked out well for both of us.

  22. Denise says...

    I lived your story…for almost three years. Everything you have mentioned…..was me and the thousands or millions who, well…struggle with the inability to conceive….I actually miscarried, (and had hope…odd I know….), then had an ectopic pregnancy with the added bonus of surgery …..but again, hopeful after all the shots, bloodwork, early morning appointments, etc….it would happen…..
    At year 2 and 1/2, I was pregnant. It was a very difficult pregnancy whereby I had hyperemesis gravidarum for 36 weeks. Then other issues set in…..
    My son was born 4 weeks early after my husband found us unconscious. I lived in critical care for four months and he did too. Unfortunately, he did not make it, and well, yeah……
    I only say this as I went through therapy for many years second guessing if what I did was worth all the heartache. I only saw my son 4 times for a few minutes as I was on a vent, and then a lung transplant list….
    I know in my heart I would do it again…..for the chance of happiness…
    BTW…..My husband and I adopted two girls after I started to improve…..and they are the light of my life…..
    Adopting my girls was the best thing we could have done….
    Best of luck

    • Abby says...

      Thank you so much for sharing your story. I am sorry you went through so much and am grateful for your sharing. It gives me hope when I see the light and joy that adoption can bring. It does not heal the pain and grief from infertility and loss. But all of it exists together I guess.

  23. A says...

    I have commented exactly once in the many years I have been reading Cup of Jo, but something in this post and all of the comments compelled me to do so now. I feel like everything Jessica wrote is so spot on. Just. Wow.

    After waiting 7 years to have children after getting married, we tried for a year on our own and then spent two years doing numerous rounds of IUI, and finally IVF when we were about to max out our insurance benefits. When it came time to harvest my eggs, I spent the night before the retrieval in agony, due to Ovarian Hyper Stimulation Syndrome (too many eggs), but terrified that if I told my doctor he would cancel the retrieval. Out of 25 eggs, 3 made it and were fertilized; 2 embryos were implanted and 1 frozen. At 6 weeks I lost 1 embryo to vanishing twin syndrome. But then, miraculously, I gave birth to an amazing baby girl. When she was 6 weeks old I discovered that my husband had been having an affair that had started while I was pregnant. We eventually divorced and in the divorce decree he insisted we donate the remaining frozen embryo to science. Five years later he had a child with his affair-turned-wife, while I remain a single mother with full custody of our daughter, who was diagnosed with Autism when she was two.

    Would I change any of it? Never. The joy my daughter brings me is unparalleled. What’s my point in telling this story? The pain of infertility is even more than we may know or understand at the moment we are trying to conceive – it can end marriages, make you question your body (would I have a child with Autism if she had been born “naturally”), and can literally destroy you (more than once I found myself on the floor of the bathroom wondering how I would make it through the next minute of the day). But sometimes, things happen the way the should, exactly. Would I have had the courage to leave my marriage if I hadn’t had a child? Or if I had had more than one? Would I have changed my career, moved and rebuilt my network of friends, and be at peace with my life? Although in times of anger or sadness I often think “This isn’t how my life was supposed to be”, maybe it actually was.

    • Becky says...

      Damn. You are a warrior. I am so sorry to hear about all your loss and disappointment, most especially your trust and the future you thought you were building. I personally can’t relate to anything you have said but my heart and gut still feel an aching for you. But I see all you have gained and I know that what you have been through has built an incredibly strong woman and parent as well as a great inspiration for your daughter.

    • Shoshana says...

      Just wanted to send you love for sharing this.

    • A says...

      Becky, thank you. ❤️

    • Erin says...

      I think that for people who’ve come out the other side of infertility or pregnancy loss with a living child, it’s easier to think “things happened they way they should”, because any deviation would mean not having that beloved child in your life.

      But for those haven’t come out the other side–who don’t know if they’ll ever make it there, or what shape it will take–it can be painful to hear things framed that way.

    • A says...

      Hi Erin,

      Please believe me when I say it is not my intention to cause anyone more pain in this already painful journey. I know that the whole “things happen for a reason” comments were infuriating after every unsuccessful month of trying to get pregnant. My point in commenting with my story was more cathartic than anything so I appreciate your indulging me in telling it. For me, personally, saying “things often work out the way they should” helped me to stop blaming myself for all of the feelings of failure and Inadequacies I struggled with for years. I realize too, however, that not everyone’s journey is the same. Wishing you nothing but strength and hope and peace as you travel this path.

    • A says...

      Thank you, Shoshana. It felt good to finally share.

    • Cheryl says...

      Hearing something painful is nothing like experiencing it and you have been through hell and back. Life can be so beautiful and yet so tragic, it’s best we explore those extremes bravely. Share away.

    • Emma says...

      A, this sounds like an excruciating journey, with the beautiful bright spot of your daughter. I’m so sorry for everything that you’ve been through, and I can’t imagine how awful the affair situation and aftermath must have been for you. It’s clear through your writing that you are such a wise and strong woman, and no doubt an incredible role model for your little girl. She is lucky to have a mama like you, and no doubt you have so many years of happiness ahead together. Wishing you all the best, xoxo

  24. Kasey says...

    After easily getting pregnant with our first daughter, I went on to have 2 miscarriages, a chemical pregnancy and a whole lot of anxiety. It took over 2 years but after bloodwork that showed low progesterone and folate problems, I finally got pregnant. The first trimester was hell, fearing for the worst and just waiting for it to happen. I would go to the bathroom up to a dozen times a day just looking for something. I went on to deliver a healthy baby girl. My anxiety 2 years later is still there but the pain of heartbreak is lessened. My heart goes out do anyone in this situation.

  25. A says...

    Laura Bush had this to say about infertility which really spoke to me – The English language lacks the words to mourn an absence. For the loss of a parent, grandparent, spouse, child or friend, we have all manner of words and phrases, some helpful some not. Still we are conditioned to say something, even if it is only “I’m sorry for your loss.” But for an absence, for someone who was never there at all, we are wordless to capture that particular emptiness. For those who deeply want children and are denied them, those missing babies hover like silent ephemeral shadows over their lives. Who can describe the feel of a tiny hand that is never held?

    As someone who has dealt with male factor infertility and later welcomed two children via adoption, I want to just advocate a little for adoption. I was fortunate to grow up in a church and community knowing lots of adopted kids and so I already thought of it as normalized which was a tremendous gift to me later. I know it can seem very uncharted and scary to venture into adoption but I’d encourage folks just to set up intro calls with an adoption or foster agency just to check it out. I know it stings when people offhandedly ask “why don’t you just adopt?” But i can’t tell you how much of a gift my kids are to me and the privilege I get to hold in raising them. It is not a second best option.

  26. Anna Castellano says...

    I see you coffeeslp. I appreciate your share.

  27. Helen says...

    THANK YOU. As someone who has struggled with infertility and multiple pregnancy losses – Ladies, I feel you and you are not alone.

  28. P says...

    Thank you for sharing your story. It took three years and two miscarriages before we finally had our beautiful baby girl. This weekend would have been the due date for our first, and even though we now, miraculously, have a second daughter as well, I still catch myself thinking about those two little ones we lost, and wishing I could have known them, or even just carried them for longer than I was able to. I love and adore my daughters and I am so endlessly grateful for them, but I’ll never forget the weight of grief and anticipation and longing during those three years. And I think for the rest of my life, I’ll always wonder who those two little ones would have been.

  29. AK says...

    Thank you for this, Jessica. I’ve been struggling with infertility for two years and your line about infertility being shameful for women really brought into focus what I’ve been feeling. I feel shame for not being able to fulfill my “female destiny” and shame for thinking that a baby will complete me. My feminist brain cannot compute and I’m tired of being sad all of the time. Sending you support and the peace that you deserve.

  30. Coffeeslp says...

    Re: primary infertility v secondary infertility. I’m not shaming you. I’m so jealous of you that I can hardly manage my own feelings. Re: infertile right up until the point that you got pregnant and had your baby. Same. My infertility story doesn’t end with a baby or any child at all. I’m just lucky it ends with the love and support of my husband. So here I am, 48 years old, married for 25 years, still occasionally looking around, startled, wondering where the child I never had is.

    • Kris says...

      Thank you for saying this. I agree. While IVF for primary and secondary infertility involve the same treatments and medical traumas, and I have no doubt the emotional rollercoaster of that is similar, it is qualitatively different to be fighting to become a parent at all. It is so hard to be on the outside looking in of “the parent club.”

  31. Julie says...

    I just found out this morning that my cousin is pregnant. That’s three of them now. I try to feel happy, I really do, but I can’t find the joy in it any more. It seems so easy for everyone else, I’ve been trying for 6 years and I’m turning 41 next week. So many baby showers, every year, there’s now going to be around 23 great grandchildren on that side of the family. And just…nothing for me. Every month nothing. And if my period is late I get excited, and then hopeful, and then BOOM.

    It sucks. And I’m sorry for everyone else who is going through it.

    • Alicia says...

      Julie…I’m right there with you girl. I’ve been trying for 6 years as well.
      We are in the adoption process but that is feeling hopeless in the moment.
      We had a baby and they took it away because the father came back. Long story….In any case, it sucks. And like you many cousins, friends, aquaintances pregnant. Why not us, right? I literally unfollow them because I can’t take it. I just can’t. I don’t know why we are going through this, but I’m trying to choose the idea that it’s for a reason, it better be damn good one too. Love to you sister, I’ll pray for both of us…and anyone else who is this club.

  32. Diana says...

    Your story and insight have been tremendously helpful to me as I struggle with infertility. I just started my first round of IVF after several failed IUIs and countless friends getting pregnant around me seemingly easily. Your point about punishing myself resonated given I am contemplating giving up things that make happy (ie running, an occasional glass of wine, seeing friends bc fear of yet another pregnancy announcement). Despite my doctor saying these things can be okay, I feel like I need to do anything and everything to control something that can’t be controlled. So true that there is no magic bullet, just more hopeful waiting. Thank you.

  33. Ella says...

    Someone said to me once infertility felt like a longing and that hit hard. It wasn’t that I was jealous of my friends having babies it was that I achingly longed to have one of my own. I felt every one of these images and stories so hard. Even now finally holding my little one I still feel that pain when I read this.

  34. Laura says...

    I kept coming back to this piece in my mind yesterday. So beautiful and raw. Thank you for your willingness and bravery to share it with us.

  35. Brenda says...

    Thank you Cup of Jo for publishing on this topic and Jessica for your bravely and openly sharing your story. I wanted a child and to be a mother from deep in my soul, more than anything ever. Ultimately, there were miscarriages and all the rounds of IVF didn’t work (which was its own journey of emotional and physical exhaustion and incredible financial hardship). My husband and I chose have no regrets there, we did what we could, as much as we could. And then, to add insult to injury, I ended up needing a hysterectomy (for other reasons), which was the universe firmly closing that door. The pain was so deep and cutting for so many years and it felt isolating and even well-meaning friends mostly cannot understand the crushingness. For me, there would be no rainbow babies, no miracle birth coming. In my experience (just my own personal story), all the talk about donor eggs and surrogacy and adoption became this overwhelming pressure, each with its own urgency and stress. My husband and I had to carve out the space to grieve and center around what a child meant to us together and what our relationship and journey of nurturing together in the world meant. For us, esp. as we continued to age during this whole process, it wasn’t a baby at all costs – but still, the disappointment has at times been unbearable.
    Sometimes that is the path – and all I could do was trust there is a different plan for my life, one I could not and cannot see in the moment but is there. Not everyone who yearns to be a mother will be. I wish and hope your dreams to come true but if not, all I can promise you is that time does heal, but time takes….well…time.

  36. Sam says...

    In the last 18 months, sister has lost two babies back-to-back at 20ish weeks gestation. They come out with little, perfect feet at that point. The loss of life is very hard to bear, of course, but just as painful is the constant, easy march of everyone else towards the life they want, the rich life of family, which for better or worse, society is just built around. It is one kind of sad for your babies to die, another kind of sad for your day-to-day life and your future to be empty of the tasks and relationships you hoped for, and yet another kind of sad to be excluded from a dominant community. It feels like having to sit on the curb at recess while everyone else gets to play.

  37. B says...

    I wonder if those of us who go through infertility ever get over it?

    I was one of the lucky ones to make it to the other side after 7 years of trying. During which I withdrew from social media simply because it was too painful to see the joy of other families that I so so desperately wanted but which seemed so so out of reach.

    My baby’s now a toddler and I still haven’t made it back on social media. I can’t bring myself to post anything kid-related because who knows somewhere out there, it might cause a momentary pang of pain to someone? And seeing such posts still weirdly brings up a lot of mixed emotions for me. I’m not sure why?

    I also find myself grieving a little every time I give away the clothes my kid outgrows because, much as I would have liked to keep them for a new baby, the long-drawn battle with infertility has rendered us out of time and options for a second one.

    So even as I am out of the trenches, eternally grateful for the joy that is my kid, there are still moments where it feels like I’ve got a phantom limb that’s still stuck in no man’s land,

    • G says...

      I know how you feel…those baby clothes I have give away and those excuses to answers why he wants a sibling, and then making excuses why he does not want a sibling, then in moments alone when he shares he is jealous of other kids with siblings. Second infertility is just as hard.

    • Shoshana says...

      I went through infertility long ago (thankfully I had children) but I still feel pangs when I see or hear that someone is pregnant. I don’t know if it ever goes away although I could not be more thankful for my family.

    • Bethany says...

      I really do believe in infertility trauma. I think everyone thinks that because I have a child now, I should be fixed, but I genuinely feel like I have PTSD from going through infertility sometimes. Of course I’m thrilled and thankful and happy and it’s not like I think about it all the time, but boy, I still do have a lot of emotions when people announce pregnancies.

  38. Caroline says...

    I can empathize. It’s very lonely. I went through it as well but I was older and had a biological child. We tried to have another and I miscarried and then my husband had cancer which ended the trying.
    We decided on egg and sperm donation and have a fun, spirited 7 year old. My husband was very edgy during the egg/sperm selection phase and the lead up to the birth. He found the process too technical and I was an emotional mess. But we now have a child that we love so much. We told her about her origins a few years ago and now she brings it up occasionally and it is very matter of fact. I was adopted so we share an atypical beginning.

    I hated everything up until the birth. It was so fraught. I was so unsure we were doing the right thing. But I’m so glad we went the route we did. Love is love.

  39. Kate says...

    Thank you for sharing so vulnerably, and beautifully. You are helping so many women. I had a terrible fear of infertility in my 20’s, which I was so fortunate never came true. My challenges came once I was pregnant with a high risk baby. My sincere wishes that you get the baby you so desperately want.

  40. Kelly Young says...

    Infertility is the hardest experience I’ve ever gone through. The therapist I was seeing at the time told me that infertility had me stuck in a never ending grief cycle. I could not process through each month’s loss because a new month would put me back in the beginning of the cycle. I was like a grief zombie floating through life, mad at everyone for their joy of any kind, but mostly mad at myself and my body.

    • Kelley says...

      “Mad at everyone for their joy of any kind, but mostly mad at myself and my body.” YES. This exactly. I was so angry all the time. Just so fucking angry.

  41. Katheryn says...

    Very moving and powerful. I’m certain these beautiful cartoons will help many. It took us over 2 years, and a miscarriage before we finally had our son. It was one of the hardest, loneliest times of my life, and took me to a very dark place.
    It has however made me stronger, more empathetic and appreciative.
    I absolutely agree letting someone say how shit it is, without the ‘helpful’ comments is the best way to support.
    Thankyou for sharing this and best wishes for Jessica and her husband and the other commenters here x

  42. Hannah says...

    I feel you. I feel this. Our first appointment with a specialist is next week – we’ve been trying unsuccessfully for a year now and I’ve been taking vitamins for 1.5 years.

    I’ve only told my sister about this – telling other people in RL feels like putting more pressure on me, because I fear they’d be looking for signs of pregnancy.

    What makes it harder is that so many women I know are getting pregnant easily, right away. Like the friend that just got off the pill and was pregnant (planned) immediately. My sister, who basically got pregnant with twins right away. And the other friend who is having her second now. I could go on…

    I try to take deep breaths and remind myself that every woman, every body is different. I try to relax (also because my doctor told me to), but we’re in a pandemic. I try to be kind to myself, but sometimes it’s hard. Hearing/reading stories like this reminds me that I’m not alone. So thank you. <3

  43. Sarah says...

    Even several years out from IVF (6 rounds, ooph) this brings me right back. You articulate the entire experience so well. That cycle of optimism that you refer to is so real, and such a relief when the hopeful place returns, even if only briefly. My favorite is the art with the dragon; it’s so exhausting to have to be “a warrior” all the time (in infertility and with other medical diagnoses) and such a relief to find peace. I’m wishing this for you in whatever form it takes.

    • Sarah says...

      I’m just starting this journey and I’m asking myself what sort of attitude should I take on? Realistic? Hopeful? Optimistic?

      I think aiming for peace is probably the most sensible. I’ll know in my heart when I’ve had enough. Thank-you for that.

  44. Elisabet says...

    You capture it so well…all the feelings. A friend of mine started IVF after me and she said that she was only worried about the shots. I didn’t know what to do but I explained her that this was, by far, the easy part.
    My IVF worked and I have a baby now and every time I am waking down the street and see a woman looking at the buggy or the baby when in the carrier I wonder if she is me a year and a half ago, looking at babies and feeling exactly as in your picture. I kinda want to walk around with a sign saying “IVF baby you too can do it” because not every baby you see was conceived easy but you just asume it was. Sending a big hug

    • L says...

      I love this comment, and needed this reminder today. I am in the midst of infertility/recurrent miscarriage hell and it really does seem like every. single. person around me is pregnant right now. I mean, even the panda at the National Zoo had a miracle pregnancy last year. I am almost certainly that woman looking at the stroller, automatically assuming that every baby was conceived easily (I apologize for the dirty looks I’m throwing your way). My much-more-rational husband is always reminding me of this – we don’t know what is happening behind closed doors.

    • K says...

      Yes, this is so true. When I was going through infertility/miscarriage hell (describes it accurately!), I felt like everyone else seemed to get pregnant so easily. Although some do, after I finally got pregnant via IVF and was going to the ObGyn for it, 3 female doctors that I saw (a group practice where I would sometime see the other doctor when my primary one wasn’t available) each told me they also went through IVF too to have their kid(s). When they had talked to me about their kid(s) before I just assumed they had them without IVF/IUI, etc. Also, I can’t imagine having to see pregnant people everyday while struggling with infertility.

  45. Maelle says...

    Oh Jessica, thank you for sharing this. I can’t imagine what it feels like going through all of this, and i can only send you and all of the women struggling right now a big virtual hug.

    My comment will be a bit different as i am not struggling with infertility, but i am a single 30 year old woman and have been thinking a lot about this lately. The part where you say that people comment you should have tried to have kids sooner and that circumstances don’t always work out that way particularly resonated. When people ask me if i want kids and that i shouldn’t wait too much, it makes me want to scream. Because i wish by now i would have found a partner and i wish i had kids, or at least the prospect of having kids in a not so distant future. But i don’t and it’s not by choice. I know the more i wait, the more likely it will be difficult for me to have children.
    Old friends and even acquaintances i haven’t talked to in a really long time suddenly message me out of the blue to announce that they are pregnant, and i admit it is hard for me to be happy for them because it feels exactly like you said: someone is missing from my life, and the longing for them is becoming almost physical. I know i am still young and i still potentially have time, but here where i live we are beginning a third lockdown now which makes it impossible to meet people and i just feel so lonely. I don’t see things changing for me anytime soon. I am desperate for a little bit of hope.

    • Stacey says...

      I just want to say I was in your exact situation all the way until 36 when I met my amazing partner, who was worth the wait (although it’s easier to say now that I’m not in the longing phase). Sending a ray of hope!

    • J says...

      Maelle, I had social infertility too. I feel your pain. I lived ten years on the outside looking in, coming home to an empty house while my friends were getting married and having babies. I was a couple months shy of 38 when I met my husband. One year later we were married with a baby on the way. I had her at 40, our son at 42 and our second son at 46. My husband and I are living our happily ever after now. Our marriage and family are stronger for what we went through to find each other. For the last 14 years I have been praying for all of you in that same situation my husband and I were in, I know what it’s like. It’s so hard.

    • Maelle says...

      Stacey and J, thank you so much for your responses and for sharing your stories. It did gave hope, and i desperately needed it. Big hugs to you both

    • Amanda says...

      Maelle, I felt that way exactly when I was 30. I didn’t meet my husband until I was 36, and then we didn’t get married until I was 39 – now I’m 40 and have had 2 chromosomal miscarriages last year and we are doing IVF for genetic testing. If there was ONE THING I would have done differently it would be to have frozen my eggs around 36 – even though I had met him. It’s costly and emotional, but it will buy you time and free you from some anxiety.

      In the meantime, try to enjoy your solo pursuits and keep looking for that partner (when you can) and then taking breaks when dating gets to be too much. One day you’ll look back with fondness on your time as a single woman living on your own. Also – there is a Vogue article about being pregnant after 40 that I read once every few weeks to inspire me! Big hugs.

  46. Lisa says...

    Thank you for this. I’m due to start IVF again next week.
    We struggled to conceive our first child, went through medication to encourage ovulation, then IUI and then finally conceived through the first round of IVF. We were wary of having to go through all of that again, so we were a bit lax with birth control, and conceived our second around the time our eldest turned one. We then decided when number 2 was around 18 months that we were ready to have a third. I was stupidly optimistic and thought I would conceive straight away, given I had been pregnant twice before but … nothing. We went back to the same consultant, and went through IVF again, conceived straight away. However, from the beginning something felt off. I was waiting for morning sickness to kick in from six or seven weeks, but nothing. I was so anxious when we went for the scan at 8 weeks, thinking that once that was done I would feel OK, but the nurse told us that the fetus was measuring small – 6 weeks instead of 8. We had to wait two weeks for the next scan, where they told us that the fetus hadn’t grown any further and I had a medically managed miscarriage. The grief of that feels so great I can only handle it in waves, each one getting smaller but still coming.
    Infertility has been part of my life on and off for nearly ten years now. It affects everything – whether or not you stay in the same job, take a promotion or not, move, what you eat, what you drink. I have one friend (now pregnant) who wanted to casually discuss having a third, saying she was thinking about it. I can’t imagine saying “I think I’ll have another child” because I know there are no guarantees. Someone once told me you can only control how many children you don’t have, not how many you have. Another friend had a baby a few months ago, and she said “I can’t even remember when I had my period so I wasn’t sure of the due date.” I have no idea what that’s like. Even this month, when I’m trying to just not notice because we’re starting IVF next cycle, I still notice my discharge, how I’m feeling, and can tell you exactly where I am in my cycle without having to check the fertility app I use.
    My thoughts for everyone going through this. It is dark and lonely and scary.

  47. Nina says...

    I dealt with infertility. At first it was this overwhelming fear that parts of my body were ‘old’ while I was only 31. Then it was the guilt that I was letting down generations of women that came before me. I felt like I was failing my grandmother and great-grandmother. Infertility is such a mind-f*ck.

  48. Jen polenzani says...

    Thank you for sharing. Not enough people do. My story is the same as yours, almost exactly. After three years of treatment t and failed IVf/iuii embraced egg donor. It was scary and hard to wrap my head around but we went for it. There were problems along the way but we ended up with a pregnancy and twins who are onto 10. We also had left over eggs and donated the to another couple, thus another child and family. Now, looking back, I remember the pain and agony but it’s just a part of the trail that led to my kiddos. Hang in there. It might not be the trail or path you expected, but the souls of your baby is coming.

  49. Christie says...

    Thank you for sharing your story. I have been pregnant five times – two ectopic pregnancies (one which burst and nearly killed me), two miscarriages, and one healthy girl.

    I discovered when I turned 30 that I was suffering from early menopause, which meant my egg count was extremely low. After a solid year of fertility treatments I needed to accept that our family would be complete with our one beautiful girl.

    But your point about “it feels like someone is missing” is so true. I just somehow know that there was meant to be a little boy with us, and he didn’t make it. That grief hasn’t completely gone away and I feel like it probably never will.

  50. K says...

    This was heartbreaking to read. To have such a primal want unmet feels devastating. I am sending you lots and lots of abundance vibes. Whatever path you must decide upon in the next few years, your life will no doubt be supremely fulfilling. You are in control of that always.

  51. Monica says...

    I just wanted to share how beautifully this was written and my heart goes out to Jessica.

  52. E says...

    Love and thanks to Jessica and everyone commenting here.

    Can I ask those who’ve been through it whether it would be helpful to send this essay or JO’s insta to a friend on an IVF journey? Will my friend struggling with infertility want to see this, or will I hurt her by “bringing it up” myself?

    • Julie says...

      You could always say, “hi friend, I’ve been thinking of you. I saw a really lovely article by a woman experiencing infertility and the cartoons she draws to cope. I would love to send it to you if you think it’d be helpful, but totally respect if you’d rather me not. As always, I’m here for you.”

    • kristin says...

      I have several friends who went through infertility. Most of them found that just reading the comments helped them to not feel alone.

    • chelsea says...

      I agree with asking first as it could go either way. I’m not sure I’d want someone to send this to me BUT having it sent and hearing “This gave me a little understanding of what you’re going through” would mean a lot. I sent it to my husband to help him understand all the emotions I have right now.

    • J says...

      As someone who is a friend on an IVF journey, I think acknowledging their pain and experience would be so appreciated!

  53. Amanda says...

    As a reader who has experienced secondary infertility, I can sympathize with your pain and the ups and downs every month and charting everything humanly possible. It really is a mostly silent struggle. Sending you support and all of the hugs, Jessica.

  54. A new mom says...

    Thank you for sharing your story, Jessica. I remember each stage of my infertility journey so vividly and have been thinking about how I want to document it- for myself, for my husband, for our daughter, family members, friends and even strangers. Your illustrations have brought me to tears more than a few times because of how relatable they are to my own story. You have your own unique journey, but conjure up what so many of us have gone through with infertility.

    Our doctor was very straightforward with us and told us we needed to go straight into IVF. After two unsuccessful rounds, I went on a really intense protocol that almost broke me. The doctor (who I am the biggest fan of) said if round 3 doesn’t work, we would likely need to get a gestational carrier. When round 3 didn’t work (all three ended in chemical pregnancies for me- the same issue I was having when trying naturally), I laid on my floor, shaking and sobbing/crying for hours. I spent the subsequent days like that. I felt like I broke my body, failed as a woman, and that having a baby was so far I couldn’t even imagine it. After spending my whole life imagining being a mother, I lost that hopeful image through the trauma of not being able to conceive. Looking back, and even in the moment, I’m so grateful that our doctor was direct with us about our options. I felt that she understood my husband and I and was able to advise us appropriately. I don’t know if that same suggestion would have been right for everyone (for a variety of reasons), but for us it was.

    We opted into the gestational carrier route immediately and were matched within a few months with a superhero carrier (and her husband and daughter). That was just one part of our journey. The pregnancy was very challenging, our daughter was born prematurely, and she has a chronic condition that may require a donor in the future with the most success shown from a sibling. When I thought my emotional strength couldn’t be tested more than it has been, our journey continues to push my limits. We know we want to have another child, and like our daughter’s arrival, we never imagined a journey like this.

    I’m so emotionally tired. I am committed to doing whatever it takes to improve my daughter’s life with her medical condition. But I am so physically tired. I’m so grateful to have a little family to call my own. But I’m still sad that I couldn’t carry my own children. I haven’t emotionally or physically recovered from the grief that came with IVF, and I’m not sure how.

  55. Susan says...

    Thank you for sharing. It is beautiful worded and very honest. I applaud your vulnerability. I appreciate the advice to just listen and give friends space to complain without my well meaning comments. Xo

  56. LS says...

    Great article! There are a few things I want to add – not for the author’s sake, but for readers who aren’t familiar with the wonderful world of infertility:

    1. Jessica is really lucky to have her treatment covered. Most US insurance doesn’t cover infertility, leaving lots of people to choose between raiding their savings, taking out a loan, or moving on without ever having the chance to try.

    2. Lots of relatively young people also go through infertility. I was 26 when my husband and I started trying. People have an uncanny way of saying crappy things no matter the circumstances. In the beginning, even my ob-gyn told me I just needed to relax and I had plenty of time.

    2a. Now that enough time has passed to prove I’m REALLY infertile (and I’ve hit my 30s), I get the adoption suggestion more often. (FYI – adoption is also expensive, complicated, and not guaranteed.)

    3. One study suggests the psychological symptoms associated with infertility are similar to those associated with cancer:

    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8142988/

    • Julie says...

      The relaxing comment! WHY??? I had a work friend say that to me and I was angry the whole day.

      Relax. Yes, that will make my junk magically work.

  57. S says...

    Thank you Jessica and everyone else for sharing your stories. As many other posters have noted, infertility (and pregnancy loss) is an incredibly isolating experience. I’m approaching my sixth egg retrieval, using donor sperm because my husband had a genetic mutation that means he doesn’t produce sperm. We have a beautiful, rambunctious 3 year old daughter from the same donor through IUI. Since starting IVF to try to have our second child, I’ve had a miscarriage at 9 weeks and two chemical pregnancies. I’m 38 going on 39 and we’re almost out of donor sperm from this donor. Some days I feel like we will never give our daughter the sibling we (and she) want so badly. Other days I’m hopeful, even convinced, this round will be the one. And thanks to everyone sharing here, today I feel a little less alone in this.

  58. Lucy says...

    Jessica, thank you for sharing your story. Although you mention that there is no upside to infertility, talking about it openly is so valuable. It’s like a superpower that can make other people going through this horrible journey feel a little more seen. Sending you virtual hugs.

  59. Rae says...

    In the same way doctors are starting to shy away from using military language such as ‘fight’ or ‘battle’ or ‘failure’ for beating cancer, I try really hard not to use words or phrases that suggest infertility can be overcome with extra effort, if they just tried enough or harder.
    Everyone’s fertility is unique to them. I don’t know the ins and outs of their treatment plan or their decision-making process. Not everyone has the means to try, to keep trying, or to look at alternative options. Nothing I say is insightful, helpful, or new information.

    https://powerfulpatients.org/2019/04/24/words-matter-why-cancer-isnt-a-game-of-winners-or-losers/

  60. Heather says...

    Thank you for sharing – I know this is specific to your infertility story, but so much of it can be applied to other challenges and aspects of life. Your sequence about battles really resonated with me – its something I need to work on. Wishing you peace and clarity!

  61. Kris says...

    My heart hurts for you, Jessica. And I am with you. I am also three years in. We can make chromosomally-normal embryos but I’ve had 6 uterine surgeries, 4 transfers, and nothing. No one can even tell me whether it’s a uterine or embryo issue.

    I loved the part about whether infertility is like death. It certainly has that feeling of loss as you let go of innocence after innocence: the idea that sex makes a baby, the idea that medical treatments work, the idea that pregnancy means a baby. Slowly, you have to let go of the idea of what your family would look like. To me it also feels like what I imagine a gambling addiction is like: you keep thinking your big break, the one thing that will make it all worth it, is just around the corner. And so you keep trying. Add in people who tell you it will all be fine because their infertility treatments worked, or their friend’s did, and you add loneliness to these already-difficult feelings. It is just so hard and so sad.

    Thank you for sharing your story, and to Cup of Jo for hosting an infertility story that doesn’t end with a baby.

  62. Julia says...

    When I was 32 we learned my husband had extremely low sperm count and we went through IVF 3 times, maxed out our insurance and finally got a miracle. One thing I didn’t understand before this journey was that it takes a long time. The medicine is very serious; the emotional pain of a failed cycle is devastating. I felt like a broken person after each cycle failed and spent the weekend crying on my couch holding my partner. We did 3 cycles in 14 months, juggling work schedules and the battery of tests and appointments and checklists and taking turns being emotionally strong for each other. I went to 55 dr appts from start to finish with the cycle that turned into a healthy pregnancy. It is an incredibly difficult journey. I felt extremely alone for a long time and then I started telling people. On my team at work, 4/7 women did IVF. Can you believe that?? All of them became moms, too. I was covered in such incredible love and support and nurturing care when I told them. I finally felt free from some of the burden I’d been carrying, the secrecy, the shame, the guilt, the feelings of failure and despair. And I resolved to share my story with my friends and acquaintances more freely because I saw the unique ways other women were supporting me. I finally got my miracle, and every day I tell her she is my dream come true. Jessica, you are brave and strong and honest. And I am sending you a big hug and hope for the future that you get the family you dream of. Thank you COJ, for amplifying this brilliant voice.

  63. Caitlin says...

    My story is different, but the emotions in the comics are the same. I previously had two children in my early twenties. I turned 30 and then subsequently had 3 miscarriages. I know that I’m unbelievably lucky to have not one, but two living children. I TOTALLY get it. I’m so grateful for them. I’m also so sad that I cannot build myself a bigger family. Secondary infertility is hard because I feel like I’m shamed from the infertility community. I already have children so my pain is somehow less. But it’s not. My pain is just like their pain. All of my miscarriages have been devastating. I would not wish any type of infertility on anyone. It’s so hard in so many ways. You never know how your story is going to end. Do I keep going or do I stop and give up? It’s like playing this awful “will I or won’t I get a child” game with your life. Thank you so much, Jessica, for sharing your story. I know how heart wrenching infertility is and I wish that I could somehow ease the pain.

    • Dawn says...

      Your pain is so valid, Caitlin.

    • Colleen says...

      There are support groups for secondary infertility. Your story is no less painful but it’s not the same. It’s important to recognize that you already being a mother can be triggering for women who have very few safe spaces to go. I speak as someone who has spent majority of their thirties trying to get pregnant. Wishing you all the best. You deserve to grow your family in which ever way you want.

    • Laura says...

      Caitlin, I just wanted to say I’m so sorry that you feel shamed by other people experiencing infertility. I would imagine that only contributes to the devastation.

      I am currently navigating a primary infertility diagnosis but I know I will be heartbroken if I cannot have more than one child. If the “journey” of infertility has taught me anything, it’s that people are capable of feeling complex emotions that may even seem contradictory to other people. You can be happy for the children you have while being devastated by the struggle to have more.

      Sending you love and wishing you all the best.

    • Julie says...

      Caitlin, as someone who is infertile with no children, don’t listen to those who would make you feel guilty about your pain. Everyone is different. Your grieving is so valid. ALL of this is hard. I’m so sorry for your losses.

  64. Nicole says...

    This is heartbreakingly beautiful. Thank you for sharing, Jessica.

    • K says...

      Thank you for sharing Jessica. It reminds me so much of the journey my husband and I have come with infertility. 3+ years total actively trying (multiple miscarriages, trying, IUI’s, IVF). So much pain physically, socially, emotionally. So much money, so much therapy. I remember thinking I couldnt wait to be on the other side and to know what the ending of this story would be. The waiting is so difficult. I am glad I am there but my goodness, it was so SO hard. I wouldn’t wish it on anybody. The up and down cycles of hope and depression, the pain when seeing mothers/pregnant woman and their babies (and wanting to be happy for them and hating myself that it hurt to see! Only because it brought up such complicated feelings/memories), the hardship on our marriage, the guilt of whether I did something wrong, the shame, feeling less than a woman than others and like there was something wrong with my body, wondering why me?? And then putting up with all the comments from others. Oh so many comments! Almost every social situation I would hope for someone who had a conversation starter that didn’t include when I was going to have kids… like it was some light topic that I had control of….as if the creation of human life is really just up to us! So many tears, so much heartache. I thank you for putting it all so beautifully into words and art. I wish you much comfort in this hard journey. It is not fair.

      You are loved…

  65. Rachel B says...

    Sending you strength. I’m in my two week wait following my 3rd round of IVF.. also known as hell. Your comics make me feel like there is someone out there who understands me, thank you.

  66. Nicole says...

    Your comics make me feel less sad and less alone in this infertility journey!!

  67. A says...

    Your comics mean so much to me, and I wish I could send this article to everyone I know. After a year of trying, my husband and I found out that he is essentially sterile due to an extremely rare gene mutation (that thankfully doesn’t affect anything other than sperm production). We’re now doing a round of IVF/ICSE with the hope of using the couple of sperm found in his latest medicated sample. If that doesn’t work I don’t know what we’ll do. He doesn’t want to use a donor but I still want to experience pregnancy/have a biological child. It just all feels so unfair, especially since I am now the only woman in my friend group without children. Infertility sucks. Thanks for making me feel a little less alone this evening. <3

  68. AJ says...

    Jessica, your words and pictures really capture so much. My heart hurt reading this, yet there’s great comfort in the empathy you convey. Thank you, and sending massive cyber hugs x

  69. jdp says...

    that part about people telling you “you should have tried to conceive earlier….” makes me really, really mad on your behalf. and i really loved that comic about first battling and then resting with the dragon. such a powerful image, so easily transferred to any battle in life. thank you and best wishes.

  70. Shannon says...

    Sending you virtual hugs. I know exactly how you feel. My 30s and early 40s were taken over by secondary infertility, multiple miscarriages, IVF, and so much emotional turmoil. It feels like the hardest thing that you have ever endured, and it’s all in private. When you’re going through this, no one knows how much pain and fear and panic you’re suffering. My advice would be to keep going, even though it feels like the loneliest road. It took my husband and I nine years and 13 miscarriages to bring home our rainbow baby. We ended up working with an amazing surrogate who carried our very last frozen embryo to term. I used to love to hear happy endings when I was going through this, so I hope this helps a little.

    • Sydni Jackson says...

      13 miscarriages?! Yours is a story of perseverance! I’m praising God for your rainbow baby. Blessings to you.

  71. Julie says...

    Love and appreciate this so much. <3

  72. aj says...

    I read this, crying, thinking about my own path and journey in fertility, parenthood, and loss. I am still – years later – working through the pain of losing my first baby – a very much wanted and beloved child – at 10 weeks of pregnancy. Although our incredible daughter is now by our sides, my partner and I find that we are often still making our way out of the forest of grief of the loss of our family that couldn’t be, while still completely in love with our family that is.

    I wish you all the best with your journey and hope that you find blessings and happiness on wherever that road brings you.

  73. MH says...

    Jessica, I hope you feel like a warrior because you are. I am too. I went through 8 rounds of Ivf and two donor egg cycle and finally have my two beautiful children. One child is biogenetically mine and one is from a lovely woman who donated her eggs. Both were a big journey to get there and I can honestly say I feel exactly the same about both of my kids. My son who was conceived via egg donation is 💯 mine and I often forget that he doesn’t have my genes. In a way he’s a bit “extra”. I know how lucky I am and i felt so much pain for so many years. I don’t know how but it all goes away except for the empathy you have for all the other warriors. I respect people who stop trying . I just knew I couldn’t. Egg donation can be a beautiful story just like adoption. I wish you so much luck and peace!

  74. Lauren says...

    Jessica, I read your story and got chills — I’m 33, have low ovarian reserve, and only got 6 eggs from my first retrieval (after a slew of IUIs and other medications). I know how lucky I am, because my 1 solitary fertilized embryo became my now 9-month-old daughter, Daisy. It’s horribly painful to wait and not know your future, but don’t lose hope. I hope you get your Daisy someday soon.

  75. Ally says...

    I agree, infertility is so isolating and lonely! I was 25 when I started trying with my ex husband. We tried all the interventions we could afford for 5 years while our marriage completely disintegrated (infertility was only just a small issue compared to our compatibility issues in the end, but still a huge stressor). It took me years to realize how much I had attached my worth and identity to my fertility and desires to have children. After so much therapy, I finally learned to love myself and be ok with not having children… until I met my fiancee. And now my fertility anxiety, at the age of 33, is “through the roof.” Being with a partner that I truly want to have children with, and finally having the means to attempt IVF has reopened all the emotions around fertility I thought I had resolved. I feel so lucky to have such a compassionate and supportive partner, but it’s still hard. Infertility is SO hard. Thank you for sharing your experiences. It’s nice to not feel so alone.

  76. Summer says...

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. After trying for a year, and undergoing testing my husband and I were told we would not be able to have biological children as his body doesn’t produce sperm – none – and never would. We were floored, and in mourning for several years. After a 2nd opinion and a lot of conversations we let go of that dream. Sperm donation was not my path – my dream was having a child jointly with my husband – someone we could both look at and see a little bit ourselves and each other. 8 years later we have started a new parenting journey and are foster parents to an incredible, smart, funny and challenging teenager. It looks different than I expected, and each person must follow their own path, but for us this is incredibly rewarding and feels like something we were always meant to do.

    • Alex says...

      I would love a COJ article on fostering and how it works and peoples experiences… love your comment.

    • Jo says...

      Thank you Summer for sharing your story. I’m sorry to hear about your great loss. Your choice to be foster parents is so beautiful – it’s a choice many don’t speak about, so thank you for taking that loving step in your lives and sharing it here… your teenage child couldn’t have the same life without you. You were definitely meant to do this! I am cheering you on through the internet. xo

  77. C says...

    Thank you for your beautiful words, Jessica. Wishing you well from afar.
    I have been trying to have a second baby for over a year now and have only recently (hopefully) finally figured out why. In some ways this happening during covid has been a blessing because I don’t really want to talk about it with many people or get jokey comments about being pregnant because I’m not drinking. I really relate to the highs and lows Jessica describes. It’s crazy that I can feel so incredibly sad and so incredibly helpful within a few day timespan. I’ve now kind of hardened and generally assume I am not pregnant, but in my first year of trying I would get SO hopeful each month and the highs/lows were much more extreme. Now I’ve just kind of settled into a flat sadness about it, but I am also a little hopeful. I do have a lot to be thankful for AND I find it is important to let myself be sad about this loss, too.

  78. Hannah says...

    Currently healing from surgery needed before I can do my first embryo transfer. I’m in the optimistic phase of the cycle, but I know all of the ups and downs intimately as I’ve experienced them all many times over in the last year. Thanks to Jessica for illustrating what so many understand but can’t communicate.

  79. Olivia says...

    Thank you, Jessica. IVF and infertility ruled nearly five years of my life, and I am rooting for you so hard.

    I want to share a resource/idea that I found very helpful: there’s a great article on RESOLVE’s website that is for friends and family members to read when they’re looking for ways to support a loved one in their infertility experiences. It talks about how people should work to ensure that events/vacations/gatherings/etc do not always revolve around meeting the needs and preferences of people with children, and to work to ensure that the needs and preferences of the person(s) with infertility (and really everyone involved) are also acknowledged as vital and important. This concept really blew my mind! I realized how EVERY event with my husband’s family revolves around our niece’s needs, and how family dynamics often tend to treat people with children as being more worthy of flexibility/consideration etc. No one ever asked me if going to my sister-in-law’s house worked for me with my appointment schedule, or side effects from meds, or general mental state after multiple failed embryo transfers! It was just automatically assumed that we would go there so our niece’s nap schedule would be uninterrupted. (Insert the “unimpressed” emoji.)

    This is generally not malicious behavior, of course, but it’s another way that our society has engrained that idea that parenthood is the be all and end all into our consciousness. Re-framing family/friend events as being considerate of EVERY attendee, instead of placing unspoken and clear higher value on meeting the needs of those with kids, is a game changer.

    • AD says...

      Wow, I needed to read this, Olivia – this uncovered a part of my trauma from IVF that I hadn’t thought about yet. Not only was the whole process of trying to have a baby filled with waiting, sadness, and loss, I also had to continue to accommodate the people in my life while very few did the same for me. I sound bitter… and maybe I am… but this realization is so fresh that it’s raw. Oof. We have a beautiful child now, after 5 years of trying, but I discover new things from our journey all the time.

    • Jas says...

      I understand where you are coming from and this sounds great in theory, but it is just not like that in practice. Small kids and babies are dependant beings whose needs need to be met immediately while adults’ needs really do not need to be addressed right away. So it is actually really natural to adapt to kids’ needs, it has nothing to do whether society is inconsiderate towards people without children. I am from Eastern Europe and here people always adapt to the needs of people with babies and small kids, without a question and we enjoy doing so because we know how hard first years of parenting are. We do not find it hard or inconsiderate and we enjoy having small kids be center of attention if we go to a gathering where there will be children. However, we also do understand that some people are going through hard things and there are no hard feelings if they are not up for meetings when kids are involved.

  80. Laura says...

    Thank you, Jessica. This was so spot on.
    I was trying to explain to my mom the other day that infertility feels as bad as a death, but that didn’t feel quite right. It really is as if someone is missing. I can envision them so perfectly, but it feels like they’re on the other side of a door that I can’t break through. There won’t be any closure until we have the child(ren) we want or decide we’ve had enough of the trying. It’s completely isolating and exhausting.

    • Amy says...

      Your comment is very touching. Hugs to you, Laura. Sending positive energy and love from afar your way.

    • Dawn says...

      Laura,
      You articulated this so beautifully. The lack of closure is exhausting. Yes. Hugs.

    • Jenny P says...

      It wasn’t until my father died unexpectedly that I experienced the depth of grief. And yet, I felt I knew the feeling. Having had 6 IVF failures, and with my husband, deciding that we would walk away from parenthood, the grief for children we would never know felt similar in someways to losing my dad. We are in our sixties now and life has been full of many ups and downs, but we are happy. A different life to the one we initially planned but fulfilling lives none the less.

  81. Julia says...

    After getting to know Liz Katkin I found her memoir a really interesting perspective. Sending love to everyone who needs it. https://www.conceivability.com/

  82. Sarah says...

    After over a year of trying for a second child, I am just beginning to my own journey with infertility. My specialist thinks it might be related to endometriosis and we’re starting investigations. I haven’t even had bloodwork yet and he’s preparing me for the possibility of IVF. So here I am on the internet searching for stories of women walking in my shoes. I’m trying to imagine a future full of medical procedures and ambiguity and balancing disappointment against hope.

    I’ve always pictured my life with two children. I’ve set up my life for two children. I moved somewhere with excellent social policies for families. I changed cities to buy a home big enough for four. Our garage is packed with all the baby things.

    It’s bittersweet. I want another kid so badly, but it’s making me hug my toddler a little harder, and making a huge effort to just soak her up. This may not happen a second time.

    Thank you you sharing <3

    • C says...

      I deeply connect with your comment, Sarah. I do think this experience has made me savor my child’s toddlerhood more than I might otherwise have. I’m thankful for that but still really sad about the struggle for number two. Sometimes I imagine what it will be like to finally get rid of all of the baby stuff I’ve been saving if the time comes that we decide to stop trying… But then I remind myself that I have enough to think about without worrying about a hypothetical emotional cleaning task in the future, ha. Sending you love and solidarity!

  83. Stacey says...

    Thank you for sharing your story. I truly feel for you and hope you and your husband are able to successfully grow your family.

    It resonates with me how hard it is for so many people who end up finding a partner later. I met my partner at 36 and spent years longing for kids when I was dating. It’s hard not to be jealous of those who were able to start trying earlier, although I don’t regret my experiences and know we’re all on different paths. And though I’m now partnered and trying, I have plenty of friends who are late 30s, single and actively looking for someone to start a family with. It’s just so tough. Even when people freeze your eggs, there are no guarantees as some other commenters have pointed out. I really appreciate these types of articles from all angles of the fertility spectrum.

  84. I’d love to see a post about single mothers by choice (it would be particularly great to hear from adult children who were raised by SMBC.)

    • Anne says...

      I am just starting this. I would love to see it too.

    • Cami says...

      I agree! This is my coworker and I totally commend her!

    • Sarah says...

      As a single woman in my late 30’s, considering my options for motherhood, I’d also LOVE to read a story like this. I have such mixed feelings about what it means to bring a child into the world as a single person, both for me and for the child. Sending a hug to those of you also sitting with this…

    • Kelly says...

      My best friend is a very recent single mother by choice. She found a supportive local facebook group of other SMBC which has been very helpful to her. Just putting that out there, in case anyone else is looking for community/role models.

  85. Katie H says...

    Thinking of you today, Jessica, and like someone else said – I support you in your fight to be a mom! You’re so brave to share your story and experiences. I found it very difficult to speak about while we were were struggling with infertility. In fact, I felt the only place I could talk about it was the comments section on CoJ. Here, I remember feeling not so alone.

  86. Candice says...

    Thank you so much for sharing this story and these comics. I have a friend going through IVF right now.. and it’s been causing issues with her marriage. I wasn’t really sure how to talk about it without saying something wrong or seeming insensitive. I ended up sending her a little care package (for anyone curious, it’s a “Fertility Support” box – super cute! https://smallpackages.co/products/fertility-support). I’m also going to try what you mentioned the next time we chat. <3

  87. Thank you SO much for this. I just had my third miscarriage and second one is the last year. I’m knocking myself up via donor sperm. After my last miscarriage a few weeks ago I spent the weekend waiting for the heartbeat to stop. Legally it needs to stop, even though the baby was not growing. A heartbeat in the wrong direction.

    I was told happily as they took the speculum out that I am now am a candidate for IVF. Wow, blessed in 2021. Knocking yourself up in anyway you become the #1 member of the RED TENT of your period. It’s like being . You learn everything you did not in 7th grade. I get pregnant very easily. Each time a positive test. Then I see the baby’s heartbeat. Then it stops. slowly. Then D&C. Then SIS to clean it out again.

    Baseline. Waiting to cycle. Waiting to be fertile again. SO much fucking waiting and hopefulness then dread. I cried really hard this past miscarriage’s because I found out I was pregnant on January 1st and got pregnant on winter solstice and saw a ladybug. This is where I am. A ladybug is where I put my hope. Well, I had another fucking miscarriage. I bring blunts to sonograms now, just in case. Self care is a right.

    I also had to pay hundreds in genetic testing to tell me this baby, too had trisomy. An extra chromosome. Of course my babies are EXTRA.

    All of this is terrible. And no one talks about it. I long for the weight of my baby in my arms. Sending so much love and light to all those in this journey. It’s a motherfucker.

    • C says...

      Have they checked you for anti cardiolipin, lupus anti coagulant or Beta2 anti bodies? If not. Do this ASAP. They found an issue with my blood clotting due to these. I could get pregnant but could not sustain. This may be an issue for you too.

    • Justine says...

      Tara, I hope you can feel love and support I’m sending you so hard right now. I’m hugging you hard in my mind (((hugs)))

  88. rebecca says...

    thank you so much for this story today. after 3 losses this year (1 natural, 2 via IVF), it feels nice to see my feelings and experiences reflected on a page of awesome drawings. sending to love to everyone on this journey.

  89. Bobby says...

    Listen darling, tell anyone who tells you that you started too late to go screw themselves and the horse they rode in on. I’m serious. After a friend was diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer last year on the eve of the pandemic, another friend of ours suggested it was because she’d always worn too much sun block. ?! These people are not worth your time. Hang in there. Continuing to tr, and deciding to stop trying are both courageous choices. Lots of love.

  90. Lara says...

    A true and heartbreaking account that brought me back to my own infertility treatments. Deep in the throws of depression my therapist told me that if I wanted to be a mother I would be a mother. To anyone working so hard for parenthood remember you can always find a pathway to parenthood.

  91. Amanda says...

    Thank you so much for sharing!

  92. Meg says...

    This is the best article I have read yet that wraps up the feelings of infertility. The confusions, the lows, the optimism, the moments of hope and the depths of grief. Thank you for writing and drawing what is so hard for many of us to convey. Going through second infertility now and when people say “at least you have one”, the feels are equal to the “you shouldn’t have waited so long to have kids” emotions. This whole thing sucks, it is messy, it is confusing. I find comfort in knowing people are talking about it more and more – breaking any surrounding stigmas. I often say that the infertility community is one I truly hope no-one is ever apart of, but one that I am so beyond blessed does exists.

  93. T says...

    Thank you for sharing. This a lovely, but heartbreaking post. I don’t share quite the same journey, but I have dealt with similar heartbreak. Another aspect that is rarely talked about openly is the path of a genetic carrier. My husband and I conceived our first, very much wanted child only to find at the 12 week ultrasound that our baby was “incompatible with life” and we chose to terminate the pregnancy for medical reasons. Though it was written off as bad luck, we were enrolled in a research study that performed whole exome sequencing on my husband, myself, and banked DNA from our son that found my husband and I carrier extremely rare recessive mutations in a gene critical for brain development. Every pregnancy has a 25% chance of ending in a termination for us again. It is gut wrenching every time I get a positive pregnancy test, waiting until a 12 week ultrasound… then confirmation genetic testing that often isn’t completed until 17ish weeks. We’ve been lucky to have 2 healthy children. I would really like to add a third but it is so hard to weigh going through all that again just to grow our family.

    • A says...

      T, our story is exactly the same. We found when I was pregnant with my first that we are both carriers for a rare genetic disease that is in most cases, not compatible with life. I was 22 weeks pregnant when we found out my son, now almost 6, would be healthy. We would have terminated otherwise. My daughter is one, and we were able to test at 12 weeks with her, and were so lucky to learn that she was only a carrier at 17 weeks (like both of us – no issues or symptoms). Our kids are 4.5 years apart because recovering from that roller coast was so tough, and I wasn’t sure I could do through it again. And, we are so incredibly lucky to have two healthy kids. I’m a part of a FB group for genetic carriers, and so many women in that space have had the same odds as us, but do not have any healthy children. Sending you internet love.

    • L says...

      T, thank you for sharing. My husband and I just found out at 19 weeks that our baby was incompatible with life and chose to terminate. It was utterly devastating and crushingly heartbreaking. Our story is that we’ve been trying for several years, first naturally, then through multiple rounds of IVF, this last round with a donor egg. We found ourselves so hopeful, so very hopeful, only to learn that it was not to be. We too just embarked on the whole exome sequencing and are awaiting the results. The genetic counselor said the results could either bring closure or information we can use in the future — or both. Either way, we’re trying to be grateful for tiny things, like new genetic testing, because there is so much loss and heartbreak here. T and Jessica — thank you for sharing your stories. There is comfort in knowing we are not alone. Thank you for that. Sending you strength and my thanks.

  94. Avi says...

    Just wanted to weigh in as a reassuring voice from many years down the line after taking the road not to do extreme measures when we couldn’t have children to say that it IS possible to feel truly ok without them – even when you DID truly want them. I do not feel endlessly bereft and incomplete without kids the way I feared I would – but as you say it IS a redefinition of what you thought life would look like – though what I’ve learned is that virtually EVERYBODY I know has had a huge shift or rethinking or disappointment that has made them feel like their future was not as they pictured – and so this is just one of mine, and it’s not as stark and alienating over time. We have worked hard to specifically carve separate relationships with the kids in our lives and try and learn and know (as much as one can!) from the outside what it feels like to shoulder all the profound and endless parts of parenting responsibilities- and also have used our time and resources to be involved in and part of things in the larger world in a way that is very hard to have time and energy for as a parent and that feels like the right way for us – to just try and reassign some of our “purpose” chips. I was lucky that my husband and I connected well together and we really just spent a bunch of focused time trying to figure out what felt most meaningful and most beneficial for our life as we made decisions – and that included both me knowing that I did not have the emotional strength to pursue adoption, and both of us feeling like our small amount of time in the medicalized world of fertility just did not feel great and we could not be in it for long for many reasons. Despite how
    scary, disappointing – to both us and our families (maybe worst to have to feel the weird combination of “letting down” parents and the awkward worry and compassion of family and friends) and re-framing of what life could have been it is – I really feel like there are many, many things that it also opens – as well as the one’s it definitely closes – and because we are able to have close relationships with many kids as they’ve grown it does not feel like an entirely foreign land I am kept out of the way I feared it might. There might be another path you could feel like made sense and was worthwhile – even if it is a very different place to put your powers than you originally wanted. xo

    • Beth says...

      Beautiful, thank you so much.

    • Sarah says...

      I am in a different situation from you, and even still, your words resonate. Thanks for sharing this reflection. I loved reading it.

    • JB says...

      Thank you thank you thank you for this comment.

    • Michelle says...

      Thank you for sharing this… it brought me so much reassurance.

    • Caraline says...

      You are so sweet to share this perspective, one I rarely hear. :)

    • Jess says...

      Thank you so much Avi for this wise, graceful comment. My situation is different, but similar in that my future is shifting, and it’s very reassuring to be reminded that this is a common experience and with time the new future can be ok or even wonderful in its own way.

    • Amy says...

      Avi – yes. Thank you so much for sharing. My husband and I have been dealing with infertility for ten years and opted very early on to not pursue either medical treatment options or adoption – each for their own host of different reasons. It was the right choice for us.

      I love your comments about investing in the children that are part of your lives. We are blessed with two incredible nieces that live nearby and a whole gang of kids from our close friend group. We went to the birthday party of one of these kids this past weekend, and he was so excited to see us. We talked afterward that perhaps one of our super-powers as non-parents is an appreciation for each kid as they are with nothing to compare them against (not shaming comparison – it’s just impossible to avoid when you have one of your own). No idea how that comes through to the kids themselves, but we genuinely love their company, love including them all in hang outs, and love supporting them and watching them grow. Knowing them and having a relationship with them are a gift and a bright spot in our lives.

      Infertility, for us, has had so many cycles and layers. The gut-wrenching moments have largely given way to quiet acceptance and deep, abiding joy in moments that reflect the importance of our choices, like our kid-friend being so excited to see us at his party. I think these moments are more meaningful because they grew out (so, so slowly) of a place of such deep pain. I’m grateful you shared the wisdom of the intentional re-framing (whether by choice or by sheer necessity to survive it all). What an incredible treat this post and comment section is.

  95. :) says...

    I really needed to see this today – thank you for the writing and the helpful tears they brought (ok, yep, they’re still going as I type, but in a relieved way). It’s amazing how helpful art is. We went through IVF + surrogate/gestational carrier (someone else’s uterus, our genetic material, not that this matters a whit as far as it being our baby but to help others who haven’t experienced the lingo). For medical reasons, surrogacy was the way to go for us, and I was super bummed to have to do it but it ended up being a really beautiful journey. I know it’s so odd and maybe inconceivable (ha, yes, did that on purpose) for those who have been lucky enough to conceive and carry themselves, but I feel like I went through every.single.step (and then some!) as far as the hormonal up and downs (yay for all the chemicals in those shots! yay for suddenly bursting into tears at random and inopportune times due to things like catching sight of a kitten while my husband looked on helplessly! LOL), and then some. I was at every appointment and at every minute of the birth. We taped our voices to be played through a little dictaphone that our carrier taped to her belly (doctor’s suggestion – we all loved it) and that made me feel better. Still. There will always be a small piece of me that’s sad that I didn’t get to experience my never-sits-still kiddo kicking or, I imagine, doing somersaults and backflips in utero, or the feelings of actual birth itself. BUT. But but but. In other ways, I don’t really care. We got our kiddo, and it was miraculous. It really is a miracle what science can do. I hesitated to even write that outcome as the last thing I want is for someone currently struggling, or who didn’t get that outcome, to read this and feel bad if it’s not going that way for them. I put it here, though, for those who have hope and want to still have hope. If we hadn’t succeeded, we would have adopted, or fostered, or figured out a different way to be, exactly as the art above notes. I think hope is the most important factor.

    ps: Another thing I believe in, and again only posting in case this helps someone else: Acupuncture for fertility boosting. I did not before all this stuff – I would have said it was a little woo-woo. (Said kindly and making fun of myself here :)) Did the reading and acupuncture has been shown to help fertility for reasons science can’t super explain just yet, but the numbers are significant enough that many IVF places are now asking or even requiring patients to do acupuncture alongside or pre-IVF. It didn’t hurt at all and was relaxing for me (which may itself have helped). Some acupuncturists specialize in fertility-specific acupuncture, but even non-specialists will still be helpful. Our IVF place actually offered them in-house but we found a diff. one in our city we liked. I did acupuncture regularly I was doing the shots prior to egg retrieval, ramped up in frequency closer to egg retrieval (your acupuncturist will suggest a sequence), and then our surrogate did acupuncture immediately before and immediately after the implanting on the same day. I believe this had a huge impact, no joke. (If you don’t do it, this does NOT mean you wouldn’t be successful. ) I hope this helps someone else, as I didn’t know about it prior.

    • AD says...

      Are we the same person? Also went the surrogate/carrier route… and also, a huge fan of acupuncture. Discovered it while doing IVF, stayed on it to cope with life.

    • S says...

      Would you mind sharing how much surrogacy costs? It’s our only option and I haven’t brought myself to look at the numbers just yet because I’m easily overwhelmed by finances. We have appointments in to fall but it seems like something reserved for wealthy celebrities, reading your post made it seem less insurmountable and I couldn’t help but ask.

  96. DG says...

    I struggled with infertility for years. The comic that makes me sob (even now) was the one that said “I only bought loose fitting clothes so I could wear them when I got pregnant.” It was something I knew, but never admitted to myself. Thank you for sharing and I do hope Jessica gets her family.

    • El says...

      Late this winter, shortly after seeing a heartbeat with my first pregnancy, I ordered a beautiful loose linen dress to wear all summer. (I would have been in late second/early third trimester at the hottest point of our summer.) I miscarried a few weeks later, the dress arrived shortly after, and now it’s just sitting in my closet. Haven’t admitted it to to anyone (my husband just saw it as another loose dress, without knowing I’d earmarked it as my maternity dress). <3

    • Beth says...

      Yes.

  97. A says...

    Thank you thank you thank you for this post!! As someone struggling with infertility in their mid 20’s I often feel so invisible. Thank you for shedding light on this issue!

  98. Ana says...

    Unfortunately that pressure on women having children ”at the right age” is the reason for many unsuccessful marriages and dysfunctional families and this needs to stop ASAP. Thank you for voicing the problematic and doing things when it feels right.

    Sending you love and light across the world. May you feel at peace.

  99. Dawn says...

    Jessica, your words and pictures are a balm. You articulate so well how it feels to live in the space between hope and moving on. I’m nearly five years into my own infertility journey and I’m amazed at the solace I find in reading about other peoples’ experiences.

    After years of testing and failed IUIs, we finally found out that my husband has a large varicocele. Now we wait for surgery and then wait again to find out if it had any positive impact on his sperm count and quality. I don’t know what we’ll do if we are advised to move to IVF. We’ve done much of this process without insurance and had to stop for months at a time to save enough to pay for a single test. We could have a whole separate conversation access and affordability of fertility treatments, especially for BIPOC. IVF is not an option for us financially so I find myself pondering many of the same questions as Jessica. At what point do we stop trying to conceive? Would we adopt or pursue sperm donation? Do we plan for a future without children of our own and dote on our nieces and nephews even harder? Warm hugs to all facing these questions as well. You are not alone.

  100. EPW says...

    THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU for sharing your words and terrific illustrations. Another IVF veteran out here. But more than anything in your story I relate to knowing I wanted kids but not meeting my husband until much, much later and being worried for years (decades?) about having trouble conceiving and being old and, well, all of that. We got married at 39. After 2 IUIs, 6 egg retrievals, and 5 embryo transfers we were incredibly lucky to end up with three beautiful boys (a singleton and a twin pregnancy). But I so know it could have ended very differently. You are not alone and this is SO MUCH.

    • Amanda says...

      Thank you for sharing. I got married at 39, found out 6 weeks later we had gotten pregnant in the first try, and then after our honeymoon when I finally got in to see my doc, there was no heartbeat at 10 weeks. We did all of that again 5 months later. Both were chromosomal miscarriages. So we turned to IVF for PGTA screening. Now I’m 40 and we just finished our second egg retrieval with not as good of a result as I’d hoped. Now we have to decide what’s next and I just watch the months tick by without visible progress. Thank you for giving me hope.

  101. riye says...

    A very close friend went through the same thing and I couldn’t believe some of the comments she got from her family. Regardless what the comment was they all combined to make her feel isolated and a failure. I knew she was hurting so tried to be there for her and do more listening than talking. Years later (she ended up adopting) she told me that I was the only one who understood (!). I found that incredibly sad. I’d encourage people to reach out if they can–sometimes just a sympathetic ear can make a big difference.

  102. Angela says...

    Thank you so, so much. I’m about to have another 40-something birthday and have been on the fertility journey with my husband for almost 3 years. Similar to Jessica’s story, I met my husband in my late 30’s. A couple of miscarriages and potential chemical pregnancies later, and I’m feeling all kinds of emotions these days. Knowing that other women are out there going through this too – that I’m not alone – has helped. It is such a dance – doing what I can and what feels right for us, and at the same time surrendering to the process.

    If anything, I believe that this journey has taught me so much about myself and to ultimately love my body no matter what happens. It’s funny, I have such an appreciation for the egg and sperm that did manage to get together to make me at just the perfect moment in time. I now know how big a deal it is for that to happen! My body is a winner! I try to remember this when I get down on myself and how my body isn’t doing what I would love it to do when I want it to. Somedays I’m up, and somedays I’m down, but I’m still plugging along.

  103. Liz says...

    It’s not for everyone but we used an egg donor after years of trying. We have a wonderful little boy because of a very kind woman somewhere out there <3

  104. Lesley says...

    I struggled with infertility for years. This is the most accurate description of the feelings that I have ever read. Thank you so much for sharing this.

  105. Suzanne says...

    Thanks so much for sharing your experience, Jessica. I’m going through fertility treatments too, and I’ve been surprised at how bad we (as society) are at talking about it. I’m really trying to approach my infertility without shame, but I find people I’m close with have a really hard time talking about it with me. If I bring it up, and someone is clearly uncomfortable and changes the subject, it only signals to me that I SHOULD feel shame, even when I don’t want to. It’s all so isolating. Sharing your experience makes me feel less alone <3

    • meli says...

      Yes! My experience is really similar. I wanted to talk about it and also to try to dispel the stigma by being open about my turbulent journey.. For those who want to express support, I found this approach safe and kind: “I’ve been thinking about you and just want you to know I’m here for you if you wanted to talk. How is it going?” That left me with the choice to engage or not but also the knowledge that I was cared for. The friendships that suffered the most were those who didn’t inquire.

    • Michelle says...

      I was grateful to read this honest and heartfelt perspective. I don’t know who might benefit from this, but also wanted to share that I really liked Nia Vardalos’s book “Instant Mom”… I thought it would be mostly about the adoption process, but it also covers the long time she spent trying to have a baby before adopting … like this piece, it had a lot of honest moments, and I appreciated reading it so much.

    • Emma says...

      Omg yes this. I don’t share our story with anyone thinking of becoming pregnant and definitely not pregnant people because I have had all that shame. The worst was after losing my 3rd baby in a row, I screamed in the ultrasound room and then subsequently heard the receptionist apologizing to the pregnant patients in the waiting room. I get it, I’m a horror story to them, but NO ONE ever offered an “I’m sorry” to me in that room. I felt like a wild ugly animal. I will never forget it. I will always be here to listen to the bad sad scary stories of my friends because it is a horrible feeling to be someone else’s trigger and feel like you need to hide your pain to shield others from fear of becoming you.

  106. Olivia says...

    I was a beloved babysitter for my now-husbands cousins when I was in college. I knew they tried for ten years to get pregnant and did IVF five times, finally resulting in a twin pregnancy. I spent every Saturday night and multiple vacations with them from age 1 to 6. One day, out of nowhere, their daughter essentially told me that they used an egg donor. She said she told her mom she was the best mommy ever (around age 5ish) and her mom told her she knew then that she needed to tell her that she used another woman’s egg.

    I know this isn’t my personal story or struggle, but it really influenced my opinion on egg donation. She was pregnant with them, she gave birth to them, and regardless of if she hadn’t, she’s their mom. It breaks my heart a bit for all the times I said to the kids, you’re like your (xyz moms family’s trait). How many times she has had to endure that and perhaps feel this “secret” silently.

    I respected their privacy and never told them what their daughter told me, and no one ever brought it up again. I do wonder if it’ll ever come up and if they’ll be upset if I indicate I knew.

    Lots of hugs to hopeful moms going through infertility. It isn’t fair.

  107. Kelly says...

    I struggled with infertility. I’m 44 now and my husband had a vasectomy quite some time ago. I ended up have an ectopic pregnancy from ivf (the chances are slim, but it happened) and I continued for a while and decided to leave the journey I was on. I donated my frozen embryos in hope scientists/doctors could keep working on finding ways to help others. Was I sad? Not at that point. I’d been through so much and was honestly done. I did my best and felt I needed to move on. But I remember the pain and sadness and feelings of hopelessness. I’m me and don’t want anyone else to think this applies to anyone else, but I’m happy. Happy in my life with the best husband and the best dog and the best version of me that I can be. Sadly, I look back and regret putting myself through it all. But hindsight is 20/20. I felt at the time it was what I wanted and needed and therefore need to not look at it with regret but just remember it as what it was. And I made it through. When we were deep in the trenches, a good friend said “But look at what you have”. Of course I interpreted that through the eyes I had at the time. He meant our health, home, friends, family, relationship…all the things we did have but in the time I was so focusd on what I didn’t have, rather than what we did. Grateful for all the good to this day. Wishing good for everyone, and I wish you all the best Jessica. Truly.

    • Jenny says...

      This is so great and you are so wise.

  108. NH observer says...

    Thank you so much for this, Jessica. Your comics are amazing. As someone who was in the IF/RM trenches and found myself utterly devoid of any sense of perspective while I was going through the struggle, I’m awed by your strength, courage, and sense of humor. I’m sure you are awash in excellent advice and wonderful resources, so no pressure — but I had a medical history that sounds comparable to yours and I did IVF at CCRM and Weill, and would be more than happy to talk if it would ever be helpful to have the ear of a stranger (I found sometimes that was easier than talking to people who knew me). Regardless, best of luck and rooting for you. Whatever your future holds, I’m sure it will be fantastic.

  109. Hillary says...

    Thank you for sharing your story. My husband and I waited a few years to have children because we got married very young and had no reason to believe we’d have a hard time as we were both “accidents” from highly fertile families. Over the years we had three miscarriages and 1 surgery to fix the septum in my uterus. We thankfully now have a daughter, but she arrived many years after we started to try. I’m a much older mom than I anticipated being, but that’s OK.

    Comments from anyone and everyone – friends, family, strangers, doctors – were so hard. One of the hardest things to hear was “Oh, but you have time!” Maybe? But every cycle I have less time. And my age or other relative health shouldn’t mean you don’t take my stress, fatigue, and suffering less seriously.

  110. I really needed this today. Thank you <3

  111. Audrey says...

    Oh my heart. Thanks so much for your vulnerability and for sharing.

  112. Alison says...

    Thank you for sharing, but thank you doesn’t seem enough! 🤍 I was a new Cup of Jo reader when all of a sudden I found out I had to do IVF. At the time, your comics were the only thing I had seen that shared the story of this hard journey. I check in on your Instagram to see how you’re doing and to nod my head and feel seen!

  113. Lenore says...

    Thank you for sharing your journey and your heart. You are not alone. I’ve been walking through miscarriage and inferiority and fertility treatment and surgeries for 4 years. You capture the pain, the hear reaux the cycle of hope and resignation, the exhaustion of all the blood work and shots and ultrasounds perfectly.

    I am so sorry you are going through this too. I am praying for you for peace, where ever our journeys take us.

    • Lenore says...

      Infertility* I meant

  114. Lyn says...

    I recognize and respect the sadness and pain in this situation. Will it ever be ok to challenge society’s pressure on women to be mothers? The feelings of shame, guilt, and frustration expressed here are, at least in part, products of ridiculous expectations placed on women. My husband and I are child-free by choice. I find it nearly impossible to talk with anyone about how happy we are with this choice because so few people can believe that a happily married couple without children isn’t “missing” something. While I don’t discount the sense of grief expressed here, I hope for the day when society truly sees joy in all kinds of families.

    • Jenny says...

      So well said.

    • Kate says...

      Lyn, I am also child-free. The panel showing Jessica looking so disappointed in her bed after finding out she is, once again, not pregnant really drove home the difference between people who REALLY want to be parents and those of us who do not. It was also so enlightening to see the conversation with her therapist, saying it feels like someone is missing from her life. While I cannot relate, I can now empathize so much more with the pain and strife of someone struggling with infertility after seeing/reading Jessica’s experience. I get what you’re saying, societal pressure on women to be mothers and a devaluation of life without children, but it also definitely seems like a deep and genuine longing on her part.

    • RM says...

      Why?? Why do you feel the need to say this in the comments on a piece about how much this couple wants to be parents? Great that you are child free by choice; but not the point at all of this article. Specifically I have no idea where you got this: “The feelings of shame, guilt, and frustration expressed here are, at least in part, products of ridiculous expectations placed on women.” The article says nothing of the kind. She doesn’t say she is expected to be a mother, she said she WANTS to be a mother. And her husband (who isn’t subject to these societal expectations) wants to be a father. How patronizing and invalidating of their suffering to ascribe it to societal influence (which they could simply shrug off like you!) rather than simply acknowledging how much it sucks to not have children when you want them. Good grief.

  115. Kristen Osterlund says...

    Thank you!

  116. Paige says...

    Jessica, thank you for sharing your story. Like many others struggling with infertility, I found the IVF process to be extremely isolating and I would desperately seek out stories from others with similar experiences. I did not know anyone personally who went through fertility struggles and I would look to folks on the internet for comfort. Using your platform to honestly, painfully and beautifully express the full range of emotions around IVF is truly powerful. Thank you! That rollercoaster of extreme hope and heartbreak was all-consuming. On many occasions after failed IVF transfers I found myself sobbing in any and all spaces — outside of work, on a walk with a friend or curled up on the couch. Even without trying, I would envision our future with a baby with each round of IVF/fertility treatment. The despair and grief I felt when I found out I was not pregnant was crushing. And you are so right — we can be incredibly strong; to continually go through medical treatments despite previously losses, to continue feeling hopeful, to persist, to share our stories. I am thinking about you and your partner.

  117. MAIRI ALEXOPOULOU says...

    I feel this. This was beautiful and honest and strong. Thank you.

  118. Christine says...

    I am currently almost 35 weeks pregnant after using an egg donor. My journey to trying to become a mom started almost 9 years ago. Like a lot of women, I heard my biological clock ticking in my 30s but I hadn’t met anyone yet that I wanted to settle down with. After a particularly disastrous breakup, I decided to freeze my eggs. I thought that would give me some peace. A few years later, after yet another relationship didn’t work out, I decided to start with IUI and a sperm donor. That didn’t work and after several deflating tries, I decided to try to fertilize the eggs I had frozen. Of the 11 that were frozen, only 2 made it to 5 days and none were genetically normal, meaning their chance of fully developing was very low. I decided to try another retrieval. I was in my early 40s by then, but my egg reserve wasn’t terrible. In that cycle, I got two eggs and neither fertilized. I was gutted.

    I truly get everything that was said in the piece and so many of the comments. It is absolutely brutal to go through this and one of the hardest things is not knowing that SO many other people have gone through the same. There is a lot of shame around infertility. I know, for me, as a woman, I felt like I had failed. Like I couldn’t fulfill my biological purpose. The struggles and decisions are so deeply personal and every woman has to decide what is ok for her. Of course people can blithely say “just adopt” or “use an egg donor” but for me, there was a deep grief around knowing that the child wouldn’t be of my DNA. My father was terminally ill with cancer when a lot of this was going on and my mother had died when I was a child, so the thought that part of them wouldn’t live on hit me the hardest. People made it sound like I was somehow selfish for wanting this – as if just getting any child was enough.

    What I ultimately decided was to use a close family member as a sperm donor (so that the DNA of my family would live on) with an egg donor. My therapist had suggested it after she told me about a couple that she knew that used a sister’s egg with donor sperm (they were a lesbian couple). I have literally told very few people of the “how” I got pregnant. I guess I still have some shame about it, but I also feel like all this is just so personal and deep. It also seems like pregnancy (and infertility) is one of those areas where everyone feels entitled to have opinions about your body. There is an incredible amount of judgment around what you are or aren’t doing.

    Even after I decided to go the egg donor route, it still took two tries for a pregnancy to result. I’m not sure what I would have done if I hadn’t had success with the second one. Maybe I would have kept going or considered other options I hadn’t before. It is so hard and draining. Hugs to you all.

    • Meg says...

      Hi Christine. I have an almost 8 year old daughter who was conceived with my husband’s sperm and a donor egg. It took me a long time to come around to the idea. we tried and failed at adopting. we were told by our fertility clinic that my chances of a successful egg retrieval were basically zero, and although i once got pregnant naturally, it wasn’t viable.
      While my husband was all for the egg donor route from the day it was offered as an option, i really struggled with the thought of her not being “mine” as well as my “failure” to become and stay pregnant. In terms of the DNA part, which is a huge thing to come to terms with, one day, i realized that entire time i was pregnant, my blood ran through hers, and that her cells and mine are forever combined. That her cells are mine. And the idea of that took all the grief of the DNA away. She is 100% my daughter. She is my favorite person in the world, and not a day goes by that i don’t look at her and feel like i am going to explode with gratitude for the miracle of her. I am so thankful for the science. I am so thankful i let myself off the hook and allowed myself to take the option. I am so thankful for everything that had to happen to allow me to become her mother. For the many, many random, painful steps that had to fall into place to bring her into being. Because she was truly meant to be born. She was, as the saying goes, “fearfully and wonderfully made.” She is my magic baby. I wish you all the luck and love in the world with your own magic baby. And to everyone else on this thread, to Jessica who shared such a beautiful piece of writing, i wish you love, luck and peace of mind on this painful, private journey. Treat yourselves so gently. You are doing something really hard.

  119. mb says...

    Thank you for sharing such an intimate experience. This was beautiful and heartbreaking.
    I am not struggling with infertility but I desperately want to have a baby and feel so scared that the window is closing. I’m 37. My partner of 7 years and I broke up in 2020 and with the pandemic, I have increasingly felt the pain of this desire. I find myself without a social life, without a partner, in a city that I moved to for a job but that otherwise doesn’t offer me anything. The emptiness is very real and although I don’t expect a child to “give meaning to my life,” it would, at least, feel like a personal journey that has nothing to do with my job.

    • Katie says...

      This sounds so hard!! Please know that someone out there is thinking of you and sending you love. And I can say that having gone through IVF myself, this sounds equally hard. Loneliness, longing and uncertainty are burdens no matter the details! Please be kind to yourself and allow yourself the space to mourn, but also wish and hope.

      Hugs from PA

  120. Sara says...

    Thank you so much for this post. As someone who is struggling with unexplained infertility and is surrounded by pregnant family and friends, it is a truly isolating experience. Thank you for giving space and voice to this when it can be hard to find it.

  121. Julie says...

    Even though I have not experienced infertility, this spoke to me quite a bit, as I am in the situation where I have to accept that I don’t know if I’ll ever meet the person I want to have children with and then if children will be a possibility. A lot of the struggle is also about not knowing. I like how she depicted struggling and grieving. Each struggle is unique and so is each person experiencing it, but she framed the process beautifully, in a way that makes it both personal and universal. Thank you!!

  122. These comics made me cry. What an incredible, vulnerable service she is sharing with us. Thank you so much for posting this.

  123. Amelia says...

    Thank you so, so much for sharing your experience and wisdom. That final image of you curled up with the dragon made me tear up – your insight about how we frame narratives of encountering intense challenges is relevant to so many lives, whether infertility is in them or not.

  124. Caitlin says...

    Thank you for sharing your story Jessica. My husband and I have also been through the infertility journey and it is so hard. Reading this story made me tear up. The waiting is definitely the worst part, it is all consuming and it feels like EVERYONE is getting pregnant during that waiting period. Thank you again for sharing your story and comics. I wish you the best on your journey and please know, you are not alone. XO

  125. Leah says...

    Jessica, thank you so much for sharing your story. Your drawing of the therapy appointment hit me right in the heart – that’s exactly what infertility felt like for me, too.

  126. Denise says...

    This is beautifully written and brings me closer to understanding what some people go through if they want a child. I also found it insightful that every struggle is framed in battle language. Why must we always “fight”? I love her dragon of acceptance in the last frame. Jessica, I’m sending you peace and comfort in your journey.

  127. D says...

    Unfortunately part of the same tribe- years of IUI’s and IVF and a miscarriage. I’d like to point out one thing about the article I disagree with: I’m the last one to defend a Kardashian, but Kim has actually been very upfront about her fertility struggles and use of gestational carriers. I think we should applaud anyone who is open about this journey because it’s already so hard to go through alone let alone in public.

  128. I’m sorry you are going through this Jessica. You’ve captured both the optimism that fertility treatments require and the shame and isolation that comes along with them.

    I battled infertility in my 20s. As you pointed out once you have trouble having a baby you realize all of the cultural messages about women’s main purpose in life being to birth babies. I also noticed all of the messages men receive about how manly it is to successfully get your woman pregnant. The number of unintentionally insensitive comments from friends, family and acquaintances was truly mind boggling. It was such a devastating time for me personally and for my marriage.

    Ultimately my husband and I decided to adopt our son. He is 14 now and (of course) I can’t imagine my life unfolding any other way. The cultural messages of women and birth still hurt, but less so. I’m not advocating that you, or anyone else, adopt. That is an entirely personal decision. I’m only sharing this to let you know my experience coming out on the other side of such a heartbreaking period of my life.

    Wishing you and your husband peace and good luck on your fertility journey.

  129. Edith says...

    Beautiful. Thank you.

  130. Lauren H says...

    I did not have a true opportunity to start trying to have children until I was 33 and I met my second husband. We went through two years of infertility due to low AMH. At the beginning of my journey I swore that I would never consider egg donation but in the end it was what worked for us. I am now sitting here with my beautiful six week old baby boy.

    I know that egg donation is not for everyone but if you really want to be a mom, I promise it is possible. There are wonderful communities out there on Baby Center and the Bump of other women who are currently pursuing egg donation or who have successfully had children via egg donation that I found helpful. Infertility is frustrating enough but when even IVF doesn’t work, which is difficult enough to have to go through and which seems to work for everyone else, it is nice to have these niche communities who are intimately familiar with that continued sense of loss.

    I hope that Cup of Jo continues to feature Jessica’s story. I remember reading about her early infertility challenges on this blog when she was just starting IVF and have thought about her often.

    • Lara says...

      Thanks so much for sharing, Lauren. I also have low AMH, and while I was able to freeze some eggs at 32, who knows whether they will be viable. (Still looking for the right man to raise these very highly anticipated children with!) My doctor advised that I prepare to go the egg donation route. I’ve had about a year to sit with the idea, and it feels like a relief, actually, to know this is such a strong option. It’s very helpful to hear from people who have gone down that path and learn about the resources you mentioned; I don’t know many who have (or, more likely, it’s just that it seems to be rarely shared). Sending you very heartfelt, tender congratulations on your baby boy. :)

  131. Amy says...

    Thank you for sharing your story. Sending you hope and strength.

  132. H.C. says...

    Infertility is really hard. Even on this blog, I’m surprised at the well meaning but tone deaf comments. Six years in I now have good responses to “just adopt!” “But I’ve had a miscarriage too, it will be fine” like it’s easy for me to get pregnant in the first place, or write off losses like that (I have lost 6). Anyhow, something helpful for anyone in any hard time that is struggling with regret, something I feel deeply for not trying when I was younger is: I made the best decision with what I knew at the time. Unfortunately for me, my issues are not things routinely tested for, but I find reframing regret like this helpful. Why would I have reason to think infertility would happen? It helps me calm down and be kind to myself. And, what’s nice it works for non-infertility regret too. All my love in the world to Jessica and the families and people struggling with this difficulty. And just a quick shout out to the reddit infertility group – it is science based and a very very very understanding and supportive place for anyone who needs an outlet.

    • Jeannie says...

      I’m so sorry for your losses. :(

    • Kris says...

      A fellow long-time infertile supporting the /r/ infertility recommendation! The absolute BEST place on the internet if you’re struggling with fertility.

  133. L. says...

    Jessica’s work is so powerful and makes me feel like I’m not alone. I started trying at age 29 and learned I had severe “silent” endometriosis. Three years and 9 rounds of IVF (4 egg retrievals and 5 embryo transfers) later, still never been pregnant. We are now pursuing gestational surrogacy. This experience has changed me forever and is so difficult and isolating—it’s like standing still while everyone else around you moves on. I’ve lost friends, struggled with depression and anxiety and PTSD, spent close to six figures, and injected myself with more than 300 needles. It consumes your life, and meanwhile people say things like “At least you’re still young” or “Why don’t you just adopt?” Adoption is beautiful, but it’s not for everyone and brings its own difficulties; for us, the risk of a birth mom changing her mind was too much. I am lucky to be able to afford surrogacy, but it’s still so hard. Jessica’s experience speaks to me on such a deep level; I am incredibly thankful for her.

    • :) says...

      Hi, L. – Just wanted to give you a virtual hug. I commented more at length in my own comment, but we used a GC as well. It was its own, beautiful journey. I am keeping my fingers crossed hard for you, your family, and your GC! It is indeed incredibly hard. Fist bump to you.

  134. Claire says...

    Thank you for sharing your story. I have been on a fertility journey for 5 years and know the same cycles, isolation and feeling of failure. I appreciate your suggestions on how to comfort someone on this path. I have found Rosanne Austin’s Fearlessly Fertile podcast and program to be so helpful. Her tough love and wit are a refreshing breath of fresh air on this journey. I am sending good vibes for you and all Cup of Jo readers on a fertility journey for a happy, healthy pregnancy and baby.

  135. Rebecca says...

    We tried for a baby when we first got married almost 3 years ago. When it didn’t happen after a few months, we decided to put it on pause so we could move across the country for an exciting job opportunity. Then we planned to try again when we were settled–that didn’t work out for other reasons. Then we planned to try again in 2020–that didn’t work out for obvious COVID reasons. It was really interesting when you said “it’s almost like an invisible infertility.” Our therapist recently said something very similar to me when I shared how sad I was that it just hasn’t been the right time yet, despite how badly I want a baby. Every time we’ve put it off, it was for a great reason that I totally agreed with. But still…emotionally, it almost feels like we’ve been trying ever since that first time. And I’ve tried to stay “physically prepared” in the hopes that it will soon be the right time. I feel sad whenever I see a pregnancy announcement on social media or a diaper commercial. I feel so afraid all the time that it will NEVER be “the right time” for us. Thank you for sharing this post, it made me feel less alone!

  136. wow. thank you for sharing this so well. especially the part about reframing ‘hope’ over and over. i think that’s sometimes the difference maker and those who learn that skill in the hard times are the survivors. i’ll be sharing this with those who need to hear it. thank you.

  137. Sarah says...

    Thank you. This helped put my feelings into art.

  138. Ruth says...

    Thank you for sharing your story. Sending love and peace, whatever that looks like for you. xo

  139. Taryn says...

    Thank you so much for writing this. I’m going through my own version of IVF hell, having skipped directly to this process to avoid passing down a 50/50 deadly genetic condition. When we got 5 normal embryos unaffected by the condition after two retrievals, I was thrilled and figured everything would be easy (especially since I heard over and over from doctors that the “hard part” was over, as if any part of this process is easy). Now, I’ve transferred the best 3 embryos and have had 3 miscarriages, leading to so much additional time and money invested in testing to determine why this is happening. Every step of this journey is so difficult and fraught with emotion, and it’s comforting to hear from others who have similar experiences, especially since everyone in my life thinks that IVF is a guaranteed way to bring home a baby, and they don’t understand what I’m going through. Thank you for sharing your story and your work—it truly helps me. Sending lots of love and hope to you and your husband, Jessica.

    • Julia says...

      Taryn, I’m so sorry for your losses and your struggle. I am in a similar boat. No one really talks about doing IVF for genetic reasons only. It takes so long and feels so lonely. My friends do not really understand (can’t fathom!) how much waiting and frustration and disappointment the process entails, and I don’t feel like I fit in in the “infertility community” because we’re not technically infertile and there’s this whole other layer of waiting and uncertainty/disappointment with the genetic testing. It’s just so lonely.

      I know that this IVF project is inherently hopeful (we’re trying to make a healthy baby), but it’s hard to get over the impatience and frustration and loneliness and fear and grief.

      I hope everything works out for you.

  140. Jennifer says...

    I went back and forth on commenting because I’m so afraid of saying the wrong thing – and as someone who has struggled with infertility, you know there are A LOT of wrong things to say – but I decided to just go for it. I support you in your fight to be a mom, whatever that looks like for you. And as an adoptive mama of 4 – I can tell you that most of my fears about adoption were totally unfounded. It’s the absolute best. If you (or anyone reading this comment) ever want to talk more about it, feel free to email me. I’m happy to answer questions xo
    Jennifer.cait@gmail.com

    • Amelia says...

      I think this is a very nice comment. Reading, “It’s the absolute best” made my day. I am glad you found joy!

    • Kate says...

      I really appreciate reading Jessica’s story. It is so enlightening to learn how IVF works and what someone is struggling with in the process. I had no idea. For a long time I didn’t understand when someone struggling with infertility would say, “I guess I’ll never be a mom” and I feel this inner reaction like, ‘wow you only want kids if they’re your own – do you really want to be a mom or just be pregnant?’ and all my sympathy dries up. But last year, after discussing adoption, I had a friend admit, “I know I wouldn’t love them the same” and I was bowled over by her honesty. I also know adoption has its own difficulties (but people do it all the time!) However, it seems like some people really feel they could not, or SHOULD not, be adoptive parents. CoJ sharing stories like Jessica’s help me to better understand and empathize with the complicated feelings people have around their path to parenthood.

  141. Emma says...

    These drawing so perfectly portrayed by feelings about dealing with infertility. Even though fertility issues and interventions are not uncommon, I still always felt alone in my journey. People would love to tell me what to eat, or what not eat…vitamins and supplements I should take…sexual positions I should try….it went on and on and on. The smell of the exam room would always spark a glimmer of hope for me, but a voicemail alert or email notification would cause me immediate anxiety. It has been a very personal and singular journey for me. I wish more people would listen to me when I speak about it, instead of waiting for me to stop speaking so they can offer some advice that worked for them.

    • Forrest says...

      I so relate to this. We had five years of trying and visiting doctors and having procedures before we had a successful IVF round in the fall and it made me so furious when people would give me “advice” on how to conceive. My husband works out of town a lot and I don’t know how many people told me we would get pregnant when he stopped being gone so much, as if: a. I don’t know how babies get made or b. it’s somehow me and my husbands fault that we haven’t conceived. Like if we could just figure out the formula that everyone else had, we would be parents. It was (and still is) crazy making. That’s my number one piece of advice to people who are supporting someone who is going through infertility treatments, don’t give any advice that implies the person is “doing something wrong”. Trust me, people going through IVF or other fertility treatments have thought of and probably tried whatever you’re suggesting. No one is doing this because it’s the easy way…

    • Dawn says...

      Yes to these comments! I heard through the grapevine that my husband’s brothers were commenting behind our backs that “we just need to have sex more and we’ll get pregnant.” Lol. Like we just weren’t having sex and expecting to get pregnant? The unsolicited advice is infuriating.

  142. Natasha Bhave says...

    This was beautiful and heartbreaking. I’m going through secondary infertility and it truly sucks.

    • Elizabeth says...

      Me too. Sending you a virtual hug.