Tag Archives: pregnancy

Infertility is a Reproductive Justice Issue

As a reproductive justice (RJ) activist I have spent years advocating for abortion rights and access to birth control. Simplified, the movement often focuses on how not to get or remain pregnant. However, there is little to no time spent on discussions of infertility or one’s ability to get and stay pregnant. Even organizations that hold themselves out as “full spectrum”, may address miscarriage and other forms of loss but rarely confront issues of infertility. Similar to other forms of reproductive loss, infertility is stigmatized and people are often silenced. It is our responsibility as RJ activists to shed light on this issue.

Infertility is impacted by issues of race, class, gender, and sexual orientation. In my own journey, I was privileged enough to have health insurance to cover appointments with reproductive endocrinologists, a myriad of tests, and ultimately several forms of assisted reproductive technology (ART). Lack of economic resources can prevent someone from not only receiving a diagnosis but also engaging in ART, if they so choose. I know many people whose options were limited due to financial means. This is unacceptable. ART is not something that should be available to a lucky few who can afford it. Not to mention that there is also lack of access that isn’t due to finances. Some insurance companies won’t cover ART if it is due to “social infertility” meaning single women and queer couples. If I had fallen in love with a woman, I may have been denied coverage. In addition, studies have shown that there is a “knowledge gap” for people of color on fertility options. Many non-white racial groups struggle with infertility at high rates without the same access to resources. The group most likely to access ART are white, educated, wealthy women. After decades of forced sterilizations of women of color, there is no coincidence that the government is not invested in marginalized communities gaining access.

On a personal note, as a Latina, there has been an added pressure around family building as a indicator of success. I have 2 degrees and own a home, indicators towards upward mobility that it very hard to do in this country. It is something I am very proud of. However, to many in my community, accomplishments are nothing without children. The expectations around pregnancy and parenting have made speaking out about infertility struggles that much harder. I would venture that many other women of color share this sentiment. I know that the feelings of inadequacy and disappointment are not strictly culturally specific, but I think there are added cultural standards in various communities of color, including religion, that add to the silencing of this issue.

The reproductive justice community needs to provide space for people to discuss infertility. It needs to talk about the ways in which infertility is stigmatized in various communities. I did not consider these issues as part of my RJ work before experiencing them myself. I always viewed the tenant of RJ, “right to have children” through what I thought was an intersectional lens, but did not include infertility. Like so many of us, the personal becomes political. Since experiencing infertility, I have provided workshops for people who have experienced reproductive loss and infertility. I have been lucky to collaborate with local yoga studios and the organization Holding Our Space, but there is more work to be done. It is our responsibility as RJ activists to call out inequity in ART and make space for those who need support in their infertility journeys. We need to destigmatize discussions of infertility and include these experiences in this movement.

A Dream and A Nightmare

On Wednesday, November 15th I finally heard the words I had desperately waited 3 years to hear, “You’re pregnant.” Now what should have been one of the happiest moments of my life, was instead one of the worst. Instead of tears of joy, I sobbed in fear. What had brought me to that moment in the doctor’s office was not a missed period or sudden nausea in the morning. I was sitting there because I thought I was just having a strange menstrual cycle. After 20 straight days of spotting and cramping, I knew something was off and that it was time to see a doctor. I had been traveling for almost a month straight so I assumed that had messed with my cycle. After trying to conceive unsuccessfully for years, an unexplained infertility diagnosis, and multiple failed IUIs, I never thought my symptoms were being caused by pregnancy. Or rather I wouldn’t allow myself to consider pregnancy to be the answer since clearly that would also mean something was wrong.

Which brings us back to Nov. 15th. When the NP asked me to take the test I almost laughed. I may have rolled my eyes, but when I went into the bathroom I immediately started to cry. “Please no,” I thought. Then came the results. Shock cannot begin to explain what I felt in that moment. As I sobbed, I also had a brief moment of pride. My body had finally done what I had wanted it to do. The NP tried to assure me that we had no answers yet. That the spotting could be nothing. The cramping however was worrisome. She ordered a bunch of blood samples to be taken, said she would call the next day, and sent me home.

I always imagined I would surprise Jake with a pregnancy announcement in a really cute way. Maybe a traditional wrapped positive pregnancy test or finally purchase that ska onesie that’s been sitting in my Amazon wishlist forever. But sadly there was no time. I got back to my office and gave him a call. I wanted us to leave work. To spend one day, since it may be all we had, to celebrate. One day to pretend that we were finally pregnant and everything would be ok. He met me at the train station with a bouquet. We had finally done it! We only had one day. It was wonderful.

The next day, around 2 pm the NP called to tell me to check myself into the ER immediately. The test results were inconclusive but if we wanted answers, I needed to go to the hospital. The only times I had been to the ER were for a fractured ankle in the 6th grade and strep throat in 2012. I had never been admitted to a hospital, never had major surgery, and never had anesthesia. I chose laughing gas when I had my wisdom teeth removed because I have always been afraid to be put to sleep. Laying in that hospital bed in the ER was everything I had tried to avoid my whole life. It was surreal.

After about 5 hours of waiting, blood work and ultrasounds, we had a diagnosis. It was an ectopic pregnancy. An ectopic pregnancy is when implantation occurs outside of the uterus. Mine had found a home inside my right Fallopian tube. You would have to ask my support person Keelia, a friend and full spectrum doula, what my reaction was. I can’t remember. The hours between diagnosis and surgery are kind of a blur. I hadn’t eaten since noon, so I was very hungry. They placed me on an IV to help. Keelia was amazing. I am grateful to have had her by my side. Let me be clear about one thing, I told Jake not to come. A part of me hoped it would be ok and I didn’t want him to be unnecessarily worried, so I asked him to keep his plans.

Once Jake arrived (and my sister-in-law Caitlin who happen to be visiting), a decision for surgery was made. I was given a medical option but that could have taken weeks, with no guarantee that I wouldn’t need surgery eventually, and emotionally I needed this to end that night. At about 2 am, I went into surgery to remove my right Fallopian tube and with it the pregnancy I had waited years for. As they rolled me into the OR I remember tears streaming down my face before the anesthesia kicked in and I was out. Hours later I awoke and made the choice to go home.

It has now been 3 weeks since my surgery. Sometimes it feels like a lifetime ago, in other moments it’s like it just happened. A trauma to your mind, body, and soul will do that. I now know that ectopics are pretty rare and that it is the leading cause of maternal death in the first trimester. It’s a strange feeling to be angry at a procedure that ultimately saved your life and yet I am. I know that ectopic pregnancies aren’t viable, but I still had to terminate a wanted pregnancy and that guts me. The medical profession has managed to find a way to transfer a fertilized egg from a test tube into a uterus but still cannot move one from a Fallopian tube into a uterus. Think about that for a moment, ’cause I do.

The holidays are upon us. Our families and friends continue to be amazing. Food, hugs, letters, conversations, healing practices, flowers; I could not ask for a more supportive circle. Although I am surrounded by love I am not going to end on a positive note to make everyone else feel better. The fact of the matter is that 3 weeks ago I was pregnant and now I’m not, but my body hasn’t had time yet to catch up to that reality. I am left feeling tired, sad, and empty. No amount of holiday cheer is going to fix that.

Bruised but not Broken: Finding Gratitude through Infertility

November brings the celebration of our two year wedding anniversary and it marks two years of trying to conceive. November is also the month to give thanks. I want to take this moment to highlight 4 ways in which I hold gratitude for the experiences and the strength I have gained through this journey.

1. A Deeper Bond with my Husband

We have always had a strong partnership, no one has ever made me feel so supported and loved.


Infertility has been shown to be the fourth most dramatic life event in a woman’s life. It has brought us new levels of sadness. It has also prepared us for any obstacles we have ahead of us. I am so grateful this amazing man. Whether we are crying or laughing, we are doing it together. Struggling with infertility has solidified what I already knew, which is that I chose the perfect person to have by my side.

2. A Cuddly Companion

After our second failed IUI, my husband agreed to let me adopt a kitten. On Labor Day weekend, Amethyst came into our lives.

Now let me be clear, Amethyst did not fill the baby shaped hole in my heart. She is not a replacement for the child we still long to have. She has however brought me so much joy and comfort. I did not know I would love her as much as I do. She has given me the strength of knowledge that I can be a caretaker.

3. Commitment to Yoga

14117909_10100273141045055_821642303518385962_nI began my yoga path before I was diagnosed with unexplained infertility. I am grateful that I already had my practice to turn to with every disappointment. Yoga has been my constant reminder that my body is still powerful and capable. That I can still have control. More importantly as a yoga teacher I have now been able to share the healing power of yoga with others struggling with reproductive loss and infertility. I love to create a space for folks to come together to find support and share, sometimes for the first time, about their experiences. I continue to be appreciative for yoga both it’s physical and spiritual offerings.

4. Building a Network

Through leading yoga workshops and writing about my struggles, I have connected with many individuals who share my story or other experiences with reproductive loss. Recently someone tried to use the vulnerability I have shown against me, which although cruel, luckily is rare. More often, I have received messages of support and solidarity. I have even found strength in relationships with folks in my life I may not otherwise have due to our shared experiences. This network has provided me advice and encouragement.

This process is still difficult, sad, infuriating. But it is possible to hold multiple truths at once, like wishing I had a child in my arms while still so blessed to have Amethyst snuggled in them. As many of us struggle post election to find joy and gratitude, I wanted to boast those in my life who do just that.


Another Birthday Without A Child

Several weeks ago I celebrated by 34th birthday. 33 was not the year I had hoped for in a lot of ways. One of my 2016 resolutions that I failed miserably was wanting to write at least one blog post a month. I failed because I did not want to have to write only about infertility. I am more than that. So I didn’t write about my struggles but then nothing else came out or felt right. The process of trying to conceive is an all consuming one. At times all I can think about is the desire to be pregnant and the inability to be so. Each month watching my hopes swept away in a sea of red.

Unexplained Infertility is what the doctor said, which is medical speak for we have no idea. Although it is some sort of answer, the pain didn’t go away. In fact, the pain moved in and made a home. So many daily activities became harder. Watching TV meant dealing with those damn Clear Blue Easy commercials. You know the ones, where women find out they’re pregnant and cheer and cry. Every time it came on it was like a punch to the gut. A reminder of each moment I had looked down to see the words “not pregnant.” Facebook became unbearable. Pregnancy announcement after ultrasound bombarding my timeline. It seemed as though everyone around me sneezed and got pregnant. And then there are the in person interactions. The pregnant coworker I try to avoid so as not to see her growing belly and feel tears welling up. The party I have to leave early when a couple shows up with their newborn. The questions from strangers on whether or not I have children. Getting angry each time, not only because they were asking, but that it bothered me.

I want to say that deciding on a plan of action made things easier but it’s just hard in another way. Deciding to do IUI felt like admitting defeat. And because I chose very early on to be honest and open about this process in order to help others struggling, choosing IUI also meant having to explain IUI to family and friends. Explaining can be exhausting. Talking about it is hard. Not talking about it, is hard.

In two months it will officially be two years of trying to conceive. Two years may not seem like a long time but when you desperately want a baby, it feels like a lifetime. For me it is a lifetime. I have waited my whole life for this moment. I can only hope that a year from now, I will be celebrating my next birthday with a baby, a whole list of other hardships, exhausted, and with a smile on my face.

Getting Pregnant—Not As Easy As You May Think

Let me cut to the chase, getting pregnant is not easy, not even a little. For some of you this may not be news. And as a reproductive justice activist, I am fairly knowledgeable about reproductive health. I knew in the abstract that conceiving can be difficult. But I am very in tune with my body so I figured, how hard could this be.

All those baby bumps and newborn photos on Facebook would lead anyone to believe that you decide to get pregnant and voila baby. I realized there is no way I am the only one struggling with this. These status updates could not be the whole story. But where are the stories? The journeys? All we ever see on social media is the end result. This is quite a juxtaposition from the road to marriage which is documented from engagement to the last dance or a to term pregnancy that we see from sonogram to birth photos. I wanted to hear stories, so I started asking questions.

Turns out it isn’t just me. The more people I spoke to, the more I heard similar struggles. Many more people in my social circle than I could’ve ever imagined experiencing difficulties, infertility, miscarriage and more. Often times I’ve found that folks are more willing to discuss their difficulty conceiving publicly only after a healthy pregnancy or birth. I understand this need to wait. Most people want to hear the happy ending. I may be in the minority but I want to hear it all. In case there are others out there who feel the same, this post is for you.

It’s been one year since my husband and I began trying to conceive. It’s been a roller coaster ride of emotions. It began as fun, what with all the “trying” and all. And a little exciting waiting to see if this month would be THE month. I decided to just go with the flow at first. Several months in, the frustration began. Be patient they said. Patience, my friends, is not one of my virtues. Nonetheless I pressed on. At about 6 months in I went into “TTC” mode (starting with learning what TTC meant). This included basal body temps, an ovulation app, teas, meeting with my doula friends, and acupuncture. It was exhausting. All consuming.

By month 7-9, I felt defeated. It was during this time that I really started talking to people outside my tight friend circle about my struggles and in return hearing stories back. It was such a relief to finally hear other people give voice to what I had been experiencing. For about a month after that I felt a boost of confidence. You can do this body! NADA. So I made my appointment to see an infertility specialist. As luck would have it , it was scheduled on my 1 year wedding anniversary. Almost a year to the day we started this process.

And then I took a break. A break from trying. A break from thinking about it. Spending the last few months enjoying our final moments as newlyweds. The appointment happened on Monday. Now I head into another stage in this journey; tests to figure out if there’s any medical basis for infertility or just more time needed. Or that maybe I need a bit of modern medicine boost. I’ll keep you posted. I just want everyone out there struggling to get pregnant, whether it’s been a few months or years, to know you’re not alone. It’s not just you. And yea, this is hard!

*Throughout this post I use mostly “I” instead of “we.” Although my husband and I are going through this together, this post is just about how I am feeling and I do not speak on behalf of us both. He has his own voice and experience of this process.