The flip side of infertility

The flip side of infertility

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SALT LAKE CITY — In a recent article I wrote, in which I talked about some of the challenges and more importantly, the blessings of pregnancy, I received a lot of emails and comments.

While many came from women who related to the message, I received some emails from women who were unable to experience pregnancy for themselves. These were kind and thoughtful letters expressing a longing to be able to bear children of their own.

One note suggested I write a column on infertility and its challenges. I thought about how I could do this. I could interview couples to gain a better understanding, and I could even draw on my experience of having a miscarriage, something I wrote about here.

As I began collecting information, it didn't feel right. It wasn't because it is a bad topic; it was because it didn't describe me. I am very sympathetic to these families, and cannot even begin to imagine what they go through. My experience with fertility, however, would not do an article like this justice.


I am fertile. I come from a family of women who are this way. My mother bore 10 children, her mother had six, and I have a sister who began with twins, following quickly with two more in the space of three years. Then there's me. I have five children in the space of five years and four months. We are expecting our sixth child in about a month.

I don't know what it is like to be infertile. And although I would never complain about my ability to bear children — it has brought countless blessings and experiences I wouldn't give up for anything — being fertile has its own set of challenges.

One was brought to my attention while at the park with my two youngest children. A mother of three young boys started comparing notes with me on how close in age our children were. Sensing a similarity in our situations, she smiled and whispered, “nursing and the mini-pill don't always work.” I smiled and nodded, letting her know that I was aware of this fact, too. For many women, birth control doesn't always do the job.

When things like this happen, you are faced with needing to rearrange things. Sometimes you don't have adequate insurance or a job that will support another child. The news of an unexpected pregnancy can prove difficult. In my case, my husband had just quit his job to return to school, and I was planning on working full-time to support us. With the news of the pregnancy, and the possibility of having two babies in day care, we had to make difficult choices. It was a very trying time.

Then there is the concern of what happens when birth control does work, and sometimes in adverse ways. Just like any medication, birth control can have its own side effects that are less than desirable. For some, it may cause blood clots, leading to infertility and miscarriage.

Many women find themselves asking, "Have I done enough? If I end things prematurely, am I being not grateful for my ability to bear children?"

With my miscarriage, the one medical link (if there was one) was getting pregnant so soon after ending birth control, when my cervix was not quite ready; something I tried to avoid with other methods. Still, it happened. When things like this happen, it causes many women to be afraid of using methods of birth control.

For me, however, the biggest challenge I have faced is knowing when it is time to be done having children. Being raised in a home that loved and welcomed so many children, as well as a religion that encourages having children and growing families, it is difficult to know when to call it quits.

Many women find themselves asking, “have I done enough?” “If I end things prematurely, am I being not grateful for my ability to bear children?”

Then there is the joy of bringing home a new member of the family. Each time my mother had a new little one, it was such a wonderful time, and with each one, it brought new and unforgettable experiences. I look at each of my siblings and my own children, and cannot imagine life without them. As a mother, you find yourself playing the “what-if” game: What if I stopped after having Joe, then we wouldn't have Kelly.

Deciding when to be done is a difficult challenge many fertile women face.

Being fertile does have its challenges. Struggling with infertility has its challenges … merely being a mother and a woman has its challenges, and not one greater than the other.

Let us not look on the other as having it “easy,” or on ourselves as having more challenges than another. We are all women doing all we can to fulfill our potential. We are all doing our best. Arianne Brown is a graduate of SUU, mother to five young kids, and an avid runner.

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