“Be who God meant for you to be and you will set the world on fire.” Saint Catherine of Sienna.
Somewhere in the blogsphere, a woman is reading those words and wondering why on earth she’s not setting the world on fire as a parent. You see, possibly, that woman learned in biology class that getting pregnant was easy. In the Caribbean, the teaching human conception is often coloured by the rainbow of faith and brushed in the wistful breeze of love. More Caribbean people believed in Douen than storks. Either way, the true story of the difficulties of conception are kept from us as young men and women…they save that zinger for when you are “educated”, back from university, married before (insert your version of God here) and then indeed, we are shocked into reality,
Getting (and staying) pregnant is not easy.
As I type, a significant percentage of my inner circle of friends (which is tiny by the way), have had trouble conceiving. They have become the couples who face the inappropriate questions of:
- Allyah doh want children?
- What ya waiting for?
- Do de (child) ting young he. Doh wait til it’s too late.
- Something wrong with you or what?
Nothing is WRONG with you. Your journey to motherhood may just be different. Take heart in knowing that difficulty conceiving is now more common than you think. Moreso if you are over 30.
Before I share the stories of 3 couples I know on their conception journey, let me start by saying that in a random survey of 15 women with children I know, all over 30, every single one took over a year to conceive. 7 admitted to some kind of fertility treatment. That’s almost 50%. Wake up and smell the reality. Your bio class lied to you. This crap ain’t easy. Thank God for options.
Trying to Spark: Michelle and Mike (both names changed to protect identity) her husband of three years, have been trying to conceive since their honeymoon. Both in their thirties, neither ever considered there would be an issue – both healthy, no family history of any major diseases and, indeed, prepared with the financial resources to handle all the unplanned costs that could occur after birth. The three years of “the red auntie” monthly appearances have been grueling. Their parents and family have stopped asking questions – they just don’t understand what’s wrong.
The couple went through the early stages of fertility treatment. She got her ultrasounds, did her pap smears, ruled out endometriosis (by laproscopic surgery no less), changed her diet and, like way too many women in their 30s I know, she was put on Clomid – the blue pills filled with non-steroidal fertility medicine which causes the pituitary gland to release hormones needed to stimulate ovulation (the release of an egg from the ovary).
After 3 treatment cycles, monthly purchases of ovulation kits, an app on her phone buzzing when it was “time” to conceive – nothing. No dice. No baby. Lots of tears.
This past May, her husband finally got his swimmers tested. In the horseshoe of Rookery Nook, Maraval he went to the Trinidad IVF Centre. “It was really uncomfortable,” he said, “You’re in a waiting room with a couple other men and you feel like everyone knows you could have an issue with your boys.”
After being taken to a sterile room with the weakest collection of non diverse stimulating material, after what seemed longer than usual due to the anxiety, he left a sample in a little plastic vessel, washed hands, paid and “peeled out of my (his) parking spot to look as manly as possible.”
He was man alright, but like a growing number of men in Trinidad, he had fewer swimming “boys” (sperm) than normal. Some were misshapen. Motility was low. He was in shock.”All of a sudden, I felt responsible for the years of pain my wife had gone through. Everyone thought the issue was her, me too actually – too stressed, too much birth control, too anxious – it never occurred to me that I could be the hold back to us having a baby.”
Test results. Hospital.Urologist. Superscription. “Just so ‘waps’ I was now on the same blue pills my wife had to take before.” The doctor also insisted he take vitamin E. You best believe, they told no one. Who would right?
Medical treatment of Clomid for men is most often prescribed for men who have hormonal abnormalities. For example, some men with low sperm counts have low levels of the primary male hormone, testosterone. Studies vary but generally fertility rates increase about 13%.
It worked for them. Michelle just announced that she’s pregnant. They pray everyday their ordeal is over.
Sushmita and Clayton: When Sushmita and Clayton (again, fake names) were in high school and dating, she got pregnant. The time was not right. For $1200, she had an abortion – a secret they told no one though she thought about it every time she passed the doctor’s office in Barataria. She still remembers how the doctor simply said “so you here for a D&C” when she walked into his office.” The memory of his matter of fact statement cloaked in judgement never left her.
A D&C , short for Dilation and Curettage, is a brief surgical abortion procedure used to terminate a pregnancy up to 16 weeks gestation. It is also referred to as suction curettage or vacuum aspiration.
Six years later and married, they’ve been trying to conceive. It’s not working.
“He’s had his sperm tested (her cousin knew somebody at a clinc that does the tests – she would not say which one), I’ve been on Clomid I got from my cousin who knows a pharmacist (never prescribed by a doctor), I went vagan because I heard that helped and finally, in February this year, we bit the bullet and went (to) the doctor.”
A pap smear, swab were done and finally, when they had the money and ultrasound. The results showed that their decision years ago, to defer parenthood until they were in a better financial situation to support having a child had scarred her. Literally. Scar tissue, likely from the D&C, was affecting her fertility.
Asherman’s syndrome is a cause of fertility problems related to scar tissue adhesions. Scar tissue forms in the cavity of the uterus, and this prevents the pregnancy from adhering to the uterine wall. Most women with Asherman’s syndrome experience decreased or absent flow in their periods after getting a procedure. Asherman’s syndrome can be treated with an outpatient procedure that removes scar tissue.
The outpatient procedure would run them about $9,000 dollars – if all went well. That’s almost 8 times the cost of the abortion. A full month’s salary for her, about half a month for him and too significant a percentage of their savings to afford right now.
They’re saving up to remove the scars from a surgery done to prevent their unborn child from being scarred by financial struggles.
Kerron and Sacha: Sacha has terrible period cramps and polycystic ovarian syndrome. On their pregnancy journey at 37 and 33 respectively, they’ve changed their diet – less red meat, more vegetables, less dairy. He’s stopped smoking – a habit he picked up at 14 no less. They’re having sex every other day during her fertile period – “the schedule really makes it less exciting,’ Kerron says. But they’re also getting fertility treatment.
“When you are saving money growing up, you plan for house, car, vacation, you certainly don’t plan for $60,000 to hope to conceive.” They may be under-budgeting.
The Trinidad IVF Centre in Maraval has a link to their price list but alas, it is down. Their “affiliate” centre in Barbados shows a price list with treatment starting as low at $5500USD a pop. That’s before airfare and hotel. You need to be there 5 days at a time so add a vacation price to that including a rental car and you quickly get to about $8,000USD. But their success rates are pretty good – higher than the US but still very dependent on age, health etc.
Kerron and Sacha chose the Barbados IVF option as three couples they know have had success there – though all 3 had to go through more than one cycle (read as spending more than $8,000USD – more than once).
It’s worth it: Clomid, trigger shots, tears, laproscopic surgery, more tears, saving, IUI, IUI again and finally, Duane and Heather are raising a healthy and happy little girl. “This is our $200,000 baby,” Duane jokes. He calls her Beamer as a joke sometimes (BMW’s cost more than that BTW).
They agree that the struggle to get pregnant and having a baby was the best money they ever spent.
I want to end by sharing that not every story ends well and not every conception story is as dramatic as those told above. It took us almost two years to conceive. I switched doctors. I was vegan when I conceived and for two months I was on Clomid – though not regularly because I am not good at that on schedule stuff. I know many more couples that took over a year to conceive than I do that “get through” after one night of passion – especially those in their 30s.
Pray. Stay positive. Explore your options. And to the people that ask the BS questions like “yuh doh want children or what” – tell them to kiss your on fire ass.