The Reality of Infertility: A Vicious Roller Coaster

When I first found out I would be a contributor for Iowa City Moms Blog, I knew I wanted to write about our struggle with infertility at some point. It’s something that has made a big impact on both my husband and me. Sitting down to write this post, I’m already fighting back tears. 

A year ago today, I was sick to my stomach with dread. After fifteen long months of trying to get pregnant, I finally had two faint pink lines. It was October 29th, two weeks to the day after our first IUI (intrauterine insemination). I knew that the line should be darker by now, I had been taking pregnancy tests daily for the entire two weeks. But I was holding onto hope. I went in for a blood test that day, knowing my HCG number (the pregnancy hormone) should be 50. The nurse called me at the end of the day to let me know the number was only 23. She did her best to assure me I had every reason to think it would go up – the number that really mattered was the number we would see three days later. If it doubled, we would have cleared the first hurdle.

The next day, October 30th, I went into work with dread in the pit of my stomach. All day I begged and pleaded with God to let the baby stick. We had been through 15 months of tests, questions, and emotional highs and lows. The following day, Halloween, I went into work once again, determined to think positively, and it seemed to be working. I was getting ready to go to a meeting with my supervisor and I ran to the bathroom real quick. I got there to see the one thing I absolutely did not want to see. Blood.

To have it so close, only to slip away, was like some cruel form of torture.

In tears, I rushed back to my office and called my doctor. The nurse told me to go to the clinic to get another blood test right away. She and I both knew what was happening. There had been a baby conceived, but it just didn’t stick. A chemical pregnancy, they call it.

I went in for the blood test, called one of our admins to clear my calendar for the rest of the day, and somehow drove myself home through the blur of the tears that would not stop falling. I spent the day curled up on the couch, waiting for the phone call to confirm my worst fears. Finally, at the end of the day it came. My HCG had gone down to 19. There was no hope; I was no longer pregnant.

After 15 months of desperately trying to figure out why my body would not function like a “normal” woman’s body was supposed to, it was like someone poured a mixture of salt and rubbing alcohol in a gaping wound. To have it so close, only to slip away, was like some cruel form of torture. It was so unfair – we were good, hardworking people. I was healthy and took care of myself.

“Why?!” was the only thing I could think for days.

My story has a happy ending though. The following month, we ended up pregnant and I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy this past July. My official diagnosis contributing to infertility was endometriosis, something I had no idea I had. The sixteen months it took us to get pregnant were by far the most challenging months of my life thus far. (Don’t worry, I realize that motherhood is going to give me its own set of challenges!)

It was like a vicious roller coaster. Every month my hopes would be high that this time, things would be different.

This time I would ovulate on my own. This time, the hormone would work. Then, four to five weeks later, my hopes would be crushed. I’d spend the week crying and depressed, ready to give up, but always ready to try again the next week.

When we first started trying to get pregnant, I didn’t really know how badly I wanted to be a mother. My husband had to somewhat convince me that it was the right time. After it became clear that we would not be one of those couples who blink and end up pregnant, I realized how badly I wanted our baby.

infertility awareness

Infertility is awful. I would see pregnant women and wonder what they did to get pregnant and wonder what I did to not be able to get pregnant. I was terrified that I would not be able to carry a child and that I would rob my husband of his chance at a biological child. Being the type A that I am, I researched every possible method of getting pregnant, including the costs. Neither of our insurance companies would cover fertility coverage, so everything we did, we paid for in full. We were faced with putting a price limit on conceiving our baby.

As the months went on, I isolated myself more and more. The only ones I could really open up to were those who had been through it. I found a support group in Iowa City and it was a HUGE help. The girls in that group started out strangers to me, but now I consider them close friends. Who knew you could get so close by discussing the side effects of Clomid and the absolutely absurd things it would make us say and do?

I am lucky, though.

Even though I isolated myself, I had friends and family that refused to let me be isolated, who would track my cycles with me, analyze pee sticks, and pick up the pieces when each cycle pushed me to my breaking point.

I can’t imagine how helpless my husband felt watching me fall apart every month like clockwork.

My husband in particular was beyond amazing. One thing we all agreed on in my support group was infertility either brings you closer together or tears you apart. I can’t imagine how helpless my husband felt watching me fall apart every month like clockwork. Or biting his tongue when the current hormone I was on was causing yet another mood swing. He was always my rock, telling me that he didn’t care how much it cost, we would find a way to finance whatever treatment we needed – even if it came down to $18,000 out of pocket for IVF. (Thankfully, it did not.)

I am also lucky because it only took us sixteen months. While I did end up needing surgery, I never had to do any other invasive drugs or procedures.  I know too many women who have waited much longer and gone through much more than I did.

I am definitely an open book when it comes to all things me. I have never been shy talking about our struggles in getting pregnant. Talking openly about something this personal is definitely not for everyone, but I do think it is important to talk about it. Doing so can help those dealing with it to not feel so alone.

At times when we were going through all the treatments and doctor’s appointments, I wondered if it was really all going to be worth it. The first time I felt him kick, I knew it was. Our journey to get pregnant is something that I always carry with me. It’s something that is at the back of my mind as we talk about adding to our family. It might be easier when we decide we’re ready for another baby, or it could be even harder.

Have your or anyone you know dealt with infertility? What advice do you have for those who may be dealing with it?


Katie Ripke
Katie is a mama of two rambunctious, sweet, cuddly and highly energetic boys. Growing up in Mount Vernon, Iowa, she briefly left the area to attend college at the University of Northern Iowa, had a brief stint living in Chicago before settling down in Lisbon with her husband Bryan. Katie has been in the marketing field for over 10 years and is currently a marketing manager for an area health care organization. When she is not balancing life as a working mom, Katie enjoys binging on Netflix/Hulu, learning about all things boy and squeezing in a workout from time to time. Her current addictions include coffee, LaCroix, and cookies.


  1. What a great post! The part that really choked me up was where you talked about your husband being amazing. My husband was also an amazing support for me during our infertility journey. Having gone through every treatment possible, which included 5 IVFs, I totally understand the heartache and sadness that comes with each month’s failures, not just for me but for my husband also. It’s a tough thing to have to deal with *especially* when your friends and everyone around you seem to get pregnant so easily. While I didn’t get pregnant during treatments (one miscarriage prior), our silver lining was adopting our daughter and I can’t imagine life any other way. Infertility will always be a part of our lives and I think that makes us all the more appreciative of the little miracles that have graced our lives! All my best and thank you for sharing your story!

    • I completely agree. All babies are extra special, but I think I appreciate our little one a little more than I would have had I not had this experience. You are also correct that it never leaves you. People often say “well, it’s all good now because you have H!” While they are correct that my life is exponentially better with him, the experience has helped shape me into the mother I am. As weird as it sounds, I am kind of grateful for it.

  2. Infertility is heartbreaking, to everyone affected. Obviously the (childless)mom’s and dad’s affected by infertility are hit the hardest, but my mom struggled with infertility the majority of her life. And it’s impacted me a lot over the years. At 19, my mom married my wonderful father (alwasy supportive and loved her dearly), and within a year, had a beautiful baby girl (me;)). Her pregnancy was full of complications and she ended up having to have an emergency c-section due to pre-eclampsia. She, of course loved me with every fiber of her being, but there was room in her heart for more children. When I was 2, she was pregnant, but due to complications, she miscarried. She became much more consumed with the idea of having another baby when I was in grade school, and finally after a lot of hormone treatment she was pregnant while I was in second grade. Unfortunately, in the second trimester, that pregnancy ended in miscarriage as well. IVF wasn’t option, so many other homepathic and hormone methods were tried, and she ended up being pregnant with seeming viable pregnancies 3 more times, but they ended in miscarriage as well. After the 5th miscarriage, she finally threw in the towel. Then a year later to all of our amazement, and finally at the age of 39, she found herself pregnant, and giving birth to her miracle baby boy. Three months after he was born, she was pregnant again, and she gave birth to a healthy, though 10 weeks early, baby girl. Unfortunately for all of us, her body didn’t handle the back to back pregnancies very well, and she died when my youngest sister was just 4 months old.

    My childhood was a front row seat to the impact of infertility on my mother and I carry it with me. I remember how much she planned and worked to try to make it possible. I remember the increasing fear at the start of each pregnancy. I remember not feeling good enough because I was the baby that survived, but not enough to fulfill her need for a child (I understand now that’s not what it was, but as a kid, you don’t know any better). I remember the dr’s appointments and the tears, and even the baby she miscarried when I was in second grade. I remember the names and birthstones of each of my unmet brothers and sisters (Max, Alex, Robin, Kelly, and Izzy) and sometimes wonder what they may have been like, had they been born. I know she shielded me from as much of it as she could, but at the same time, it consumed her.

    It made me terrified for each of my pregnancies. Made me scared to even want to be a mom. I was fortunate enough to not have infertility issues myself, and I have two wonderful children that pains me to say she did not get to meet. My living brother and sister are healthy, and together we are her lifes passion and work. I am priveldged to be her daughter because I know having me didn’t come easy for her. I know her story is not necessarily the same as those parents who havne’t had or will never have a child. But infertility doesn’t just affect those who don’t have children. It can happen to anyone and for a variety of different reasons. And it hurts too.

    Thank you for telling your story, and for giving me the courage to share my mom’s story. My heart weeps for those who have dealt with or will have to deal with infertility.

    • THANK YOU! Your story brought a tear to my eye – I am sorry you and your family experienced all that you did. I can’t begin to imagine all the heartbreak you all endured, but I can relate to the desperation and being willing to do anything to have a baby.

  3. Thank you for sharing your story. Infertility can be so isolating. I’m glad you found support in your community and were able to achieve your dream of parenthood. I know your openness will inspire others.


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