Let’s talk about Infertility…

Let’s face it. We, women, have perfected the art of communication.  We’re good at noticing subtleties and the faintest of gestures during conversations. We know when silence is best. But not merely that! We also create the best support systems! We’re the first ones to show up at our bestie’s house when she’s had a rough day with her favorite flavor of haagen daaz. We listen to her vent for hours! We’re good at that. As for giving good advice? Yeah, we’ve got that covered too!

What we sometimes forget is all of us, at one point, have found it difficult to navigate “uncomfortable” conversations. Issues like divorce, infidelity, spousal abuse, and infertility still leave the most poised woman feeling uneasy. We never know exactly what to say, when to just listen or when our advice is welcome. The entire conversation is just awkward.

This is exactly why a beautiful brave soul decided to open up her heart for us. She graciously offered to share the intimate details of her struggle with infertility. She hopes that through honest conversations, we can slowly peel away the awkwardness and finally offer the support that’s desperately needed.

Alvina Begum is a 30 something year old analyst from Detroit, Michigan. Her husband and her have been trying to conceive for a little over two years. 

Tell us a little about yourself

I have been married for a few years now and we’ve been trying to conceive for a little over two years. The efforts to conceive have taken much longer than expected. At first, we weren’t actively trying because we thought having a baby would come naturally. Little did we know, we would have difficulties down the road.

I’ve learned that fertility can be so random. Unfortunately, there is definitely a stigma in this society if you don’t have children by a certain time after marriage. I feel alone in this because most people cannot relate to or even understand what i’m going through. On the other hand, the ones who are going through this same situation tend to hide and seem mute.

It’s been difficult to find women I can talk to openly about infertility.

How long have you been trying to conceive and what issues are you facing?

I have been trying to conceive for a little over three years. The biggest issue that i’m facing is dealing with what the heck “unexplained infertility” really means! By definition, unexplained infertility means that you have been trying to conceive persistently for over a year without any result. You have been “evaluated” and tests constantly show up as normal. The doctors can’t figure out what the issue is. It’s so frustrating.

My husband and I are in fairly good health alhumdulillah (thank God) with no history of any serious illnesses. We try to eat nutritious food that supposedly “boosts” fertility. We’ve tried living a low stress life. You know, all the things people recommend to help with infertility but still nothing! Random thoughts creep in and sometimes I think to myself, “Is it nazr (evil-eye)? Or something i’m doing wrong? Could it just be what Allah has written for me?” I guess I’ll never know…

What’s been the most difficult part of dealing with infertility?

Dealing with the pressure our community places on me! I’m doing the best I can on my end to have a baby! My lowest point was reaching my last cycle after my last fertility medication and still not getting pregnant. During the last month of my cycle, four of my closest friends shared their pregnancy news with me all in the same week!!!

To add insult to injury, in the same month, one of my relatives made an insensitive comment to me about not having kids yet. Could it get any worse?

Of course, I made sincere dua for my friends to have healthy, pious children. I was genuinely thrilled for their good news. But it was also a reminder for me that I had no news of my own to share! I continue to pray for myself. It’s hard not to get your hopes up when everyone around you is getting pregnant. You think maybe you’ll catch whatever is going around. Unfortunately, life doesn’t work that way!

When friends constantly talk about mommy related things, I can’t help but feel left out. I always wonder how it would feel to be in their shoes. It’s like the moms only club you’re dying to join but you’re still on the waiting list.

I have to admit that at times, I isolate myself and avoid socializing because I can feel extra sensitive at times. The tiniest comment regarding this issue can sting! Most people might not understand how touchy this subject is to someone desperately trying to conceive. I really wish people would understand that even saying “Your time will come” can sometimes feel insensitive. I want to say, “Really, you’re sure my time will come? When? How can you be so sure?” Instead, I smile, nod and try to change the subject.

I want everyone to understand that, for someone who is trying her best with no luck, sometimes you can feel like you’ve failed and something is wrong with you. Especially if you’re getting close to an age where it’s becoming even more difficult to conceive.

Friends out of concern will advice me to “not think about it too much or not stress too much” but honestly, that’s easier said than done! It’s hard to ignore something you have been wanting for years! Lately, i’ve been just dealing with it all by putting my trust in Allah (swt) and trying to be patient. I try to continue living my life. My new motto is “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

How does your spirituality help you deal with this difficulty?

My faith and spirituality has helped me the most. By turning to Allah (swt), I feel as if a huge burden has been lifted off my shoulders. I have no choice but to put my full trust in God. We plan but HE has better plans for us. This is truly a test from Allah (swt).

In a way, my constant reliance on Allah has been a blessing. I find myself closer to Allah (swt). I make sure never to miss a single prayer. Salah gives me the opportunity to make dua five times a day to ask Him for what I need.

Also, it gives me time to seek His forgiveness. I realize that any calamity or struggle that we endure is for the better and we should be thankful to Allah swt regardless of any difficulties we’re experiencing. That might be your ticket to Jannah.

I’ve read that many of the Prophet’s companions and some prominent women in Islam never had children. While their status was raised in the eyes of Allah (swt), not all of them enjoyed the blessing of having children. We are all tested in one way or another. One specific example comes to mind. Zakariya (AS), was blessed with a child when there was little chance in his old age. But even his desire for children was fulfilled only after years of making dua. Just as Allah showered Zakariya (AS) with mercy, He will shower us His mercy. I love reading this verse from the Quran as a constant reminder, “Verily, with hardship comes ease.”

How is your husband dealing with this situation?  Do you both have similar coping mechanisms?

My husband copes differently than me. In my opinion, he has more sabr than I do. He’s the one reminding me that we’re being tested to become better muslims. He is a more reserved and composed person and keeps his thoughts to himself when he is feeling down. I, on the other hand, am very expressive about my emotions. I tend to panic easily and stress out. He creates the balance I need in my life. Alhumdulillah for my husband!

Have you considered IVF? 

I have not considered IVF at this time because I believe I won’t be able to handle the emotional stress or the financial burden. I’m just not mentally ready for it yet. The process seems too invasive and complicated for me. I have heard the chances of the IVF cycles being successful are still low and I’m not sure if I’m willing to take that risk. Although it is my wish to conceive naturally, I am looking into IUI as my next option which is less invasive and less expensive. Yet with all of these medications and procedures, i’m still afraid of disappointment.

Has adoption ever crossed your mind? Would you ever consider it?

Adoption has crossed my mind but we are not ready to consider it yet. For now, I have come to terms with either trying our best to conceive or living life with each other. Right now, i’m just not considering it. I’m afraid that if I do adopt, conversations of biological parents will be too difficult to handle. I have so many concerns regarding adoption. It’s such a huge responsibility and my husband and I are just not ready to go down that road. It’s overwhelming to even think about.  Everyone is different and many may not agree with me but we know what we’re capable of.

How have you taken care of yourself physically and emotionally during this difficult time in your life?

I have told myself that whatever is meant for me is written and no one can take it away from me. If it is not meant for me, then it’s for the best. What has helped me cope is keeping a personal journal where I can write down all my worries and other emotions. I have been wanting to join an in person support group but for now I am part of online forums and support groups. What also helps is watching youtube videos and reading stories about individuals who became pregnant after trying. I love miracle pregnancy stories! And of course, I make sure to treat myself to some dessert whenever i’m feeling down 🙂

What advice would you give to someone in a similar situation?

Join a support group in person! You can visit resolve.org to find a group in your area. Also, it has helped to join fertility support group pages on Facebook such as Muslim Fertility Project and Amal Fertility. I would also encourage you to share your thoughts with close friends or family whom you trust. It can be very comforting and supportive. It can also be therapeutic to write it all down in a private journal. Not everyone’s situation is the same and we all handle situations differently. You should do what you feel is best for yourself.

Anything else you’d like to add?

I would also like to offer some advice for anyone not dealing with infertility. Sometimes, “harmless” comments can hurt even if your heart and intention was in the right place. I personally feel that if you’re not intimately close to whoever is having difficulty conceiving, it’s best not to bring up the subject yourself. Let them guide the conversation and see if they want to discuss it at all.

Please don’t ask girls who have been married for a few years “When are you going to have a baby?” Just don’t do it. Resist the temptation. And this goes for guys as well. Don’t joke around or tease your friend about having a kid before him. Harmless questions or comments can inflict more harm than you realize. You don’t know what your friend is going through.

Honestly, the last thing I need is someone pressuring me to have a baby! Trying to get pregnant is pressure enough.

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  • Mrs. B

    Awe hang in there. Everything will work out IA. For me, my doc recommended an over the counter supplement called “pregnitude” (basically mayo-inositol), metformin (she said desi women somehow respond to it-I was ovulating, skinny (no pcos symptoms) and everything, even took clomid but nothing else worked. I recommend a desi doc I went to in New Jersey- I drove from NY to her and she just knew. Also an over the counter gel called pre-seed can’t hurt. A lot of people have had luck with Fertili-tea from Amazon. I hope I helped someone.

    • Thank you for your comments and suggestions. i will pass them on to the sister inshaAllah.

  • Wow, masha’Allah what an inspirational woman. May Allah elevate her status in Jannah, ameen. Despite the difficulties she is currently going through, her faith and her trust in Allah is so inspiring. Masha’Allah, it is lovely to read about her supportive husband as well. May Allah grant you a healthy, pious, happy offspring who are the coolness of your eyes, sister. Ameen. I’m not an expert on this subject, and I can imagine it becoming irritating if everyone feels the need to impart some advice of some kind, but just in case it is of some benefit to someone… I recently read about a couple who were struggling to conceive, and had been told by doctors that it was looking extremely unlikely. The woman decided to cut all refined sugar from her diet and subhan’Allah had managed to conceive by her next cycle. Everyone is different and it all depends on what Allah has written, but anything is worth trying I guess!

    • Good to see you here sister 🙂 JazakaAllah for your advice and Ameen to your duas. I will definitely relay your message to the sister in the post.

  • Yousra Naeem

    She is so strong I mean she spoke on such an important topic!
    But the thing is how’s she dealing with the pressure is phenomenal,i must say she is brave.
    In this case the only thing matter is our trust and faith in Allah,nothing else matter.
    People will judge you no matter what so why care about that?
    Thank-you for sharing this with us.
    -Team Ayeina

    • Judgement is an unfortunately reality of life but maybe we can help irradiate the stigma and provide support to your young sisters inshaAllah. JazakaAllah for your comments.

  • antonietta

    Have you tried to see if your uterus is OK? A lot of people who have unexplained infertility sometimes have a subtle uterine anomaly which sometimes cannot even be detected with histosalpingogram. Try a surgery to see if there is any uterine anomaly

    • Thanks for your suggestions. i will convey your advice to the sister in the article 🙂

      • antonietta

        You are welcome

  • antonietta

    As a suggestion, try http://www.michiganinfertilityexpert.com, as they do reproductive surgeries, not only IVF procedures.

  • antonietta

    Your are welcome.