Every time Alysa Dudrey looks at her 2-month-old girl, she says she feels so much joy. However, she also feels pain thinking about what it took to get her here.
“This is our daughter, Penny," Dudrey said. "We started our infertility journey in 2018 and continued until we had her.”
Finding out she wouldn’t be able to have kids was a shock to Dudrey because Penny isn’t her first child.
“I had my daughter Evalyn – she’s almost 8 – when I was in high school," Dudrey said. "I wasn’t trying to have a baby, so when I got pregnant and she was born. it was just kind of like ‘OK, really stressful, but it happens.' I didn’t think much of it until we entered our infertility journey and got our diagnosis and found out she never should have really been born.”
Four years after having Evalyn, Dudrey married Conner. The two planned to have a baby together right away. But a few months of trying turned into 6 months and then a year passed. So, she got a multitude of tests done with a fertility doctor. The day she got her results is a day she says she’ll never forget.
“Going in, they sit you down and we’re only 23 years and they tell us ‘here’s what we found and you can’t have kids’ and so I think revisiting that is making me emotional because we were so young and healthy and truly, truly thought they’re not going to find anything,” Dudrey said.
The Dudreys sat in their grief awhile, trying to decide which steps would come next.
“I always tell people that it feels like a loss," Dudrey said. "It doesn’t feel like a medical diagnosis. It doesn’t feel like a small bump in the road. It feels like this huge thing that is just gone.”
Rebecca Flick works with Resolve – a national infertility association.
“You feel shame," Flick said. "You feel hurt. Your body has disappointed you in a certain way.”
Numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show one in eight couples of reproductive age face infertility. That’s approximately 7.3 million people in the U.S. However, she expects that number is much higher when you include people with a medical diagnosis or something else that prevents them from being a biological parent.
“So, that also means our brothers and sisters and non-binary friends in the LGBTQ community,” Flick said.
Flick says infertility can drastically impact somebody’s physical health, emotional health and relationship health. Your finances also take a big blow. She says methods to grow your family like Intrauterine Insemination or In Vitro Fertilization are not always covered by insurance. In fact, Dudrey says she had to change jobs just so she could get coverage.
“At our clinic, one round of IVF without insurance can be anywhere from $30,000 to 50,000 for one cycle," Dudrey said. "And that doesn’t even guarantee that you have a baby.”
On top of the money, Dudrey says the IVF process she went through to have Penny was extremely difficult. So many medications and injections ruled her life. The first cycle failed. So she tried again. Finally after two years of infertility treatments, she got the news that she was pregnant with Penny.
“She’s the baby that we truly thought we would never have so yeah, it’s amazing,” Dudrey said.
Dudrey says she wouldn’t have been able to get through those two years if it hadn’t been for the infertility community she found on Instagram. That community is the reason why she decided to be so open about her journey on social media.
“I have friends who I’ve never met before who know me better in this area than some people I see every week,” Dudrey said.
Flick says she never expected people in the infertility community to be so open on social media about something so intimate, but she’s thankful it’s happening.
“When you post that story, you don’t know who is seeing it, who you’re helping," Flick said. "You’re not alone in this.”
Flick says the best thing we can do for people facing infertility is love them and tell them we’re here to listen. Instead of offering advice on what you think is best, a simple "this must be hard" goes a long way.
“I’m so happy," Dudrey said. "But I can’t be happy without remembering what it took to get here and remembering that there are people who are still trying to get here.”