Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Parise Family
In 1998, when Amy and Joe Parise got married, they, like many young couples, were also ready to start a family. They weren't in a rush, but they decided to start trying to get pregnant. "We were of the 'when it happens, it happens,' mentality," recalls Amy. Through the first year, as they settled into their marriage, they thought little of the fact that they hadn't yet conceived. But after about 18 months of trying, Amy began to think there was a problem. She and her husband went for tests, which initially came back with no indication that anything was wrong. "That was very frustrating," she says. "Here I was, young enough, healthy. The tests said everything was fine '- yet we weren't conceiving." But eventually, after more tests, Amy's doctors pinpointed the issue: Her luteal phase was off. "Basically, my body was never at the right stage to get pregnant."
So began Amy and Joe's five-year journey through infertility treatments '- and Amy's own struggle with self-blame, control issues and emotional isolation.
Amy began with two cycles of Clomid, which had little effect on her egg production, but definitely had an effect on her disposition. "Oh, the poor people I worked with!" she laughs ruefully, recalling her sometimes less-than-civil conversations with coworkers while taking the drug. But it wasn't just the medication that made Amy's mood take a downswing '- it was the emotional pressure she put herself under: "I felt that not being able to conceive was a failure on my part, and was very embarrassed." Deeply ambivalent about her need for assistance to conceive, at times she resisted progressing with treatments. But Amy also wanted a baby '- and, finally, she wanted one enough to go further with the treatments.
Amy's next step was to move to injections of Repronex, which while not a turning point in her conception journey, was one for her relationship with her husband. "In the beginning, I was horrible to Joe. I kept everything inside, but still managed to take it all out on him." But with the injections, which she needed Joe to administer, the two of them found a common ground. "He got very involved '- the injections have to be very carefully timed, so there we'd both be, rushing home for our 'appointment.'" Amy finally felt like she had a partner, and, she says, "he finally had more of an understanding of what this entailed for me."
But even after bridging the emotional gap with her husband, Amy still kept her struggle with infertility from most of the people around her. "I didn't tell my family. I didn't talk to people at work about it. I didn't want to deal with the questions." Compounding her feeling of isolation were the women, both at work and among her friends, who were having babies with seeming ease. "I'd see these young mothers with their babies, or hear someone talking about how she didn't even try to get pregnant, and I'd just wonder what I was doing wrong." As Amy later found out, multiple people in her office were also dealing with infertility, and "by not talking about my own problems, I missed out on getting any advice or support from any of them. How great it would have been to trade notes!"
After the cycles of injections failed to produce results, Amy and her doctors began discussing IVF treatments. "I had so many meetings with my doctors," she says. "I kept saying I wasn't ready yet, I wasn't ready yet. Honestly, I fought against it." She and Joe began researching adoption, and began seriously considering that as their next step in the journey of having a family. "But then I realized I really wanted tocarry a baby if I possibly could. I felt a huge loss over that. So I decided to give IVF a try. Just one '- we agreed that if it didn't work, we'd go the adoption route."