In honor of National Infertility Awareness Week (NIAW), The Crossroads Chronicle also reached out to Allison Durden Murphy for a Q&A session. Below is her take on her infertility experience.
First things first. Give us some background. Who are you? Who is your spouse?
Murphy: I’m Allison Murphy. I’m 28-years-old and originally from Swainsboro. I live in Bulloch County now with my 33-year-old husband, Ashley, who is a native of Savannah.
When did you two start trying to have a family and why?
Murphy: We started trying to conceive three months after we were married (August 2017). We were both ready to be parents and due to family history, I knew it would be better to start soon just in case I did have any issues trying to conceive.
When did you know you needed help trying to conceive? How did you come to that determination?
Murphy: After six to eight months of trying to conceive with no luck, I knew we had an issue. That paired with pain I was having throughout each month brought me to that decision.
When were you diagnosed? What was your formal diagnosis?
Murphy: After multiple tests and surgeries, I was diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and endometriosis in November 2018.
Did you ever expect to go through this?
Murphy: In the back of mind, I knew there was a chance I would eventually have trouble trying to conceive, but like all women dealing with infertility, you try to stay optimistic.
Some women going through infertility feel like so much of sex ed is about prevention and how easy it is to have a child… What’s your stance on that?
Murphy: Goodness, you do not want to get me started on this! I went to college for biology, so I would say I am pretty smart when it comes to the physical structure, physiological mechanisms, and chemical processes of living organisms, but let me tell you, battling infertility has been an eye-opener for me in relation to how a woman’s body works. There is a scene in the movie Mean Girls that perfectly sums up what we are taught in sex ed: that “if you have sex, you will contract an STI and die.” That sounds dramatic, but if you asked most teenagers what they learned in sex ed, their answers would be similar to the above statement. Why don’t we teach teenagers in sex ed about 1) safe sex practices and 2) how our reproductive and endocrine systems work and what to look for in your teenage and young adult years that could be factors later in life that will affect your fertility?
What have been some major milestones along your journey? (Losses, failed treatments, etc.)
Murphy: In addition to the surgeries I had, I have tried multiple fertility medications, including Clomid and Letrozole. When those alone did not work, the next step for most couples battling infertility would be an Intrauterine insemination (IUI) but due to the severity of my PCOS, the success rate of having an IUI performed was almost nonexistent. I decided at that point that our next step would be in vitro fertilization (IVF), but I was going to give my mind, body, and soul a break first.
Exactly when did you and Ashley stop treatments and why? How has it been to press pause—good, bad? How so?
Murphy: I made the decision to stop all treatments in July 2020 because I needed a break, physically and emotionally. I continued tracking my LH and PdG levels and basal body temperature monthly, but I put a halt to all treatments. Since making that decision, it is a constant battle mentally for me because you want so bad to do everything in your power to bring a child into this world, but you also know that your mind and your body must rest. My husband and I decided that the month after my 30th birthday, we would begin IVF.
What are some of the hardest things to deal with—physically and mentally—as you go through infertility?
Murphy: Watching my lifelong friends become parents has been difficult on me. Your heart and mind feel so many different emotions when you see a Facebook post from one of your friends or classmates announcing their pregnancy or when you receive a baby shower invitation. You are over the moon happy and excited for them, but you are also heartbroken for yourself.
What advice would you give the general public about dealing with someone who suffers from infertility?
Murphy: Quit giving unsolicited advice. Do not tell a woman battling infertility to “not stress or just relax because when the time is right it will happen.” Don’t say, Well, my sister, cousin, or whoever could not get pregnant for years, then all of a sudden it happened.” Don’t say, “Well enjoy this time with no kids being able to sleep late.” The most inconsiderate thing of them all? Do not ask a woman or couple “when they are going to have kids.” Also, if you are pregnant, never say what gender you want to have because I can promise you there could be infertile women that would give anything to welcome a baby and could care less what the gender would be.
On a related note, what would you say to people who don’t see infertility as the big deal it actually is?
Murphy: I always throw the facts on them. Explain to them that one in eight couples are affected by infertility in the United States. That is about 6.7 million people each year who have trouble conceiving in the United States, and globally, 48.5 million couples experience infertility. Approximately 9 percent of men and 10 percent of women aged 15 to 44 reported infertility problems in the United States last year.
How, if at all, do you think going through infertility is preparing you for motherhood? How has it molded you as a person?
Murphy: Honestly, battling infertility is one of the most difficult issues a couple will ever have to deal with, physically, emotionally, and financially. Battling infertility has not only prepared me for any obstacle I may face in the future, but it has also prepared Ashley and I as a couple for any future obstacle we may face. We always say battling infertility is a walk in the park—Jurassic Park.
What are you most looking forward to in regard to parenthood?
Murphy: Simply stated, everything. If God allows me to be a mother, I will appreciate every smirk, every giggle, every cry, every dirty diaper—everything.
What would you like to change about infertility, given this platform? What’s your message about it?
Murphy: That not every infertility journey is the same. Some women battling infertility can take two rounds of Clomid and conceive, but some women can spend 15 years and go through 10 rounds of IVF and still not conceive. I know God placed this challenge in my life because He knew I could battle through it and that going through this difficulty has enabled me to minister to and comfort others who are also suffering.
What do you say to the women in our community who are going through this but feel too
“ashamed” to be open about their conditions?
Murphy: I would suggest to them to start having open conversations about their conditions and infertility journey with people around them. Begin with close friends and family, then the more comfortable you get speaking openly about your journey, expand to individuals and groups outside of your circle. You will always have those individuals that are inconsiderate and give their unwarranted advice, but you will be surprised at the number of women and couples that are right under your nose that are dealing with the same issues you are but also feel uncomfortable speaking openly about them. If we are going to change the conversation around infertility, we must start telling our own stories in a way that will create change.
Who are some of the people in your corner, helping you along the way?
Murphy: I could not make it through this battle with infertility without my amazing husband, Ashley; my daddy and mama, Allen and Dottie Durden; my little sister, Allaina Durden; my “Nanny,” Dorothy Rowland; and the best friends a girl could ever ask for!
How do you cope? What’s getting you through the waiting period?
Murphy: The unbreakable bond Ashley and I have and our relationship with God gets us through the waiting period of becoming parents. Our faith gets us through every bad report, every surgery, every failed treatment, every negative pregnancy test, everything.
How can people help?
Murphy: Every voice, every story, and every person, whether you are battling infertility yourself or someone close to you is battling infertility, each of you can make a difference, no matter how big or small it may be. Any way you can raise awareness will help increase public understanding about infertility and the millions of lives infertility affects each year.
Why is NIAW important to you?
Murphy: It is important to me because it empowers individuals around the world to stand up and speak up about infertility. NIAW’s mission is to change the conversation around infertility. Not only does it enhance public understanding that infertility needs and deserves attention, but it also gives individuals battling infertility a platform to educate lawmakers about how infertility impacts individuals in their respective state and point out the policies in force by them and corporations that create barriers for people who need help building a family.