Content note: This story contains discussion of infertility and miscarriage.

Simplified: It's Infertility Awareness Week, and in recognition of this common, but often undiscussed experience, Cmtv News reached out to some local women to hear their stories.

Why it matters

  • About 1 in 5 women will experience infertility – defined as an inability to get pregnant after one year of trying by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • It's worth noting no two infertility journeys are exactly alike. The hope, though, is in sharing some of them, it can bring greater understanding to those who haven't experienced infertility and solidarity to those who have.
  • A common refrain from the women we spoke to was a sense of isolation – sometimes even within their own marriage – as well as a sense of feeling betrayed by their bodies.
"For the people who have or will experienced infertility, know that it's not uncommon," said Kelly Everding. "They're not alone. And that's not to minimize their experience but to know that there are others who can relate and hold space for that."

Hear more from Everding and others who experienced infertility here:

Harder the second time around

Many people experience what's called "primary infertility," which refers to difficulties conceiving a couple's first child. That wasn't Everding's experience.

  • The Sioux Falls mom had her first child, a son, in 2016 after an uncomplicated pregnancy.
"It was a very conscious decision, and it happened really easily," she said.

About a year and a half later when she and her husband started talking about a second child, they anticipated a similar experience.

"That was very much not the case," Everding said, adding that she experienced what's called "secondary infertility."

Over the next two years, she went through numerous tests with an endocrinologist at Sanford Health. After a lot of testing that ultimately told her things are "normal," she began doing some of the least-involved fertility treatments available – foregoing in-vitro fertilization (IVF) for a number of reasons, not the least of which being the cost, she said.

  • Even without IVF, at one point she was spending $3,000 per month on medications, she said.
"After two years of that and four miscarriages – that was where I reached the point where I couldn’t do it anymore," Everding said. "There’s a tremendous amount of grief for those lives that could’ve been, but also for the family and life that we thought we were going to have."

'You're allowed to change your mind'

Stephanie Arne and her husband decided they weren't going to have kids before they married in 2018. But in the back of her mind, Arne was grieving that choice.

  • By 2021, the couple had moved across the country for a new job, and after a visit from her family, Arne knew in her heart she'd changed her mind.
"I am meant to be a mom," she said. "And I will regret it if we don't at least try."

In her late 30s at the time, Arne went straight to doctors for advice. That kick started months of tests, waiting, more tests and ultimately a decision to start IVF.

"There was always this voice (in my head) like, this is going to look different for you," Arne said.

The first round of IVF resulted in one viable egg, but after further testing, a chromosomal issue made that egg no longer viable.

"It felt like a miscarriage," Arne said.

She did her second round of IVF in July 2023, where she successfully retrieved one viable egg that is now the embryo with the potential to be her future child.

  • After even more testing, waiting, hormones and heartache, Arne learned that she would not be able to carry that child herself due to a rare disease – Asherman Syndrome – that results in scar tissue formation inside the uterus.

In January, she reached out on social media asking for someone who'd be willing to be a gestational carrier. Fifteen women came forward offering help, and after interviews, testing and work with an attorney, Arne and her husband have selected a gestational carrier who's willing to help them carry their future son.

The wait isn't over, and Arne described it as constantly holding five-pound weights, just trying not to let your arms drop. She also wants people to know that it's OK to change your mind. She didn't think she wanted kids, or that she'd ever pursue IVF, but she also knows in doing those things, she's following her intuition.

"I kept being driven for a reason," she said.

Successful IVF, but not an easy ride

Jessica Carlson was in her mid-20s when she first started trying to conceive, and when it wasn't successful, she went to her doctor for advice. That's where she learned there was less than a 1% chance that she and her husband would conceive.

"We went straight to IVF," Carlson said.

In 2013, she had her first egg retrieval through IVF and soon after became pregnant with her son.

  • The process wasn't as successful the second time around, and an embryo transfer in 2015 didn't take.

By 2017, she had to start the whole process over with another egg retrieval, but the second time around Carlson had complications that made her quite sick during the process.

  • After another failed transfer, she became pregnant with her daughter in 2018, but the pregnancy itself was very challenging. Carlson was sick the entire time, and the pregnancy was high risk.
"There is this unstated expectation that pregnancy should be enjoyable because you've worked so hard for this," Carlson said, adding that she felt it was "taboo" to discuss her perinatal depression.

After the birth of her daughter, she and her husband decided their family was complete.

Infertility is so common, Carlson added, and she wishes there wasn't so much stigmatization in discussing it.

Where do we go from here?

The primary advice from all three women? Just listen.

  • If there's someone in your life experiencing infertility, you're often better off holding space and giving them a listening ear than trying to offer advice or well-wishes.
"What's so much more appreciated is a quiet heart and a listening ear," Carlson said.

Everding also noted some broader systemic changes that could help, including more funding for women's health research and better insurance coverage for infertility treatments.

For Arne, the process to become a parent is ongoing. She and her husband are raising $50,000 to help cover the costs of a gestational carrier, and you can learn more and support that effort here.

And for Carlson, there's a reminder that there can be peace on the other side of infertility.

"On the other side, it's easier to see the purpose of the difficulties we had to go through," Carlson said. "It is all worth it on the other side, but it's really hard to see that in the moment."