Jessica Olien

Three years in the past, cartoonist, writer and Cup of Jo contributor Jessica Olien and her husband, Tim, began attempting to have a child. Since then, she has undergone a number of fertility therapies, sharing her journey in transferring illustrations alongside the way in which. Right here is her story, in phrases and footage…


Jessica Olien Comic

I’ve all the time needed youngsters, one thing I’ve been clear about all alongside. I bought married at 37, and we began attempting immediately. Having a child had all the time been high of thoughts. I’d been taking prenatal nutritional vitamins for years — hiding them from my commitment-phobic ex-boyfriends — as a result of I needed to be prepared. However I wasn’t ready for what got here subsequent.

4 months in, a buddy of my husband’s shared that that they had gone to a fertility physician and I believed, ‘I’m arising on 38, perhaps I ought to go, too.’ Initially, the physician mentioned I used to be youthful than a variety of his sufferers and that every part regarded advantageous. However then my take a look at got here again exhibiting that I had a really low egg reserve. It didn’t imply I couldn’t get pregnant, nevertheless it meant it might be tougher. The place many individuals present process an egg retrieval would possibly get 15 or 20 eggs, I’d get two or three. We’re fortunate to have excellent medical insurance via my husband’s work. With out that, there isn’t any manner I’d have ever been in a position to do that.

At first, my physician inspired me to do IUIs (the place the sperm is positioned nearer to the egg), however wanting again, I want I had gone straight to IVF. The primary IVF retrieval was probably the most heartbreaking factor. I had two eggs, each fertilized. On the day I went again for the switch, my husband bought all dressed up — a element that all the time breaks my coronary heart after I give it some thought. As we had been on our approach to the physician, we bought a flurry of frantic cellphone calls from a quantity we didn’t acknowledge. It was my physician saying each eggs had disintegrated.

That was a yr and a half in the past. Since then, I’ve switched to a health care provider who focuses on individuals with low AMH ranges, with many success tales. I’ve performed banking, and had 4 embryos freeze at day three — by no means day 5, as I’m too afraid they won’t make it to offer them that a lot time within the lab. I’m now in my eleventh spherical of IVF. The chance of it working is lower than 15% per embryo.

Infertility Journey

This yr has been about me attempting to determine what I’ll do if it doesn’t work and attempting to think about my life in several methods. Does it imply adoption? Egg donation? Being childfree and okay with that? There’s a bent for girls to attempt to discover a resolution — to be neurotic about what you eat, to concentrate on all of the small decisions you make, however on the finish of the day that’s simply one other manner of attempting to punish your self. There’s no magic bullet for any of this.

Emotionally, I’ve discovered that infertility may be very cyclical, virtually like your interval may be very cyclical. You’re feeling depressed, however you don’t keep down for a very long time — it comes and goes. You’re speculated to have hope. You have to have hope, proper? In any other case you wouldn’t hold attempting. However on a day-to-day foundation, I really feel fairly cynical about it, more often than not.

Jessica Olien Comic

Individuals all the time say, “You need to have tried to have children sooner.” However for lots of ladies, circumstances don’t work out that manner. Perhaps they don’t meet somebody they need to have a toddler with till later in life. It’s virtually like an invisible infertility, the place individuals who need to have children can’t, for quite a lot of components.

Infertility will be shameful for girls, as a result of it highlights how a lot of our society is concentrated on youth and motherhood. From Kim Kardashian all the way in which again to fertility dolls, there may be such an emphasis on age and sweetness and fertility. Once you’re attempting to have a child and might’t, you discover how a lot of our tradition is about motherhood. It’s in all places — in each business, each present — this message that the that means of life is about having a child. Although that isn’t the case for everybody, there may be a lot strain placed on girls. And in case you do genuinely need that, and are struggling, you are feeling this large quantity of failure each time you’re confronted with this stuff.

Jessica Olien Comic

For probably the most half, sharing has been excellent for me. The primary comedian I posted was about giving myself a shot for the primary time, and I feel I simply needed ethical assist, for different individuals to be there with me and inform me I might do it. However as I continued to share, the identical individuals would remark and inform their very own tales. So many individuals really feel remoted whereas going via this, together with me. However via sharing my work, I’ve fashioned a real assist system — I’ve a buddy in France, who I’ve by no means met, however related to on Instagram.

Earlier than I opened up about my expertise, I didn’t understand how many individuals have gone via the identical issues. Not simply strangers, but additionally individuals I knew. That was actually fascinating, to have individuals from all totally different sides of my life message me and inform me that they’d had hassle conceiving, they had been attempting, they had been struggling. Typically an individual you’d by no means count on. All of it comes again to the way you by no means know what somebody goes via.

There’s not likely an upside to having to undergo this, nevertheless it has made me extra empathetic, and it’s additionally taught me lots about how a lot individuals can tolerate. I went from virtually fainting after I bought photographs to with the ability to give myself all kinds of injections, simply. I really feel superhuman in my skill to tolerate medical procedures.

Jessica Olien Comic

When you have a buddy who’s struggling, giving them house to complain about it, and listening to them, is the most important present. Once you see somebody going via an extended, monotonous wrestle, it may be exhausting to not say one thing to attempt to make it higher, nevertheless it’s okay to simply be there. Telling individuals “it’ll give you the results you want” or “keep optimistic,” although properly intentioned, can really feel shitty. Typically, you must expel all of your unfavourable vitality with the intention to transfer ahead.

Connecting with individuals who perceive, and being there for one another, has been actually nice. Infertility takes over your life, mentally and bodily. You’re continually getting up early within the morning, getting your blood drawn, getting ultrasounds. Typically, I’d think about this military of different girls, rising from the subways and converging to do the identical factor all around the metropolis — as a result of I knew they had been on the market, too. When individuals share an analogous story, it helps you are feeling such as you exist outdoors of this remoted house. Even when it might really feel that manner, you aren’t alone.


Thanks a lot, Jessica, for sharing your story. We love you.

Jessica’s comics have been featured in publications together with The New Yorker, The New York Occasions, The Washington Publish and Cup of Jo. She lives in Brooklyn together with her husband and their cats. You’ll be able to see extra of her comics here and discover her on Instagram @jessicaolien.

P.S. Extra posts about infertility, together with how to help a friend facing infertility and three women share their miscarriage stories.

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