We are Haley and Hunter Barker from Lakeland, TN. I have PCOS and Hunter has low sperm count and motility issues. We are one in six experiencing both male and female factors of infertility. We have been married for 2.5 years and dating for about 6.5 years. We had our whole lives planned out. School, marriage, jobs, cars, and a home then trying to build our family. I used to pride myself on the fact I did everything “right” before trying to have a baby. I had a good education, a good car, job, and an absolutely amazing love story with an incredible man and I was ready to be a mom. Of course, as with most infertility stories, our plan got derailed at the "building a family" part.
My reproductive journey started in August 2019 when I had to go to my OBGYN for back pain. After an examination, my Dr told me that she could feel something that “shouldn’t be there” and suggested an ultrasound. The ultrasound discovered an unidentifiable mass on my right ovary, and I was referred to a gynecological oncologist at West Cancer center. As you can probably imagine, I was terrified. My doctor was amazing and informative - they monitored the mass and as it kept growing, they suggested we start actively trying to conceive and if I was not pregnant by October then I would need surgery to remove the “thing” as I called it.
October 2019 came, and I experienced my first negative pregnancy test that I didn’t want to be negative, and I was not prepared for that heartbreak. I scheduled my surgery for November 2019, and they warned me that I might wake up without a uterus because they just couldn’t tell if it was cancerous until they did the biopsy. That was the hardest warning to hear as a 26-year-old. I was completely terrified, being a mother is something I’ve daydreamed about while trying to also control completely. That was a rude awakening.
They tried to remove the mass by laparoscopy, but it was too large, and I had to have a myomectomy - a c section like surgery to remove the benign fibroid; it was sitting on the back of my uterus like a backpack and looped to attach to my right ovary. Thankfully, I did not lose it! We had to wait a few months before trying again; however, mother nature had a different plan. I always thought it would be easy to get pregnant because no one in my family had any issues. Yet on another level, I knew something wasn’t right. I could feel it in my bones for a very long time and in mid-May 2020 I was diagnosed with Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
Fast forward a few months and many negative pregnancy tests later, Hunter had his first analysis in November 2020, where he was diagnosed with low count and mobility with no answers why. Hunter and I didn't have alot of guidance from the doctor; however, he continued the medicine he was given, and the second analysis showed a slight increase in count but not enough to feel super confident. Now we are just in a waiting pattern again. We have our first appointment at the fertility clinic in March and while we are very excited, we are scared. We are scared about costs, how much longer we must be patient, how much more my body is going to have to endure and ultimately the fear of it never happening.
Neither of our employers offer any type of fertility coverage; therefore, we are paying out of pocket for every blood sample, test, and treatment. While we may still be grieving the life we thought we would have, we are standing strong together to support and protect each other from the cruelty that infertility inflicts upon mental health, physical health, and even relationships/friendships. Tennessee Fertility Advocates has been a sense of relief from the "trying to conceive" pressure. We are forever grateful for this group that is advocating for insurance coverage and a community that validates our pain and lifts us up at the same time.
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