COVID-19 puts fertility treatment, family's dreams on hold
'To say that people are devastated is actually an understatement': Kelsey Connell
Brittany McGeough and her husband Matt McGeough have been trying to have a baby for four years. Because of COVID-19, their dream is on hold again. There's no timeline for when Saskatchewan's sole fertility clinic, located in Saskatoon, will start up again.
The Lumsden, Sask., couple has been through several rounds of differing fertility treatments in the last four years: several rounds of intrauterine insemination (IUI) and some rounds of in vitro fertilization (IVF), along with supplements, acupuncture, massage.
When you want something this badly, you'll try practically anything. "The only thing we haven't really done is sacrifice a goat," Brittany said with a laugh.
They miscarried in February after an implant of a frozen embryo. They have two more embryos waiting for them at the clinic, and had planned to try another implant in March or April.
"Now, we're starting from square one," Brittany said. "We thought there was light at the end of the tunnel but now it's just a much longer tunnel."
"It's such a roller coaster that at some points you just don't know how to handle it," Matt said.
"Heaven knows I'm not getting any younger at this point, so it's just one more straw on the camel's back that goes against your mental health," Brittany said.
They worry that the clinic will be backed up when it opens again, either from people who were put on hold, or new couples who realize in the coming months that they are dealing with infertility as well.
Matt said men talk about infertility issues even less than women, but he wishes that weren't the case.
"We really don't have anyone to talk to," Matt said.
"I remember going through this and I would just kind of pretend to smile and [I would] be there for Brittany but really it was difficult. I didn't want to reach out to my friends because I didn't want to put that on them or expect them to have any answers."
'Time doesn't stop'
Kelsey Connell, vice-president and co-founder of Family Fertility Fund, knows firsthand what a fertility journey looks like. She started the fund after having four miscarriages and is now able to fund fertility treatments for families in Saskatchewan.
She said when she heard about the stoppage of the treatments, her mind went to the older recipients.
"Every month for them is essentially a hit against them. So for them, it's even more devastating because time doesn't stop," Connell said.
"They've been prepping weeks physically for this. They've been prepping emotionally for months. They've been prepping financially for years ... You're being crushed on three totally different levels."
Connell said she's hearing a lot of anxiety from couples and families who've had to put this part of their lives on hold. She said people in her circle are seeing posts on social media about being stuck at home with kids or having to home school kids, which is not helping the situation.
"A lot of these women are going 'I would give anything to have that problem. I would give anything to be stuck in a house with my children. I just want my children,'" Connell said.
Both Connell and the McGeoughs recognize that it's important for people to be as safe as they can during a pandemic, but they do wish somehow, treatments could go forward.
"To say that people are devastated is actually an understatement," Connell said.
For the McGeoughs, a few things keep them going: hope, humour, family, and the fact that they both work with kids.
"I remember one day when I told people at work, one of my boys came up to me and said 'don't worry, you have 12 kids,'" Matt said.