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One in eight couples struggles with infertility, according to some estimates. And it’s often a silent struggle because of the stigma attached to infertility and miscarriage. In Jen Noonan's memoir, In Due Time, released last month through her own Mission Bay Press, she divulges the intimate details of infertility testing and medication, miscarriages, intrauterine inseminations, chemical pregnancies, comprehensive chromosomal screening, in vitro fertilization and frozen embryo transfers. The first-time author didn't set out to change the dialogue surrounding infertility, though. She just wanted to tell her story.
Noonan was living in New Zealand when a friend invited her to come to Denver in 2002. "Who would move to a place they’d never seen?" she wonders now. "But at that time I was 24, and the 300 days of sunshine were appealing.” So she came to Colorado without a job and eventually found work with AustraLearn, now GlobaLinks. She went on to get a master’s degree in counseling psychology and counselor education, and began working with nurses who were in jeopardy of losing their licensing due to drug and alcohol issues.
In 2008, Noonan got married; two years later, she was pregnant. It took almost a year – and the help of medicine – to conceive, but doctors never pinpointed a problem. “I was under 35, and all of the tests came up normal,” she says.
When Noonan found out she was pregnant with her second child in 2012, she was thrilled. But an ultrasound at thirteen weeks showed the fetus had stopped growing. “I showed up, and there was just no heartbeat,” Noonan remembers. Determined to grow her family, Noonan underwent an array of expensive, painful fertility treatments, and in January 2014 an embryo transfer finally worked: Noonan’s second son was born last year.
“We took a lot of heat from people,” Noonan admits when asked about the time, energy and money she spent conceiving her second child. “People told us we should be grateful having one, and that there are already too many kids in the world," she says.
“From the time I was young, I knew I was going to get married and have kids, and I never wanted just one,” Noonan continues. “For me, a quote-normal family was with two kids. I didn’t feel like our family was complete.”
Friends, family, even strangers bombarded Noonan with advice and questions: “When I had a miscarriage, people said it was meant to happen. They told me to relax. They asked why I didn’t just adopt,” she remembers.
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It was questions like that that persuaded her to write a book. “One of my goals,” Noonan explains, “was to weave throughout the narrative the things that had been said to me. Another goal was to get my story out there so people could understand that having babies isn’t as easy as it's cracked up to be.”
Noonan got her two kids, but she experienced shame along the way. And she discovered that she wasn't the only one — though many of the women who struggle with infertility kept quiet about their experiences, Noonan discovered. “There’s a lot of online support, and people will actually change their names and create fake Facebook accounts so they aren’t recognizable,” Noonan says.
In Due Time is Noonan's way of breaking free from the stigma and silence. It's different from other infertility books because it documents an entire journey, and speaks to those experiencing secondary infertility — “an often misunderstood and shameful diagnosis,” Noonan says. Her book is available in e-book and print format through Amazon. For more information, visit Noonan's website.
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