It feels weird to think about my journey through infertility while I listen to my children playing in the next room. Some days, when I am overwhelmed by piles of laundry and toys and uneaten peanut butter sandwiches, it’s hard to remember the empty, quiet house. It feels so far away. It’s hard to remember the dull, but constant ache of waiting. But in the quiet of the night, when I am rocking a baby in a dark nursery or when I am thumbing through old journals, reading the words of the old childless me, I can still feel that distant pain. I can still feel the sadness of my younger self, desperate for a baby.
You could say it was my own fault the first time around. I got married knowing that my husband had already had a vasectomy in a prior marriage. But we had done our research. We knew that vasectomies could be reversed successfully. We also knew that it might not work. I knew the risks. I got married, and we quickly paid a hefty sum of money to have the vasectomy reversal. I breathed a sigh of relief when the doctor told us it was successful, and then, six months later, it wasn’t anymore. There was an explanation I didn’t fully understand, but the why didn’t matter as much as the what. There was no chance I could become pregnant without in-vitro fertilization (IVF). We asked ourselves all of the hard questions:
- How far were we willing to go to have biological children?
- What about the ethics of IVF?
- What would we do with extra embryos?
- What about adoption?
There was so much to consider. We decided to proceed with the IVF process, and I began to imagine life with kids. I started the process with testing, exams, and shots, but our new marriage hit some road bumps. We decided to put the IVF on hold, and as our marriage began to fall apart, so did my dreams for motherhood.
In every sense, I got my second chance when I remarried. I was older and wiser. And this extra chance at love also meant another chance at motherhood. After all, we had no known fertility problems, although my age put me into the advanced maternal age group. But time continued to pass, and each month brought negative pregnancy tests. I was so confused. None of my sisters nor my closest friends had any trouble getting pregnant.
For years I watched as, one by one, they made announcements, grew adorable pregnant bellies, and filled their homes with sweet babies. Meanwhile, I attended baby showers, showed up to hospitals with flowers, and held brand new babies. I was sure it was my turn. But even with all of my tracking and charting and basal-body-temperature-taking, it just wasn’t happening. The start of every cycle brought pain and disappointment.
I went to a specialist. He listened and he assured me he would do his best to help. But before insurance would pay for testing and fertility medications, I would have to be under his care for six months, trying to get pregnant unsuccessfully. Then and only then could I be treated for infertility. I felt like I was running out of time. But six months later, I found myself back in his office, still not pregnant, ready to start testing.
Failure and Success
We started with an HSG (hysterosalpingogram) test. It was painful, but everything looked good. The next month, I was finally pregnant. No shots necessary. No IUI (intrauterine insemination). It felt like I was getting away with something big by not having to jump through more hoops. I cried as I told my husband. I felt like my dream was finally coming true. It was so surreal. Those first weeks were filled with doctor’s appointments, blood work, nausea, and dreaming about life with a baby. My baby. I went in for an appointment at 10 weeks, and there was no heartbeat. Demised — that was the word the doctor used. My baby was gone. I was devastated. Heartbroken. I was back at square one.
Three months later, I was pregnant again. This time, I carried the baby to full term. He was born at 39 weeks with just a few complications. He was healthy and beautiful. I lost one more baby on my way to being a mother of two. It was not a difficult decision to stop there. I didn’t think my heart could handle another loss. I have two beautiful, feisty children on earth. I have two more in heaven. I am content for now. We dream of adoption, of opening our home to a child who needs one.
Worth the Investment
Almost 10 years passed from the day I started trying to have a baby to the day I brought my first baby home. Ten years of dreaming and planning and praying and crying. Ten years of invasive tests and shattered hopes. I had spent a decade of my life becoming an expert about my own body and about fertility. And in the end, it paid off. It paid off in tiny cries and piles of laundry and sleepless nights. I could not have been happier.
When I first started trying for a baby, I had a conversation with a childless friend. She was beyond childbearing years, and she had never looked into her own fertility issues when she was young enough to try. Her advice to me was this: Spend the money. If it means you pay to have procedures to get pregnant or adopt, you spend the money. Spending the money is worth it.
Ten years and tens of thousands of dollars later, I am glad I took her advice. It doesn’t work for everyone. For a thousand different heartbreaking reasons, it doesn’t work. But it did for us, and I am so thankful.