Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, people had sex to get pregnant. They peed on sticks and waited with giddy excitement for two pink lines to emerge. And when they learned a baby was on the way, they were happy.
This is not my story. If you didn’t already know that, here’s a little background for you:
Neil and I tried the natural way to conceive our first child for over a year and a half. From the beginning, I should have known we’d have problems – my periods were never regular, ever – but I was young and hopeful. That was the first red flag. The second red flag showed up in my blood work the first time we saw my OB for fertility assistance. My hormones were all off. I tried Clomid for months, with no improvement. Third red flag showed up in Neil’s semen analysis. His counts were all off. We BOTH tried Clomid for months, adding in a few intrauterine-insemenations (IUI). Fourth flag showed up in the ultrasounds that were taken before the IUI treatments: I wasn’t ovulating. THEN we added into the mix, for each IUI, a shot I received in the butt to trigger my ovaries to ovulate. Still, no such luck. We took a break for almost a year before we traveled down to Nashville for advanced assistance, our only hope, in-vitro fertilization (IVF). After months of tests and trial and error medications, our first IVF cycle took and we were pregnant. In two days, I’ll be 36 weeks pregnant with our little IVF miracle baby.
For Neil and myself, procreation swiftly morphed from a intimate, pleasurable journey to a daily grind. Months of weekly appointments, weeks of daily blood draws and ultrasounds… Our baby was ultimately conceived not in our candlelit bedroom but in a darkened lab, where a woman I still don’t know introduced my husband’s sperm to my eggs. Five days later, I swallowed a Valium and had two embryos inserted in my uterus through a catheter.
Seven days after that first IVF cycle, we received the phone call that would change our lives: “Congratulations!” my case manager proclaimed. “You’re pregnant!” How many negatives had we had to endure? And now, finally after all this time, blood, sweat, and tears (literally!), we’re finally hearing a positive! Our bodies flooded with shock and elation.
Then, the fear set in, and instantaneously, I knew: My pregnancy journey would not be like most women’s.
I had read that an anxious reaction is common. That women who become pregnant after infertility treatments face more complex challenges than those with a natural pregnancy. That they can’t relax; there’s incredible fear and anxiety over miscarriage or birth defects. That they’ve usually spent years in infertility treatment, and are used to things not working out.
I was certain the worrying and emotional pain of infertility would vanish – Poof! – the moment we got our positive result. Instead, my concerns simply shifted from “Will I ever get pregnant?” to “Will this pregnancy last?”
At the risk of sounding like a crazy person, I managed to convince myself in my first trimester that I had doomed our pregnancy by, in no particular order, eating blue cheese, skipping with my toddler niece, and inhaling nail polish remover. Anything and everything was up for grabs!
I had decided early on that only our parents would know, not our siblings or other family members. I was definitely leaving it off of Facebook until well into the second trimester. The less people to know that we’re pregnant, the less people I’d have to tell that we’d miscarried. That’s how my mind worked for a long time and even though I wanted nothing more, I couldn’t enjoy just being pregnant.
I had read that the reluctance to share or celebrate the good news on the fact that Pregnant Infertile Women have often exhausted themselves emotionally, physically and financially, creating a deep-seated fear of losing the pregnancy or of something going wrong with the baby’s development. Most of our family didn’t find out until 12 weeks and Facebook, 18 weeks, which is when I could no longer hide my growing belly.
I also read that Pregnant Infertile Women must also tackle a critical shift in how they view themselves, transitioning from “infertile woman” to “mother-to-be.” My identity used to be defined by my role in my family, my relationship, career, hobbies and friends. Once I realized that getting pregnant would be difficult, my identity became increasingly defined by my infertility.
Yes. I’m pregnant. I finally got the ONE THING I’ve been praying for for over 4 years now. (Or at least I will have the ONE THING in a few short weeks!) A few weeks ago someone really close to me asked how I was feeling. I value honest above all else so I said “Not good but I’m getting used to it”. Her response, “But you’re pregnant, isn’t that all that matters?” Because I wanted this so badly, and finally got it, I’m not allowed to feel and or at least voice my discontent with having an awful pregnancy. Sometimes, I feel that I shouldn’t. But then again, honesty.
After four-plus years of infertility, there was this hesitancy to gripe about the awfulness that pregnancy can include. I’ve experienced an unbelievably horrible pregnancy marked by extreme nausea (but no vomiting), insane migraines, joint pain, major fluid retention, high blood pressure, depression, and a head and chest cold I’ve had for 6 weeks now and just can’t shake. Even though I did complain to those closest to me, I would later pray for forgiveness. I felt awful for complaining about something I’ve worked SO HARD to get. I’ve read that the mentality is, ‘You’re finally pregnant and now you’re going to complain?’ You’re expected to simply be grateful for whatever kind of pregnancy you have.
And I am grateful. Extremely so! (Just not for the awful pregnancy) I’m pregnant! I’m about to have a baby! But when/if we try again for another baby – I firmly believe it’s all in God’s hands but all signs point to having to go through IVF again. Meaning, I’m still infertile.
And because of that, it still hurts my heart to hear/read of other women (lovely women!) getting pregnant with little or no time time trying. It still hurts my heart when those women have easy pregnancies. I struggled to get pregnant and now I’m struggling throughout my pregnancy. But here I am – pregnant, almost a mother – and I know that it will all be worth it in the end. Even if God chooses to give us only one biological child, it will be worth it.