“Everything will be ok in the end. And if it’s not ok, then it’s not the end.”
I’m not sure where I heard this quote for the first time, but soon I adopted it as my own. It became my infertility mantra. I repeated it as I gave myself my first injection. I whispered it as I rolled up my sleeve to reveal my bruised arm, black and blue from daily blood draws. I screamed it as I fell to the floor sobbing after receiving yet another negative outcome. There were so many times over the course of my 3.5-year infertility battle that I didn’t believe those words, and yet I clung to them because at times it felt like it was all I had left.
Infertility took a lot from me. Receiving an unexplained infertility diagnosis at 30 years old was a shock. I had no medical or family history to suggest that I would have trouble conceiving. In fact, by all accounts, my family was full of fertile people who became pregnant with little effort. For 3.5 years I lived in the secret gray area that undergoing fertility treatment creates. An in-between state where the present is a painful series of failures and the future seems hopeless. Where your every thought, plan, and dollar goes toward a dream that might not ever come true.
Infertility robbed me of my joy. I am ashamed to say how hard it was to be happy for my dear friends and family when they announced a pregnancy. It’s not that I didn’t want that for them—it’s that I wanted a turn as well. On special occasions and holidays, it was hard to celebrate when I was longing for something that was so far out of my control. It was a lonely time. I had the support of my partner, but that was it. Through the majority of my struggle to become pregnant, I didn’t have a community of women to talk to who had been through this experience.
Infertility removed the hope I had and replaced it with fear. Fear of my life looking different than I had always imagined. Fear of the worst thing continuing to happen, because once you have had such heartache you assume it will always be the norm. Infertility took up so much of my time. Years that I will never get back. Promotions that I never took, because that month it might work. Experiences that I never had because every extra dollar was earmarked for treatment. And I certainly tried them all! We started with a conservative approach, but over the years I ended up sampling a little bit of everything from multiple IUIs, to acupuncture, to exploratory surgery, and finally to multiple IVF cycles.
Yes, infertility sure takes a lot.
But it gave me something as well. It gave me the chance to be there from the very beginning. To know my children from the very start. To hold a photo of my babies when they were nothing more than a few little cells, and pure potential. To be aware of the exact moment when my child’s life began.
Infertility gave me perseverance. I have been brought to my knees from the physical pain that is infertility treatments. I have searched my body for an unbruised spot to give myself yet another injection. I have sat in my car and cried over bad news on my lunch break from work. And yet, I never stopped trying. I never felt ok with the way it was, so I knew it wasn’t the end. So month after month, year after year I picked myself up and did it all again.
Infertility gave me the gift of perspective. When I finally did get pregnant after a second IVF cycle, I found out I was having identical twins. I was overjoyed and terrified. I had been dreaming of that moment for so long, and yet it was hard to relax and enjoy a high-risk pregnancy. The majority of my pregnancy was uneventful until around 27 weeks. I was admitted to the hospital for signs of early labor, and eight days later, I delivered my twins via emergency c-section. I was only 28 weeks along.
For the next two months, I had two babies in the NICU. It was so hard, but in many ways, the struggles of infertility prepared me for the humbling days in the NICU and life after discharge. If being infertile, and the treatments and heartache were what I needed to endure in order to approach parenthood from a place of gratitude, then it was all worth it. Because when it all comes unglued (and it certainly does) I can look around and smile and think I’m so grateful that I get to experience the mess, and the noise, even the tantrums. I wouldn't be where I am, or who I am without this experience. It took so much from me and yet gave me, my everything.
I know my “ending” was a happy one, with two healthy babies. I recognize that this is not always the case. But my hope for anyone dealing with the hell that is infertility is that if you are at the end of your infertility journey, you are okay with the outcome. I hope you are at a place or are working towards a place, of peace with how it all turned out, and excitement for the wonderful life that lies ahead...with or without children.