We are the lucky unlucky ones. Despite a bunch of failed fertility treatments over the years, the gods of science and technology blessed us with one child via IVF. He will be 3 this August. His smile could melt a steel safe and his giggles could warm the heart of the coldest brute in Siberia. I love him with all my heart and all the energy my soul emits. He makes us extremely lucky.
I feel unlucky, however, to still reside in this messy world of infertility as we struggle to have a second child. To be facing yet another round of countless doctor's appointments and hormone injections, two-week waits and dreaded "pregnant or not pregnant" phone calls. I felt unlucky when the nurse called to tell me our second to last embryo didn’t implant last June. “Results show no sign of a pregnancy.” The words still send shivers down my spine. And I felt unlucky yet again last October when our final embryo failed.
I wrongly assumed experiencing a failed transfer as a parent would somehow sting less. This was far far far far from the case. After finding out we weren't pregnant, I would lie awake at night, whispering to my husband, fighting back my emotions, “I think I’m having a panic attack.” I would spontaneously combust into explosive tears – the kind where you can’t find the air to breathe -- at random times throughout the day. And I certainly couldn’t communicate with friends who were pregnant at that time. I know it sounds so outrageously petty, but that’s the deal. I was in a deep compartmentalized funk for a few months, terrified at the prospect of our last embryo not taking. And then it happened.
When we were struggling to get pregnant the first time around, I felt like I was letting my husband down. Like I was somehow less of a woman for not being able to “provide” him with a child, like I was Catherine de Medici or something. And now with our son, I feel this same guilt/shame, however unwarranted, that I’m unable to provide him with a sibling. Though my son is completely oblivious, it somehow hurts twice as much.
Throughout our infertility journey, which began back in 2013, I have read countless stories of women who struggle for years, sometimes for as long as a decade, maybe even more, to get pregnant. Some pour their life and retirement savings into fertility treatments and never do. My heart aches for women and families who experience this. When I was childless reading about the woes of women with children who were disheartened they couldn’t have a second or a third, etc., I wanted to slap them. “You have a kid. GIVE ME A BREAK! I just want ONE!”
Oh what a difference four years makes.
Telling a woman who wants more than one child they should be happy or grateful with what they have is like telling someone not to have more than one goal in life.
“You have a house? Forget about a fulfilling job.”
“You have a great job? Why do you need a partner?”
“You got married? You should just stop there.“
It doesn’t work that way. And I get it now.
I’m beyond grateful for a lot in this life, but I am not grateful that something some women achieve by blinking their eyes is a painful and enduring (and costly) struggle for me.
Infertility doesn’t leave you like a cold. Child or no child. You’re stuck with it.
I feel like I’ve been living in this weird purgatory. I have a child, so I no longer technically belong to the “infertility” club. But we can’t just “try” for a baby like everyone else. There’s a term called “secondary infertility” that is defined as the inability to get pregnant after previously giving birth to a baby. But a woman who got pregnant with her first child the old-fashioned way falls under this category. Our chances of becoming pregnant have always relied on science and treatments. Nothing feels secondary about that.
My favorite part is when you're at the park, happy as can be, running around with your kiddo and other moms, dads, nannies, etc. And someone says, "Oh, is he your only child?" As if to suggest my life is so easy, like it's some sort of competition. And like I'm less than because I only have one kiddo. Do I bust out the story? Do I play nice? Do I bite the person's head off? So far I've managed to buck up and just nod my head "YUP!"
A woman emailed me last year right before our last embryo transfer. She read an article I had written in The Huffington Post and she had just learned her first IUI didn’t work.
“I am grateful women like you share your stories. It’s undoubtedly a lonely feeling… Do you have any advice for how to get thru this disappointment?”
Girrrrrrrrl, buckle up, I thought.
Then I wrote her a lengthy email that ended with the following:
“Last night I was thinking for our five failures (two bad IUIs and three bad FETs) we ended up with our amazing son. Hard to think about right now since I'm in the thick of grieving the loss of our final embryo, but I would take five more failures if we got blessed with another baby.”
Never never never give up hope. I believe if you want a family bad enough you will do whatever it takes. My doctor always said, "Persistence is KEY."
The wounds of our two recent failed transfers are still raw, and the pain is still there. But one day, maybe next week, maybe in two weeks, maybe in a month, or maybe in three, I’ll wake up and the wound will be healed. It will leave a scar. It always does. I will always wonder about the three “lost” embryos. But we will move on. I have to. I can’t give up on the dream of having a big(ger) family. And of seeing our son be the big brother I know he was destined to be. In 2015, I faced my biggest fears alone with my husband. Today I face those fears with our son, who I know will give me the strength and tenacity to get through this next phase, however long and hard it might be. I am lucky, and grateful, for that.