I have always wanted three kids. I am one of three, my husband is one of three, and I love the idea of my children each having two different siblings to play with, laugh with, and lean on for support. What I didn’t know when I was planning my idealistic future family was that I would be diagnosed with infertility at age 27 and go through a long road of failed IUIs and IVF to even get pregnant in the first place. Talk about a wrench in my plans.
1 in 8 couples in the U.S. struggle to get pregnant or sustain a pregnancy. That's about 6.7 million people each year who have trouble conceiving. And I have to say, I feel luckier than most. After a year of fertility treatments, I conceived boy/girl twins on my second IVF transfer, and despite a high-risk pregnancy and complicated birth, I delivered two healthy babies in October of 2018.
But what I’ve learned is that infertility doesn’t magically go away when you become a mom. While I was busy soaking in every waking moment with my twins, there was always this nagging voice inside my head reminding me that the clock was ticking if I wanted to give them a sibling. I guess that’s just another side effect of IVF—even when you finally have success, it’s hard not to think about whether the next go-around will be equally as tough.
Enter the COVID-19 pandemic.
In March of 2020, when the world shut down due to COVID, my twins were 18-months old, and I suppose you could say we were in the thick of it. While I knew at the time that IVF was in our not-so-distant future, I couldn’t even begin to wrap my head around opening that door again. We were two working parents with two toddlers and no childcare in the middle of a global health crisis; anything that wasn’t completely necessary would simply have to wait.
Months went by, and then a year. I kept thinking, “this too, shall pass,” and then it didn’t. Pandemic life became our “new normal,” and while we adjusted along with it, the thought of adding IVF into the mix didn’t become any more appealing. You see, this time, I knew what to expect. I had done the injections; I had experienced the side-effects; I had been subject to countless blood draws, ultrasounds, and procedures. With COVID exposures and daycare closures now a part of our day-to-day life, how could I choose to pile that kind of stress on top of it?
But with no end to the pandemic in sight, I eventually got tired of putting our lives on hold. When my twins were 2 ½ years old, I caught myself thinking, “I wish I could just have sex and get pregnant,” and that was the clarity I needed. If we could conceive the ‘old-fashioned way’ with no regrets, why was I questioning IVF so intensely? I scheduled an appointment with the fertility clinic the next day. Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose (or so I thought).
In hindsight, I went into my first embryo transfer cycle with so much hope. My previous transfer had been successful, so I didn’t see why this one wouldn’t be, too. Then my daughter caught a virus in the middle of my two-week wait, and instead of caring for myself I had to care for my sick child. Yes, I had known what to expect during the IVF process, but things felt so different this time around. I couldn’t just put my feet up, relax, and eat pineapple. I was a mom of twins during a global pandemic, and that job had to come first.
Unfortunately, that cycle ended in an early miscarriage, and while I was devastated, I didn’t really give myself ample time to grieve. My daughter was still recovering, my job was incredibly busy, and the transition to toddler beds was giving us a run for our money. Even though my mind told me to keep going, I knew in my heart that I had to take a break from treatments to regroup and focus on my family before thinking about next steps.
Fast forward to today, and after a much-needed hiatus I’m finally in the middle of another frozen embryo transfer cycle. I’m hopeful, scared, and cautiously optimistic all at the same time. I’m also currently at home with two toddlers who are recovering from a stomach bug after recently being quarantined for 10 days due to a COVID case in their class. Sigh.
Life as a parent has been stressful lately, if not impossible. But for those of us who must do IVF to grow our families, there isn’t much of a choice other than to jump back into it whenever time feels right. And if the time never feels right, that’s okay, too. This is hard, and while you may have envisioned yourself with three kids before, you’re allowed to change your mind, and then maybe even change it back again.
As for me, I’ll be over here thinking about what to feed my toddlers for dinner while remembering to give myself nightly injections and crossing my fingers for a rainbow. Will it be perfect? No. Will I have time to squeeze in acupuncture? Probably not. Will I make my own bone broth? There’s no way. But I will be doing my best as a working mom going through IVF during a pandemic, and that has to be enough.
Kristyn Hodgdon is a writer, voracious reader, and proud mom boy/girl twins, who were conceived via IVF. After struggling with infertility, Kristyn Co-Founded (Fertility) Rescripted, a social network and holistic-care platform for fertility patients. Rescripted is changing the narrative around fertility and burning the word 'normal' when it comes to what a family is and how one comes to be. Join the conversation on Instagram at www.instagram.com/fertility.rescripted, or visit their website at https://rescripted.com/.