One Sunday three years ago I watched my husband carry pieces of my daughter’s crib to the end of our driveway for the trash crew. Months before, we had moved Mattie into a “big girl” bed. The crib had been recalled because it had a dropside, and there was no fix for it. The recall was a legitimate excuse to get rid of the crib. The real reason I wanted it gone though, was that I couldn’t stand to look at it anymore. The crib had been empty for a long time, waiting and waiting for a baby that didn’t come.
My husband and I quickly and easily welcomed our daughter, with no issues. We decided we were ready for a baby and she obliged ten months later. But by the time our daughter had turned three and a half, I had experienced six miscarriages and emergency surgery for a ruptured ectopic pregnancy. In complete shock, we began to realize that we might not be able to give our little girl a sibling.
I began to sort through endless internet posts about “baby dust” with confusing acronyms, medical terms and heartbreaking “TTC” chat rooms. I felt selfish for wanting a second child, having our daughter and knowing other women sometimes don’t even get one. Infertility is one of the most difficult life experiences a woman can endure, even more devastating than the loss of a parent. Then I learned there were terms for what I was going through: secondary infertility, unexplained infertility. Infertility is often defined as the inability to conceive. But in my non-medical opinion, I’d categorize infertility as wanting a baby and not being able to have one.
Infertility is, quite simply, not being able to fulfill the dream you have for your family.
Infertility is also the grieving process that goes with the loss of that dream. It is obsession, isolation, anxious hope and starting over and over. It is anguished keening at 3 a.m. while your husband silently holds you with tears running down his face. It is endless doctor’s appointments, blood draws, and ultrasounds. If you can afford it, it is paying a good amount of money to get the opportunity to simply sit at the pregnancy roulette table. And if you win the roulette game and actually get pregnant, it is 14 straight weeks of self-administered progesterone shots that hurt like hell and endless prayers to make it through the longest 20 weeks of your life. And even then, it is living with the fear that the baby still will not arrive.
I know more than a dozen women who have gone through or are going through some form of infertility. My friends have gone through fertility treatments for their first child but not their second; gone through treatments for their second and unexpectedly had a third, or gone through treatment in order to have each of their children. I know women who’ve gone through treatments and are still waiting for their first child, or have given up on treatments but are still holding onto hope that a miracle will give them their second. What these women have in common is that they are all hoping to realize their dream of their family. There are so many women infertility affects and it breaks my heart when I hear of someone struggling like we did.
And I know I am one of the lucky ones. We have our daughter. And our second round of IVF worked.
For weeks after my son was born I’d check on him seventeen, twenty times a night. Every cough or rustle propelled me out of bed to make sure he was still breathing. I could not believe he was here and healthy. I was terrified that somehow I still was going to lose him, that his being here was some freak accident the universe would not accept, because for three years not having him had been our reality.
Being a mom is hard. There are days when I just want to crawl in a hole where my children can’t find me, and cry, or drink a bottle of wine. There are nights when I count the minutes until the babysitter arrives so I can go have a conversation with my husband, and eat without listening to whining or wearing a shirt covered in dried pee and snot. There are weekends I wish daycare operated on Saturdays. Deeply loving your children does not ease the difficulty of the day to day.
Yet. Some nights when my son wakes up screaming at 3 a.m., I slip out of bed to cuddle him. I smooth his funny curls and touch his wet cheeks and try to calm him. I hold him while he fusses. Sure, it’s easy to feel exhausted and irritated, knowing I have to be at work in four hours. But I have not forgotten what we went through. The crying at 3 a.m. could easily be me, still missing a baby I never was able to have.
Instead, I am deeply thankful.