National Infertility Awareness Week is April 22 – 28
I actually have TWO miracle babies. And if it wasn’t for Miracle Baby #1, there’d be no Miracle Baby #2.
This is my story. My struggle with infertility. (And sleep deprivation.)
I share it because I’m sure many can relate.
Infertility used to be this thing of shame. Just read the Old Testament where all the women weep because they’re barren. A vessel unfilled. It is their identity.
Today, we can label ourselves other things: career professional, aunt, leader, lover of dogs, sister, writer, musician, artist, biker babe. WE ARE NOT BARREN.
Still, even today, women whisper the word: infertility. As if saying the word gently will turn it into a prayer. Or make the heartache go away.
Say the word out loud now. Do you notice it’s full of assonance? Softness? In…fer…tility. The harsh “t” sounds don’t come until the end. Like you can hold the pain at bay.
Say the word out loud again. Linger over the word. Dwell on it. NORMALIZE IT.
Let’s support one another. Let’s give hugs and hold hands. Let’s cry over it together. Giant tears that actually acknowledge the heartbreak. Of unrequited wanting.
In my story, we tried for six years. The doctors called it “unexplained infertility.” They told us I might be allergic to my husband’s sperm. They told us we might be incompatible.
Other people called us “those people who just want to have dogs” or “those people who don’t really like kids.” We didn’t want to talk about the wanting, so we let them label us.
We tried lots of things.
Charting. HSG Dye Test. Clomid. Intrauterine Insemination.
And finally, In Vitro Fertilization. Our saving grace. Truly, a joy unbounding.
We put the truck up for collateral and took out a loan at the bank to pay for our dreams. And, all praise Jesus, IVF worked. I can’t even describe what it was like when we saw that heartbeat on the ultrasound at six weeks. It was miraculous.
We got lucky. We only went through one round of IVF.
And by lucky, I mean: The doctors harvested 19 eggs. Then only 11 fertilized. Then only five embryos made it to the day of truth, Day 5. Then only two seemed suitable for transfer. Then of the three still under watch, none made it past Day 6 to freeze “for next time.”
Of the two suitable embryos, the doctor pointed at a picture of one of them, saying, “If you get pregnant with a ‘singleton,’ this is the embryo to thank.” We were looking at the very beginning of our son. He was perfection.
We got lucky. The transfer and implantation were successful (perhaps thanks to progesterone suppositories). And at eight weeks, the reproductive medical team released me back to my regular OB. This was thrilling and surreal.
We got lucky. Pregnancy was a breeze. Yet also terrifying: I faced complete placenta previa. Which meant I could bleed to death if I went into labor prematurely. This also guaranteed a C-section, which my incredibly careful OB waited until 38-1/2 weeks to perform.
Our minister likes to say that the church congregation breathed a collective sigh of relief when our sweet boy was born. The prayers of the people were with us that day. I lost a full liter of blood. But sweet boy was perfect.
Fast-forward 20 months when Miracle Baby #2 arrived.
No, wait, let’s back up a bit.
My OB told us if we wanted another baby – I was old – to wean sweet boy at three months and to skip the birth control. But to not get our hopes up. That IVF would probably be the only option. IVF – which we’d have to start from scratch again. Because there were no frozen embryos.
I set aside dreams of a household of four. If motherhood was this hard, how could I handle two children? If infertility still lurked around the corner, if baby #2 wasn’t guaranteed anyway (what if IVF didn’t work this time?), no way was I going to wean baby #1 and drop that bond at three months. I would savor every ounce possible of my sweet new son, despite myself and the sleep deprived rage.
But we skipped the birth control.
Sweet boy grew and slept more and smiled and laughed more. Sleep deprivation began to loosen its grip. And when baby turned one, motherhood seemed to make a lot more sense.
And then my clothes wouldn’t fit. And I started craving every sugary thing I could find. It was basically a joke at work: “Here, you probably want a donut, right? Would you like three?”
It seemed beyond ridiculous to think I was pregnant. Me, this body that can’t get pregnant. Me, this body that endured pokes and prods for six years.
I told myself I was going through hormonal changes because I was beginning to wean the baby.
Then I wanted to vomit when I washed the garlic press. And I noticed pregnant women everywhere. And I noticed my silhouette in a store window – I looked just like them.
My husband thought I was crazy. And even crazier to get my hopes up. We’d agreed we were content with a family of three. And now here I was with this insane dream again of a family of four.
Three positive pregnancy tests later, he still didn’t believe me.
I was ecstatic and scared to death. Would I survive the rage of sleep deprivation a second time? (Would our marriage survive it?) How could we possibly handle two small children so close in age?
At least they’d be two years apart. More like 20 months.
When I finally got to the OB, the ultrasound tech informed us that I was already 16 weeks pregnant. (Yes, I have an MBA. No, I have no idea how babies are born. See IVF above.) And, “Oh, would we like to come back next week to learn the baby’s sex?”
So, yes, it’s possible to go through IVF and conceive naturally the second time around. And actually, my body needed IVF to teach it how to create life. Without IVF, there’d be no Miracle Baby #1. Without Miracle Baby #1, there’d be no Miracle Baby #2.
And what a thing of love we’d miss. These two miracle boys – and best friends.
Ginny Olson is the author of the blog MothersRest.com, a love letter to moms, both new and seasoned, journeying from sleep deprived to joy-arrived. When not riding-herd over two small male children, Ginny works full time at a global nonprofit that specializes in leadership development and teaches Marketing for Nonprofits at the local university. Her writing has been featured on several blogs.