Little League, preschool performances, and story time in the rocking chair. Uneventful for most spectators, but spectacular for me as a mother. Years ago, I thought moments like this would never be mine. We had tried everything! The thought of never becoming a mother wrenched my soul. Adoption didn’t appeal to me. I stayed inside on Mother’s Days and prayed regularly that I would not want a baby anymore. The prayers didn’t help; I still desperately wanted to become a mother. One of my most frustrating days came with swirling news of friends’ pregnancies and I was in charge of invitations for two friend’s baby showers. After working on the invitations that night, I went to Barnes & Noble. I perused the magazine section and, you’re not going to believe this, a girl my husband had previously dated was on the cover of Fit Pregnancy with her perfectly rounded belly. I couldn’t believe it! Years later the irony is funny, but at the time, what a blow!
Treatments and Pregnancy
Mark and I were married in 2005 and quickly started trying to get pregnant. I was only 24, but after a year without success we met with fertility doctors to begin testing and treatments. We tried every procedure available to us and made every lifestyle change that was recommended. You name it, we were willing to do it. The never-ending doctor appointments were an inconvenience, the shots were kind of scary, treatments were expensive, and the medicine took its toll on my mind and body, but the worst part was wondering if anything would ever work. With each failed treatment my hope and faith that I would ever have a baby dwindled. Getting pregnant was all I could think about. Well-meaning people suggested “letting go” and “trying to destress”, but, as anyone who is aching for a baby or who has undergone extensive treatments knows, you can’t just not think about it. It’s impossible. The treatments are too demanding and the stakes are high. It was the hardest four years of my life.
Finally, on our third round of IVF, I was pregnant! The feeling was beyond any word available in the English language. The day I found out was the best day of my life! I loved being pregnant. Every night, when I would kneel down to pray, I would express gratitude that I was finally pregnant. The world could have come to an end and I still would have felt blissful. That bliss lasted my whole pregnancy – the novelty never died.
Graham was born on a beautiful summer day via a scheduled c-section because he was breech. He was a dream baby. Adorable and sweet and so much fun! When he was about 18 months old we arranged to begin another round of IVF. Hopes were high. My medication doses had been perfected with the previous round of IVF and I was still young, so we had every reason to believe it would work. That round failed, and so did the next…and then the next. DISTRAUGHT! I couldn’t emotionally handle any more. I was done, depleted, and actually started to wonder if asking my Father in Heaven for another baby was asking for too much. Was I being ungrateful or greedy? I swore off fertility treatments and made myself make the most of each day with Graham. Then, one day, I felt a little out of sorts and decided to take a pregnancy test. It was positive. I didn’t trust the test so I went back to the store to buy more. They were also positive! UNBELIEVABLE! I was hesitant to get too excited since I wasn’t sure my body could sustain a pregnancy without all the meds I had been on with IVF. So, with reservation, I shared the news with Mark. We quickly made an appointment with our fertility doctor for an early sonogram because I wasn’t going to believe anything until blood levels were checked and until I saw a heartbeat. At 9 weeks gestation, there was that tiny and beautiful little heartbeat. ELATION!
Cooper came sunny side up and looked nothing like his big brother. He was just shy of 9 lbs.; my biggest baby. He is the funniest person I know and he gives the sweetest hugs. We were thrilled have the two boys and Mark and I maintained that we would never step foot in another fertility office ever again. And we didn’t…except then I started to feel out of sorts again. I took a pregnancy test on the 23rd of December 2015, and it was positive. ELATION AGAIN! I shared the news with Mark Christmas morning. Keeping it quiet for those two days was agonizing! I had always dreamt of what it would be like to surprise him with such exciting news. The clinical process of IVF prevented me the first time and I was full of hesitation the second time around. That Christmas morning will forever be one of my fondest memories. We went back to the fertility doctor with happy hearts this time for an early sono and blood work. We were grateful to hear that all was well. I endured the last trimester of my pregnancy during a hot and humid Virginia summer. Charlie arrived two days after his due date and his delivery was flawless. He was beautiful, he ate well, and slept like a champ. He is such a fun baby!
What I have learned
I read once that couples who face infertility struggle with the same level of stress and carry the same emotional burden as someone dealing with cancer. Facing infertility took a toll on my mind, body and soul, but you know the saying “absence makes the heart grow fonder”? I became fonder of being a mother than I would have if my babies came as soon as I thought I was ready. I cherish motherhood in a way I otherwise wouldn’t and during difficult times I can reflect on the days before I had my babies, remember how desperately I ached to have them in my life, and that helps me to put things into perspective.
If you have a child (or children), don’t forget what a miracle that little baby is. While I was trying to get pregnant, one thing I found offensive and insensitive was mothers complaining about motherhood. What I wouldn’t have given to trade places! I know motherhood is hard. The hardest and most important job there ever was, if you ask me. I mean, we are in charge of molding little humans into responsible, kind, reliable, honest people! But, do you remember the day you found out you were pregnant? Whether your pregnancy was expected or a complete surprise, there’s no denying the raw emotion that comes with knowing that you are creating a baby! Don’t forget that day and how blessed you are to be a mother.
If you are struggling with infertility, here are 10 things I’ve learned:
1) While a firm hug, a good cry, and chocolate do wonders, time was the only thing that really helped my heart to heal. Hang in there!
2) Try not to plan your life around getting pregnant. Go on that trip, begin that hobby, take that new job
3) Remain faithful
4) Take one day at a time
5) Retail therapy helps…
6) …getting in a good workout helps more
7) If you’re faced with infertility for your 2nd, 3rd, or 4th baby, don’t feel guilty for wanting another one. For a long time, I felt like I was selfish to think I deserved be able to have another baby. Maternal instincts are powerful and you can’t always relax and let it go. I think it’s important to accept this feeling and then deal with your individual circumstances.
8) I put notes, emails, cards and any words of encouragement from loved ones into a “Feel Better” folder. When I was feeling hopeless, reading these words helped to lift my spirits.
9) Remember that nobody has the perfect life. Don’t compare. Your journey is your journey. You’ll be surprised looking back to see how you’ve been shaped and how you have grown from your specific experiences.
10) You aren’t alone! Countless women suffer from infertility and can relate to what you are dealing with. Find your community. There is a community for families undergoing treatments, a community for couples who face miscarriage, and a community for couples who have been told they are unable to have children. There are adoption and surrogacy communities. Find yours. You will feel better if you do.
If you’re dealing with infertility right now, I understand you’ve been asked to deal with something incredibly painful. Hang in there. We live in a time when amazing treatments are available and hope is on your side. Psalms 27:14 Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and He shall Strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.
Brooke from Pink Pundit
pc: Traci Rampton and Rachel Jeffries