First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes….INFERTILITY, apparently.
We knew very early in our “trying to have kids” days that something was wrong. We were not getting pregnant. We tried. We failed. We waited.
Eventually enough time had passed for us to get medical advice. We found out male factor infertility was the problem.
So in 2003 we got in the ring and started our boxing match with the BEAST that is infertility.
We did not hesitate and immediately began IVF. I embraced the constant early morning appointments, the hormones, the injections, the ultrasounds, the egg retrieval, the waiting, the embryo transfer. To me, it meant we might get pregnant. I was optimistic (not a common theme for me!).
Even this early on in our big old fight with infertility, we considered adoption. We got information, we learned, we talked. We decided to give medical intervention another try. It was the best decision we made. Another round of IVF left me pregnant with my now 11-year old daughter, Anastasia.
Three years later we were ready to try again. But this time around, things took a little longer. Our patience and emotions were put to the test. We had failed cycles. We had bumps in the road requiring treatment of a pelvic infection and removal of an ovarian cyst. We stopped, we breathed, we held each others hand and we pursued. We again embraced injections, hormones, mood swings, blood work. The employees at the lab got to know me pretty well. The team at our reproductive endocrinologist’s office got to know us really, REALLY well! My chart grew faster and maybe even taller than Anastasia was growing at the time (well…in all fairness Ana HAD recently been diagnosed with Celiac Disease, so growing was not exactly her forte).
But we wanted to grow our family. We wanted to be the winner at the end of this fight. We were not about to let infertility give us a black eye, bite our ear, or knock our marriage to the ground. So we continued. We didn’t give up. We tried IVF again. And we got pregnant and welcomed another daughter, Danika, in 2009.
We both knew we wanted children from the beginning. We never had a set number of children we wanted. In our minds, maybe two was perfect, maybe more. Soon after we had our second child we knew we wanted to try for a third. So a couple years after Danika was born we got back into the ring and started yet another match with the BEAST.
But this journey was new. This journey was unlike our comfortable ride down the infertility path. This journey was filled with many new and unfamiliar beasts. We encountered the addition of premature ovarian reserve failure. So now, along with male factor infertility, female factor was also on the plate.
Mike and I were a match made in heaven! Both of us consider family to be key, both of us want a large family, and…neither one of us can make kids! We go together like PB & J.
Joking aside, we still were not about to give up. We considered this new information and learned that it meant we would need the help of an egg donor. We learned everything we could about using an egg donor. We were comfortable with this and we saved our money so we could afford this very expensive addition to our fertility treatment. I never worried that this child may not feel like a part of me. I never felt the need to hide or keep secret our need for a donor egg. We were prepared to be open and honest about it with our children if we were so lucky to have it be successful.
So this time we waited to find a match with a donor. We, again, embraced injections, watched our calendar closely to sync up with our selfless, generous egg donor’s cycle, and accepted her amazing gift graciously.
We got pregnant!
Then we unwillingly discovered miscarriage.
It had been 9 years in the infertility world and I was still so naive. I hadn’t lost a pregnancy until now and didn’t truly understand what having a miscarriage meant. How emotional and difficult it is. In fact, I honestly believe that anyone can understand that miscarriage is awful, but unless you have walked this path, you don’t truly know how awful and difficult it is.
Healing from a miscarriage takes time. Yes you need to heal physically, but emotional healing takes much, much more time.
But we did heal. We planted forget-me-not flowers in our garden that year to help us always remember this chapter in our story. We picked up our heads. And we got ready to keep trying!
And we got pregnant again! But we had forever left our naivety behind during this journey. For suddenly becoming pregnant was not as simple as IVF. And from our perspective IVF had become simple, normal, successful. Suddenly bearing a child was not celebrated the day we read a positive pregnancy test.
Then we found out we were having twins!
We celebrated this early pregnancy and the idea of growing our family by two but not without much worry and caution. And early on we began to add complications to our list including early bleeding and subchorionic hematomas. Then we lost one of the twins. And again we grieved. But this time was much trickier, for we still had a healthy, growing life to celebrate.
I thought about this twin every single day. But we again managed to keep our heads up, and embrace our healthy growing baby. We made it nine months and once again, through thick and thin, our family grew! Callum was born and we were again amazed. His twin is not forgotten but we had healed enough and relished in the joy of our new son! And, to this day, we are certain that Callum’s humorous, spicy, spunky and vibrant self is surely reflective of this twin we never were fortunate enough to hold.
Not long after callum was born, Mike and I came up with a BRILLIANT idea!
We had just a tiny bit more room in our hearts. Mike and I, who don’t conceive kids very well had the wonderfully, insanely, brilliant idea that we should try to fill that room. So we called up or fertility clinic. And although we had left them in 2013 with closure and goodbye visits, they were not surprised to see us.
Our clinic embraced our return, for by now, this amazing group of people were like family. We had a bond that is indescribable. They willingly took out their back brace, forklifted my chart, estimated to be 8″ thick by now, and came up with a plan.
But our most recent journey to build our family was going to test our strength the most. Our hearts were swelling with love for our three amazing children. We longed for a fourth. We were a busy happy family but were also willing and prepared to fight with infertility again. We were no longer naïve. We were no longer relaxed throughout this process, for pregnancy loss takes this away forever. But, we were strong enough to dream big! And strong enough to run towards our dream full force.
We embraced egg donation again. We pinched our pennies to make this dream a reality. We kept hope and we kept positive. But miscarriage won again…and again. It was hard! Infertility nearly won this last time. Quitting crossed our mind often. We cried, we hurt, we stuck together. We had our family. We had each other. We let time pass, we met with specialists. We soul searched. We distracted ourselves with good and fun and positive. And then we HEALED. And we began to consider what was the next path, the next chapter in our story.
Mike and I are not quitters. We were not about to let INFERTILITY think it could win. Yes we did close the precious door to Baystate Reproductive Medicine in one way. But our years with this clinic, with these monumental people, are with us forever. And we would not let the INFERTILITY beast prevent us from dreaming big!
We are not perfect. We are not any more or less deserving than any other being. We are humbled to be allowed to have earned the title of Mother and Father. Sure, we had to work hard to earn these titles, possibly harder than many. But this is how our titles were meant to be earned. And we will never ever wish our story was any different than it is. Our story is what brings us to this exact moment, here and now.
Mike and I…we go together like PB & J!