For six years, I endured treatment after treatment, trying to get — and stay — pregnant.
I lost count of the medicated cycles I was on and how many times I had to carefully plan out sexy time with my husband (it’s hard to find the romance when there’s pressure to get things done on a schedule).
We did three rounds of intrauterine insemination (IUI) without success. Moving on to IVF felt like a new chapter — state-of-the-art science that couldn’t possibly fail.
But it did.
Three times, in fact, including one devastating miscarriage.
It took not one but two rounds of using an egg donor before I reached that coveted ultrasound and saw a teeny blob that was hopefully going to become my wiggling infant by the end of the year.
During my journey, I wrote about my struggles and received many emails from other women experiencing infertility. The question they always asked: “How did you keep going after multiple failures?”
Call me crazy, or desperate, but every cycle that was unsuccessful made me that much more determined to keep going. My body, our finances, our entire lives were being put through the wringer, but I knew that if I could just get pregnant and have a healthy baby, life would be okay again.
And it wasn’t only us. During the early stages of infertility, my husband and I heard repeatedly from others that one day this would all be behind us.
Back then, I had the illusion that if I could beat infertility, I could move on.
I believed them because back then, I had the illusion that if I could beat infertility, I could move on. That I was living sort of on pause and once I was holding my child, we could really start life as a family.
But then I delivered my beautiful little girl — and immediately had some wicked post-traumatic stress.
Having to send her to the nursery because I was dangerously sleep deprived gave me anxiety. When we took her home I had a hard time watching others hold her, resisting the urge to snatch her back when people would joke that they didn’t want to give her up.
I thought these were normal new mom feelings, but as time passed, I realized how much I was still struggling with my history of infertility even though I had everything I’d dreamt of.
Infertility doesn’t go away when a baby comes. I wasn’t prepared for that. I wasn’t prepared to wrestle with my feelings of being so happy to be a mother, and yet still be grieving those years of loss.
When you’re in the thick of fertility treatments, you don’t like to think that way. You want to put this part of your life behind you and move on. You want to be blissfully happy.
But my past is always going to be a part of me. It’s part of my story — like my marriage, my years of nursing school and that really awkward time in middle school.
One of the best things I did for myself was start seeing a therapist after my daughter turned 2. She helped me work through my anxiety and face the demons that infertility left behind. I should have turned to therapy sooner, but I think I had it in my head that those feelings I struggled with were “normal” parts of parenting after infertility.
Talking to a therapist has helped me learn to embrace the fact that I was, and still am, infertile, and that it was okay to realize I wasn’t okay.
Infertility, I’ve learned, has influenced every part of motherhood for me, from how I raise my daughter to how I view myself as a parent. It’s made me love her more fiercely than I could ever have imagined. It’s given me an appreciation for life, and all the good that can come from the darkest moments.
I didn’t realize how much infertility changed me. I couldn’t have known it back then. But it’s a part of my story and while I struggle with feeling grateful for it, I realize how much better it’s made me — stronger, more patient, more empathetic.