This is a post that has been a long time coming. I have been crafting it in my head and with little notes I've jotted to myself since July. I don't know why it took me so long to actually sit down to write it or why I decided that now was the time to do it, but now that I have the thoughts in my head have exploded and I think I might need to break this up into a few different posts. So here's part one.
I am infertile. I always will be. As such, I have heard a seemingly never ending list of cliches and supposed words of wisdom that I am sure almost every other woman and man in the IF community has rolled their eyes at a million times as well. You know what I'm talking about. The nausea inducing questions about whether you've tried this or that old wives tale, the insistence that you should "just" adopt, and the ever popular, make you want to punch someone "just relax". We've all written or read some amazing posts and articles about just how crushing these words can be, along with some incredible "what to say, what not say" guides. I've been blown away by how perfectly some of my fellow IF bloggers have opined on these well intentioned but ignorant statements and attitudes so I won't re-hash too much of what you have all read or written yourselves but now that I am an IF mom, I've realized I have a few new things to add too.
When Eliana was about 3 months old, a friend of ours gave birth to her naturally, effortlessly conceived healthy baby boy. Chad and I were excited to meet up with another couple, mutual friends, to visit the new parents and meet the little guy. I of course, carried my infertility PTSD with me through it all and felt twinges of IF emotions but mostly, we were all happy for them. Chad and I were also reaching out to the other friends we met up with, who we knew had recently been TTC without success. After oohing and ahhing over the sweet little guy, the four of us went to dinner and talked more in depth about their situation: what they had done so far and what was on the horizon. Mostly, they had just been do what married people do without protection for a little under a year. They hadn't yet reached the point of temping, charting or OPKs and still had to make an appointment to discuss these things as well as fertility testing with their doctor. So we gladly served as their information resource. Explaining how the ovulation cycle works, when to time BDing (wow it's been forever since I called it that! Thanks, IVF!) as well as what to expect as far as testing and the treatment options.
I felt good during this conversation. It was nice to have all those years of reading, googling, tweeting, researching and of course living it first hand benefit someone else. They were very appreciative of how open and willing we were to answer all of their questions. But then they said something I would've never expected to feel a reaction to, especially not the one I had. As I was explaining the treatments and the typical progression that takes place if one doesn't work, they stopped and said that they hope it never comes to IVF because they don't think they could go through all that. If it got "that bad" they don't know what they would do. I said I understood and hoped they'd have success without it as well, and I meant it. But inside I also felt incredibly defensive. I wanted to stand up and defend IVF, tell them it really isn't as bad as they think it is. That in some ways it's actually pretty great. That I couldn't imagine my life without that experience and even if I could go back and change it, I wouldn't. That I wouldn't have it any other way. After all it's thanks to IVF/FET that I am a mother today.
If I try really hard I can remember what it was like to be in their shoes, before the reality of infertility changed my life. I remember when I still believed that getting pregnant was just going to take a little longer than I thought and require just a little bit better timing. I never believed it would come to something as big and real as IVF. In my mind I wasn't truly infertile, just having a more challenging time than some people. One day I would realize I was "late" and poas and plan some sneaky cute way to surprise my husband with the good news that he was going to be a daddy. The "how I found out" story among new moms is a lot like the "how he proposed" story among new brides, and I always feel a little stab of sadness and jealousy when those stories are being swapped, especially when it's my turn and my story is met with with obvious discomfort from people who were expecting cute, light romantic stories. I have a great proposal story and I just expected that I'd have a fairy tale "finding out" story too, but the months came and went and no good news ever come with them. Things slowly got more serious. We read more, took temperatures, changed our diets, saw doctors, did tests, timed, took pills and hoped. Then finally after years of slowly turning up the heat and our stress levels we were faced with the reality and the news that IVF was our only hope.
That day was devastating. We cried and mourned the loss of conceiving a child the way we always dreamed we would. It's often hard for most people to understand but there is a such loss there and I still feel it with every "naturally" conceived pregnancy announcement. (something I thankfully know from other IF parents, is totally normal). It was crushing to know that my body couldn't do something I had always just assumed it would. I felt betrayed by body, like less of woman for being unable to do what it was designed to do. And I couldn't believe I was really here, really in this place. The end of line in options to have a biological child.
But the next day, we dried our tears and went about making our decisions about what to do next, and as you know, we decided that IVF was the right choice for us. And as soon as the decision was made and the process began, there was surprisingly a great deal of stress lifted off our shoulders. We had been timing and monitoring everything ourselves, every month for ages. Everything was timed and we often did things we felt too tired for because it was the OPK smiley face day and we thought we "had" to. Now, we had someone else doing all of that monitoring for us and we could do what we wanted, when we wanted, or not at all if we chose Sure, there were blood draws, and wandy visits and needles, lots and lots of needles. It certainly wasn't easy. But it felt like we were finally doing something other than wandering blindly through TTC hoping for success. There were tangible progressions, follicle counts and hormone levels to hold on to. And although I was terrified it wouldn't work, I knew that if it didn't and we reached the end of that road too, we would take the time to mourn the loss and then pursue adoption. We had already been certified for the foster to adopt program in our county and knew who to contact when we felt ready. I still had a long journey of head of me either way but I finally felt that I knew where I was going, and all roads led to motherhood.
I was one of the lucky ones it worked for. Although my first pregnancy ended in miscarriage, I am still blessed to have my precious daughter here through the wonders of frozen embryo transfer. It wasn't an easy road but it was a worthwhile one. And not only did the technology of IVF & FET make my dream of motherhood come true, it forced me to grow, to expand. I know so much more about the way my body works, about how conception and pregnancy really happen. And needless to say, I have met some of the most incredible people along the way. I will still always be a little wistful that I ever had to go through that growth, to learn everything I did. Ignorance is bliss in so many ways, and I am still a bit jealous of women who don't even know what a luteal phase is let alone how long theirs is. But now that I do know these things, I couldn't dream of turning back. As challenging as this road has been and although it will always be more demanding and more emotional I am forever grateful for how it has changed me and what it has given me.
There is an unspoken implication that IVF is a last resort to becoming a parent, as if you have failed if this where you end up. I have seen it on people's faces and heard it in their voices over and over again. It is evident in their carefully chosen words about how they imagine having to do something "like that". And every time I quietly speak up on the side of IVF and all ART as well as the choices to adopt or live child free. There is too much negativity, too much stigma attached to each of these choices and too much assumption about what leads people to them. There is too much fear and shame. Of course, I'd love to make infertility vanish so that no one ever has to know the pain and anguish of not being able to have a child, so that these choices never have to be faced by anyone who wants to be a parent. But as much as I wish it, I can't change mine or anyone's infertility but I can speak up. I am proud of my experiences, I am grateful for what I endured. I am not ashamed of how my daughter was conceived and I will always make sure that she and the rest of the world knows it.