Yes, some people actually do lose the war on infertility.
Have you ever pictured your future at a young age and clung to certain aspects of that picture that you KNEW in your heart to be true and essential to your being? I did. I pictured having a large family where my kids were my world and everything else was secondary (money, career…). For as long as I can remember, I wanted babies and lots of them. When I met my husband, he wanted two children. I wanted a minimum of three and knew that with his giving heart, he’d eventually consent to having three even if they do not fit at a square table (this is a joke between us because he is one of three children and his reasoning for only having two children revolved around ridiculous observations about symmetry). All I ever wanted was to be a mom to many. Had I known when I had my son over nine years ago that I would never have that experience again, I think I would have approached things differently. There would’ve been more pictures, journaling, capturing every moment that at that time didn’t seem quite as significant. It all went too fast. He is half way to becoming an adult, and when I gave birth to my very premature son, I mourned not having a third trimester. It seemed so stupid, but I was so sad not to experience pregnancy to the fullest. My last three weeks of pregnancy were terrifying as I was in labor that the doctors were desperately trying to stop. When I had my little miracle boy, I would visit him daily in the NICU and I consoled myself when passing all of the heavily pregnant women going to labor and delivery, thinking that the worst was over and we would have another chance to have all of those experiences. I focused on appreciating my delicate gift that would eventually grow into an incredibly healthy, active, and downright goofy little man. I didn’t realize then what a true miracle he was and that he would forever be the only child to call me “Mom”. How do you redraw a picture of your future that you’ve held onto since childhood?
I have a friend, Jolie, who I have seen every two months for my usual haircut and highlights. Without fail, she has asked me every two months for the last seven years how I’m doing, and what’s new. This has included my fertility struggles for the greater part of those seven years. I have sat there with my very non-heroic haircut cape (or drape?) crying while all of the other ladies working there pretended not to notice. She has always been a great listener and offered me hugs. She never said some of the ridiculous shit that people put out there to those who do not conceive easily. There was no advice to “relax” or “if it was meant to be”… She always just listened and consoled, when necessary. This past February, I was again pregnant and it wasn’t looking good. This had become my normal. I was past the point of sharing with anyone including my closest friends. My husband was deployed, and I was determined to be a hard ass and get through it on my own. As I’m sitting in the chair getting my usual beauty treatment on, Jolie says, “Now let’s talk about this surrogacy thing…” As you can probably tell from what I have written so far, my story does not end with a baby, but her words and actions have changed my life regardless.
What I didn’t realize was that this was something that Jolie had thought about for a while, and she had even garnered support from family and friends before making the offer. I sat speechless. I had nothing. What do you say to someone who is willing to go through the process of having a child for someone else? The selflessness is mind boggling to me. She didn’t want money or attention, she simply wanted to help me fill a void that had created so much pain and hardship for so long.
Once my husband and I got past the disbelief that someone would do this for us, we gratefully and enthusiastically accepted her offer. My husband was deployed at this time, so I was on my own seeking out attorneys, notaries, medical files, FDA required pathogen screenings, health insurance for Jolie (since her insurance would not cover a surrogate pregnancy), and the list goes on. It was A LOT of work, and I could not have done it if it weren’t for the help of some fellow infertiles that went through the surrogacy process before me.
Once we sorted out all of the logistics, I would come to find out that not only was Jolie an amazing person to be volunteering for this venture, but she was also deathly afraid of needles. I’m not joking here; we are talking some serious depth of your soul fear. On our first trip to the RE, she had to lay down for her simple blood draw. It would’ve been funny had I not felt sooooo guilty for putting her through it. After all, this would be the first blood draw of MANY. Jolie did all of the things that women go through during IVF cycles (with the exception of egg retrieval and stimulation). She went through the birth control pills that make you mean, the daily Lupron injections that throw you into menopause and make you crazy, the estrogen patches that make you cry all of the time at stupid shit, and the intramuscular injections that make you want to run away and hide (because let’s just admit it, nobody wants a 1.5 inch needle in their ass on a daily basis), and of course, the wonderful intravaginal ultrasound that after years almost seems normal to me. She went through it all both physically and emotionally without a SINGLE complaint.
When the first embryo transfer failed, she cried with her whole heart. She was just as devastated as I. It was sad to me that she had lost the innocence that goes with natural conception easily achieved. My innocence was long gone, but I don’t wish it on others. I feel as though tears form when a well of hope overflows. I have learned not to hope, thus sometimes there are no tears. I think a lot of people believe that IVF works for everyone, but Jolie got to experience firsthand that success is not guaranteed, and it’s not fair. She gave herself fully to this process, and truly puts the passion in compassionate.
This past Friday, we found out that our second and final transfer failed. There are no more embryos, and there will be no more created. There is a lot of sadness. Through all of the heartache over the years, I truly believed that there was a baby at the end of it, and that the road to get there was just going to be long and painful. In my heart of hearts, I never believed that it would end without success. It has been very hard to accept that at the end of the road there is no baby. I need to find a way to redraw the picture of what my future should be. I have no illusions about how difficult this next step will be. In truth, my picture is an etching not so easily redrawn. There comes a time when enough is enough. The financial toll, and most importantly, the emotional toll after seven years has been heavy. It is time to move on. It is difficult to do after 36 years. I feel like the nine years that I have left with my child in my home is too short, and I need to embrace and hang onto every single minute of it. I am sad, but I am also so, so fortunate. I know that there are some who are struggling to have a single child. I am lucky. I have a son who is truly amazing. If I only get to have one, I sure got an amazing one.
To Jolie: What you did for us was not for nothing. You have forever given us a gift. If you had not undertaken this incredible responsibility of trying to carry our child, we would always have wondered if I should’ve done something different with my own body; A different drug, a different doctor, a different protocol. I don’t think that I would have truly gotten closure. Because of you, I know that we did everything. We gave those embryos the best possible chance to survive. There is a definite peace in that fact. It is invaluable. As it was when we started this joint venture, I am without the appropriate words to truly express my feelings for you.
Thank you not only to Jolie (who I can actually never fully thank enough), but also my amazing husband. He has been stoic through every inch of this. He has watched me self-destruct and helped me to rebuild after every painful setback of this journey. I picked a wonderful man, and I hope that we find peace together moving forward with our family of three.
To our family and friends that are reading this and learning of all of this for the first time; please understand that it is not for lack of love or desire to include you. It simply becomes difficult to watch others go through the emotional roller coaster with us. Having to share bad news is sometimes very hard when the bad news is bad enough. We know absolutely that we would have had love and support, but it was really for our own emotional preservation. Thank you for all of the prayers and kindness over these last seven years. They have been invaluable and we always knew we had a cheering team even when we weren’t sharing every little detail.
I think that this will be my final post on the blog relating to my personal infertility. The story is over, and there’s nothing left to write in that regard. I will still continue with the paleo posts as I feel it changed my life in a lot of positive ways. I also know how much it has benefitted others both in my infertility circles and otherwise. Since the miscarriage last July and the one again in February, my thyroid has decided that it hates me and I have become a weekday paleo eater. There has been a weight gain that is nothing short of “impressive” given such a short amount of time. I need to heal my body and hope that my mind follows in short order. So…expect a truly spectacular and unattractive “before” picture that I took this morning as I am jumping back into my health with both feet.
To my sisters in infertility: take comfort in the fact that I am in the minority, and that you can fight and win. I will always support you to the best of my ability, and I am cheering you on.
And finally, to Infertility: you truly are a heartless bitch. I relish every single success story of every woman who ever beats the shit out of you.