Last week, my husband and I sat in an all-too-familiar room, our hands knotted tightly together as they had been so many times, waiting for words we had never heard before. We watched the monitor, uncertain of what we were seeing. My stomach churned, my eyebrows scrunched, and my chest burned from holding my breath. SAY SOMETHING!
“Your baby boy is doing great! He looks healthy and right on track!” I turned my head to look at my husband and stretched my smile as far as it would go. He kissed my hand and I could see the fear and stress fall away from his face. We were finally being given the chance to start growing our family. We were going to have something new to be thankful for this Thanksgiving!
Infertility is a hard battle for anyone, but I will say that I found it extremely hard as a teacher. Working so hard for other people’s children, when you are faced with the possibility of never having your own, is a heartbreaking reality to enter every day. We give our all to the children that we teach, and it can feel overwhelmingly unfair to be denied the opportunity to give the same love and dedication to your own child.
This journey has been emotional, draining, stressful, but most of all, it has been lonely! Like so many couples, my husband and I kept our struggle private. We didn’t even tell our parents! With every loss, we grew closer, but distanced ourselves further and further from our friends and family. Every baby/pregnancy announcement I received made me want to cry. Every photograph of babies shared on Facebook filled me with an unsettling sense of jealousy, which always led to self-hatred. What kind of person gets upset with their friends for being happy? (Answer: Someone dealing with infertility!)
It didn’t stop at social media. I also stopped going to events where I knew there would be babies or pregnant women. I could’t make eye contact with pregnant co-workers because I was scared they would see through my forced smile to the deep wounds that would surely tear open if they engaged me in conversation. I didn’t want them to know how much I envied them. I didn’t want them to know how much their mere presence hurt. Worse, I didn’t want them to feel sorry for me. I didn’t want the personal shame that I already felt to be confirmed!
So we kept quiet. Through two years, multiple losses, countless tests and surgeries, we kept quiet. It wasn’t until our most recent loss this past March that the winds began to change their direction, and we were able to start talking. Until that point, every test had told us that we were a VERY healthy couple with no indications of what could be causing our recurrent loss.
As a highly logical person (and someone who loves control), the lack of information and answers was one of the most difficult parts of this journey for me. I felt like if I just knew what was wrong, I would know fix it, or find out what other options were out there. Having to relinquish control over my family’s future, and being given no indications that things would ever change was tormenting! As hard as it was to do, we opted to have a D&C with our most recent loss, hoping that additional tests would give us some answers.
Despite a rough recovery, both emotionally and physically, we got what we asked for! We finally had a reason for our struggle. All signs pointed to a chromosomal issue. We didn’t know quite what that meant, but it finally had a name! To us that meant that we could get off our circular orbit, and perhaps start moving into uncharted territory.
The doctors recommended using InVitro Fertilization, in combination with a chromosomal screening. This screening would help identify embryos that could not survive a complete pregnancy, significantly reducing our risk of loss. SIGN US UP!
My dearest roommates at the Teachers Pay Teachers Vegas Conference helped me fill syringe after syringe and held my hand as I stuck my abdomen full of needles. Vera and Mary, I am so grateful to you both for all of your strength and support! As much as I hated those needles, they gave us three viable embryos. (Only 20% of our embryos actually passed the screening- Things were starting to make sense!)
We had one of the embryos transferred in mid-July and then we waited… and waited… and waited. We got our positive pregnancy test at 4 weeks. For self-preservation purposes, we did not allow ourselves to get excited. We heard the first heart beats at 6 weeks. We were still not ready to get excited. We got our second round of chromosomal screenings back showing “low risk” at 12 weeks. We were still not ready to get excited. When we finally made it to the second trimester milestone, we mustered up enough courage to share the news with our immediate families.
We shared our joy and our journey, and we were met with hugs, tears, and “I’m sorry you felt that you had to go through that alone.” Looking back, I am too! Now that we have finally received a positive 20 week scan, we have started sharing our story with friends and extended family. It is only by sharing our struggles that I was able to realize how unfortunately common this journey can be.
Being silent didn’t help me, so as personal as it is, I decided to share our story with all of you. I hope that by opening up about our struggles, our grief, and our fears, that it may help us heal. It may give others the courage to talk about their own struggles, or at the least know that they are not alone. Although I am still filled with fear for what the next 20 weeks will bring (and let’s be real- a lifetime of worry if all goes well,) I am happy to say that the positive thoughts are outweighing the negative these days. Even though I am getting heavier, I feel a bit lighter every time I share a little piece of our journey. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to feel a lot lighter today! We truly have so much to be thankful for this year!