My 21-year old self thought that I would have at least two children, two to three years apart, when I was ready for them… after my career took off, I felt financially secure and I had seen enough of the world. I also thought that I would never go to bars or clubs over the age of 35 because I didn’t think that was what moms did, and I thought that surely I would be a mom by then.
It’s all laughable in retrospect and I suppose it’s all relative. I’m not only medically infertile (a word I loathe because it has so much incorrect stigma attached to it), I’m now considered old because I am of “advanced maternal age”. Plus Gen Z has branded me so because of an occasional side part, skinny jeans and the use of laughing emojis. (Can I use one here?)
My story is one of falling into infertility and never leaving despite my best efforts. I had been told on more than one occasion that “you’re never ready to have children”. Yet when I needed medical intervention to attempt to have one, I began to obsess about what it would be like to be pregnant and have a child.
At the age of 34, and six months after “not-not” trying
I went to go see a friend’s reproductive endocrinologist to make sure everything was okay. Results came back hitting all the marks, including a clear HSG (hysterosalpingogram) indicating that my (fallopian) tubes were not blocked. However, my doctor thought that it would be a good idea to do a laparoscopy just to make sure that there wasn’t any lingering scar tissue from a childhood appendectomy that I had. Something didn’t feel right and I didn’t want to be the subject of a potentially invasive science experiment, so I sought a second opinion. That move landed me in the care of what would become my second fertility doctor.
And that was just the beginning of the roller coaster. I was not the easy case that my doctors had initially thought I would be. Two years in, I was branded with the infuriating diagnosis of unexplained infertility after several treatments including two IVF cycles came to a screeching halt when they didn’t produce any embryos. By the time I was almost four years into my fertility journey, I was working with a fifth doctor at a fourth clinic and doing my fifth fertility treatment (third IVF).
Before that third IVF cycle, I had taken a mental health break from IVF for eight months.
I had become desperate; I was bleeding money, energy and time on any fertility service or hack that promised a positive pregnancy test. My IVF pause also created much needed personal insight. I began to accept that it was possible that it was likely that I may not have a child the way that I had anticipated when I was in my twenties; spontaneously or even with the revised plan in my thirties with IVF. Slowly, I began to let go of my attachment about what motherhood was supposed to look like and that I could also not control getting there. My fifth doctor had suggested an egg donor although was supportive of my conviction to try one more (my third IVF) cycle.
And then a miracle happened
I had a cycle which resulted in two embryos, one of which was genetically normal. That embryo stuck and is now a three-year old child who is the light of my life. I thank my lucky stars every single day…
Please understand that just because I had a child doesn’t mean that my story stopped. In fact, in 2019, I found myself doing another (fourth) cycle which lasted one year from start to finish and this time with a new diagnosis; secondary infertility and along the way, endometriosis.
Despite practicing all of my tips and tricks, my one and only viable embryo from that fourth cycle did not stick. It was a bitter reminder that infertility doesn’t follow directions very well. It also demonstrated that doing IVF again after a successful cycle was less like riding a bike and more like riding an unpredictable, raging bull.
I often say that everyone has their something and mine happens to be infertility. Infertility has taught me that life isn’t linear, to perhaps lessen the grips of control because I have learned I have far less than I thought, and to reserve judgement. Afterall, there is always a story behind what we see and it usually doesn’t match the picture in our view…