How is it possible that this sweet little guy is TWO already?!
To celebrate, he enjoyed popsicles at daycare, toy airplanes with daddy, and birthday brownies at the lake with Mimi and Poppa.
I actually have TWO miracle babies. And if it wasn’t for Miracle Baby #1, there’d be no Miracle Baby #2.
This is my story. My struggle with infertility. (And sleep deprivation.)
I share it because I’m sure many of you can relate.
Infertility used to be this thing of shame. Just read the Old Testament where all the women weep because they’re barren. A vessel unfilled. It is their identity.
Today, we can label ourselves other things: career professional, aunt, leader, lover of dogs, sister, writer, musician, artist, biker babe. WE ARE NOT BARREN.
Still, even today, women whisper the word: infertility. As if saying the word gently will turn it into a prayer. Or make the heartache go away.
Say the word out loud now. Do you notice it’s full of assonance? Softness? In…fer…tility The harsh “t” sounds don’t come til the end. Like you can hold the pain at bay.
Say the word out loud again. Linger over the word. Dwell on it. NORMALIZE IT.
Let’s support one another. Let’s give hugs and hold hands. Let’s cry over it together. Giant tears that actually acknowledge the heartbreak. Of unrequited wanting.
In my story, we tried for six years. The doctors called it “unexplained infertility.” They told us I might be allergic to my husband’s sperm. They told us we might be incompatible.
Other people called us “those people who just want to have dogs” or “those people who don’t really like kids.” We didn’t want to talk about the wanting, so we let them label us.
We tried lots of things.
Charting. We filled calendars with random notations for months. (At least I didn’t have to spend money on birth control any more.)
HSG Dye Test. To see if I had endometriosis. Perhaps a smidgen. Otherwise, all clear! (My doctor was impressive. It didn’t hurt. I took ibuprofen beforehand.)
Clomid. Apparently, it thins the lining of the uterus so the fertilized egg can implant. Mine was already thin, so there was definitely no need for more thinning.
Intrauterine Insemination. I lost count after the fourth IUI. It was Russian roulette where the doctor tells you how many eggs are available that month so you can HAVE TRIPLETS MAYBE. And then you stab yourself in the stomach with a really long needle because you are willing to HAVE TRIPLETS MAYBE.
I once shot up behind Walgreens. Another time in the middle of nowhere eastern North Carolina behind a tractor supply store in route to visit my best friend (and her brood of 3 lovely, non-triplet children.)
And finally, In Vitro Fertilization. Our saving grace. Truly, a joy unbounding.
We put the truck up for collateral and took out a loan at the bank to pay for our dreams. And, all praise Jesus, IVF worked. I can’t even describe what it was like when we saw that heartbeat on the ultrasound at 6 weeks. It was miraculous.
We got lucky. We only went through one round of IVF.
And by lucky, I mean: The doctors harvested 19 eggs. Then only 11 fertilized. Then only 5 embryos made it to the day of truth, Day 5. Then only 2 seemed suitable for transfer. Then of the 3 still under watch, none made it past Day 6 to freeze “for next time.”
Of the two suitable embryos, the doctor pointed at a picture of one of them, saying, “If you get pregnant with a ‘singleton,’ this is the embryo to thank.” We were looking at the very beginning of our son. He was perfection.
We got lucky. The transfer and implantation were successful (perhaps thanks to progesterone suppositories). And at 8 weeks, the reproductive medical team released me back to my regular OB. This was thrilling and surreal.
We got lucky. Pregnancy was a breeze. Yet also terrifying: I faced complete placenta previa. Which meant I could bleed to death if I went into labor prematurely. This also guaranteed a c-section, which my incredibly careful OB waited until 38.5 weeks to perform (vs. the typical hospital protocol of delivery at 36 weeks.)
Our minister likes to say that the church congregation breathed a collective sigh of relief when our sweet boy was born. The prayers of the people were with us that day. I lost a full liter of blood. But sweet boy was perfect.
Fast-forward 20 months when Miracle Baby #2 arrived.
No, wait, let’s back up a bit.
I always imagined a house with two kids. I don’t know why. I’m the oldest of 3. My husband is the youngest of 6. But when I dreamed of the future, two small blurs filled my visions.
But motherhood is hard. Especially when you have to recover from a c-section. Especially when you’ve lost a liter of blood during delivery. Especially when you can’t figure out how to nurse and the baby can’t either. Especially when you aren’t allowed to sleep because you have to feed the baby every 2-3 hours. Especially when you aren’t allowed to sleep.
I went from the highest joy to the deepest pit of rage. All because of sleep deprivation. But I didn’t know to call it that at the time. I just knew I was suddenly Mommy Dearest. How cruel that this miracle I had begged for for so long could take me to such a shocking place. All because of sleep deprivation.
I set aside dreams of a household of four. And worked to find myself again. Reading all those books on the Resources page of this blog. And leaning on (raging on) my husband to pull me back to myself.
My OB told us if we wanted another baby – I was old – to wean sweet boy at 3 months and to skip the birth control. But to not get our hopes up. That IVF would probably be the only option. IVF – which we’d have to start from scratch again. Because there were no frozen embryos.
I set aside dreams of a household of four. If motherhood was this hard, how could I handle two children? If infertility still lurked around the corner, if baby #2 wasn’t guaranteed anyway (what if IVF didn’t work this time?), no way was I going to wean baby #1, to drop that bond, at 3 months. I would savor every ounce possible of my sweet new son, despite myself and the sleep deprived rage.
But we skipped the birth control.
Sweet boy grew and slept more and smiled and laughed more. Sleep deprivation began to loosen its grip. And when baby turned 1, motherhood seemed to make a lot more sense.
And then my clothes wouldn’t fit. And I started craving every sugary thing I could find. It was basically a joke at work: “Here, you probably want a donut, right? Would you like 3?”
It seemed beyond ridiculous to think I was pregnant. Me, this body that can’t get pregnant. Me, this body that endured pokes and prods for 6 years.
I told myself I was going through hormonal changes because I was beginning to wean the baby.
Then I wanted to vomit when I washed the garlic press. And I noticed pregnant women everywhere. And I noticed my silhouette in a store window – I looked just like them.
My husband thought I was crazy. And even crazier to get my hopes up. We’d agreed we were content with a family of three. And now here I was with this insane dream again of a family of four.
Three positive pregnancy tests later, he still didn’t believe me.
I was ecstatic and scared to death. Would I survive the rage of sleep deprivation a second time? (Would our marriage survive it?) How could we possibly handle two small children so close in age?
At least they’d be 2 years apart.
More like 20 months.
When I finally got to the OB, the ultrasound tech informed us I was already 16 weeks pregnant… (Yes, I have an MBA. No, I have no idea how babies are born. See IVF above.) And, oh, would we like to come back next week to learn the baby’s sex?
So, yes, it’s possible to go through IVF and conceive naturally the second time around. And actually, my body needed IVF to teach it how to create life. Without IVF, there’d be no Miracle Baby #1. Without Miracle Baby #1, there’d be no Miracle Baby #2.
And what a thing of love we’d miss. These two.
And the second time around, I dared sleep deprivation to take me down. I clung to my maternity leave manifesto and I started this blog. (In my last post, I asked you to ponder how you’d like to contribute to the world. This is it for me. To tell you sleep-deprived mommas it’s all going to be okay.)
Now it’s your turn. To tell your story. Out loud.
Give someone else hope. Or a hug. Or a chance to reimagine life and find joy outside the dream of parenthood if life doesn’t bring it their way.
Because families are created through biology, technology, and official and unofficial adoption. Especially the unofficial kind where we can simply (and majestically) choose to embrace and love our neighbors. Who is your neighbor? Walk outside and see.