Opening your heart to love someone can be one of the scariest things in this life. Opening your heart to love someone who doesn’t, and might not ever, exist, changes you forever. When we opened our hearts to our future children, we had no idea what we were in for, or what would be asked of us. For starters, we thought sex was how you made a baby. Turns out, not so much. Here’s how we made a baby:
Try “the old fashioned way” for a year. Time everything perfectly. Get nothing. Cry randomly while washing the dishes, doing laundry, watering the grass, doing yoga, that of all the things you can do, the one thing you want to do more than anything isn’t happening.
Get asked by a friend every month, when you are menstruating, if you are pregnant. Point out to her that she’s very interested in your sex life. Have her be confused about the connection between asking about pregnancy and asking about sex.
Go to an OB to get a referral to a specialist. Have her tell you to just go on vacation and you’ll get pregnant. Decide if you do get pregnant, she won’t be your OB.
Go to the RE (reproductive endocrinologist, fertility specialist). Have your tubes checked to make sure they’re clear. Have a post-coital test and discover you are the best sperm-killing machine your doctor has ever seen. Master the art of peeing in a cup. Do five rounds of Clomid, three with IUI (intrauterine insemination), the last one with a trigger shot. Have a nurse practitioner try to schedule you for an IUI you weren’t planning on (the doctor had told you the IUI would be the following cycle) and go home and tell your husband it’s rude to surprise someone with an insemination.
Get mad at said nurse practitioner when she tells you she’s been working with infertility patients for ten years and it’s nothing to cry about. Somehow she doesn’t understand you haven’t been doing this infertility thing for ten years and you’re going to cry if you darn well please. Get a sticky note put on your file that says you only deal with the doctor.
Write an anonymous post about infertility for APW about all you’ve learned, the growth you’ve made, the relationships that have been strengthened. Talk about how your biggest fear is doing all of this, getting pregnant, and then miscarrying.
Alternate between crying at your situation and being at peace with it. Start making way too many inappropriate jokes about reproduction with your husband, the first jokes of many.
Have laparoscopic surgery and discover the amount of pain you’ve experienced for over a decade is in fact not normal and is caused by extensive endometriosis. Have the endometriosis removed and have your first pain free period in over a decade. Get mad at the medical community that not a single doctor asked the two or three questions it would’ve taken to find this problem years ago, questions you didn’t know enough to ask in the first place, but then you’re not the one who went to medical school.
Have the doctor tell you if you aren’t pregnant within a year you’ll be back having surgery for endometriosis again. Decide IVF is your best choice.
Give yourself shots in your own belly for three weeks (multiple times a day). Egg retrieval #1. Embryo transfer #1. Look up on YouTube with your husband how to give shots in your butt because there is no way you’re going to twist around to calmly stick that large needle in your own backside. Pregnancy!!
Learn what a sub-chorionic hematoma is. Get your doctoral advisor to cover the data collection you have to do that day for your dissertation research. Miscarriage #1.
Write a second anonymous post about infertility for APW when you realize you can get through your biggest fear because you are not alone, you have a strong family. Together you and your husband can do anything.
Embryo transfer #2. Have your doctor tell you that you are “sort of pregnant” when the blood test comes back low and not promising. Miscarriage #2.
Embryo transfer #3. Nothing.
Sing along with, and bawl to, Jason Mraz’s “I Won’t Give Up” every time it comes on the radio. Because you aren’t going to give up on your children, they are worth it. Because you are tough enough. Because this infertility thing is teaching you what you’ve got, what you’re not, and who you are.
More shots in your own belly for three weeks, more each day this time. Egg retrieval #2. Get a friend to cover the data collection you have to do that day for your dissertation research. Embryo transfer #4, on Mother’s Day. More shots in the backside. Nothing.
Wait a month while the two-inch cyst on your ovary goes away.
Embryo transfer #5. Nothing.
And it’s been a year since surgery and you still aren’t pregnant, so back to the operating room. Remember to take pictures this time around. Totally rock the hospital gown. Laugh at the hospital, a lot. Make fun comments while under anesthesia, same ones as last time even. More endometriosis.
More shots in your own belly. Do one in a high school parking lot after a football game and one during the middle of church because that’s when they need to be timed. Egg retrieval #3. Embryo transfer #6. More shots in the backside. Pull off the interstate at a rest stop and crawl into the backseat so you can get that one timed when it needs to be. Laugh about how you’ll be able to tell this kid that you had to do “it” at church and in the backseat of the car to get them here. Pregnancy!!
More bleeding scares with another sub-chorionic hematoma. Nausea. Aching. Dizziness. Congestion. Constipation. Never get used to the taste of prune juice, make a disgusted face every time you drink it (think YouTube clips of babies eating lemons), but don’t dare go a day without it. Bloating. Itching (because you are one of those women who reacts to your own HCG). Sciatic nerve pain any time you spend any amount of time sitting on the floor (including the floor of the tub for a bubble bath!). Crawl to the bathroom at 2am one night because the sciatic nerve pain is so bad you can’t put weight on either leg. Wonder if you should laugh or cry about it. Do physical therapy for half the pregnancy for extensive pelvic separation that makes it feel like you have a pulled groin for six months straight. Wake up to excruciating Charlie horses.
Get mad at legislation that would make your children impossible and illegal in certain states. Get mad that legislation that requires infertility coverage in certain states still isn’t enough to make your children possible. Get frustrated with the insane insurance paperwork required for what little is covered and how it never seems to be filed right the first time.
Joke about the kids you still have in the freezer. Listen to the baby’s heartbeat with the Doppler you got for Christmas to keep you from panicking. Decide first baby movements do not feel like butterflies or popcorn but more like bumps and thumps. Push through your dissertation defense early because you have a nursery to decorate. Hope the baby doesn’t kick too much during said defense because it’s rather funny and quite distracting. Crave guacamole, French fries, bread and butter, cookies, and chocolate, but not all at the same time. Eat a LOT of Otter Pops. Find it odd that toothpaste smells disgustingly like pickles. Spend months trying to figure out which body part is making that weird lump in your midsection. Participate in the Walk of Hope and enjoy a morning with people who “get it” about infertility. Totally rock the doctoral gown with your bump at graduation.
Get labor advice from random acquaintances and the homeless woman on the corner. Have the older employee at the fabric store ask you, “Are you getting big?” and try to touch your belly. Try explaining to your friend’s two-year-old that he can’t see your baby and that you didn’t eat it. Go to a concert and have one of the amphitheater workers tell you, “That’s why you look so beautiful, you’re expecting!” Decide that is the perfect thing to say to a pregnant lady (a lot better than what the lady at the fabric store said, that’s for sure!). Spend the day denying you are in labor because you have plans that night gosh darn it!
Have the cutest baby in the world!
Be changed forever.
Write a third post about infertility for APW (this one), because now you know how this chapter ends.
And that, kids, is the extended “birds and bees” talk they don’t give you during sex-ed in school.
Stay tuned for a hopeful follow-up with “How to Make a Sibling.”
Photos from Lisa’s personal collection