… the reproductive adventures, with a guaranteed HEA, of a thirty-something, married, Southern teen librarian with a 14-year-old's sense of humor, an awkward spirit, and a stubborn, mouthy, redheaded country boy to accompany her through life.
It’s been some time since I’ve updated. I planned to do so when we heard a heartbeat, when we hit the second trimester, when we learned the gender, after the anatomy scan… and here we are, at 24 weeks.
I have, of course, been updating my primary blog about completely unrelated things all this time. I suppose that, after two rounds of IVF, a natural pregnancy seemed too good to be true. At first, I didn’t want to jinx it. Then, I didn’t want to discuss it as a miracle pregnancy, instead choosing to enjoy it as if my experience were no different from the average woman. Today, however, I am celebrating my 35th birthday and I can’t help but acknowledge what a huge number that is in the world of infertility. Regardless of the knowledge of how different individual bodies are, we all fear 35, as if we’ll wake up and our chances of conception willl somehow be so much lower than when we were 34 years 364 days.
Two years ago, I cried on my 33rd birthday, having just finished a failed IVF cycle and scheduled another for the next month. I didn’t know if I could do it again. I thought about the many versions of the future that could take place and the time I had to claim the life and title I so desperately wanted. Now, here I am, a mother of beautiful twin girls, 24 weeks pregnant with the boy I wished for when I blew out the candles on my 34th birthday… and I am so glad I didn’t give up.
I took the pregnancy test. If we were about to embark on more fertility treatments, in the form of an embryo transfer, I couldn’t allow myself to be triggered by a simple pregnancy test before we even start. So, a few days after my last post, I bought an 88 cent test from Wal-Mart. Predictably, it was negative and I was… okay. I had no expectation of any other result and was just annoyed with myself for wasting a dollar.
I’m not a frequent visitor of the infertility community, at least not for my own support. I have occasionally read about other’s struggles to remind myself that I’m one of the lucky ones, though. While it was truly crushing to find out that Jake’s sperm count was so low the urologist used the phrase “miracles happen” in regards to our conceiving naturally, our journey was a sprint, not a marathon. One year after receiving that devastating news, after two rounds of IVF, we were snowed in, painting our girls’ nursery and celebrating Valentine’s Day. We weren’t only thanking God for one baby, but two. As far as IVF goes, we had it easy. If the next transfer didn’t work, if none of our six frozen embryos ever took, it would be okay. We have our girls and they have each other. For many people, our family is the perfect size. When I think about all that infertility has taken from us, it helps to remember that.
All that infertility takes from a couple is a frequent theme in the community. It ruined our sex life for well over a year, as I’d often burst into tears after being together, knowing it would never make a baby. It cost us over $30,000. It ruined the chance of ever being surprised by a pregnancy. It caused unending stress until the moment I held my girls in my arms, which undoubtedly contributed to my developing perinatal cardiomyopathy and severe pneumonia, losing over half the blood in my body and nearly dying. That marred the first several months of my girls’ lives, as I constantly worried that I wouldn’t be around to see them grow up and, like me, they’d have to face life without a mama.
After all these losses, it seemed trivial to be disappointed that I’d never get that moment, when I could share my pregnancy with Jake. We’ve been watching Friday Night Lights, typically a Belle Show, but one he can enjoy having grown up playing football in rural Texas. Over the last few months, I’ve watched the scene where Tami tells Eric she’s pregnant at least a half dozen times, because that is exactly how Jake would react. That’s not a moment I would ever get, instead bonding over the far less romantic administration of subcutaneous shots and appointments to monitor my uterine lining. Reading the stories of others’ journeys, though, I could remember that it’s okay if I missed that moment, because there are so many far more precious ones I might never have experienced.
That was why it was so hard to talk myself into taking that pregnancy test. It hurt knowing I’d never have that moment and I feared it would crush me. While I didn’t experience the emotional breakdown I feared, it felt idiotic to take another one after two more weeks without a period. Obviously my cycle was still regulating. My girls aren’t even a year old. Despite being desperately worried for my health if I chose to pursue another pregnancy, my OBGYN had assured me that she was fine with my not being on birth control, since Jake’s sperm count was under a million the last time it was checked, so it made sense that it would take time for everything to regulate naturally.
Still, I needed to call the infertility clinic with day one, so I could schedule my transfer and I was eager to do so before I chickened out, knowing another pregnancy would be high risk after my troubles during delivery. The nurse had warned me that I’d need an ultrasound to test for a cyst if I didn’t get my period soon, so I begrudgingly decided that I’d make that appointment after our anniversary/Mother’s Day weekend. I didn’t want to ruin our fifth year and my first Mother’s Day with infertility drama. On Thursday, however, I was beginning to feel queasy and worried that I’d be sick over the weekend. I figured I needed to test once more before making the appointment anyway, if only to save myself the trouble of doing so at the clinic. I went to Dollar General, bought another $1 test and a can of soup, so I didn’t feel like I was completely wasting my time just purchasing another test.
When I got home, I quickly took the test, knowing I needed to put the girls down for their nap and sat playing with my phone while I waited a minute or so for the results, worried that I was somehow starting early menopause. I knew a negative test after a minute was likely a negative test after three minutes, but… it was positive.
Another staple of the infertility community is videos of women taking pregnancy tests, hoping to capture that moment when they get a positive, so they can share it with their children one day. I wish I could say that I’d have such a heartfelt moment about which to reminisce, but I don’t think that would be appropriate.
Carol Brady I ain’t.
“What the fuck?!?! That is not possible.”
I called Jake at work, breathing so hard I thought I’d pass out.
Me: “Do you have to stay at work?” Jake: “Um… I don’t know. Why? Are you okay? What’s wrong” Me: “I don’t want to tell you over the phone. Can you just come by for a minute?” Jake: “Okay. I’m leaving now.”
I immediately rushed back to Dollar General, a million thoughts racing through my mind, because this couldn’t be true and yet, false positives aren’t actually a thing. They’re plot devices in romance novels and TV shows. I bought the last two $1 tests, refusing to spend real money on nothing and raced home to immediately take both. As I hyperventilated, it came to me. Perhaps I’d bought a drug test! I’d been taking mild doses of medical marijuana, via gummy, nearly every night for some time, just to sleep. I rushed to the trash can to check the box, but no. It was indeed a pregnancy test… or rather three and they were all positive.
I was just coming out of the bathroom when Jake got home.
Jake: “Belle, the door’s locked.” I unlocked the door and sat on the bed. Jake: “Babe, what’s wrong?” Me: – clumsily shoved three tests at him – Jake: “What are these? What? You’re pregnant?” Me: “I guess so?” Jake: “That’s… cool.” Me: “This isn’t possible. This wasn’t supposed to happen. I haven’t had my echocardiogram yet. I don’t want to die! I don’t want to leave my girls!”
Jake: “Shhh… it’s okay. You’re not going to die.” Me: “They told me I couldn’t get pregnant! We have frozen embryos to use!”
This doesn’t actually happen, y’all. It’s just a story your well-meaning aunt tells, about how her best friend’s niece tried for years, took medications, did IVF, all for nothing and then, without warning, found out she was pregnant. It’s a story told with all the other well-intentioned platitudes about how you’ll definitely get your baby, even though they know nothing about your situation. If you stop trying and just have faith… you know, because infertile people didn’t pray hard enough. The urologist used the word “miracle” and if my cursory viewing of House is anything to go by, medical doctors don’t throw that word around a lot.
I suppose that’s the only way to explain it: a miracle. Despite my initial reaction and attempts not to get my hopes up… I want this baby. I’m so afraid that the pregnancy won’t be viable, that something will be wrong. The only thing I’ve ever wanted more was my sweet Violet and Scarlett. I worry about the medical marijuana and the heart medication I only stopped taking a month ago. I worry about Jake’s subpar sperm. I worry that I’m further along than I realize. I worry about all the one in a million odds that have kicked us in our asses so far. I’m petrified of getting sick again, of leaving my girls and a new baby, of being chronically ill for the rest of my life, despite getting the all clear from the cardiologist just yesterday.
So there it is… I’m pregnant. I’ll find out for sure what exactly that means in two weeks, but this was my moment. I got the surprise pregnancy and the chance to tell my husband… and infertility still ruined it. I am apparently no Tami Taylor and if this baby and I can stay healthy, I don’t even care.
Me: “What if I get sick again?” Jake: “You won’t.” Me: “Why does it have to be so hard?” Jake: “Anything worth having is hard.” Me: “That’s easy for you to say when nothing has ever been this hard for you. Everything has been this hard for me.”
It’s been two years, y’all, but somehow it feels like twenty minutes since Jake and I started our infertility journey. It brought us two beautiful, healthy girls, with severe complications for their mama, but I am so happy. They were absolutely worth it. If you follow my primary blog, you know I quit the job I loved to stay home. Though I’d literally never considered being a stay-at-home-mom before, it’s been amazing and being mama to my beautiful girls has made me whole again. What more could I want? Well… to give more of my embryos a chance at life. That’s what.
When Jake and I started IVF, of course we feared we wouldn’t even get pregnant. After our first cycle resulted in no baby and no embryos to freeze, we were thrilled that our second ended in two to transfer and six to freeze. We wouldn’t only get the chance to have a child, we’d get eight chances. When the first double embryo transfer took, we were elated to be having twins. We’d prayed for both embryos to thrive, seeing them as life, both morally and scientifically. We were over the moon.
Every day with our girls is a wonder and I can’t believe they’ll be turning one in June. I also can’t believe I’ll be turning 35 in September, Jake 38 in October. We’ve always wanted our children to be close in age and I’d say that’s even more true since our first two were twins. We also don’t want to be Old Parents, so here we go with our first frozen transfer. I don’t know if I’m ready, but is anyone ever ready for this?
Zetus lapetus, online parents are the biggest martyrs. Note, I did not say “parents.” I know plenty of parents in real life who give realistic and not wholly negative portrayals of their day-to-day life, but online parents seem to be a different breed. Article after article exists about how hard everything is, regardless of all of the modern-day conveniences available to us, such as curbside pickup and online ordering. You can double the negativity for parents of multiples to the extent that I’m not even sure how they have time to write these woeful tales if they’re sooooo swamped and stressed out.
In all fairness, this is not a new phenomenon, so much as a a readaptation of an old one. Since college, I’ve noticed the competition to see who’s busier and more stressed. While I was going through a divorce, working two jobs, and starting grad school, I was also reading about my former French professor’s struggles of teaching and taking her kids to frigging cotillion and still making time for yoga and her latest cleanse. The competition wore me out then and it wears me out now. Yes, the biggest offenders have always seemed to be mothers, constantly comparing the stress of being the SAHM of one child, married to a wealthy oil man, to my generic spaghetti rings and 15 minute leg shaves between jobs, before ultimately staying up until 3:00 a.m. to finish a paper for my MLIS. Everyone struggles and if you have the ability to complain online, you do not qualify for the medal for struggling the most and neither do I! We live in an extraordinarily privileged society and all we do is complain and compare!
I get it. People need to vent and the internet seems to be the primary outlet, but does it have to be the sole commentary andforever a contest? Why are women always competing over who has it hardest?!?! I haven’t even had my babies yet and I’m so tired of all of the warnings from parents (mostly moms) about how difficult my life is going to be, because they have kids and they know, most of which are limited to online, because I can’t leave my house until I get the vaccine. Thanks for the tip, Microsoft Clippy, but I’m not an idiot and I don’t expect any of this to be fun for a long time. Having two newborns at the same time is undoubtedly going to be exhausting and expensive and stressful, but I get to have babies and there is no way that that will be more emotionally, physically, or financially draining than back-to-back rounds of IVF during a fucking pandemic… and if I’m wrong, what is the point of talking about it?!?! Maybe taking care of two newborns will be harder than spending days in bed imagining a life with no children, somehow scraping together thirty thousand dollars to try, or leaving work early to get progesterone shots in the ass every day for ten weeks, knowing it might all be for nothing. If that’s the case, maybe some words of encouragement and positivity might be more helpful than warnings and horror stories.
Quite frankly, if you got to have the children who are giving you such headaches, in the free and fun way, I really don’t want to hear about how tough it will be, because you can’t tell me how it compares to what Jake and I went through to get pregnant. You can’t imagine seeing your husband, who hasn’t cried since his senior year, get misty-eyed when he tells you there might never be babies. You can’t recall putting up the Christmas tree and picturing all the years of watching other people’s children open gifts, while you have none of your own. You can’t fathom a future without sick babies. bed time fights, disastrous family vacations, weird Halloween costumes no one understands, talks about dealing with bullies, sitting through those horrible class plays and concerts, and hearing your child say they hate you for the first time. No one realizes that couples going through infertility aren’t just thinking about all the good things they might miss, but the bad stuff, too. It’s every possible parenting scenario that’s made us cry, because we might never have it. Maybe that’s why, of the surprising number of couples who’ve struggled with infertility that I know, I’ve not heard a single pessimistic comment and the rest usually shut their traps, when I respond with “Better than no babies” I’ve had enough negativity around this pregnancy and I’d really like it if everyone would disperse from the line to say “I told you so” that seems to form around every new mom.
It’s over. I made it through my cycle, without a Covid-19 cancellation resulting in our losing everything. It was a real possibility, considering we signed a form stating that we knew this could happen, if certain conditions were met. These included Jake or I showing symptoms of Covid-19 or someone in the clinic staff contracting it. For the last two weeks, I’ve been taking my temperature several times a day. I’ve taken leave from work and worked from home to avoid even that exposure and have only been to the store a handful of times. Jake even spoke to his supervisor about making arrangements to ride alone in his truck until the retrieval was complete, since rural city workers aren’t big on masks.
My ultrasounds went well, from the start. I seem to have responded nicely to the medications all along. On Friday, I upped my Follistim from 150ml to 225ml and added in a unit of Ganirelix, a fun new medication with a really dull needle. Were I interested in perusing r/IVF, I’d have known this, but since all of those stories are from 42-year-olds on their seventh cycles, I’ve been avoiding the doom and gloom. I only discovered the delight of a dull needle when Jake literally couldn’t pierce the skin the first time. I started icing the area after that and dubbed my injections Stabby Time.
I went for another ultrasound on Saturday, where I learned that I looked like a creature from a sci-fi movie. I had egg sacs. It was weird and gross and uncomfortable… and apparently a really good sign. I got to repeat this process on Monday, when I was told I had 10 follicles on one side, 17 on the other, and that Jake could administer my trigger shot of Pregnyl at precisely 10:00 that night. There was no Stabby Time yesterday, a nice reprieve, because if all goes well, we’re looking at daily intramuscular injections of progesterone until 10 weeks of pregnancy. If I’m not pregnant after the transfer, then it’ll be two weeks of needless shots until I discover that fact.
I didn’t sleep well last night, my ovaries feeling as though they were the size of walnuts and my anxiety resulting in my waking up at 5:30, unable to eat or drink anything. I had to be at the clinic at 8:00, with the actual procedure scheduled for precisely 9:00. Jake waited in the car until then, when he had to give his semen sample in the masturbatorium. It would be an understatement to tell you that it was awful. At one point, as I sat in the bed talking with the anesthesiologist, Nurse Shakey Hands apologized profusely for the third try to start an IV, when I have great veins. I assured her it was fine and stared straight ahead thinking about the fact that I was waiting to have my vaginal walls pierced with a large needle twice, terrified and alone in a pre-op room, because pandemic precautions forbade my husband from being by my side. The blood that was literally spurting from the back of my hand was the least of my concerns as I prayed a silent mantra for the doctor to retrieve plenty of eggs, so I could potentially never have to do this again.
The last memory I have is putting my earbuds away and pausing Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, wondering if I’d ever get to read those books to my own children, and speaking to the doctor about the procedure. Then I woke up, petrified and wanting Jake, but knowing he couldn’t be with me. My stomach hurt and I had to use my inhaler, I was in such a panic coming out of the anesthesia, but the doctor told me they’d retrieved 21 eggs and were optimistic that I’d be able to have the ideal Day 5 Transfer.
I read somewhere that IVF was a lot of hurry up and wait and I’m finding that to be very much true, likely more so in a pandemic. Although the number sounds good, I won’t know anything about the quality of my eggs, until tomorrow, when they call to tell me if they’re fertilizing normally. I won’t know whether we’ll have a Day 3 Transfer or a Day 5 Transfer until Friday. I won’t know how many blastocysts we’ll have until Monday, if we have any at all. At that time, I’ll learn whether or not we’ll be able to freeze embryos for future attempts. Until then, I can comfort myself with the knowledge that the worst, most expensive and precarious part is behind me. From here on out, I can do nothing to change the outcome of my embryos’ progression. It is out of my hands and now… we wait to find out if it was worth it.
I’m supposed to chronicle this “adventure.” That’s the point of this blog: to process my feelings and emotions, to eventually share it with others who are going through the same trials and can only find horror stories online, to show it to the children who might never exist. Yet, I feel like any reports I give could potentially jinx everything, when there are enough wrenches that could be thrown into this complex process. IVF has literally been one of my worst nightmares, since I obsessively watched A Baby Story on TLC in high school. IVF during a global pandemic… it’s like a Family Guy cutaway, at my expense.
I started my shots last Saturday, with 150 daily millilitres of Follistim and 1 unit of Menopur for the low, low price of approximately $4,000. Having grown up giving shots to livestock, Jake does the injections for me. I haven’t had a real aversion to needles since I was six years old, which is handy, since I also have to have blood work done every three days. I suppose the medication itself isn’t so bad. I find it nearly impossible to sleep, feeling like I’ve had a caffeine injection, despite only getting a few hours in each night. I feel like I did in grad school, when I’d go for three days straight and down enough Five Hour Energy to stop my heart. The doctor told me I can take Benadryl, though, and that’s helped… a little. I’ve had a couple of epic headaches and mood swings that could just as easily be attributed to the stress and fatigue. All in all, I expected much worse.
The doctor seems pleased with my reaction to the medication, based on his response to the blood work and the ultrasounds. I’ve lost all modesty in this process, no longer embarrassed that my doctor is a dude. I’d show my vagina to a packed stadium if it would guarantee success. Regardless, he hasn’t had to change any of the dosages unexpectedly. He seems positive. I wish I felt the same way… maybe… I don’t know. Perhaps it’s best to be mostly pessimistic. I can always work backward from there.
I haven’t been going into work, expect for on Tuesday mornings and Thursday evenings. I could probably work through all of this, were it not for Covid-19, the biggest wrench of them all; because although they’ve resumed treatment, any signs of infection mean a canceled cycle with no refunds for services rendered. We could literally lose everything. I’d rather take the leave, even if I miss the distraction of my coworkers. I’ve finished rereading most of The Sorcerer’s Stone and made some great progress watching The Witches of East End. I’ve walked a lot. The cat and dog are thrilled to have me home. I’ve been able to continue my programming from home, so I don’t have to completely drain the hours I’ve built up, in my nine years with the system. I still get to see my teens… through Zoom.
These are truly terrible silver linings.
Jake and I finally got the results of his urinalysis back. As a standard procedure, the clinic requires blood work and urine samples from both of us, to make sure we have no infectious diseases. I haven’t done anything to catch any, aside from have sex with my husband who once started drunkenly naming rodeos when I asked if he could name the women he’d been with… that is, unless someone actually named their daughter Pretty Prairie. The odds of Jake or I having had undiagnosed chlamydia or gonorrhea were mighty slim, but then again, so were the odds of his sperm count being in the hundreds of thousands. I’ve been sick all week at the thought that we might have to postpone, while he takes antibiotics to rid himself of his whorin’ days. I’ve been angry and hurt that I could go through IVF, my literal worst nightmare, which I fear is going to break me, but Jake couldn’t pee in a cup four years ago. Logically, I knew the chances of this being an issue were low… but it was a rough week and I don’t fully understand why they wouldn’t have done these tests weeks ago, when they put me on birth control.
I have blood work and an ultrasound in the morning, at 8:00 on a Saturday. They’ll tell me how much more medicine to order, if needed. They’ll schedule more appointments and possibly my retrieval. So… that’s where I am: in the middle of an IVF cycle in the middle of a global pandemic, hoping and praying I don’t get Covid-19 or a fever in the next week.
Our IVF start date is approaching… assuming this pandemic doesn’t shut everything down again. I see the doctor for blood work and an ultrasound on Wednesday, to verify the birth control I’ve been on for three weeks is working. Assuming my estrogen levels are where they should be, I’ll be starting my injections on Saturday. We’ve had nothing but good news, since the original devastation that we’d have to do IVF at all… and still, I can’t bring myself to feel any level of excitement.
I feel so ungrateful, knowing that many couples can’t afford to even try IVF, when we can afford at least two cycles, but I simultaneously feel utter defeat. My entire life, I’ve never felt… worthy or included, at least until things finally began to fall together in my late twenties. I met Jake, got a full time librarian position, bought a home. I felt normal and now I feel like I’ve been pretending this whole time. My comfort, contentment, and inclusion were all a lie, as more tragedy waited in the wings and I can’t bring myself to feel that this will end any other way. As the procedure nears, I’m not even optimistic, just… begrudgingly willing, for Jake’s sake.
Jake… I am petrified of disappointing him. He’s such a good man, a hard worker, emotionally stable. He’s supported me all throughout this wretched year and never once leaned on me, knowing that I’m just not capable of returning the favor right now… because I’m an utter mess. I don’t even know what he sees in me and the idea that he’d spend all this money, that he had in savings and investments before he even met me, and I won’t even be able to give him a baby in return… is absolutely crushing. I know he feels responsible, since we’re looking at male factor infertility, but it’s my life that’s never gone right. Things have never panned out for me, no matter how hard I’ve tried… and now they won’t for him. I’m Sandra Bullock in Practical Magic, watching her own curse destroy the man she loves and I am so sorry. I suppose the least I can do is take some hormones and see what happens, but… I just wish it were over. I’m terrified that everything will fall through, because Jake or I get Covid-19 or the CDC decides it’s not safe to get pregnant or my body isn’t responding properly to the medication. There are so many things that can go wrong in an IVF cycle and I’m going through mine in a global pandemic.
Speaking of which, said pandemic calls for new rules, namely that I can’t bring anyone to appointments… any appointments. Not only do I have to weather this storm, I have to do it all by myself. I have to go in for my ultrasounds and blood work alone, but I also have to go through the egg retrieval, a procedure requiring anesthesia, the transfer, and even the final pregnancy test alone. My husband has to wait in the car for me to bring joy or devastation and I hate this. I can’t imagine life without children, but I’m not sure if I can do this. I’ve already miscarried alone once and I just… I don’t know if I have it in me to do so again or to find out that we wasted all this time and money and didn’t even get pregnant in the first place.
They say that God never gives us more than we can handle… and without fail, I want to punch them in the face for their ill-timed platitudes amidst tragedy.
As sure as I am that I’ve literally never found these words comforting at their time of utterance, I (begrudgingly) find the sentiment to be objectively true. It was true when I was 8 and my parents didn’t realize I’d become the smelly kid and had few friends. It was true when I was 12 and my mother’s rages became increasingly frequent. It was true when she left my senior year. It was true when I married and divorced a sociopath, which means that, by extension, it was true when he burned down our house and killed all of our pets, when we were repeatedly evicted/asked to move, and when I lost a baby. All of that made working two jobs and attending grad school a breeze and I suppose it must be true now. I have always survived and will continue to do so.
Surviving, however, doesn’t necessarily mean thriving. IVF is a harrowing and potentially heartbreaking process. Sure, we could be blessed with a plentiful retrievaland many healthy embryos, achieving pregnancy on the first try… or we could spend tens of thousands of dollars, suffer a half dozen miscarriages, and never actually have a baby. The former sounds wonderful, but while I’m sure the latter won’t kill me, I’m also certain it won’t make me stronger. It’s been almost ten years since the most traumatic time in my life and in many ways, I feel like I’ve just begun to recover. So, naturally, I’m worried about how the worst case scenario with infertility treatments will impact me long term. What kind of person will I be? What kind of wife? Will I even be able to weather the unique stressors of adoption from the state, with what’s left? Will I be irrevocably fragile and broken? Will I spend half my years trying to recover from the next one?
I’ve spent the better part of my life wondering exactly what broke my mother. Was it being adopted… the death of her father… marriage to my father… her brain tumor… divorce? Was there one pivotal moment or did a small fracture spread? Will my own fractures from my early twenties, which have finally begun to heal over, crack? Sure, I can survive IVF, but what does the quality of life look like on the other side? Am I a mom, grateful every day for the diapers and tantrums I once feared I’d never have… or am I shell of my former self, too shattered to consider other avenues?
We have a start date, July 18th and I’m supposed to be excited… but how can I be enthusiastic, when I don’t know what we’re starting? A family? My downward mental spiral? The beginning of everyone’s disappointment in me when my body inevitably doesn’t come through for them? A series of miscarriages and lifelong debt?
I’ve gone back and forth over the last month, from hopeful and optimistic to insistence on canceling the whole thing. Ultimately, however, I know that if I don’t, I’ll always regret it. If my aunt and uncle, who had triplets via IVF, hadn’t been brave enough to attempt the procedure in the first place, those three humans wouldn’t exist and all the impact on the world they’ll have would never occur. If I can’t do this, out of fear of my own fragility, I might never meet destined children. I’ll just have to risk the possibility that I might be destined none and this is how I discover that fact.
I promised Jake that if he could secure the funding, I’d find a way to go through with this… and so I must. There are undoubtedly countless couples who would be happy to attempt IVF themselves, but don’t have the option. I should be grateful… but I’m mostly terrified that it’s all for nothing and I won’t be the same woman on the other side, even if I do technically survive.
We got our start date for IVF this month… on our three year wedding anniversary. I guess it’s good news. I was excited when the call came in, what with Covid-19 potentially delaying the whole thing indefinitely. If all goes as planned, I’ll undergo the final testing at the end of June and start my shots on July 18th. “If all goes as planned,” is a substantial caveat, however, when discussing a $30,000 procedure during a global pandemic.
Fortunately, Jake and I have been working, being paid in full, and still earning leave and benefits through lockdown. Unfortunately, that work adds up to about $80k pre-tax, so our IVF financing plans were contingent on accepting help from family. I asked my dad for money, and although he most definitely has a couple of thousand to spare, I’ve yet to hear back and no longer expect a response. Jake asked his parents for money, as well, but there seems to have been some kind of communication breakdown… unsurprisingly, since the Grangers are terrible communicators and my husband is by no means exempt from that generalization. While we’d like to be able to plan on financing through a private company that works with our clinic, word will remain out on that until the last moment. So, here we float in infertility limbo, good candidates for IVF, but not entirely sure if we can make it happen, while the people who are supposed to be providing love and support are somehow managing to make a wretched situation so much worse.
I’m too exhausted to even try to unravel the Granger family social dynamics, but the short version is that, although Jake has shared every detail as we’ve received it, his parents feel “out of the loop,” now that we have a start date. There were supposed to be more tests or options, I suppose, even though the original semenalisis made it clear that there would be no more tests, because there were no more options. We were supposed to check out more funding sources, I guess, even though it’s clear my family won’t even offer emotional support, let alone financial support, and we’ve shared as much. Finally, Covid-19, fate’s ultimate fuck you, has devastated the country, with no exemption for the cattle market, so I’m not sure if Jake’s parents even have the money, at this point, regardless of whether or not they’re interested in giving it.
Memorial Day weekend was one for the books. We traveled to Jake’s sister’s house for lunch and to give our nieces the birthday gifts we’ve had sitting on a table since the start of lockdown. A decent day with family, however, spiraled into a heated conversation with Jake’s sister, about the lack of communication with his parents. “As a mother” she understands what my mother-in-law is going through. “As a mother” she can’t imagine watching her son struggle with infertility. “As a mother” she can’t imagine not having kids. Well, I must say that “as a mother,” she also doesn’t realize how it feels to hear people make our infertility about their feelings. I like Jake’s sister. She’s a hard worker and a devoted wife and mother. She’s a good, if sometimes preachy, big sister, which I understand comes with the territory. Neither she, nor my mother-in-law, are trying to be cruel, but exactly one person seems to understand that this is something happening to Jake and me, and that’s my grandmother.
I understand that my in-laws feel they have a stake in our future family, but we are the ones facing potential financial ruin to have something that comes free to most people. I am the one with a best case scenario future of daily injections and a worst case scenario future of no babies. We are the ones potentially facing multiple disappointments and miscarriages, for the chance of having a healthy child. I am the one who may have to weather the horrible experience of my body tearing apart my child, again. Ten years ago, I bled my unwanted baby out onto a Spiderman beach towel, all alone, and I’m petrified of reliving that experience with the raised financial and emotional stakes of having prayed for said child. So, while I get that other people are entitled to their own feelings, I simply cannot bring myself to care.
I have to concede that Jake’s family deserves some credit, however, for having any feelings on the matter. No one in my family even calls to check on my well-being, aside from my grandmother. Oh, they all know about our circumstances and plans. I’m sure they’ll want to partake in baby showers and newborn snuggles, too… you know, the fun stuff that’s not listening to me cry my eyes out during the entirety of an hour and half car ride home from a holiday weekend, because I don’t think I have the emotional fortitude to do this, whether or not the finances come through.
It’s not enough that I have to lick my new wounds, y’all. I also have to tend to the old ones, the ones left over from having never been anyone’s priority in my entire life. My phone sits silent without even a text of concern from my own family, regarding a situation that’s legitimately the worst thing to ever happen to some people. That’s not even true for me, though. Infertility is unquestionably not the worst thing that’s ever happened to me, but I guess none of my family were there for those things, either… except for my Gramma. She was my literal shelter from my abusive mother growing up, taking me to spend the night with her more than once during her daughter’s rages. She comforted me through the miscarriage, the dead baby, and the divorce. She cosigned on tens of thousands of dollars in student loans, floated me to payday as needed, walked my dog when I couldn’t get home between jobs, and brought medicine to my apartment when I was sick. Now, here she is, talking about taking out a loan to help Jake and I financially, reassuring me that God is not trying to intervene in my becoming a mother like my own. I feel like she and Jake are all I have… and that’s more than I’ve had in the past, because Jake.
Despite the poor communication skills, Jake has been wonderful, as he’s let me sit on his lap and cry, because I really thought my father would come through with some financial help. He’s held me as I’ve insisted I’m not going through with IVF at all, that we should cancel everything. He’s shared in my excitement on my good days and brought me coffee, when I’ve refused to get out of bed on my worst ones. He takes my moods as they come and he never makes me feel bad for them. He doesn’t need me to be strong, nor does he need me to make him feel like the hero by being weak. I’m so lucky to have him and I worry that this process, if it doesn’t end in healthy children, will make me resent him, take him for granted. Still, I’d rather go through this with him than skip it without him. He’s my best friend and I wish I were better at handling this, that he didn’t have to always be the one with his shit together… but I’m not. I can barely go to work some days, because I can’t imagine a life where I don’t get to give Jake children… where I don’t get to fix what my parents broke for the next generation. Everyone but my Gramma and Jake sucks, but I still don’t feel worthy of the blessings I have in them. This is awful and confusing and I wish I could fast forward time by two years, because somehow, everyone else in my life has managed to make this miserable experience even worse.
I’ve noticed, recently, that blogs seem to have lost some ground to podcasts. Perhaps it speaks to the wider issue of our over scheduled lives. It’s easier to listen to something, while doing the laundry, than it is to sit down and read. Perhaps it’s just trendy, TikTok versus Vine, Snapchat versus Instagram. I’ve never been into trendy, and just Googled how to spell TikTok and Spachat, so I suppose I’ll stick to blogging.
Writing has always been a coping mechanism for me, as evidenced by 12-year-old Belle’s super cringey journals that I keep in my box of sentimental hogwash. So, naturally, when I found out that Jake and I were facing IVF or No Babies, blogging was my default… but I couldn’t decide what to write. I started this post on March 10th, during a high moment, when I was feeling hopeful and positive and actually had the emotional energy to write anything at all. Sharing that, though, seemed disingenuous, considering a few weeks earlier, I was an hour late for work, because I had a complete breakdown… sitting on the bathroom floor, crying and screaming so hard I couldn’t pull myself together to finish getting dressed.
In a Disney movie, woodland creatures comfort you through infertility.
The weeks passed, however. Appointments were scheduled and rescheduled as I changed my mind on doctors and clinics, until finally my research culminated in a decision with which both Jake and I were comfortable. I spoke to the individual financing companies, who provide package deals through the clinics we were considering, and discovered that with male factor as our only known issue, we shouldn’t have trouble getting approved. I called my dad and tearfully asked for a couple thousand dollars… unsurprisingly never receiving an answer, though he definitely has it to spare. Jake traveled to his home state to tell his parents the news, both of us grateful that it would be better received since his biology was the issue. They wrote him a check for the $8,000 dollars his grandmother had left him ten years earlier and promised him $10,000 more when the time came. I set a countdown on my phone for my initial appointment with my fertility doctor. We might be able to do this IVF thing in July. I could be pregnant by the end of the year. I was feeling good.
Then… a global pandemic hit.
I did everything right, y’all. After divorcing my psychopathic high school boyfriend in my early twenties, I vowed to make decisions that were directly aligned with what I wanted out of life. I lost a thousand pounds and taught myself to dress cute and wear makeup. I worked two jobs, while attending grad school online. I was responsible with my money, consolidating my debt and working on my credit score. I dated with a purpose and never even kissed any of those dates until I met my husband, despite the despicable pressure from my despicable friends to have one-night stands, when that wasn’t my thing. I worked my way up in an extremely competitive field, even spending a miserable year as a manager, before moving to a smallish town and rocking my dream job of teen librarian. I married a good, hardworking, handsome, charismatic man, who is an excellent husband, and will be an excellent father. I overcame so much and now I have to be Infertility Girl?!?! As if that’s not enough, my options are now postponed indefinitely due to a global pandemic?!?!
Getting pregnant is a plot device in my romance novels and teen shows. My 36-year-old cousin claims she got pregnant by accident, with father number three of child number three, in circumstances no one considered ideal, but I plan my life responsibly and I can’t do it on purpose at 32? I spent my grade school and middle school years listening to my parents fight over who got to take my brother and who had to take me, my high school years being physically abused and neglected by my mother, and now all I want is to be a good mom. Instead of doing it the fun and free way, though, I have to pay more money than we put down on this house and it might not even work! There are no guarantees that we will have a baby.
So, as for coping, I can’t even really say where I stand. My highs are almost as high as my lows are low. I’m excited and hopeful and angry and heartbroken. I’m all of these things a hundred times a day. Fuck coping and fuck infertility.