My daughter’s hair bounces wildly from side to side as she races down the hill, arms out for balance. She reaches the bottom where I’m standing and crashes into me while screeching in excitement—it’s the best part of the game for her. I give her a kiss and before I can blink again, she’s racing back up the hill to do it again. I shade my eyes against the sun and watch her, her two-year-old body so sure of itself, even though it loses its balance on a daily basis.
These moments watching my little girl soaring (albeit rather precariously) down the slopes of our backyard are nothing short of magical. Sometimes I think about these moments and am in awe of the path it took to get here.
Five years ago, after three years prior of trying to conceive a child the old-fashioned way before turning to inseminations at our fertility clinic, my husband and I were undergoing our first in vitro fertilization (IVF). I was overwhelmed, I was emotional, and we were both freaking out at the sheer amount of money that one cycle was going to cost us. When the whole thing ended in the loss of our baby, I thought I couldn’t go on. The enthusiasm I walked into the cycle with was dashed, and it’s when I really started wondering if this was ever going to happen for us.
We went through another two cycles of IVF, both yielding negative pregnancy tests before finding ourselves on a flight across the country to another fertility clinic and their donor egg program towards the end of 2014. And when that donor egg cycle failed too, my hopes were pretty much nonexistent. After all, if another woman’s eggs and state-of-the-art science couldn’t get me pregnant, then what was left?
Taking the remaining balance on our 401K loan, my husband and I told ourselves: one more. One more try and then we call it quits. We chose a new donor, worked out a new plan with our doctor and said a prayer. I don’t know if it was the new donor’s eggs or any one of the varieties of medications I was on at that time, but she stuck. My daughter grew inside me, happy as a clam while I endured debilitating nausea, heartburn, and a whole lot of anxiety for the next nine months.
When she came, my world exploded into color, where before there had been only gray. She was the best thing that ever happened to us, a miracle, the baby that defied the odds and came to us when we thought it was all over.
People that have children after struggle understand the unique appreciation for a baby that almost wasn’t. There is a gratefulness that exists, beyond the love we have for them. And every day, I continue to be amazed at this miracle that was brought into my life.
And now, right before she turns three, and right before her third Halloween, we’re going back across the country to do it all over again, while still paying off our $50,000 IVF loan.
Trying for another child after infertility is both familiar and frightening. On one hand, we’re old pros. My husband understands a menstrual cycle better than most women. He can shoot progesterone injections into my butt with surprising accuracy, and I don’t even flinch anymore. I can get blood draws without batting an eye.
But if I thought it would be easier this time around because we already had a child, I was wrong. Because what I learned on this eight-year journey since my husband and I ditched the birth control, is that regardless of how many kids you have, if your family doesn’t feel complete, it’s still hard. It’s still infertility. Having my daughter here this time around is infinitely better than not, but it’s still hard. I’m still terrified of this cycle not working, or worse, ending in a miscarriage. I’m worried that the $7,000 dollars we’re still trying to save up will all be gone in a poof of smoke when the pregnancy test reads negative. We have three frozen embryos sitting in our clinic’s storage lab, and we know regardless of the outcome in a few months, we will be back one last time, in order to use all our embryos. But will another baby come of any of it? There are no guarantees.
I still battle the anger, jealousy, and resentment of people who get pregnant without even trying. I still have to swallow back a retort when someone tells me kids are expensive because we went into debt with our daughter before she was even born. I cry at pregnancy announcements and there are months I still wonder if I’m pregnant on my own before I see the blood that inevitably comes and I’m back to being infertile.
This is what it’s like to have another child after infertility. The emotions are still there, the uncertainty still exists. Now, instead of aching for just one baby, I’m wishing fervently to give my little girl a sibling. To have just one more. Please, just let us have one more.
In my early twenties, when my husband and I married, we talked about having three kids. Infertility was a faraway concept, something that never occurred to us would happen because we were young and healthy. Only women in their forties needed fertility treatments, at least that’s what the movies showed. Along the way, I started realizing things probably wouldn’t be easy, and by the end, I wasn’t the same person I was when I started out. I was hardened, more of a realist, and probably more easily irritated at pregnant women. This time around, I’m trying to figure out how to go about this upcoming embryo transfer without my spirit breaking into pieces. I’m trying to remain hopeful, but all I can really do at this point is go through the motions. Go to the doctor appointments, take the medications, have one of the embryos transferred into me and cross my fingers it works. It’s all I have control over.
In the meantime, I will continue to catch my daughter as she flies giggling into my arms from the bottom of the hill. Miracles have happened to us before, and maybe they will again.