That first cry. Every parent talks about it and remembers it more than most of the other things that happen during birth. That first cry is when we feel like motherhood has officially started with the baby that has been growing inside us for the better part of a year. That cry is beautiful, it’s powerful, and it chips at our souls because we know we are never going to be the same. But after going through infertility, hearing that cry means so much more to me.
Back in 2009, if you would have told me I was going to struggle for the next six years to have a baby, I would have laughed. If you had said I would be part of the one in four women who have miscarriages, I wouldn’t have believed you. I was young, healthy, and newly married. By all accounts, I should have been pregnant soon after I quit my birth control. But it didn’t work that way.
In fact, it was three years later that my husband and I even started with a fertility specialist, and then it wasn’t until three failed intrauterine inseminations, or IUIs, that we moved on to in vitro fertilization, or IVF. I got pregnant — only to lose my baby in an early miscarriage. It was at that point, that I wondered if this was ever going to happen for us.
Fast forward two more IVF cycles and a cycle using donor eggs. It was 2015, and my last four attempts with state-of-the-art science had failed. My husband and I moved forward with our last donor egg embryo transfer because our finances were shot and if it didn’t work, then nothing was going to work.
Seeing the blue plus sign on that dollar store pregnancy test brought about so many emotions. The disbelief that it had worked. The fear I was going to lose this baby like I lost the last one, so I better be cautious. The pang in my gut because I wanted this so bad. And then this pregnancy ended up sticking around. I saw the small blob on the ultrasound, something my eyes couldn’t believe was real. I saw her later, a bigger blob, with arm and legs buds, wriggling around on the screen. I saw her start looking more like a baby versus an adorable alien, and when the tech confirmed my intuition that I was going to have a daughter, I started thinking I may actually get to bring this one home.
Being pregnant when you’ve struggled so long to have a baby is rough. Not only did I have the physical symptoms — I felt like I was going to die on a daily basis — but my mind played tricks on me. I lived in a state of high anxiety that at any moment, this would all be taken away from me. I couldn’t bear the thought of losing my little girl, but I really didn’t quite believe I would ever get to meet her. It seemed too good to be true. And when nothing had really gone right for the last six years, I had a hard time keeping the faith.
Here’s the funny thing: I went into labor on my own after everyone was convinced I would need to be induced. OK, well that part isn’t really funny considering I was developing a wicked case of preeclampsia and was technically a few days shy of being full term. But there I was, standing in the doorway to my bathroom on hold with the OB triage nurse in a puddle of amniotic fluid at 4:30 A.M., still in complete disbelief. There was no way, in my mind, I was really going to still meet my daughter. Something would happen. This would all be a dream. Because of infertility, I had all but given up that my story could have a happy ending.
I heard her cry a few hours later. Shortly before the day shift started at the hospital, I was in the operating room, needing a cesarean section because she had remained breech, my scrub cap on, my spinal in, and the anesthesiologist talking softly to me to calm me down. My contractions were hitting hard and fast — I learned it’s really difficult to hold perfectly still when your uterus is trying to rip a hole through you — and my husband was frantically donning his surgical attire outside the room. It was probably a good thing I didn’t have time to think.
But as I was staring up at the bright lights in the OR suite, trying to maintain my breathing, hearing the hums and beeps and the surgeon discussing her weekend plans with the other staff, I knew I was about to give birth and I still didn’t believe I was getting this baby.
And then she cried. Her voice pierced the drone of the discussion around us and there were some cheers and laughs as my little girl took her first impressive poop while still being held up in the air — thankfully away from her former residence. She wailed for the first time, and still to this day, it has remained the best moment of my life.
Better than when I got accepted into nursing school or my wedding day. Better than when I first saw her as an embryo in the photo they gave me. Better than the positive pregnancy test, or when I found out I was having a girl. That cry was symbolic of all the crap I had to go through, all the pain, the tears, the emotions, and the empty bank accounts. That cry came from literal blood, sweat and tears from a couple trying desperately to create the child that bore it, against a failure rate of 80 percent.
That cry meant I came out on the other side of infertility, broken and bruised, but with hope still intact, however small it may have shrunk in the process. It meant I could finally start to heal, and it meant I could finally hold in my arms what I had only ever held in my heart for the last several years.
It was the best sound I’ve ever heard, because I knew, during all those years, exactly what I was missing. This. This tiny, but strong husky newborn cry that was the only thing to convince me I was going to meet my baby. It was so much more than her taking her first breath. I felt like I could finally breathe again myself.