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After Infertility, My Entire Pregnancy Didn't Feel Real

Following years of infertility and loss, and finally a pregnancy, I was always waiting for the other shoe to drop.

After Infertility, My Entire Pregnancy Didn't Feel Real
Risa Kerslake


As hard as I tried not to let it, infertility became the biggest thing happening in my life. We were three years into trying to have a baby the old-fashioned way, and my husband and I were slowly finishing up our degrees — his MBA and my Bachelors in Nursing. School was an excuse for why we weren’t pregnant yet. Because everyone was asking.

Ever since we had gotten married in 2008, the comments on when we were going to start a family came hard and fast. We were quick to dodge the questions, and all the while, wondering what was going on with us that made it so hard to have something others could just have without trying. All of our friends were getting pregnant — why couldn’t we?

In 2012, we made the decision to try some scientific intervention in the form of IUI, or intrauterine insemination. We already did nine cycles using a series of pills to try to get my body to ovulate, but that didn’t work. And unfortunately, the three back-to-back cycles of IUI didn’t work either.

When we met with our doctor to discuss in vitro fertilization, we were slammed with medical terms. Medications both of us would need to take. Monitoring appointments we needed to put in our calendars. It was overwhelming. And we did three of those IVFs in a span of roughly a year and a half.

Infertility and the treatments for it became our world. There was always a medication schedule to follow, injections I needed to give myself in my abdomen. My husband graciously took over the endless calls to the insurance company for me because each one I did it ended in me snapping at the person on the other end of the line, or hanging up on them in frustration. It seemed like I was always on the phone with the clinic, setting up appointments to check on how my ovaries were growing and maturing eggs, and asking questions to the nurses. I lived and breathed by my doctor's timeline. Our first cycle ended in a miscarriage, and the other two gave me nothing but negative pregnancy tests.

What did eventually work for us was using donor eggs. It took two cycles in a clinic across the country, and another tens of thousands of dollars, but finally, in March of 2015, I saw a pregnancy test that was positive and stayed positive.

Risa Kerslake
Risa Kerslake

I'd had a second early miscarriage on our first donor egg cycle, so when we did our second donor egg transfer, and the lines were a beautiful bright pink, I remained cautious. I was hopeful, of course, wanting this to work more than anything in the world. But I knew how quickly this could be gone in a moment.

We finally were able to make it to our first ultrasound at around five weeks, and we couldn’t see more than a halo in my uterus, the yolk sac that would nourish the baby wasn't even visible yet. It didn’t matter. For us, it was a huge moment.

Every Friday morning, we’d go into the clinic to see how the baby was growing. Every appointment I would swallow down the panic that we’d get there and there would no longer be a living baby in me. The stakes didn’t just feel high, they felt unreachable. This had to be a dream, seeing a tiny squirming form on the screen. After six years of negative tests and losses, how could we possibly be this lucky?

I remember the first trimester being the worst, both physically and emotionally. I was dealing with some pretty bad morning sickness and as horrible as I felt, I realized how much I relied on those symptoms. Because one or two good days where the nausea left me were enough to cause a downward spiral that this was it. It was over.

Somehow I made it to the second trimester and as I gradually started feeling better, the little movements I could feel inside me increased. They were the most surreal moments, feeling the baby kicking, knowing this was really happening. I was distracted at work, wanting to just put down the phone I was always on for my job and just sit back and feel those kicks I worked so hard for. Kicks that cost us around forty thousand dollars to have the pleasure of feeling.

Risa Kerslake
Risa Kerslake

When we purchased the crib, my husband and I had a long talk, which was mostly me spilling out all my fears for this pregnancy, that we would buy this big ticket item and then we’d lose the baby. It was so morbid, but it was our reality. I hated those thoughts. I hated how I couldn’t really and truly be excited for this baby to come because I was very well versed in everything that could go wrong.

Winter came and three and a half weeks before my due date, my water broke. I had been at the doctor the day before and was officially showing signs of preeclampsia anyway. We had packed the hospital bag that night and while I looking forward to meeting my baby very soon, I still couldn’t get myself to really believe it would happen. The next morning, when my water broke and the contractions came, I was still waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Because she was in a breech position, it was an automatic C-section for us. It still wasn’t real for me. It still wasn’t hitting me that I was going to be a mom, even as I lay on the operating room table and waited for them to pull her out.

She came and she was slightly premature, but she was healthy. She was absolutely perfect. After waiting so long for her, after enduring two heartbreaking losses and an uphill road where things never seemed to go our way, she was finally there with us.

Risa Kerslake
Risa Kerslake

I wish I could have let myself enjoy it more. While I cherished the baby kicks and rolls, I hated the underlying fear that always seemed to stick with me. I wish I would have let myself celebrate this pregnancy fully, the way I deserved. But after waiting so long for a baby, actually having one seemed too far out of reach, even though everything, for the most part, was healthy.

Infertility was such a big part of my life for so long. Learning to let go of that is something that’s taken me a long time. I’m still not over it, ten years since we first started trying and I don’t know when I’ll ever be. I do know I got a sweet little girl out of it, and that’s more than I ever thought was possible.

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