There’s been some recent talk online about how having a baby magically erases the pain of infertility. I really hope this is true for some people. It’s just not true for my friends and me.
There’s this myth: having a baby resolves infertility. Nope, says I. Having a baby resolves childlessness. Just because I have a baby doesn’t mean pregnancy announcements are suddenly a breeze. I still need medical help if I want to give V a brother or sister, I will submit to the intrusion of multiple dildocam appointments and pay through the nose for the privilege, because I am still infertile.
Speaking of which, we are planning on doing an FET this summer. We met with our RE, Dr. H, a few weeks ago to discuss the logistics. I have only two non-negotiables: 1) we have to move house first; and 2) given my placenta issues, we are transferring only one embryo. As a bonus, Dr. H agreed to let me try a natural cycle, where I don’t take Lupron, estrogen, or progesterone.
Given my complicated pregnancy and delivery, he wanted to know where the placenta accreta was — that way, he could transfer the embryo to the place farthest away from where the accreta was. I told him I thought it was on the left of my cervix, but would confirm at my OB/gyn appointment a few days later.
When I ask my OB/gyn, “Was it on the left? I told Dr. H it was on the left,” she has to think about it and I can see her mind replaying the surgery. “Posterior… left, yes!” She asks how I knew. “Because I could feel it, remember?” I said. “It felt like a drawstring being tugged on.” It was kind of funny watching her jaw drop.
When I leave my OB/gyn’s office, she smiles and says she hopes to see me later this year. She knows as well as I do that there are no guarantees. Nothing is guaranteed even when you haven’t had a miscarriage or dealt with infertility, but parents like me take nothing for granted.
Well, that’s not completely fair to say: until recently I hadn’t considered that plenty of my friends have to go through the trying to conceive experience all over again. They have to start all over again! But, me? My embryos are waiting. The conception part is done and dusted, I just have to choose when I want to do a transfer. And I have eight chromosomally normal embryos to choose from. Nothing is guaranteed, but chances are I’ll get to have a second child. I am one of the lucky ones.
Choosing to try to have a second baby wasn’t straightforward — second child and hysterectomy at delivery; or keep my uterus and not have a second child? — but it was easy: I choose the path of least regret, so let’s take the ole girl (my uterus) out for one more spin! But something tells me I’m going to be just fine. Coming within one minute of losing my uterus makes me think fortune is on my side, and I will have the baby and not need a hysterectomy. (In which case, I will opt to have my tubes tied — because, ironically, although I’m infertile, I can get pregnant. I just don’t stay pregnant because my embryos are incompatible with life.)
Meanwhile, my infertility stares me in the face every day because my daughter doesn’t share my DNA. I see our donor’s large, beautiful eyes set in my husband’s Eastern European face. When V smiles, I see our donor’s gappy teeth flash between my husband’s grandma’s cheeks. And our donor’s long-fingered hands, replicated in dimpled miniature, are the ones that reach for my long, angular face with its crooked teeth and deep-set eyes.
Not only does my daughter look nothing like me, I couldn’t forget my infertility even if I wanted to. I need to own my journey to parenthood so I can raise my daughter (and maybe her sibling) knowing that there’s a kind woman out there who shared her eggs with us. For me, there is no forgetting that I am infertile — to do so would deny my children to know their genetic origins, which are rightfully theirs to know about.
As I keep saying, joy and pain can and do coexist. And whatever residual pain and trauma I have, it is separate from the joy I experience when I hold my girl. Grief doesn’t diminish the love I have for her, it exalts it.
So, yeah, I carry the scars of miscarriage and infertility, and, dammit, I wear them proudly. But on the days where a storm is brewing, my scars flare up the way someone else’s bones ache. It’s neither right nor wrong to feel this way — or not. It just IS.
A version of this post originally appeared on On Fecund Thought and is reproduced here with the author’s permission.