I spent six years trying to get, and stay, pregnant. I went through seven IVF cycles. I had five miscarriages. Putting it that way, it sounds crazy. Why would any sane person go to such extremes to have a baby? And if the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over while expecting a different result, does that mean I was nuts?
Looking back now at everything I went through, it does seem a bit insane. But in the moment it didn’t feel that way. It starts as one problem to solve, one IVF cycle. Then it turns out there is another problem to solve, then another. Every cycle is going to be the cycle, the one that fixes the issue you didn’t know about before. It’s a strange sort of addiction, and the habit is hard to break.
Adoption seemed to require giving up more – not only my genetics but my biological urge as a woman to grow a life inside of me. I desperately wanted to do what I believed women’s bodies are created to do: become pregnant and bear children. The IVF process was likely to be a lot quicker than the potentially years-long wait for a child through adoption.
But as time went on and cycle after cycle ended in failure, wasn’t it time to give up? What were we doing this for? We had spent so much time, energy and money on cycling. We had grown apart from our friends who had had kids. I was an emotional wreck who couldn’t stand any reminders of babies or children – and those reminders were everywhere. Clearly, something was wrong with my body that it couldn’t sustain a pregnancy. But all the losses were different; because they didn’t fit a pattern, no doctor could say what was ultimately causing them.
Eventually all our options had been extinguished. I had to decide what I wanted: to be pregnant or to be a mother. We had two frozen embryos which we would use in a “closure cycle” while we pursued adoption. I grieved the likelihood that I would never experience a baby growing inside me, never feel kicks, never give birth.
We pulled out all the stops for our frozen cycle. I went on a gluten and dairy-free diet to help reduce an inflammatory response. I took Prednisone for three months, which puffed me up and made me gain weight, for the same purpose. I took blood thinners. I continued the acupuncture that I had done for the past several years. I saw an immunologist who recommended using the cancer drug Neupogen off-label. My fertility doctor didn’t like it, but at that point I was in a position to insist.
Once again the pregnancy test was positive. But my second hormone “beta” level hardly rose at all, an indication of an early miscarriage. Resigned to the end of my fertility, I emailed the adoption agency we’d chosen to tell them we were on board. I followed up with more blood tests to make sure the levels went down.
But they didn’t. They continued to double. No one could explain why the second test hadn’t risen – a vanishing twin, in which both embryos implant but only one keeps growing, was a possibility. In any case, my ultrasound showed a baby with a heartbeat, and he became our son.
I know I would have been a mom even if I had not been pregnant, but that was a dream I had a very hard time relinquishing. Another woman might have chosen to move on sooner, and I wouldn’t have blamed her. That might have been the smart thing to do, and saved me years of emotional turmoil. But in the midst of everything, it always seemed that if we just fixed this issue, if we just solved that problem, things would work out. And eventually they did, although now I don’t attribute that to anything other than sheer luck.
Some might call me desperate or crazy, and maybe I was. But you can’t see your way out of a maze when you’re in the middle of it.
What was your TTC (trying to conceive) story? Any other infertility or miscarriage survivors out there?