The other side of the chasm
Infertility taught us so many things
Friday, May 23, 2008
For many moms, having a baby takes about nine months, give or take.
It took me nearly seven years.
My husband and I started out the usual way, tossing birth control to the wind and "trying." We had lots of well-timed sex designed to create a baby. And it was lots of fun—at first. A year into the process, though, we sought the help of my obstetrician/gynecologist, who checked my hormone levels and prescribed Clomid. I got pregnant once, but miscarried right away.
Another year went by, and my husband Erik and I trekked to the reproductive endocrinologist. We were poked and prodded. Erik created sperm samples. I had my inner parts examined through ultrasound and surgeries. I had fibroids shrunk and removed. I got to know my nurses on a first-name basis. And we kept trying. And trying.
After two surgeries, four rounds of intrauterine insemination, five rounds of in vitro fertilization, countless shots of medicines in my rear end (administered by Erik, who became quite deft with hypodermics), four miscarriages and another four years, our bank account, our insurance coverage and our hope for a biological child had all been depleted.
I wasn’t meant to carry our "own" baby.
Erik and I talked options. Should we accept that we weren’t meant to become parents and live "child-free"?
But I always knew I wanted to be a mom. The idea of never being a parent, never having a child to love, was too painful to contemplate.
When Erik and I decided to adopt, my hope was renewed. We would have a baby after all. We just didn’t know when. The funny thing is, from the time we started the licensing process to the time we met our son’s birth mom and then brought him home from the hospital at two days old was just a shade over nine months. (You have to appreciate the irony.)
Going from wanting to be a parent when you can’t and actually getting your baby is like finally finding a hidden bridge over a bottomless crevasse. From the one side of the chasm, it’s easy to forget there is another. Now that I am living on the other side—with a house littered with Cheerios, sippy cups, Matchbox cars and plastic dinosaurs to prove it—it’s all but impossible to remember how much pain Erik and I went through to get here.
During the six years we were going through fertility treatment, I turned into someone else. I became bitter, negative, disillusioned. I was angry—angry at God, angry at my body, angry at women who could conceive and carry babies so easily, angry at the world. Moving to adoption eased some of that pain, but it took an actual baby—my sweet baby Ryan—to burn off the remainder.
When Ryan was about 8 months old, we were sitting at a Caribou near our house. A hugely pregnant woman settled herself into a chair next to me. I saw her out of the corner of my eye and stiffened automatically before I realized her belly didn’t bother me. I didn’t feel bitter or angry or hostile. I simply felt happy for her. Being Ryan’s mom had healed me in a way that I hadn’t expected.
Sure, there are shadows. It’s hard for me to look at ultrasound pictures—they still remind me of babies I lost. I feel envious when I hear a woman announce a surprise pregnancy, because that will never happen to me. And it’s bittersweet to see families with two or three children close in age, because I don’t know if we’ll be lucky enough to have another child. In that respect, infertility never goes away.
But infertility has made me a better parent, too, in ways that matter. I’m more patient, more self-reliant and more likely to let the small stuff slide than I would have been had parenthood come easy. And I’m more grateful—to have crossed that chasm, to have Ryan, to be a mom at last.
That’s the gift of surviving infertility—a deeper appreciation for the child you’ve been given to love.
Kelly James-Enger is the co-author of The Belated Baby: A Guide to Parenting after Infertility (with Jill S. Browning, Cumberland House Press, 2008.) www.belatedbaby.com.