When my son turned two years old, we’d been trying to conceive another child for nearly a year. I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t already pregnant, since it was so easy the first time. Every month, I would build up new hope and excitement. Before I could take a pregnancy test, I would find myself looking up pregnancy symptom checklists online. I’d analyze every cramp or twinge, wondering if it meant I was pregnant. But then my period would come, along with a new sense of loss. It felt like a never-ending cycle and took a huge emotional toll. For the first time in my life, I began battling bouts of depression.
I kept my pain a secret from friends, family and co-workers and tried to bury my emotions. The fact that I was so sad made me feel really guilty. I didn’t feel like I had the right to experience those feelings. I already had so much to be grateful for. At the top of that list: my wonderful husband and amazing son. I didn’t feel like I could or should talk with anyone about my feelings, except for my husband, because I didn’t want to seem ungrateful for the many blessings we had. My husband was supportive, but he was perfectly fine with us having only one child. He didn’t want to take any extraordinary measures to have another child. I wasn’t okay with that. I didn’t feel like our family was complete. I also knew my son would love being a big brother. Actually, I needed him to have a sibling. I could easily see myself smothering him with all of my good motherly intentions – because he was my one and only.
I spent a lot of time trying to figure out why I couldn’t just let go of my pursuit of pregnancy, when the process was completely kicking my ass. Maybe it was because my love and connection to my son was so pure and so deep from the moment he was in my belly. Maybe it was because I cherished every moment and milestone, even the tough and scary ones. I just didn’t want it to be the only time I would ever experience the intense joy of a positive pregnancy test, or that incredible feeling of finally getting to meet and hold the little person you were carrying and nurturing for 9 long months. The first time he smiles at you. The first time he laughs. The first time he calls you Mommy. Priceless.
While producing a documentary television show, I interviewed two Chicago area parents whose daughter was killed by a gunman in a lecture hall during a mass on-campus shooting. I cried along with them as they recounted their memories of that day. But, I’ll never forget how much my heart ached when the mom said: “We will never be able to walk her down the aisle or become grandparents. I wish we had decided to have another child.”
No matter how happy I was for my friends and family – every baby shower or birth announcement would turn the knife in my heart just a little bit more. I couldn’t avoid the pangs of jealousy on days I would take my toddler to a friend’s birthday party. I would see the pregnant moms and those toting younger siblings and want to lock myself in the bathroom and cry. But, I knew I couldn’t run away and release my emotions. I needed to push it all down and focus on my son. So I put on a happy face and carried on.
I finally decided to see a fertility doctor. After some basic tests the doctor said I had “unexplained infertility.” So, our options were to keep trying on our own or start fertility treatments.
First, we decided to “try” harder. It soon felt like a third job. We’d try every time the ovulation predictor test and calendar said it was prime time. But it wasn’t always a good time for us. Especially when you are busy parents and sometimes travel for work. I quickly realized, when you take away the spontaneity and feel like you have to have sex, even when you don’t feel like it – it’s not much fun. It all became quite stressful for both us and even started to impact our relationship.
I didn’t want to be the reason he didn’t have a bigger family.
I felt even more guilt for being the reason we were going through all of this. My husband was incredibly supportive – even though it wasn’t what he wanted to do. He was at every doctor appointment, held my hand, tried to make me laugh when I wanted to cry. He would drive an hour to the clinic on his lunch break to give a specimen and rushed home early to comfort me after our first miscarriage. He knew how much I wanted this. Truth is, I wanted it for him just as much as I wanted it for us. I didn’t want to be the reason he didn’t have a bigger family.
I knew I needed help so I could stop my mind from spinning out of control. I went to a therapist and also started working on becoming more spiritual about the whole thing. I even visited a psychic, looking for an answer to the question ringing loudly in my head: “Should I stop trying and move on?” My gut kept telling me there was another beautiful soul destined to come into our lives. No matter how many miscarriages, tears, doctors bills or arguments we had – I just couldn’t shake that feeling.
No matter how much help and support I had and no matter how much I loved my son and husband – I still felt like there was a tiny little hole in my heart. At this point, I had two options: live with that feeling, work really hard to let it go and put all of my energy into our sweet little family of three. The other option was to keep trying. I sort of did both. We met with a new fertility doctor who had a totally new plan and philosophy. He did some tests and found out I needed to double my folic acid intake. He also told me to take DHEA supplements for a couple of months to improve egg quality. After that he suggested doing a round of mini-IVF, which uses a lower dose of hormones. Since we had new medical insurance that would cover some of the expenses, we decided to give it one last shot. I knew this would be my last fertility treatment and my last attempt at having a biological child. I was actually okay with that. Whatever the outcome, I was more than ready to get off the worst roller coaster ride ever. We started looking into adoption right before my procedure, to see whether or not it would be the right next step for us. It was finally time to end my fertility journey. It took about two years of trying – including a year of various fertility treatments and more than a few miscarriages – to get to the place where I was ready to move on.
So, how does this story end? Turns out my gut (and the psychic) were right. My third and final round of IVF was a success. It was a miracle actually – only one embryo survived after retrieval to transfer. We named it Nemo. A month to the day after my son turned four, he met his little brother. Our family was finally complete.