The phone rang at 11:23 A.M. today. I already knew who it was. It was THE call I had fantasized about for the last three months. THE call determining the life I would now have. The size of my family and size of my heart. I spent every day imagining what I would think. What would they say? Good lord, what if this was the end of our journey? I don’t think I had prepared for that. I had tirelessly pictured both outcomes, but now the phone was ringing and it was all blurry and my heart was filling up my head.
“Hello,” I answered.
“Hi, Erin. I just want to tell you that you’ve beat the odds. Again. You’re pregnant!”
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“Why would you be so public about this part of your life? Why would you tell people so early? What happens if you’re not pregnant? Aren’t you afraid of pity? What happens if you are? It’s nobody’s business. This is personal.”
These are the things my caring, yet protective system of warriors has said to me over the past few weeks when I told them I would be blogging about this moment in our IVF journey. My answer? I have so many people surrounding me that care, truly care, about us. They have cared every step of the way and they deserve to know what they’ve been caring about. If I wasn’t pregnant or lost the baby—I’d need you all even more. No shame in that for me. And then there’s the rest of you that I do not know at all, but we are linked in our IVF stories and journey. It’s a bond that is so valued in my heart. And lastly, there are you that don’t have a clue what this feels like. Many wonder about this process, but are too afraid to ask for fear of upsetting. But, the more we talk, the less isolating this process becomes. I’ve been open about this beautiful part of our lives the entire time, through each cycle, so here’s my chance to share and connect again. With all of you.
First, you need to know that this is a story of pure gratitude. It’s a story that doesn’t fit the norm. My husband and I don’t consider ourselves to be an infertile couple, although that was technically our diagnosis in 2011. I don’t feel like we’ve sacrificed anything in this journey. I don’t feel slighted. Life is not unfair to me. The journey has been good. Hard, but good. The only thing in which I feel slightly alone is that I know most people in my IVF shoes don’t get to feel this way. So, I don’t really talk in public about feeling lucky to have had this journey. But, I’ll be honest with you now. I have felt lucky for every one of these last five years. Truth.
I have two healthy, thriving children. I had one cycle that was unsuccessful in between, and now our third child is finally with me—growing and thriving inside. That’s not the definition of infertile to me. That’s not a problem to me. That’s a bunch of miracles manifested in different ways. When our doctor told us that we would never be able to conceive naturally, we took a moment to be mourn what we thought was our story, and realized we needed a new plan ASAP. We went to work on educating ourselves about the process and what needed to come next. No blame, no tears, just a new path heading in the same direction to creating a family. That moment set the tone for the next five years of our lives and continues to be the way we work. Our family has always been our only goal; how we got there made no difference to me. So today, five years, hundreds of injections, and thousands of dollars later, we find ourselves with new beautiful life plan that we couldn’t have dreamed up if we tried.
When we began this journey, we were led straight to IVF (ICSI) resources. That was our one and only baby-making option. Many shots in the rear and a few months later, things took a shockingly bad turn and they told us our dream of having a baby might not actually be possible at all. Within hours, they harvested one billion eggs from me (or maybe just 23) and rushed my husband into emergency surgery, all in one horribly terrifying day. I hyper-stimulated and was almost hospitalized, but at the end of the day, we both saw it as just another chapter in our story. (Not to mention that we had to spend the night at my parent’s house, bedridden with frozen peas on our bits. Perhaps a story for another time?) We held steadfast to one another and, in the end, we were blessed with four embryos. FOUR. (And believe me, in IVF world, that’s not that many.) I cannot tell you how nervous and excited that made me. Excited that we got any. Nervous that we only had four tries. Side note: we had bought a home just one month before we found out that we needed to pay a small fortune for some egg harvesting. Now THAT, my friends, is the definition of some pretty terrible timing. But, I digress.
So, four precious embryos were all ours: one, my daughter; two, pregnant for a hot second, and then not; three, my son; four, a sunflower seed, as of today’s Baby Center weekly size update. We beat the odds. Big time. We were told maybe one out of the four would work. So, that’s why I get uneasy when I talk “fertility” with other IVF friends who have not had the same positive outcome. The label is NOT the problem, it’s that I don’t feel worthy to be placed in a group of such insanely strong, resilient, and often heartbroken souls. But regardless, I’d like to share some feelings with you that only exist because of this journey.
As I sit after a long day of congratulatory hugs and texts, I feel so much joy and energy. I feel alive and content. But, I also I feel surprised by this moment. I didn’t realize how badly I wanted this pregnancy until I got that phone call today letting me know I get to be a mom again. The truth is, just when I thought my family was complete and that all is well and stable . . . bam! God has other plans. Every. Single. Time. And thank goodness for that.
As I drove this morning to give my blood for the pregnancy test, I turned on the radio. I have this little tradition that I’ve played on each of the morning commutes to get my pregnancy tests from the clinic. It’s silly, but I decided that the first song I hear when my I turn on my car would then be the theme of the day. I’ve done this with every pregnancy test. With my daughter, it was “Going Whichever Way the Wind Blows” by Peter Droge, telling me to “let it go and just enjoy the ride.” With my son, it was “Best Day of My Life” by the Authors. It’s a loud, fun dance song that helped me jam all the way to the clinic. In that moment, it was so important for me to stay positive, as he was our hope and sunshine after the prior failed cycle. And now today, I flipped on the radio, held my breath and immediately heard “Peace” by O.A.R. I instantly grinned ear to ear because that’s exactly what I felt. I’ve never really even listened to the lyrics before today. What I heard was the last line of the chorus, “I want love, I want us, I want you, I want me, I want peace.”
I share this because it took me a while to get to a place where I was ready to embrace the thought of this third, beautiful soul joining our family. I know you’re not supposed to say that either, but it did. However, perhaps not for the reasons you might assume. It was because I was scared of wanting a third child and not having one. Scared because I was told over and over that it was unlikely and against the odds. Scared because I have two healthy children already. Scared because people in my position don’t get to have that many kids, right? Was I testing my luck? Was I being greedy? After all, there are souls out there that are still fighting for just one. These thoughts haunted me for longer than I would like to admit. The infertile label had obviously affected me to my core.
So, I prayed about it. Talked and cried about it. Read about it. I worked my butt off to find peace. And one day, a few months ago, I woke up and realized that I was okay. Truly okay. I knew in my heart that regardless of whether I became pregnant or not, I was peaceful. I cannot tell you how good that felt. So, I bit the bullet and decided no embryo was left behind in this family and I began my fourth and final IVF cycle. We had one more little frosty (as we playfully called them); we would love to have one more child, and doggone it, we wanted to at least try. I mean, let’s face it, I still have plenty of things to learn along the way about letting peacefulness exist in my life, despite not knowing the destination. But isn’t that just the hardest lesson for all of us?
So, this story has an incredibly happy ending for me. Not because we’re pregnant again today, but because I’ve learned so much about peace through this crazy, medicated process. I know it’s early in the pregnancy. Like WHOA, early. But, I’m good. So very good, in fact. Peace is such a funny thing for me. Dealing with anxiety my entire life, I can immediately recognize the difference. I know exactly when I feel it and how I got here. And man, today it’s sweet.
So tonight, my body feels full and ready, while my mind is racing. I’m lying in bed thinking about the thousands of memories and changes ahead—all with a party of five in our house. Thanks to IVF, we get more baby smell, more joyful noise around the house, and yes, perhaps a bigger car at some point. I wouldn’t change a darn thing. My life as a parent is just the way it needs to be right now . . . crazy, almost out-numbered, and filled with so much joy and gratitude for the ride.