My birthday is in September. I have been pregnant on my birthday every year for the past three years, though we only have one child. This year will make four. I’ve been a bit hesitant to share the news, particularly on social media, but my belly is making itself very known so I am finally brave enough to show it.
Let me explain a little more about why this subject is so complicated for me, even when I’m filled with joy.
In total I have had three miscarriages, and a friend who was our surrogate had yet another. We have felt the loss of four children dissolve before our very eyes, departing so quickly before they could even come into this world.
Those of you who know me or have been following the blog over the last few years know I have shared a lot about our journey to have children.We started to try to have children in 2011, but to no avail. Four years of IVF treatments (literally have lost count of how many), and one after another was a failure. I felt like a failure. We grew weary, but the dream of our child made us persevere. Over four years after we started trying, we were finally blessed us with our son Maxwell, our miracle baby.
We started trying again before Maxwell was a year old. More and more failed IVF attempts, two miscarriages. After the last miscarriage I had some complications that lead to one minor procedure after another, and I thought we would finally be able to start again this spring, but I was wrong. Things still weren’t perfect and I went on rounds of anti-inflammatories to try to help the situation. It wasn’t a threat to me, but not good enough to try another IVF cycle.
It was finally enough. I had finally had enough. In April I told Matt I just wanted to stop IVF through the summer, and maybe look again at it in the fall. But in my heart, I was done.
I always wondered how I would know when to stop trying IVF procedures… wondering if I’d even be able to stop. I am stubborn and hardworking and rarely take no for an answer. It hit me that I already had everything I had dreamed about so many years ago, and that having Maxwell fulfilled our lives more than I could have ever imagined. It was OK to stop and call it a day. As difficult as each of the miscarriages were, the hope against hope, the stress of trying and the fear of losing yet another pregnancy was too much to take.
Finally, I was done putting our lives on hold and ready to start living again. Living without fear. Living without being obsessed with chasing a seemingly impossible dream. I realized what I was really missing is living each day to its fullest, planning adventures and dreaming of a happy future without longing for something that may never be. What I had was finally enough in my mind, and I was ready to start looking toward all the happy in the future instead of the fear.
My yoga instructor Theresa always says that the moment true gratitude fills your mind and your heart, it pushes other emotions away and fills you completely. It always seemed to work for me in class when she was there reminding me and stay right through the end as we lay down in shavasana, but would often escape me once I left the studio and drove home. This spring those words finally sunk in, and I let go of the fear and hurt, and let pure gratitude fill my heart. I finally felt free for the first time in seven years as I truly made my peace with accepting my life for what it was at that very moment, believing that all would be OK and things would work out the way they should.
Sometimes you just have to accept life as it is, maintain a positive attitude, and leave your final destination to fate.
Part of what helped me make peace with letting go of our IVF journey this spring by telling myself that nothing stopped us from continuing to try to have a child on our own. Though terribly unsuccessful as we had been in the past, it was still a remote possibility, and made me more comfortable turning things over to higher spirits, energies and powers. If it was meant to be, it was meant to be.
Toward the end of May I was in the midst of living my happy new freed life of gratitude, with a occasional toddler hair pulling and tantrums thrown in from time to time to just help keep things real. Drinking a few cocktails on the weekends, going on trips, loving on my baby boy and planning new adventures, I was truly enjoying everything around me and feeling content in my choice to set IVF aside.
One morning it occurred to me that my period was late, but my cycles had been irregular since the last miscarriage in October, so I thought nothing of it. For sh*ts and giggles, I pulled out my very last pregnancy test from under the white bathroom vanity just to make sure nothing crazy was going on. For the record, pregnancy tests and I do not get along. Pee sticks have made me feel inadequate, insecure an broken my heart more than any person ever has. They were the enemy, and frankly, I was glad to be getting rid of that horrid stick so it wasn’t mocking me every time I looked in the cupboard.
I hated them.
I continued getting ready for work and begrudgingly glanced over at the pregnancy test about five minutes later getting ready to chuck it in the trash can, only to see the darkest double lines.
Was this happening?!?
Surely I must have finally gone mad, or the test was bad… Or sometimes your blood pregnancy hormones can go up and create a false positive on a pregnant test, maybe that was it (or so an episode of the Golden Girls once had me believe when Blanche thought she was pregnant). I was shocked and in such utter disbelief that I left the house like a n emotionless zombie and emailed my IVF nurse that I needed a blood test that day. She very likely thought I had gone mad too, but happily obliged me so I could get to the bottom of this mystery.
Turns out, I was very pregnant.
With each miscarriage and loss, the fear grows inside of you that you are not enough. The what ifs and if onlys that play over and over again in your head make you dizzy with tears. A feeling of helplessness can overcome you. Hopelessness seems inevitable. But this time, my mind was finally strong enough to chose to not let it be filled with the dark thoughts of fear and sadness. I chose to take each day on its own terms, and knew that some things were out of my control. I could let the worry and fear of four miscarriages eat at my mind and my belly, or leave things up to fate.
This time I chose fate, and for what its worth, it has worked OK so far.
This pregnancy is in the beginning of the second trimester, so we still have a while to go, but I have made it further than any pregnancy since our sweet Maxwell, and for every new day with this blessed baby in my belly, I am filled with love and gratitude.
Even with all of the positive thoughts, I have been processing a lot of emotions throughout the beginning of this pregnancy and have taken a step back from sharing on social media and my blogging to focus on those things that need more of my energy right now.
This post was not easy to write, and truthfully, I have been putting it off for some time. Even though Matt and I have each made our peace with the past and are dealing with this pregnancy the best way we can, feeling lots of positivity and hope, I think we have each been hesitant to tell people close to us. You try for years to get pregnant, and with each failed IVF attempt, your loved ones and friends compassion and sadness for you is palpable. When it finally works after so many failed attempts, you can’t wait to tell your cheerleaders, only to see their eyes well with tears when you tell them that yet another dream come true has ended in loss.
Its not that I felt like telling people would bring some bad karma, but part of me hesitates to share openly because I didn’t want others to feel sadness for us should this one end in miscarriage too. I don’t want to disappoint anyone again. I don’t want someone to stay up at night worrying about whether we are OK. We actually waited weeks to tell our moms this time, which was absolutely unprecedented for us, but I wanted to know that we had a better shot at things before I brought their hope and emotions into this crazy circus too.
Another reason this blog post and our story is difficult for me to share is that it plays into one of the most frustrating bits of advice that well meaning people always seem to share with people battling infertility.
“Just relax and quit trying so hard and it will happen.”
No, that is not the cure for infertility. Causes of infertlity include actual medical conditions like PCOS, diminished ovarian reserve, uterine abnormalities, endometriosis, sperm count and motility, blocked fallopian tubes, and countless others which require surgery or medical intervention to help fix it.
What I can tell you though, is that I have learned that carrying the worry, fear, blame, sadness and panic with you during your fertility journey will not help the process in any way. I can’t tell you not to freak out if you are still fighting the fight, but I do want to encourage you to let go of the negative feelings as much as you can. Know that you are enough and what you are doing is absolutely amazing, taking more courage and strength than anyone can imagine. Try yoga, practice meditation, keep your social calendar busy, focus on family, surround yourself with positive people, read affirmations, and eventually the love and light will find its way in. Even if it doesn’t help get you to the finish line to your infertility journey more quickly, it will make your journey so much happier along the way. When enough is enough, know that it is OK to stop. It does not mean that you have failed or that you are not enough. It means that you have the courage to take care of yourself and that you love yourself for having tried.
Thank you so very much to all our family, friends and loved ones who have been sending us prayers, love and light over the last several years. Our friends who have pestered us to do things before we were ready, sent care packages from across the country and across the pond, and stopped in unannounced because you knew I needed it, thank you for how much you have given to us. And to all you parents and hopeful parents out there still trying, live your best life now and fill your heart with true gratitude for the amazing everyday things that make this life worth living. Even when things don’t look good and it feels like you are stuck in a rut, know that everything can change in a single instant.
Sometimes life’s best surprises may suddenly pop up when you least expect it.
Here’s the craziest thing about our story. Often at night when I tuck Maxwell in, I remind him of everyone in his family that loves him but who might live far away.
On one particular night in May as I lay in the dark in Maxwell’s bed next to him, snuggled deep down in the covers, I told my sweet boy, “Your mommy loves you, and daddy loves you, Nana loves you, MeeMa loves you, Aunt Coco love you, Aunt Lizzy loves you, Carlin loves you…”
“And my sister loves me,” Maxwell suddenly interrupted, in the middle of my list of names.
I had just found out I was pregnant that week, and we had not told a soul. We certainly hadn’t shared with Maxwell, nor did we know what we were having (yet). Several weeks earlier, unbeknownst to me and before we even knew I was pregnant, Max was telling his grandma about having a baby sister. She didn’t want to make me sad at the time, so she never mentioned a word about it to me until the day we told her we were expecting.
Somehow this little man knew his baby sister was coming to him even before we did. That just helps me believe in love, light and destiny a little bit more, and gives me faith that what was meant to be will be.
(On a related note, after finding out my child is apparently a toddler mystic, I may be taking him to help pick out lottery tickets next time the Power Ball is over $150,000,000. Just sayin…)