When I told people I was pregnant, they started calling me mom, mama, mommy right away. I didn’t know how to respond, we had been trying for a long time and I still didn’t think it was real, even after the first trimester. Our road to parenthood was a challenge. After a year of trying (and failing) to conceive, I was casually told by my doctor to use a calendar to track everything (not romantic, but really nothing compared to what came later). When that still didn’t work, they added in oral medications, and we started taking extra vitamins.
After six months of medications and vitamins, the doctors became more serious, especially because I was over 30 and getting closer to possible complications that come with “advanced maternal age” (apparently 30 is NOT the new 20 when it comes to baby making). A few more months passed by and all of a sudden there were referrals to specialists, tests and theories but, for us, not a whole lot of answers. We were diagnosed as having unexplained infertility, not very helpful.
We ended up seeing 3 different OB/GYNs, 1 fertility nurse practitioner, and 2 fertility doctors. I had so many tests done, all of which were intrusive, painful and inconclusive. I did multiple rounds of timed cycles with medication, two with hormone injections, 1 IUI and finally 1 IVF. All within about 4 years. That sounds like a lot in a short amount of time and it was, but I actually took a couple breaks in there, mainly due to sadness, loss, and stress but also because of the financial strain it was taking on us.
In the end, my IVF treatment was successful. We found out I was pregnant when I was 4 weeks along. When they called to tell me the initial hCG blood test results were positive, I was in gleeful shock. Then they reminded me of my appointment to come back in two days for a second confirmation blood test and to be prepared in case it was just a chemical pregnancy and didn’t progress. It’s a high, immediately followed by a harsh dose of reality. This was the basic formula for the whole process so I wasn’t surprised. There were many starts and stops. Cycles that didn’t work so we had to start all over the next month with more shots, more pills and more tests.
My second positive hCG blood test was followed by another careful reminder, that I have to go back in a week for an ultrasound to check for a gestational sac. That was followed by an appointment another week later where they check for the heartbeat. FINALLY at 7 weeks along (3 long weeks later) my doctor smiled and congratulated me and my husband. We were officially pregnant and had graduated from the fertility specialists’ clinic back to my regular OB for the rest of my pregnancy, barring any complications. My first appointment with my regular OB, she said “Congrats Mama!” and I didn’t know how to respond other than with a shaky thank you.
I don’t need to get into the nitty gritty details, but since my body and mind went through hell to get pregnant, I had a hard time accepting it. Throughout my entire fertility struggle and pregnancy I did everything the doctors told me to do. I took it as a super important, top priority mission to follow all of their instructions to the exact letter. I was calm almost to the point of being numb. My pregnancy felt like a dream, I didn’t want to do anything to startle myself awake and realize it wasn’t really happening. The day I gave birth to my daughter, I went into the hospital in nearly active labor because I was still unsure that it was real. It took years for me to get pregnant and not until I held my baby in my arms in the delivery room did I know it was real. But I still didn’t know how to feel about being called mom, all the nurses and staff referred to me as mom, but the word still held a mysterious unreachable feeling for me that I couldn’t embrace it.
After I had my daughter, I realized I needed some guidance so I started following a bunch of mom sites online. This opened a world of advice and support that I never knew existed, and I found so many stories of similar challenges. I imagined how freeing it must feel to let it all out and share your story. I had lived the past several years being ashamed of my infertility. I questioned if there was something wrong with me, or if I wasn’t trying hard enough or if it just wasn’t meant to be, and then got angry with myself for crying and being bitter and jealous every time I heard someone was expecting (seriously, everyone around me was getting pregnant, Facebook was a minefield). But I’m not ashamed anymore, and I will tell my story to anyone who asks. Because if I hadn’t gone through what I did to have her, my daughter wouldn’t be here. Every shot, every pill, every appointment, every up and down, and every expense went to her existence.
My experience has given me a different perspective and a higher sensitivity to others. I don’t think this is unique to me, I’ve shared many knowing glances. So, to the woman at the restaurant who watched us and smiled at my daughter with a look I know too well, one with hope but also heartache. I see you. To the mom who I saw noticeably flinch when asked by a stranger if she only had one kid, when in her heart she has more. I see you. And to the woman who swears that her dog is her furbaby, while she secretly weeps for babies she’s lost. I see you. I want you to know that there are others like you and while your story is unique, we should all find comfort in a shared pain and hold out hope for our own miracles.
I’m a different person now, and I’m hoping with all my heart that I will get the only thing I truly want for Christmas and that is to hear my baby girl call me Mama… and to truly know in my heart that it is true.