I was childless and very, very depressed. This is going to be a difficult post and if you are not interested, you can come back tomorrow and I'll post something happy.
I'm writing this post because I have been appreciating my kids more lately (especially when they are down for a nap and I can watch them talking to each other from my baby cam monitor). At this moment, no one is crying, or hanging on me. So, I'm choosing to go down this dark path to remind myself how I got here, and that even on the days that I feel like my head could explode, I could never go back to those days before my kids came in to my life.
Also, I know that many people who read my ramblings have also been through this, and some have not been as lucky as I have. I shouldn't say lucky because I know it has nothing to do with luck. God has been good to me even though I have not always been good to him. I will admit, that even though I was raised in a Christian home, during the 8 years that I was desperate for a baby, I denied that God existed for at least 4 of them. I couldn't understand how there could be a God that would create such a strong desire in me and then not fulfill it.
I remember as a child, about 7 or 8 years old, saying my arms were made to hold babies. I think because they seemed to fit just right. I held every baby that I could, dreaming of the day that I would have my own.
I couldn't wait to be pregnant. I got married right out of high school and just assumed that babies would soon follow. I daydreamed of maternity clothes, a big, glorious belly, and seeing my baby's face for the first time.
I still remember the very day that we got the news that we would never be able to conceive on our own. They had done all the tests on me and everything seemed to be fine. So they did a semen analysis, and found out that Lance had plenty of swimmers, they just forgot to take the mandatory course. You know, the one that explains "over the river and through the cervix, to mommy's eggs we must go". Instead, they were kicking back, with an Old Mill, and watching ESPN. We were devastated. If you know Lance's family, you know the history of the male virility. How could this be possible?
This is when I began to question God. I remember crying in the bathroom of a bar with my friend Sara. I think she was pregnant with her second and I had just told her that we weren't able to have kids. I said, how can there be a God that would do this to ME? Then she said something that I have repeated many times since. This isn't her exact words because I don't remember them exactly, because I was in a bathroom, in a bar. God didn't create infertility and who do you think gave people the brains and ability to overcome it?
This is the part where I want to address something that really irritates me. Many people who have been in our shoes and have needed to use scientific intervention to create the ones we hold dearest, know what I'm about to say. We don't appreciate hearing someone say to us, directly or indirectly, that our babies weren't created by nature, or God. Just because my husband's "guys" and my eggs happened to meet in a petri dish and incubate for a few days before they found their way home, does not mean that God didn't design every crevice, on every fingerprint, of each of my babies hands. I say again, where do you think they got the intelligence to design IVF and other such treatments? A distant member of my own family has twins that "were created by God" as said by their grandparent to my mother. This grandparent actually asked my mom if my three were "created by God or if we took medication". It's a good thing that I was not there in person because I tend to speak foreign languages, particularly French, when an ignorant person says such things to me.
After a few years of living without God in my life (not that he wasn't obviously there, but that I didn't want to accept that he was) I realized that this was all happening according to His plan and that it would soon be revealed to me. If only we could see the blueprints He has for us. It would make our lives so much less stressful. If I could have back all the years and tears I wasted. If only I'd seen the turn my life would take. If only I'd bought stock in home pregnancy tests before I spent the better part of my life savings on them, just to see if this was THE month. Even though the doctors told us the odds, it didn't stop me from hoping, feeling every pregnancy symptom in the book, and testing month after month.
On a happier note, when I finally did see the double line for the first time, I'm sure they heard my screams on the moon. Then I became obsessed with seeing those 2 pink parallel lines. Lance would just shake his head as each new shipment came in the mail, of cheapy, dipstick type pregnancy tests. I wanted to make up for every negative test I had.
Now more about the 8 year drought. That is how I refer to the years we struggled with infertility. If you've ever been there, you know how difficult it is. I feel your pain. It still hurts and brings tears to my eyes. First it was "lets try this position, and put a pillow under my butt", "stand on my head, that will help", "maybe we need to drink more, look how many babies were conceived while under the influence". Then came the news of our "problem" and we were put into the hands of modern medicine.
Our first attempt at IVF was a complete disaster. We looked in a phone book yellow pages and found a clinic that was 5 hours away that did IVF. So we packed up and drove several times over the next 2 months. We told everyone because it was going to work, you know. Our insurance didn't cover fertility treatments so we plopped down about 10 grand including travel and lodging. Then it was injections, surgery, and waiting, waiting, waiting. They call it the 2 week wait. The most dreaded time for anyone trying to conceive. Complete, and utter torture. Analyzing every twinge, hiccup, and pain. Hmmm, do my breasts hurt??? I think I could vomit. Did I feel a kick??? Some will do the home pregnancy tests, some think they will jinx them.
Of course this time was not to be. As were the next 3. To make a long story short. We tried another clinic in the opposite direction, which I thought would be "the best" and still no luck. After the first attempt we decided not to tell anyone we were trying again. It was way too hard to let everyone know it didn't work. So we traveled in secret and told many fibs. Luckily our insurance changed and allowed us $20,000 in fertility benefits. We spent every dime and then some. IVF is not cheap.
We had enough left for one more try and since were tired of driving so far we decided to try the closer clinic (which we had been using to do our labwork and ultrasounds during our previous IVF attempts). Why didn't we start there, you may ask? Well, we thought the other would be "the best". They weren't. Our final attempt before our money ran out, and I finally got to see the double pink lines. I tested early, just to see, and there they were. I called Lance at work and told him the news. He didn't believe me. He wouldn't until I had a blood test. But sure enough, we have Ashlyn to prove it.
I'll never forget calling my mom and telling her that I was finally going to have a baby of my own. I couldn't even choke out the words. An added bonus was that my little sister was also pregnant. It had always been a dream of mine to share pregnancy with my sister. So far, up until then, whenever I tried to get pregnant, my sister did and I didn't. I really enjoyed the bond we shared, having our babies together. As you've seen if you follow my blog, our girls were born on the same day.
Since we had a small amount left of our insurance and were afraid they would change their minds, we waited until Ashlyn was almost 1 and tried again, of course not expecting it to work. Once again we chose to put in 3 embryos. With Ashlyn's cycle, we wanted to be aggressive because we had 4 failed attempts. We wanted to play hard ball. They were perfect little embryos and we were pregnant with twins for about 6 weeks and then, sadly, Ashlyn became a singleton. Though I sometimes think about what her twin would have become, I know that God had another plan. If we'd had twins, we probably would have stopped there. I can't imagine my life without Gabriella, Ryan, and Brooke.
The 3 embryos that we put in for our second attempt at this clinic were not so perfect. They were graded a B instead of an A. I cried and cried the day that we put them in my uterus, thinking it was all for nothing. I tried not to get my hopes up, even though I always did. I started testing really early again, just because I like to torture myself. One morning, I woke up at 4 am and couldn't get back to sleep, so why not pee on a stick?? I held it up to the light and....is that a very, very faint second line I see? I went and woke Lance up to see if he could see anything. Through closed eyes he said "I don't see anything, go back to sleep". As you now know, it was very, very positive.
Just so you know, our fertility specialist most commonly puts in only 2 embryos. In fact he recommended this to us. I was so sure that these embryos were not good that I insisted we put in 3, just like we did last time. When we had our second ultrasound, confirming that there were 3 heartbeats, the Dr. summed up my thoughts exactly when he said "whoops".
So, God has blessed me tremendously. I had always hoped for 4 children, not necessarily in 2 years, but who can complain? Sometimes I feel so blessed that I can't stop myself from waiting for something bad to happen. Since I can't live my life that way, I choose instead to enjoy every smile, kiss, giggle, and hug. I will even try and enjoy every dirty diaper, every tantrum, and every bout with illness, because I can't bear to think of my former life.
Infertility is like a sponge, sapping up every breath and every tear. When you hurt to the bone and then everywhere you go, there are glowing, pregnant, bellies protruding in your face. People unknowingly ask you questions that stab at you. They make remarks because they want to make things better for you and they don't really know what to say. Sometimes its better to say nothing. Instead to open your ears and your heart.
People often ask me if we are done having children. Most say this as a joke. For the first year, I said, "definitely, yes". Some days I still wish for more babies (sounds insane, doesn't it?). There is nothing like the feeling that someone is growing inside you. Waiting nine months and then finally getting to see, and getting to know, that little person. Plus, I just look at my children and, to me, they are so beautiful, how could I not want more?
For now Lance says we are done and financially it isn't really possible. Unless God has other plans (can I please have a copy of those blueprints?). So I will keep this post to remind me of all that we have been through and all the tears, and happiness, it brought.