When I’m out in public with my toddler twins, I often get comments like “You’ve got your hands full!” or “Double trouble!” But what people don’t see is that it took me over a year of fertility treatments including IVF to get pregnant with my two miracles. What those strangers don’t know is that motherhood is something I will never take for granted, because it didn’t come easy to me.
Infertility gave me the gift of perspective, which I am infinitely grateful for. But just because I am finally a mom, that doesn’t mean I am no longer infertile. Now that my twins are two and a half, I have been getting the question, “Are you going to try for a third?” more and more. I usually respond with a smile or a laugh, but the truth is, I am terrified to go through all of it again. Because this time, for better or worse, I know what to expect.
Recently, my husband and I had our first appointment with a new fertility clinic to begin the journey to baby #3. We met with our Reproductive Endocrinologist, I had my blood drawn for some initial testing, and we went on our way. I felt like a seasoned professional that day, like I could handle anything this time around because I already have two healthy children earth-side. It’s just going to be a frozen embryo transfer — no big deal, right?
Thankfully, we have nine frozen embryos remaining from our first IVF cycle, so the next step in the process was to transport our embryos from our previous fertility clinic to our new one. We signed consent forms, picked up our embryos in a cryopreservation tank, and drove them to their new home, where they will stay until we are ready to do another frozen embryo transfer.
As I was sitting in the passenger seat with my potential future child(ren) tucked between my legs, I felt my eyes well up and I couldn’t help but think to myself, “This is something fertile people never have to do or even think about.” It dawned on me at that moment that infertility doesn’t really get easier the second time around. You just get stronger.
I have had three years to process my infertility diagnosis and all of the trauma that came with it, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t still hurt. After we dropped our embryos off at our new clinic, I went on Instagram and came across a pregnancy announcement from an acquaintance. It was her third pregnancy in four years, and while I am genuinely happy for her, the news hit me at a weird moment. It made me sad that a “surprise” third pregnancy will never be in the cards for us, and it was an emotion that caught me off guard because it was one I hadn’t felt in a while.
I have always wanted three kids. I am one of three, my husband is one of three, and we are both very close to our siblings. We are excited about the possibility of adding a third child to our family, but as we begin this process again, we are also guarding our hearts because we know too much. We know that IVF is not a guarantee. We know that 1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage. We know how all-consuming fertility treatments can be. And we know there’s a chance that this whole thing ends in heartbreak.
There is also a huge unknown to all of this, which is how many of our remaining embryos are chromosomally normal. When we went through IVF, we decided not to genetically test our embryos due to the cost. But even though we were only 28 then, there is still a chance that some of our embryos are genetically abnormal, which could lead to a failed transfer, a miscarriage, or more. We have debated whether or not to do the genetic testing this time around, but after speaking with our doctor it seems like the risks might outweigh the benefits in our case, so we just have to hope that the odds are in our favor.
I’m not sure when we will feel ready to transfer again. Right now, trying again still feels kind of scary. But I will say that I’m so grateful to have nine more chances to grow our family, and I feel very blessed to have two healthy children at home. But that’s the thing about infertility: if it has taught me anything it’s that you can be sad and grateful and scared all at once. We can be happy for others but sad for ourselves. We can really want a third child and also be terrified to go through IVF again. Those feelings are not mutually exclusive. It just means we’re human.
For 1 in 8 couples in the U.S., there are so many considerations to be made when deciding if, when, and how to expand their families. For us and so many others, having another baby isn’t as simple as having sex and getting pregnant. Instead, it’s a mixture of grief and hope. Anger and acceptance. Fear and joy. Happiness and disbelief. Negative pregnancy tests and big boxes of meds. Ultrasound wands and hormone injections. Smiles and tears. Heartbreak and strength.
Infertility is feeling every single emotion during any given day. It’s learning to control what you can. It’s picking yourself up day after day, month after month because all you want is to be a parent and then doing it all over again a few years later.
I don’t know how our story will end, but I do know that no matter what happens, we’ll be okay.