Growing up, I was never quite sure that I wanted to have kids. I was a very independent person with big goals and dreams, and none of that ever seemed to include having kids. But as I got older, I felt how important it was for me to have a family. I went to school, started my career, got married, and then the next thing on that list was to start having kids. My dream was two kids, a boy, then a girl, and I wanted to have them close in age, maybe two years apart. It never occurred to me that having kids was going to be the hard part.
So we started trying. And we tried. And tried. Nothing was happening. I talked to my OB/GYN. She sent me to a reproductive endocrinologist because she thought it might be harder for me to have kids with my history of endometriosis. We underwent testing. I found out I only had one ovary, but it was working so there was really no reason why I should not be able to get pregnant. We tried Clomid. We tried four IUIs (intrauterine insemination). No success.
Our next option was IVF. It was a massive commitment that cost a massive amount of money. Our only option was to refinance our house to be able to afford it. But we were all in. I went through the procedures, the shots, the blood draws, the mood swings, and through the whole process we only had one viable embryo to transfer.
“It only takes one!” is what we heard over and over. And what do you know, they were right. I got pregnant. My first blood draw was positive. My second one “was only elevated a little bit, and maybe you should come in tomorrow for another one.” And then the numbers started to drop. I was having a miscarriage. And my life was falling apart in front of my eyes.
The miscarriage destroyed me. It wasn’t even on my radar. I just thought, okay, we have to do IVF to have kids … but, whatever it takes. I never truly thought that IVF wouldn’t work. We had refinanced our house to try it. And then the housing market crashed and we would never get the value of the house back. I withdrew from my husband and my entire life. I was a shell of a person. I underwent a trauma that I never truly faced or worked through.
Time went on. I went back to school and started another career. I kept telling myself that I wasn’t meant to have children and tried my damnedest to believe it. We tried a lot of natural methods, but it really just seemed like having kids wasn’t in the cards for us. The anger, depression, and guilt burrowed into my heart and festered. It changed me. It changed who I was and what I believed.
I read a book called Conquering Infertility by Alice Domar and it really changed how I looked at infertility. The biggest thing I took away from it was either I am going to accept my fate (truly accept it) and not have kids, or I am going to do whatever it took to have one. I wasn’t ready to give up yet. We were doing better financially and we had an opportunity to try IVF again. And it worked. We had our baby boy. I had everything I could possibly imagine.
Sixteen months later, we tried IVF again, and it worked, again. We had our baby girl. We did lose a twin when I was 10 weeks pregnant with my daughter, which was another devastating blow. And yet another trauma that I don’t feel I’ve truly faced. But there we were. A little later than hoped, and tens of thousands of dollars more than we thought we’d have to spend. But we had our family and I should just be happy because there are so many women out there who still are struggling to have their family, right?
Getting pregnant is hard. Going through infertility is damn near impossible. Having kids is exhausting. But having kids after infertility is a whole different entity in itself. I was lucky enough to have a strong infertility support group who lifted me up when I was going through IVF. I don’t know how I would have gotten through it without those women. But I remember going to a support group meeting when I was four months pregnant because I was still so frightened I was going to lose the baby. I could feel the eyes on my belly. “Is she pregnant?” “Why is she here?” “How selfish and horrible of her to show up to an infertility support group meeting, pregnant!” I get it. I’m sure I had those feelings and thoughts too when I was struggling. But after I had my kids, I didn’t know what to do or where to go to get help.
I had a severe amount of postpartum anxiety and depression after both of my kids. I kept telling myself how lucky I was to even have children and in my heart felt I didn’t have the right to complain about being tired, or having a colicky baby, or complaining that breastfeeding was so freaking hard and why didn’t anyone warn me about how freaking hard it would all be?!? The amount of anxiety I had about losing one of my kids after all we did to have them was intense. The need for perfection and being the perfect parent was disabling. But because I knew what it was like to struggle to have kids, because I knew there were women who were still struggling and may never have the family they dreamed, I felt like I had to hold it all in. Suck it up. Be grateful. Stop complaining.
It wasn’t until I started to go to counseling that all of these feelings started making sense. I didn’t realize that infertility was a trauma in my life that I never worked through. I didn’t realize that even though there are women who cannot get pregnant, I am still allowed to be exhausted from being up all night with a newborn who refuses to latch. I am allowed to be tired, angry, frustrated, sad, happy, elated, and all the feelings that come along with being a parent.
My reality is just that, my reality. I work hard every day to be present and real for my kids because I know that I am going to go through every range of emotion throughout the day. I am very lucky to have found a counselor who has helped me work through this intense journey. I now realize that just because I have children, my 10 years of infertility didn’t disappear. The guilt, and anger, and depression, that burrowed into my heart was still lingering because I never really faced it. It was affecting me as a parent.
I am so lucky I have a small group of women who have gone through similar journeys as mine and have the same types of concerns and emotions as I do. In going through my infertility journey, I felt very alone. I felt like I was the only one who was going through something so horrible. It wasn’t until I found my support group and really started talking to people that I didn’t feel so alone.
Having kids after infertility was a whole new world to me that I didn’t realize would be so difficult. I thought once I had my kids, it shouldn’t be hard anymore. But it was, and it took me a while to accept that it was okay to be hard. It is okay to not feel happy in every moment. I am beyond grateful to have my children. But that doesn’t mean that some days are going to feel impossible. Just know, whatever your journey, wherever you land, you are allowed to feel everything you are feeling. You are allowed every emotion. And don’t be afraid to seek out help.