Written by Rachel Roth, Guest Blogger
Alright, I admit it: I’m a planner. Have been my whole life. I plan my outfits for the week. I plan for a party months in advance. It should come as no shock that I’ve had my life as a mother planned for as long as I can remember and had my kids names picked out since high school (thank goodness my husband loved the names too!)
My husband, Jon, and I married in 2008 and the talk of kids began at our wedding. We played a famous game at our reception called “The Shoe Game” where Jon and I sat back to back, traded shoes and held up the shoe of the person we thought best represented the answer. My brother, who emceed, asked “Which of you is looking forward to having kids more?” We BOTH held up BOTH shoes. See? Excited for kids. However, we wanted to wait until I finished my master’s degree and we moved into a house. Both of those things happened in April 2011. Happening in the same month? That was some sort of sign we were supposed to start trying for kids immediately, right?
I began to calculate when I needed to conceive based on the amount of maternity leave I had. I worked as a teacher and since I would get the summer off, I knew I wanted to have my leave flow right into the summer to maximize my time at home. I had a conversation one day with my mom explaining my thought process behind these conception plans and she held up her hand to stop me.
“How do you know that you’ll get pregnant the first time you try?”
I didn’t have an answer to that and it should have been a warning bell to at least be prepared for that possibility and in our case, eventuality. 8 months into trying for children, we were sent to a fertility doctor for what at the time seemed like just a male factor issue.
My husband needed surgery to fix a varicocele. He healed wonderfully and came back in better shape than before. But we still were having issues. After more tests, they found I was also part of the problem. Apparently, my AMH hormone level was low which meant I had fewer (good) eggs than other women my age. Apparently my biological clock had hit the danger zone early. So that added a new dimension to our problem. And doctors in the same practice couldn’t seem to agree on a plan.
One doctor said we could conceive naturally and just needed help with timing. A second doctor said we had “less than 1% chance of conceiving naturally” and said if I was his daughter, he’d automatically recommend IVF. I was beginning to get frustrated that no one could seem to agree on OUR specific infertility problems and what to do about them. I felt like a science experiment or some number on a chart, instead of a real person trying to conceive a child.
I started with clomid and letrozole (oral stimulating meds), progressed to Follistim (injected stimulating med) then did 4 rounds of IUI. Everything failed, month after month. However, our first IVF in April 2013 was different. The plan was to come to the office two weeks after the IVF transfer for a blood test for pregnancy. I got antsy, took a home test and it turned out positive! Two years of trying and we were finally pregnant!
Well of course out came the plans! I calculated my due date, researched how to decorate the nursery, and even started compiling a guest list for my baby shower. (I know, I know. I can hear you shaking your head. I deserve that)
The fertility clinic continued to monitor my beta numbers and even though they seemed to fluctuate a bit, the doctor told me that the next time I came in, we would be able to hear the baby’s heart beat!
Jon came with me to that next appointment because we both wanted to hear our child’s heart beating for the very first time. So exciting! After the normal blood draw, the ultrasound tech seemed to be moving the wand around a lot and not saying much. After two years of ultrasounds, I knew something was wrong.
Turns out, as the doctor would tell us afterward, there was nothing on the ultrasound. No heartbeat. No baby.
I was DEVASTATED.
I held it together for the rest of the meeting, but when we got to the car, I broke down in tears. My dream was crashing down around me. To go from expecting to see the heartbeat of your child to being told there wasn’t a baby at all was excruciating and confusing. We took some time to regroup and a few months later we did IVF #2 and #3 back to back. Both were failures.
It was in the days, weeks, months that followed that I started to withdraw.
I had been hit with a huge dose of reality. We had been trying for nearly three years. Even three attempts using the most advanced fertility procedure, the one with the highest chance of success, didn’t help us conceive. I started to isolate myself to protect my heart. I replied “no” to every baby shower invitation, including my two nephews. I didn’t want to be the elephant in the room during what was supposed to be a happy time for someone else. I even avoided my friends. I knew I couldn’t be a good friend to them with what I was going through and didn’t want to feel like a burden. I hit rock bottom. All my plans hadn’t worked to get the one thing I’d always dreamed of: children. Was I the failure? Was I being punished for planning? For assuming we would get pregnant quickly?
We took the next 10 months to just be a married couple again. We had one more frozen embryo so we needed to do one more IVF attempt, but with everything we had been through physically (I stuck myself an average of 34 times per IVF cycle) and emotionally (at that point, I had gotten 29 months of negative pregnancy results), we needed a break.
Finally, in September 2014 we did our IVF #4, which we knew financially and emotionally had to be our last. We didn’t have high hopes after all we had been through but the nurses called me after my blood test ecstatic to tell me I was pregnant! We were thrilled.
Unfortunately, our celebration didn’t last long. Same as before, there was no heartbeat. No baby. I miscarried the exact same day I did on the first IVF.
This time, I wasn’t devastated.
I was BROKEN.
We often heard people tell us “just adopt!” And absolutely, it was and is an option. But two important things: 1) we felt we needed to mourn our fertility journey and the biological children we wouldn’t have. We needed to heal. 2) We wanted to be sure we should adopt, not just move forward with it as a last resort. We wanted our hearts to be pure and intentional as it affects a lot of people. We prayed, discussed and decided we were being called to adopt. We were scared, to be honest, as adoption is something neither of us knew a lot about. But sometimes the best things in life are the ones that scare us initially.
After some research, we settled on an adoption agency and chose infant domestic adoption. The adoption process, like the fertility process, is NO. JOKE. It is a ton of stress and is a challenge emotionally and financially, just in very different ways. We got through the mountains of paperwork, the hours of interviews, the classes, the physicals, the clearances, and hours creating a profile.
On December 18, 2015 we officially became available for birth families to connect with us!
On December 19, I found out I was pregnant. Naturally.
Is that your jaw hitting the ground I just heard? Yeah, I can STILL feel mine dislocating from shock. I took two tests because we just didn’t believe it. We made sure to get the ones that have the words instead of the lines because if anyone could screw up reading the results, we figured it would be us.
Despite both tests saying the same thing, we were VERY cautious throughout the first few months, even refusing to say the word “pregnant” aloud to one another. We referred to my pregnancy as “our situation” for the first trimester as we spoke about our future plans. We knew firsthand how quickly pregnancies can change.
But our fears were assuaged. On August 15, 2016, our son Benjamin Shane was born. Healthy, happy, full of life, definitely not part of our plan. No one was more thrilled to be wrong than us.
What about the adoption, you ask? Never fear. We fell in LOVE with adoption and are excited to adopt. Our agency required us to pause and wait until Ben is a year old before “unpausing” our journey. We’ve already started the ball rolling again and are just waiting to meet with our adoption agency to update our home study since a lot has changed in two years.
I often reflect upon what I was supposed to learn from my fertility journey. I never want my experiences to be for nothing so I try to find something to take away from it. I realized that there is so much in this life that is beyond our control. I love to plan, but sometimes plans don’t work out. I can’t control the weather. I can’t control how someone else reacts. I can’t control my fertility. My journey taught me that with so much beyond my control, I could either continue to struggle against it, only to be met with heartache. Or I could find peace in the chaos and learn to enjoy the moments, the life I have because life is fluid and fleeting.
Don’t worry – I haven’t given up my planning ways completely. There’s still a first birthday to plan, after all. And while I do, I’m enjoying every moment until then.