Tuesday, November 10, 2015

A New Number




This time around, I promised I’d be easier on myself; not focus so much on the what ifs or dwell on the weight gain.

This time I would pamper myself and spend the extra money on the prenatal massage and not be so concerned if I had two cups of coffee or ate a turkey sandwich – without heating the meat.

This time I will remember those first few months of her life rather than focus on what I should be doing and how things should be. I’ll take my time on our daily walks to soak in the moment instead of focusing on what comes next.

As a parent, I understand you eventually have to decide when to stop having babies or stop trying to have a baby. For me, that answer came quicker than anticipated.

***
Before my medical chart read “Unexplained infertility”, I envisioned a large family. Three to four kids with a few pets. I was unaware – or perhaps, reluctant – to admit that I could be a woman who did not conceive easily.

When we finally agreed to start trying for a family the realization that I would not be one of those women to conceive on the first, second, third time became more apparent as the months flew by without even a missed period.

After one year of trying, we sought medical intervention consisting of numerous tests only to have them come out normal. Finally, a doctor confirmed that I was infertile with no known cause. My husband and I found ourselves staring down two pathways: (1) IUI, (2) In Vitro. The thought of not having children was quickly squashed as we both realized how much we wanted children. Not a child but children. We opted for the less invasive procedure and I became an IUI patient.

Undergoing infertility treatments was a lonely time spent wavering between feelings of disappointment and shame. Ashamed to know that I needed help to achieve something that should come naturally.


Getting pregnant with medical assistance can be tedious. There are weekly ultrasounds, daily injections, blood tests and the rush of emotions that run the gamut from optimism to self-loathing.

Finally the day arrives when you find yourself laying on the doctor’s table. After confirming the sperm in the cup is in fact your partner’s, you lay on the table, imaging the pinching you feel is the sperm clinging onto an egg, burrowing into your uterus. Your baby is finally home. For a second you forget that you’re essentially getting impregnated in a cold doctor’s office on the same table where you receive your annual pap smear.

For two weeks you wait. Every bout of nauseous, every cramp, every tender ache of the breast is a sign. A sign that it worked; or that it failed – you failed.

***
During my first pregnancy with my now 2-year-old daughter, everything was analyzed. For me, not being able to conceive naturally morphed into God’s way of telling me that I was not meant to be a mom; my body was not designed to carry a child to term.

My pregnancy was filled with fear. There were days that I’d rush into a bathroom stall, pull down my panties and expect to find blood. Instead of soaking in the moment, I was in a constant state of worry.

It was only when I held my daughter in my arms that those concerns were lifted. My baby girl was beautiful, perfect and for the first time it didn't matter how she was conceived. All that mattered was that she was here.

***

When the time came to decide whether or not to try for another baby my husband once again played the optimist, and I the realist.

“You can get pregnant this time,” he said. “It happens to women all the time after they have a baby.”

As the pessimist, I played my role and made an appointment with the infertility specialist.

“You won’t have a baby without treatment,” the doctor concluded not insensitively but in a not-leaving-room-for-second-guessing manner.

I felt my heart sink in that moment sitting in his office where pictures of his success stories line the wall. That one ounce of hope that I had silently been clinging too quickly dissipated leaving me to fall into that same fog of disappointment that cloaked my first pregnancy.

Not this time. This time will be different.

Two months later, I entered the doctor’s office with the knowledge of what was about to happen and focused on the end result, not so much the fear.

This time around I did not dwell on the weeks of shots, ultrasounds and doctor visits. I did not cry when I had to lie still on the doctor’s table. I did not question whether or not we were meant to have a second baby.

***

“We hug; no handshakes,” explained my doctor after confirming I was pregnant. The hug marked a time to celebrate; the end of treatment.

No more shots. My husband no longer had to sit at the dining room table each night preparing the needle, swirling the powder and liquid together before measuring out the required dose to stimulate my ovaries. No longer would I need to slip in a DVD and slide out from under my daughter’s grasp to sneak into the bathroom where I’d close my eyes and brace myself for the injection that my husband administered daily.

No more questioning if what we were doing was working.

This time upon leaving the doctor’s office, I knew this was it. Despite my vision of having three to four kids, the emotional toll was enough.

***

At 32 weeks pregnant my belly button has popped resembling a pout. My stomach is rounder than anticipated and the kicks are more jabs than flutters.

My evening walks around the neighborhood now consist of pushing my daughter in a stroller and holding conversations about the color of the leaves we walk through the tree-lined streets scoring the ground for pine cones.

As we walk, I feel that jab in my belly. Something it’s a swift move under the rib or a waving sensation throughout my stomach. A reminder that soon my daughter will have a sister, and our family will grow from three to four – a number that will take some getting used to.