My son is a test tube baby. Remember when they used to call them that? Like they were a science experiment or an alien brought to life in some other-worldly way. Before I began IVF – really, before I became a fertility patient – I had no idea what those test tube babies were all about. Little did I know that they were among the most wanted and prayed for babies on the planet.
Since childhood, I have wanted to be a mother. Everyone who knows me knows that that was my life’s truest calling. So I assumed that my path to motherhood would be a simple one. Get married – check. Decide with husband to start “trying” – check. Get pregnant – check. It almost went that smoothly. Until. Until I lost my first baby and faced the utter devastation that comes with having your dreams come true for what feels like just a moment, only to be whisked away. We were in the doctor’s office for our first official prenatal visit, and then he couldn’t find the heartbeat. I said later that it was like having the best day of your life turn into the worst day of your life in the blink of an eye.
My first miscarriage stayed with me longer than I would have expected. It became a part of my identity, a measuring stick against which I assessed all subsequent losses and disappointments. My second miscarriage was termed a “chemical pregnancy” – over almost before it started. It was less dramatic than the first, but equally defining.
And then, for awhile, my life was a mess. On the outside, I was keeping it together. But on the inside, I was despairing. I was depressed. Nothing mattered to me so much as becoming a mom. And my self worth and satisfaction started to get wrapped up in the mission. Suddenly, I was only as happy as my ovulation kits or temperature charts allowed me to be. I was only intimate with my husband on a schedule. I didn’t enjoy being a young, married professional (my reality) anymore. All I wanted was a baby.
I realized I’d hit rock bottom one day when I was out for a walk and passed a pregnant woman on the street. As I passed her by, I reflexively rolled my eyes. (I am not proud to admit this). A moment later, I caught myself – “who are you?” I wondered. Had I become so bitter that I couldn’t even appreciate the gift of motherhood and the happiness it brought to others?
I knew right then that something needed to change. Resisting the mess, wishing it wasn’t so, only took me farther away from my true self. The one who loved pregnant women and big baby bellies and tiny little onesies. So I started praying for all the pregnant women in my life every night. I decided to turn my negative energy in another direction and focus instead on celebrating life.
When we decided to do IVF, I knew we had reached an important milestone. We were approaching the final frontier of “trying,” and with that I felt an urge to do something different. Instead of shying away from the truth, I had to embrace it. I had to shout it from the mountaintops. Surely for others there’s a middle ground. But for me, I had to be bold about it. I had to tell everyone I know.
So, that’s what I did. I started this blog, I posted it to facebook, and I held my breath.
Of course, the beautiful part of my story starts there. The outpouring of support was incredible. The prayers and well wishes that accompanied me on my journey allowed me to release fear and wear my hope on my sleeve. And, miraculously, I got pregnant. My friends and family followed my story, encouraged me, and used me to encourage others. Borne of my last-ditch effort was a new beginning.
It makes me wonder: what if, instead of resisting our truth, we all told everyone we know? That we had a miscarriage, that it was devastating. That we’re struggling to get pregnant and wonder if we’ll ever be a mom. That we did fertility treatment to get our baby and we’re SO happy and proud. What if we took the silence out of struggle and loss? What if we took the shame and fear out of fertility treatment? Who could we help and what kind of community would it create?
I envision an environment of self-acceptance and self-kindness. I see mothers being symbols of hope for not-yet mothers. I picture women caring for other women, long before the celebrations begin… and long after. Mostly I imagine that our honesty, transparency and openness would change the experience of waiting for motherhood for the better.
Everyone has a messy, beautiful reality to share. Mine is this: This beautiful baby was conceived in a “test tube.” And I couldn’t be prouder. He is mine.
This essay and I are part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project — To learn more and join us, CLICK HERE! And to learn about the New York Times Bestselling Memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback, CLICK HERE!