Thankful That My Darkest Day Changed the Course of Our Fertility Journey

The day after Thanksgiving … November 23, 2017 … will probably go down as one of the most emotional, gut-wrenching, darkest, devastating days of my life. I was back in NYC, having already trekked uptown and back to our fertility specialist. I had already prepared myself for what I thought was going to come next — having to begin injecting my body with the smorgasbord of fertility cocktails that lined my refrigerator. I absolutely hated shots, but I hated the idea of not becoming a mom even more.

Then I got the phone call. I can still hear fragments of that conversation: “Tests show your FSH is too high for us to start IVF this month.” “Your AMH level is low.” “We’ll test again next month.” “Start taking X and Y. It’s not proven, but it can’t hurt.” What did that all of that translate to for me? You are never going to have a biological child. Egg donation. Adoption. Explore other options. Now, of course, that didn’t mean I couldn’t have a baby. It was just not the way I had planned. After 13 months of trying, 13 months of ovulation kits, different medications, blood tests, trial and error, nothing was going as planned. Frustration turned to desperation and despair.

Aside from talking (and crying) to my husband, my mom and dad, and occasionally my best friend and brother … aside from mentioning to others that we had been trying for a while … I kept most of this journey pretty private at the time. And it’s something my husband did not understand. He had a hard time understanding that I felt like I was failing him, failing my parents (I mean, my dad is an obstetrician!), failing myself. I spent years controlling whether or not I wanted to have a baby, but now, at 37, what was going on inside my body was out of my control. I wanted so badly to take that back.

That’s when my dad (whose advice and support were obviously immeasurable throughout) suggested that I ask our doctor if we could do a round of IUI. I already had the oral medication. I already had the time (I’ll save that story for later). I already had resigned myself to the fact that we had to do something now. So we did, even though the odds weren’t exactly in our favor. [Side note: Never trust the odds and always go with your gut.] I traveled back and forth to the doctor as often as I could for tests and monitoring, literally opening myself up to what felt like almost daily inspection. Our wedding anniversary came and went, with me trying to mask my nausea with a smile. And then on December 6, we were ready. Well, my eggs were ready. All I needed was one. And, honestly, after weeks of prodding and poking, it was painlessly over in minutes.

Then the dreaded two week wait.

All of this is science and medicine, but I can’t help but call the results (which we received the day after Hanukkah ended) a holiday miracle. I mean, it was our first IUI. And it worked. It worked when we were told we couldn’t even go ahead with IVF. It worked to solve the quagmire of problems that can cause “unexplained infertility.” That twinge of pain in my abdomen that I felt days before was actually what I hoped it was.

Science and, yes, a bit of luck were on our side. I know how lucky we were. I know how fortunate we were to have the option of even considering IVF right off the bat. I know that our journey was relatively easy compared to others’, but it doesn’t seem easy when you are going through it, when the outcome is so uncertain. Calling my husband at work to tell him the positive outcome was one of the best moments of my life. Telling my parents made me cry. I cried again when we got a second confirmation one week later. 

Of course, I was still nervous, as I couldn’t get too attached yet. We needed a sonogram (or two or three) and more tests to confirm that everything was growing the way it should. But at least I knew that I was able to actually get pregnant. And the rest, well, it isn’t history … it is the present. Sure, there may be more, but I like to joke that my baby boy is the result of my one good egg. And, yes, he is a great egg. A perfect egg.

Saturday snuggles
We apparently wear stripes to snuggle.

Last year at this time we were marveling at how much he could already do at just three months old. I remember these firsts so clearly every time he gazes into my eyes, smiling and waiting for a nuzzle. I sometimes can’t believe how much he’s grown, yet how normal it now feels to be running around after him and hearing him speak and sing and laugh and discover everything around him.

This year, our wedding anniversary fell on Thanksgiving day. For the past two years, I have caught myself thinking back to when the day that followed Thanksgiving was the darkest, how I was devastated and felt like a failure. I know I shouldn’t have felt that way (no one dealing and living with infertility should, as it does not define us), but I did. And now, well, now I am just eternally grateful that I get to feel what I often describe as the deep, overwhelming, life-changing, sometimes indescribable love that comes along with motherhood. I am eternally grateful that I get to feel that on my own terms. While everything we learned about Thanksgiving is probably false, I take any opportunity to pause and give extra thanks for the family I have and how we got here.

2015 to 2019
2015 —> 2019. Four years later, and I love the life we’ve built. (Top photo by Danny Weiss / Bottom photo and main image by R. Wilkus)