So often these days I’m asked “when are you going to have another baby?” Of course, nobody means anything by it other than as a compliment- it’s clear that Henry has brought Andrew and I so much joy, and is, in my humble opinion, one of the cutest, sweetest kids on the planet. And of course, nobody means to upset someone when they ask that question, and for a long time I have not discussed my fertility battle on here, so it’s not obvious that that question is a triggering one for me.
Last week I lost a pregnancy. Again. My third failed pregnancy in a little over a year. We’ve been trying to have a sibling for Henry since he turned one. Our first pregnancy was a surprise- I actually got pregnant naturally (something I did not think possible) and was amused that I had become that stereotypical fertility patient that struggles to have her first and then “accidentally” gets pregnant with the second. You hear these “IVF urban legend” stories a lot when deep in the trenches and I was floored I was actually becoming one. Unfortunately, it did not last. The second pregnancy was a frozen embryo transfer and was an incredibly traumatic loss I am still grappling with. Most recently, we transferred our second frozen embryo and when it took and I saw the two lines on the home pregnancy test I was suspicious but excited. I kept waiting for other shoe to drop, but my numbers looked good and signs were pointing to “this is finally going to happen”.
Those who knew I was pregnant kept telling me they had a “really good feeling” about this one, and so I let my typical “glass is half empty” guard down and began to picture my swollen belly, and Henry cuddling with a sweet little newborn, his partner in crime for life. And then we had our 8 week ultrasound and the moment I looked at the screen in that dark room, I knew. I had believed we’d see that little flutter of a heartbeat, I really did, and that I would leave and be able to share our happy news. But instead there was an empty black hole. No baby. No heartbeat. Nothing.
This loss has gutted me. Frozen cycles are actually harder on me than fresh– the daily injections with needles so long I get nervous they are going to hit bone, the hormone pills, the knowing so much sooner that you MIGHT be pregnant. It compounds on the loss when you have to work so hard to even get pregnant. And at this point, time is ticking away and I see the door closing on my ability to give Henry a sibling, and myself another opportunity to be a mother. A role I have relished, to my own surprise. I remember barfing my brains out when pregnant with Henry and looking at Andrew and saying “I hope you’re cool with one kid because I am not doing this again”. And yet all the motherhood tales they tell have turned out to be true- you forget the pain, you forget the sacrifices– you just want to experience the joy of bringing a child into the world one more time.
We have one embryo left from my “Henry cycle” when I was 35. “A beauty” as my doctor says, but so was this last one. I asked what my options are if this one also fails, but of course our doctor has told us to remain hopeful with this last “frosty”. But to me, hope feels dangerous. Hope makes me vulnerable. I much prefer to plan for disaster, especially after this last loss. I turn 39 this summer, an age that scares me when it comes to having another baby. Of course, given our history, I respond really well to IVF and could do another fresh cycle, but it scares the shit out of me. What if it doesn’t work? What if I’m simply too old and my eggs too wonky? What then?
On top of all this, I’ve had to keep being a mother. To try to not let Henry see my tears through the pain, the miscarriage and the crushing thought that he may be our only child. I’m trying to picture that life, to try to get comfortable with it, but it’s hard. I know there are those that don’t ever get to experience motherhood at all who so desperately want to, so I do feel immensely grateful that I have Henry, I do, but in some ways it makes these secondary losses even harder. Knowing now what could be, what is possible.
As I pick myself up this morning and try to move on, I’m going to pledge to take better care of myself. I’ve been burning the candle at both ends and putting my own health last. My kid and my job come first, but I have to at least make room for myself (and my marriage) third. To be a little more gentle with myself, to not scroll Instagram in my down time and let it make me feel less-than (or enraged and sad that everyone else in the world seems to be having babies with little effort) , but rather take that time to meet a friend or go to a workout class or just get outside and walk, that is if winter ever ends here in Boston. I need to not feel guilty that I’m taking care of myself instead of spending that time with Henry– an all too common working mom feeling.
And I have to try to focus on all that is good in life right now, of which there is a lot. And while I hesitate to remain “hopeful” (I just don’t operate well that way- I much prefer to prepare for the worst and be pleasantly surprised), I at least need to be open to what comes. Maybe it’s not what I pictured or hoped for, but it still can be really wonderful.
*Photo by Maureen Ford