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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Fertility, Infertility, and Love

My husband and I got married a week before my 27th birthday.  He was already 27.  He already had 2 kids (long story short, he sowed a few too many wild oats when he was single) and we weren't in a huge rush to try for a baby.  The following is our fertility journey.

We waited about a year before we started trying for children.  Unfortunately, it was around that time that I started having problems with my heart.  I was born with a congential heart defect called Transposition of the Great Arteries and I started having arrhythmia.  I was going into atrial fibrillation and wouldn't naturally come out.  Over the next 1 1/2 years, I was cardioverted (shocked back into rhythm) over 10 times.  I tried 5 different medications and nothing worked.  Finally, my adult CHD specialist recommended a procedure called stereotaxic ablation.  It seemed to work.

However, a couple months later, as we were asking questions about potentially trying for a child, my CHD specialist recommended that I have a pacemaker placed.  He said it would be easier and safer to do it now so that if something happened in the pregnancy I would already have it.  They wouldn't be able to put one in if I was already pregnant and in medical trouble.  On February 22, 2008, I became half robot.  Haha.

After that, we were given the all clear to try for a child.  I was now 30 years old and very anxious to have children, because I didn't want my stepkids to be too old to have younger siblings.  The doctor I went to at the time told me that I would have to try naturally for a year before they would prescribe any type of medication to potentially help the cause.

Side note:  If I knew then what I know now, I would have sought a NFP knowledgeable physician right away when they told me that.  I didn't.  I was wary of Natural Family Planning and thought it wouldn't work if I didn't have a regular menstrual cycle.

So, we tried for a year.  Nothing.  I started going to a OB/GYN that had me come in for monthly vag cams to see if my follicles were big enough to get a shot and try to stimulate ovulation.  I tried that for probably another 6 months before I was referred to a fertility specialist in Kansas City.  That guy?  That guy obliterated my spirit.  The fertility specialist told me that the reason I was probably not getting pregnant was because I was so fat.  As you can imagine, that made my confidence soar. /snark  I started sobbing right in front of him and his comment was, "I can see this is an emotional thing for you."  No shit Sherlock.

I kept seeing him though, doing the rounds of vag cams, shots, and visits, over and over and over again.  I peed in a lot of cups.  My husband and I were almost tired of sex, because it was so routine.  You have NO IDEA how many times I thought about that scene from Election.  The one where he and his wife are trying to get pregnant and she keeps trying to 'motivate' him per se.  The emotional disconnect can be significant when intimacy becomes a rote action.

Needless to say, it was fruitless.  We tried for 5 years and the only time we ever conceived, I had a miscarriage before I even knew I was pregnant.  It was torture.  The year I had my miscarriage, I had a sister, a sister-in-law, and two friends have babies all within a couple months of when mine would have been born.  Soul crushing, devastating...yes, those are accurate descriptions of my emotions.

We stopped trying two years ago.  I turned 35 and didn't want to risk a potentially traumatic pregnancy due to the combination of my heart condition and my age.

When we were trying, I prayed a rosary every single day.  I said a prayer to St. Gerard Majella.  I prayed over and over to have a child.  I imagined what that would be like.  The joy of a positive test, the announcement to family and friends, the cute maternity clothes.  I wished for a pregnant belly that I would put headphones over and play all my favorite tunes.  I mean, my baby had to hear The Beatles in the womb! I would read them amazing literature, too.  Shakespeare and Tennyson, Whitman and Austen... I imagined the anxiety and anticipated the pain of childbirth, the ecstasy of seeing that little human made from Rick's DNA and mine, for the first time.  I thought so hard over it all.  I was so excited to see this little human grow up and notice where they got their little quirks from.  I longed, pined, yearned for the time to teach them all I knew, to be there for them through everything.

You have to understand...being a stepmother is an amazing journey all in its own right, but my kids go back to their mothers' homes at the end of a weekend and I don't get to be there for the daily homework help.  I don't get addressed as Mom.  I don't get to be there every single day to ask them how school was or what their friends are doing or a million other things that get discussed on a daily basis.

I had a burning desire to be a Mom who kissed knees, bandaged fingers, taught them about their family history, rocked them, comforted them, kissed them, and stood over their crib listening to them breathe.  A stepmom's life doesn't typically get those opportunities.

At the end of the trying, I realized I needed a different prayer and so, I started praying that if this was not meant to be my purpose, that this ache in my heart would recede.  I prayed for God to give me the strength to live without a beautiful baby reaching their slobbery hand toward me and cooing 'mama'.

My husband and I had a long heart-to-heart one night, when I finally realized God granted that prayer.  We both sobbed.  He told me that he had seen the change in me.  He knew I was better and
that I wasn't anguished anymore.  He knew it was time to move on.  We held each other tightly and I knew it would be better.

However, today I read a comment about someone else's fertility journey and how they wanted, NEEDED to have their own child so that they could have that experience of having a baby that was truly theirs.  I get it.  I truly, desperately understand.  I wish I didn't.  Wishes are ephemeral, mercurial, translucent...they aren't always granted in a way we'd expect.

My journey is not over yet.  My stepkids are 12 and I will always cherish every moment with them.  I adore my friends' children and cuddle with new babies whenever I get a chance.  I will never not think about this, but it does get easier.  Besides, I'm still committed to caring for others and I do so joyfully and zealously.  I am volunteering at a girls' book club after schools, reading books to the girls in a local school.  I am going to start visiting the elderly in the nursing homes through my church's Ministry for the Aging.  I lector at my church and am involved with Women's Fellowship.  My husband and I have also gone through classes to be foster parents.  We have a ton of paperwork to do to be licensed, but we are getting there.

This fertility journey has changed me, it's changed my husband and it's changed our marriage.  Give love, my friends.  It's okay to cry.  It's okay to grieve.  When the time comes, it's beautiful to pass that love around.  

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