Posted by Anonymous.
I am a mother. A blissfully happy mother to an amazing, brilliant, beautiful boy.
But I am also infertile. I was lucky enough to get a diagnosis quickly—after only a year. Premature ovarian failure. My eggs were shot at age 29. At that point I had undergone a laparoscopy and a single IVF cycle with my own eggs. The reproductive endocrinologist recommended donor eggs. He listed the likelihood of success of another IVF cycle with my eggs (5%), and the chance of miscarriage if I did conceive (greater than 50%) and the risk of chromosomal abnormalities if I didn’t miscarry (greater than 50%), and the right decision was clear and, well, easy.
Yes, I grieved the loss of a genetic child. I still do, sometimes. I’m sad that my son will not be able to go to my family’s ancestral home and recognize his nose the in the portraits on the wall. I’m angry that having a baby was such an emotionally difficult, lengthy, and frightfully expensive process for me, when it is free—and often accidental!—for most people. But the very fact of my son eases those pains. Now that he is here, I cannot imagine having had any other baby, and the pain, the anger, of infertility, has faded. Sometimes I think about how miserable I was during my first year of trying to conceive, and how I was consumed with jealousy of pregnant women and new mothers during the two years that followed, years that I had to wait in order to save enough money to try donor egg IVF. Years that one friend after another got—surprise!—pregnant. But now that’s in the past, and I am someone to be envied. I am a mother. I was pregnant. Those experiences are no longer out of my reach.
But the pregnancy! Infertility laid the groundwork of fear before I got pregnant, and my pregnancy built that fear into a monolithic tower. From the beginning, I qualified every statement about my pregnancy with an “if.” IF this pregnancy continues. IF I actually have a baby. IF my baby survives. I didn’t call to schedule a childbirth class until after they were all booked up, because I was so uncertain that I would actually need one. I didn’t plan for the baby the way other women do, because the last thing I wanted was to come home to a house full of baby stuff after losing the pregnancy. I couldn’t believe that he would actually be born, full term (barely) and healthy.
I started bleeding at 5 weeks. From 5 weeks through 15 weeks, I had regular episodes of heavy bleeding. Really heavy bleeding; heavier than any period I’ve ever had. Then, after a few weeks of blessed relief from the bleeding, I started having contractions. Regular ones, 7 minutes apart, that sent me to L&D first at 22 weeks, then again at 24 weeks. “Yes, those are real contractions,” they told me at the hospital. “You should lie down and drink lots of water.” “If they get closer together, 5 minutes apart or less, we’ll think about putting you on terbutaline.” Cervical ultrasounds, fetal fibronectin tests, contraction and fetal heartrate monitors. Intermittent bedrest. The first time I went to L&D, the security guard asked if I was in labor. “I certainly hope not,” I said. Did I really look like I was ready to deliver? I was barely showing!
So for the second half of my pregnancy, I listened to my contractions. Even walking for a few minutes could set them off. Here comes a contraction . . . here’s another one, 6 minutes later . . . and 6 minutes again. Every day. Lie down, drink water, time the contractions. Do I need to go to the hospital? Are these contractions causing cervical change? Am I in labor? What are the chances, at 24 weeks 3 days, that my baby will survive if he is delivered today? That he’ll be disabled? At 26 weeks 6 days?
I spent a lot of time working from home, lying on the couch. I breathed huge sighs of relief as I hit the milestones. 28 weeks. 30 weeks. 32 weeks. 34 weeks. By 36 weeks I was convinced that all the worry was for naught and that I would go overdue. So I was ridiculously surprised by his birth at 37 weeks exactly. It was fine. He was fine. I was (mostly) fine. Normal labor experience, just a few annoying complications for me afterward. All fine.
And he was here. And I was happy. And everything was OK.
And it was, for a while.
Now he’s 15 months old. People are asking when I’m going to have another. I wonder that, too. How could I not want another? The first is so delicious! Sometimes I convince myself that I don’t want another, that my family is complete, that I am happy with things just as they are. But the fact that I get viscerally upset when my husband expresses reservations about having a second tells me otherwise. I do want another baby. I want another baby.
But I don’t want another pregnancy. Well, I kind of want a “do-over,” a normal pregnancy experience, but I don’t think it’s really possible for me to have pregnancy without fear. A couple of months ago I had a moment where I thought the impossible had happened and I was pregnant, naturally. I wasn’t happy. Instead, I had an honest-to-god panic attack. Racing heart, nausea, panting, sweating, shaking, the works. My husband: “wow, you really don’t want to be pregnant right now!” Me: “Duh.”
I feel melodramatic even saying this, but my therapist says I have pregnancy PTSD. Have you ever heard of such a thing? Even though everything turned out fine. The very fact of my fear has traumatized me. And that is why I still find pregnancy announcements upsetting. Even from my very good friends. Those reactions made me feel guilty enough when I was waiting to become a mother, but now it’s even worse. How can I begrudge people the experiences that I’ve already had? How come I can’t just be happy for my friends? Why do I react physically to pregnancy announcements, shaking and feeling sick? Why do they leave me feeling unsettled for days afterward? I am just so sick of pregnancy being such a thing for me. I want to just not care anymore. Been there, done that.
Adoption isn’t an option for me for a number of reasons. So that leaves another pregnancy, if I really want another child. I can even face the idea of another donor egg IVF cycle. I’m not thrilled about it; not looking forward to finding a donor, to making all those appointments, to injecting myself in the ass every day for 10 weeks if I’m lucky enough to get pregnant again. But I can do it. I’m not even—may the gods forgive me—that worried about getting pregnant. I think I probably can get pregnant again, with enough perseverance.
But what I can’t face, can’t even really think about without starting to panic, is actually being pregnant. The day-to-day worry about whether I will lose the pregnancy, whether my water will break early, whether I will go into preterm labor. It lasts a long time, pregnancy. Or at least one hopes it will. It stretched out before me like an eternity, even when I felt like I must have already completed 24 months of gestation. And I don’t know if I can face that eternity again.
But I want another baby.
So here I am. Lucky. Unlucky. And frozen with fear.