The white stick dropped into the trash can, conspicuously face-up, showing just one little pink line.
When we first started trying for another baby, I took tests with regularity, but as time went on and I didn’t get pregnant, I packed them away under the sink, resolving not to pull them out unless I was really, really sure. My period came month after month and the tests remained under the sink, but every now and then I would pull one out and take it, feeling sure that this time it would be positive. I would be a couple days late or feel a little nausea or pee more than usual, and in spite of myself I got my hopes up again. But it was negative, every single time.
The journey of infertility is an emotional roller-coaster.
That is a very apt description. The hope that slowly increases each day you are late is like the roller coaster slowly climbing up the hill. You finally decide to take a test, feeling sure this time it will be positive. The excitement of peeing on the strip is like reaching the top of that hill. And then, disappointingly, seeing just one pink line is like plunging down the other side of the hill. Down and down, your heart sinking in your chest. Squinting at the test, hoping you will see a line even if it’s ever so faint. And finally acknowledging that there is none, and dropping it in the trash.
I don’t know how many tests I have taken over the past four years, but it has been a lot. The last time I saw my doctor, we had some other medical issues we needed to address, so we focused on those. Now that we have gotten those under control, I was going to see if we could run some tests to understand what is going on – why we can’t get pregnant. But then Covid-19 happened and put that all on hold again.
And meanwhile, my son is getting older, and the potential age gap is getting wider. As I progress deeper into my thirties, I know we are running out of time.
Secondary infertility is hard. One of the hard things about it is not knowing how to talk about it. It can feel awkward because people might think you don’t have a right to feel sad, because you have a child.
But the truth is, we can be grateful beyond words for our living child, while still mourning the fact that we may not be able to have another. Those feelings are valid and deserve to be recognized.
Like any grief, it comes in waves. Some days are better than others. But there are always little things that hit like a punch in the gut.
Like your child pointing at two matching cups and saying, “If I ever have a brother or sister, we can use those!”
Or going to a group gathering where the other two families have three young kids. The two moms fall into conversation about the challenges of raising multiple kids. The differences in ages and personalities. While I listen, unable to ignore the unexpected stab of pain that shoots through my heart. I hope someday…
It is being in a Bible study with other young moms, and finding out a year later that four of them have gone on to have a second child. You are going on year four of trying.
It’s seeing a random Facebook conversation where one mom casually mentions they are thinking of having one more (they already have three), but they’re just not sure yet. And I can’t help being amazed, they are so casual, so nonchalant about how easy it is.
I follow a couple who were dealt the difficult blow of losing their first baby to stillbirth, and when they started trying again, they could not conceive. She was diagnosed with low ovarian reserve – and the result was secondary infertility. They ended up going through a lot of fertility treatments before finally winning a grant to do IVF. They only had two embryos – they lost one to miscarriage – and the other became their miracle baby, their daughter, Vera. It took them three years to have a baby after losing their first.
I follow another couple who has experienced infertility and they vlog about their journey on YouTube. I am so grateful for their openness because it has been a great encouragement for me. They adopted two daughters, and finally, after eight years of trying various fertility treatments, they are pregnant with a third daughter. Sadly, they found out recently that she has a congenital heart defect which will require several surgeries after she is born. This could be genetic, but there is also a higher number of such defects in babies conceived through IVF, which is how this couple became pregnant.
You see, my son was a year and nine months old when we started trying for another. Several years later, and still unable to get pregnant, I began reaching out, and discovering that we weren’t alone. I began to follow the journeys of others who have been through the same struggles. I became a part of a community that knows a side of things we wholeheartedly wish nobody ever had to experience. That getting pregnant for some people is not easy, or simple. That having more, or being done, is not always a choice we get to make.
I wish nobody had to experience these realities – but I am so glad that we are not alone, and there is a community out there we can connect with as we walk this difficult road.
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