Love, Drugs, and Hard Choices
FACT: A woman who is under age 35 and undergoes IVF has a 39.6% chance of having a baby, while a woman over age 40 has an 11.5% chance. The average cost of each cycle is $12,400. And women had the most success in getting pregnant after about 3 cycles. #themoreyouknow
True Story- Buried in the back of a linen closet, beneath boxes and old towels, I found a container of used syringes from my IVF days. I have to admit that I was a bit embarrassed I hadn't yet properly disposed of the needles, as it had been 2 years since my daily injections. Let's just say if someone were to find this they'd surely think I was a junkie, and perhaps looking back that's exactly what I was. A junkie whose fix was the possibility of becoming pregnant, chasing the dragon of having a baby, but never quite getting there. Upping the doses, adding new drugs to the mix, increasing the frequency of the shots, whatever it took to produce the high that was a positive pregnancy test. Yes, a junkie I was, but now in the clean and sober light of day, post IVF and mid second year of motherhood, I felt shame over my days with the needles. Looking at the bright red hazardous materials container, overflowing with used syringes, I couldn't help but to go back to that very lonely and desperate time of my life, a time I wasn't quite sure I would get through, with no idea how to end the cycle I was so deeply in.
What I'm about to say might get me in hot water with women who are also desperately trying to become mothers, or with mom's who also used IVF to conceive their children, but as the name of this blog suggests, this is a true story and I'm here to say what others might not. So here it goes. While I have no real regrets over my journey to motherhood, and while I believe that every mis step and heartache led me to my beautiful son, who I know was destined to be mine; I do wish I could go back in a time machine to that sad and lonely girl, sticking herself multiple times a day with drug filled syringes, grab her by the shoulders, look into her glassy tear soaked eyes, shake her until she would listen and tell her to stop. Tell her to stop putting so much faith in a science that isn't really proven to work. Tell her to stop beating herself up when a cycle failed. Tell her to stop and think about how much money she was bleeding from her account. Tell her to stop being so focused on getting pregnant. Tell her to stop sticking herself with needles and making herself sick with worry. I would wipe her tears away and then I would ask her one very real question, a question many of you reading this won't want to ask yourselves but must. Do you want to be pregnant, or do you want to be a mother? If you can't experience the wonder that is pregnancy, and grow a child in your womb, do you no longer wish to be a mother? Does your desire to be a mother end when you learn you can't conceive a baby on your own, and if so, where does that desire go?
"Do you want to be pregnant or do you want to be a mother?"
There is a very real possibility that if you are reading this and struggling to have a baby, you may never be able to do so naturally, and you will have choices to make sooner or later. You will be faced with a decision as to how you want to move forward in your journey to motherhood, and in this day and age, there are lots of options and treatments to get you there: IUI, IVF, donor eggs, donor sperm, surrogacy or adoption. And when you are in the throws of depression and desperation you may make choices that deplete your bank account and leave you empty handed all out of a lone, but totally understandable desire to birth your own flesh and blood baby. I was there. I made that choice many times over. Mostly because my husband was not down with adoption at the time and he along with my ego, wanted me to experience pregnancy and child birth. So we spent tens of thousands of dollars to load me up with drugs that no one really knows the long term side effects of. We spent tens of thousands of dollars to fail time and time again. And when we realized that we were hopeless in using my eggs, we tried again using someone else's. That's how desperately I wanted to be a mother. I was willing to grow another woman's egg inside my body in order to fulfill my destiny and what I believed was my god given right as a woman. So when that too failed, I felt as though I failed as a woman, and therefore was unfit to be a mother.
Side Bar: While IVF did not work for me, I have plenty of girlfriends who had successful IVF cycles, healthy pregnancies, and beautiful babies through the miracle of in vitro fertilization, and their views would obviously be more positive than mine. I can only share my own feelings and experiences with you, so please know that I am not discouraging you from exploring all your fertility options, just telling you my true story.
After our last failed cycle in April of 2017, I grieved for a good three weeks. By my husband's standards, the journey was over. We were out of options and we would be slowly transitioning back to our previous way of life, he as a divorced co-parent and me as a step mother to his two beautiful daughters. During those two weeks, I did a lot of soul searching. I did a lot of therapy too. But when I was alone with my thoughts, I came to a realization that despite what my husband planned, this wasn't over for me. I wanted to be a mother. For me it was never really about being pregnant. It was always a desire and a longing to be a mother. To hear someone call me mama, to celebrate first steps, first words, coach little league soccer, be the team mom, teach them how to drive, take pictures before prom, and cry my eyes out as they left home for college. I wanted to love and be loved unconditionally. I wanted the mug that said World's Best Mom, I wanted the grand babies that would maybe one day follow. I didn't care about whether that baby grew inside me or had my eyes and Rocky's dimples. None of that meant anything in the grand scheme of it all. I wanted to adopt. I wanted to take my tragedy and misfortune and use it for what God intended. To be a mother to a child that needed one. So that's exactly what I did.
One morning while my husband showered, I oh so causally brought up a friend of mine that had adopted two daughters and mentioned how happy she seemed and how she suggested that maybe we get some more information on adoption at a nearby agency's upcoming open house. I knew it was risky, Rocky was not interested in adopting, as he had told me time and time again, but it was my only hope at achieving motherhood and I had to sell the idea as best I could. The open house was in a few days and there was no time to waste. As the water fell around him, rinsing the shampoo from his hair, I held my breath in anticipation of his response. "If that's what it takes to make you happy Beth, then that's what we'll do". "Really?" I asked, expecting him to change his mind. "Yes really". You're never going to be happy unless you become a mom, and I can't live with myself knowing I might've kept you from that. So let's get some information and see what happens".
OMG!! It felt like a 1000 lbs had been lifted off my shoulders, the sky had opened up, the sun came beaming through the windows and little blue birds sang a song in synchronization while folding my bath towels and helping me get dressed. Was this a dream? Was I really going to be a real live actual mom!? You betcha! And I wish that I could tell you the drama ended there and within months we were holding our new baby, smiling, laughing and saying, "man was that easy", but then I would be lying to you and this blog is called a true story, so I guess you'll just have to keep reading to find out what happened next! Just kidding, well sort of....to put a bow on this post, because I know you are looking for answers, after all that's why you're here, my advice is this: Stop trying to become pregnant and start figuring out how to become a mom. Maybe you only have enough cash to choose one, fertility treatments or adoption? Maybe you are giving up on your dream because you can't get pregnant and don't think adoption is right for you? Maybe you tried IVF and are now weighing donor eggs or surrogacy? Whatever your situation, ask yourself which one sets you up to be a mom, don't worry about being pregnant. If being a mom is what really matters most to you, then you have to chase that particular goal, and there are ways of getting there that don't require you becoming pregnant.
And please don't give me the "I don't know if I could love something I didn't create" bullshit. Cause that is BULLSHIT!! I could talk for days on this topic, but here are the cliff notes: Did you birth your husband? How bout your best friend? Your dog? You love them right? Oh my gosh, how could you love them if you didn't create them? See how ridiculous that sounds? As someone who has been there done that, and speaking for my husband as well who has two children he did "create" and one he adopted, the love is exactly the same. It is pure, unabashed, real, heaven on earth love. I would die for my son. From the moment I first held him, I knew I would throw myself in front of a train to save him. That is real love, and he didn't have to come through my birth canal for me to feel it and know it. Now, I know you're thinking, wow she is really trashing IVF and praising adoption and to that I would say HELL YES I AM!!! One made me miserable and the other made me a mom. So yes I am a bit partial, but I wouldn't be a very good advocate, friend, mentor, or support system if I didn't tell you the truth. I'm holding the mirror right now and asking you to take a good hard look into it. Go on, I can wait. Take some time to think about what you truly desire. And if adoption is a path you travel down, I promise you will get to motherhood, eventually. And when that happens, you'll be a whole other kind of junkie, a baby love junkie that craves the smell of Dreft! And that's a lot more fun than sticking yourself with needles.