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A Letter to Infertile Women, After Having Children

J. Schatzel works in healthcare administration in rural upstate New York and has a master's degree in history.

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Adjusting to "No More"

It takes a long time to get past the feeling of longing to be pregnant again. After 6 years of IVF, IUIs, and bucketloads of fertility medications, it was a hard reset to adjust my feelings about having another baby. My husband and I knew we wanted 2 children, and had for years wondered whether we would ever be able to have 2 children. We are both from a family with 2 kids, and felt like that would be ideal for us. Now that we had a toddler and an infant, our family felt whole. After so many years of feeling like everything you do is part of the effort to make babies however, it’s an out of body experience to be selling your maternity clothes, donating baby clothes/gear as your youngest outgrows them, going on birth control, and making decisions like whether to donate/discard your leftover embryos.

Be patient with yourself. I felt a relief at never needing to look up early signs of pregnancy, or signs of miscarriage. I was elated to realize I would never need to wonder whether it is implantation bleeding, or a period starting. I would never need to read product descriptions and user reviews to determine which pregnancy tests work better/cheaper/earlier, or which ovulation tests work most accurately/cost effectively, or for my reproductive endocrinologist to determine which pills/suppositories/injections might work this month. I was relieved at the realization I wouldn’t be calendaring which days to go for bloodwork, ultrasounds, procedures, and tests. There would be no more anxiety when family/friends/coworkers ask “When will you be starting a family” as if it is easy for anyone to just decide they want children, and make it happen. No more feeling of disappointing my husband/family when the pregnancy test is negative every month. There would be no more feeling of being a failure as a female, when the ovulation strips didn’t show any hormone spike. There would be no more using up all of my vacation time, to see specialists to determine what’s wrong with me. There would be no need for an encore for my drive at 4am with a vial of my husband’s sperm tucked in my armpit to keep it body temperature, to my doctor’s office 2 hours away to have it tested/frozen at 6am, so I could be to work by 8:30 with no one the wiser. There would be no more feeling like I need to go to work when sick, because I used up the last of my vacation time with IUIs, IVF Egg retrieval, and for a day of crying on the couch after a miscarriage. There would be no more anxiety over whether going for an ultrasound will end with an “I’m sorry, I can’t find a heartbeat.” There would be no more wanting so badly to be pregnant, it hurts. There is no more feeling disappointed with your own body, and depressed when your friends announce their pregnancies. There is no more needing to pick out names, and pray that you’ll actually get to use some someday, with fingers crossed that this baby lives.

There would be no more instances of visiting family and being told “you look wonderful, are you glowing?” with a wink by a well-meaning and inquisitive relative; meanwhile feeling like running away screaming because you had a miscarriage the day before and still felt obligated to attend the family gathering.

There will be no more arguing with insurance over what procedure or medication is covered, with endless paperwork and patient portals to check, when the pregnancy test turns positive but your hormone levels aren’t where they’re “supposed to be.”

There would be no more employers demanding a doctor’s note for your day off, which would much to your horror include the statement “due to complications of a miscarriage,” and be picked up off the fax by a different coworker than the manager who was awaiting the fax. There would be no more pity stares and awkward glances upon your return to work, now that your coworkers know more than you are comfortable with having been shared.

Nothing takes away the sting of a miscarriage, and it might not ever go away. However, it does get easier over time. What initially felt like days of “I need to cry in the shower because it was supposed to be my baby’s due date,” are now my days of having a cupcake for lunch, and not feeling like I have to justify myself to anyone. “Ooh you’re bad, must be your cheat day!” Nope, just a day that I might have been eating birthday cake with a child I didn’t get to meet. They are my secret days to do something special with the boys I do have.

There is no more feeling like the Fertility Clinic is trying to hide you when you come in for a prenatal massage at 8 months pregnant, because the rest of the waiting room is women awaiting acupuncture treatments as their valium kicks in on their IVF transfer day.

There is no more draining your bank account, to pay out of pocket costs for fertility medications and treatments you worry won’t work anyways. Anyone who tells you kids are expensive, never had IVF to obtain those kids! For us it was the “making the kids” phase that had us financially stretched.

There are no more looks of silent solidarity in the fertility clinic waiting room, with the same women you see from month to month awaiting their positive pregnancy test. There will be no more wondering when you realize you haven’t seen someone in a while, “Are they pregnant and no longer need to be here, or did they give up?”

There will be no more bulk quantities of pregnancy test strips and ovulation test strips, hidden in my bathroom. The weight the world felt like it was lifted off of my shoulders when I deleted my Pinterest boards for IVF success stories, IUI success tips, Tips for coping with miscarriages, Tips for coping with failed IVF cycles, and fertility diets. I purged my phone of apps for ovulation tracking, IVF meds tracking, fertility clinic patient portals, insurance portals, and pregnancy tracking.

For me, not being pregnant again also meant no more hyperemesis gravidarum. There would be no more vomiting 24/7, and no more puking into a gallon ziplock at your desk or in your car so you don’t miss work. No more sniffing peppermint oil before going into the grocery store or gas station, and hoping you can get through the next few minutes without puking. There would be more wondering if you/your office/your car smell like vomit, or if it’s just your sinuses that can’t escape the smell. There would be no more being asked by nurses (and a well meaning husband), “What do you weigh?” on a feels-too-frequent basis. There would be no more being told you are not gaining enough weight and are too dehydrated, and that you need IV hydration.

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One Day At A Time

As much as I was excited for the “no more” list above, it also meant I had to come to terms with no more positive pregnancy tests to look forward to. No more first ultrasounds to see your little one. No more excited anticipation of finding out gender, telling family/friends, picking out names, wondering who they’ll look more like, speculating whether your heartburn is because of all the hair on their head, and no more holding your newborn for the first time. There will be no more daydreaming about “next time.”

I was amazed how quickly I was able to make the mental shift away from planning for another “next time,” but it is still a day-by-day process. Every day there is another realization of another “no more” to add to the list. Sometimes the realizations are difficult to process, but usually they are more of a relief. As I sit with my infant in one arm, and toddler in the other, I know that this arm-full of love and smiles is enough, and that it makes me happy. No more wondering whether I will ever hold these boys and see these smiles.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 Jess Schatzel

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