My last year of living in the city I ran a blog called 13 Years of NYC. It became a series of short stories of memories good and bad I had made over the years living there. Most of my stories were very light and meant to make the reader laugh. In these stories I found that even though I have no serious educational background in writing, I’m not terrible at it, people seem to like what I write and most importantly; it made me feel good. Cathartic is the best word to describe it. The last post I made was exactly one year ago and it was not at all about my Big Apple adventures. It was my last of three emotion-filled posts on dealing with fertility issues. My first post on this topic was more like a vent sesh of what its like to unexpectedly struggle when you thought it would be smooth sailing to pregnancy. Ahh, sweet naivety. My second post was a full blown therapy attempt to recover from one of the hardest things I have ever had to emotionally deal with. And my last post on the topic was last Mother’s Day. That one was about accepting what is, what will be and starting the process of moving on.
Well here we are, Mother’s day 2020. Four and a half years after we began our fertility journey and I am rocking a 23 week pregnant belly. Its been 23 weeks of pregnancy and I am still in major disbelief. After our emotional breaking point in 2018 we hadn’t really talked about our next step. I was not ok and I wasn’t ready to get my hopes up again. So we just lived. I focused on establishing a world for myself up here in the suburbs. He focused on making our property look like it belongs on the pages of Better Homes and Gardens and we just let life be. On Christmas Eve 2019, just a little over a year since our heartache and we (really he) brought the topic back to the table. Do we want to pursue IVF again? He was happy doing whatever I wanted. He would be happy trying again for a child and he would be happy spending money on trees instead of diapers. So really, the decision became mine to make. It’s strange to say I really hadn’t thought about it in a while because when the words fell out of my mouth I was surprised at how relieved I felt. “No. I do not want to go through that again.” Wow. That felt good. It felt like I had unknowingly been holding my breath and saying those words set me free. It wasn’t that I had changed my mind about a baby. I was still getting pangs of longing in my day to day but I have learned to accept those pangs and I knew wholeheartedly I could NOT go through the process of IVF again.
Maybe I’m not as strong as other women who put themselves under those needles over and over and over again but my heart could not take it again. So I chose to accept my infertility. I chose Tom and I together just the two of us and our cats in our cute little house and I felt deep in my gut this would continue to make me happy and I knew that I would have a good life without children.
Well, PLOT TWIST! As we sat and had a serious conversation finalizing our future little did we know, I WAS ALREADY PREGNANT! Huh, guess that explains the breast pain. When I took the pregnancy test, I set it on the back of the toilet and walked away almost forgetting about it because the thought that I could actually be pregnant naturally was so unfathomable and I was not about to get excited over the impossible. 9 pee sticks and one doctors visit later and it was official; Tom and I had defied the odds and created a baby the old fashioned way. Thousands of dollars spent on fertility treatments and all it took was a bottle of wine and a good time.
When I wrote my first post on the topic, the feedback was surprising. People related and were thankful for my candidness. My second post blew my mind. I wrote it for myself to just try to get my feelings out but since I wrote it almost two years ago, it has reached the eyes of over 3,000 readers. I don’t even have half that amount of social media followers so it was definitely being shared. I’m proud of that post. What came from it were condolences for our struggles, appreciation for expressing what so many are quietly going through and of course good old fashioned unsolicited advice. Ahh my favorite. Truth is, in life whatever stage you’re in people will give advice even if they don’t have the professional background to stand on their words.
We paid thousands of dollars for the top rated fertility doctor in Manhattan to tell us that the scientific fact was that my eggs were shot to shit. Even fertility treatments couldn’t promise finding a good egg. But here I was receiving messages from totally unqualified advisees; you probably exercise too much, wine will make the blood flow so the embryo won’t stick, you need to try this Chinese herb, I read somewhere that if you try doing it in this position…and so it went.
So I drank less wine, I tried to exercise lighter even though my doctor said it was totally fine, I started popping herbal pills that made my shits disgusting. Of course none of that worked because the problem didn’t really have a solution.
The worst advice or reassurance I got though was “don’t give up”. Gee thanks. I know you mean well but I interpret it as you implying that I’m loser who doesn’t have any fight. I wasn’t giving up. I was facing reality and choosing to move on and to find happiness in the life I did have verses throwing all my energy into hoping for a life I had zero control over. People constantly told us stories of how they knew someone who tried and tried and then one day it happened for them naturally. Those stories did not fill me with hope. They filled me with anger, resentment and jealousy. There was no guarantee we would be one of those miracle stories and the more hopeful I got the more heartache I felt when it didn’t happen. So I chose to accept. There’s a famous quote “It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.” It took me a loooonnnngggg time to understand this. At first I reacted with a lot of anger, a lot of tears and lot of self pity. But over time I remembered thats not who I am. So I began to heal and find contentment in all the blessings I did have. So many blessings.
I stopped keeping track of my cycle. I got back to marathon running. I drank way to much caffeine without guilt. A bottle of wine on a Friday night felt fabulous. I spent money on things I wouldn’t have in effort to save money for a baby. I threw away things I might need one day, clothes that I might need if my belly grew. I let go of the cautious hope and I just lived. I was finally healed and I was ready to move on. And without even realizing it, I did.
I never thought in a million years that I would be one of those stories, those miracle babies that come from years of struggle and finally letting go but here I sit belly protruding. I am so grateful and I’m definitely still in awe. Every single time I feel her move inside me I say a silent thank you as tears of happiness well in my eyes. I lay in bed each night and give thanks that this finally happened for us and I pray that she comes to us in September healthy and strong with 10 fingers and 10 toes. Words will never be enough to adequately express the gratitude I feel for our story playing out the way it has.
My heart is beyond full but I know that if you are reading this and you are still going through struggles of your own, my story is hard for you to swallow. I know you feel happiness for Tom and I but I also know that you ache to hold your own growing belly and feel those little internals kicks. I know you feel a range of emotions and I know that nothing that I say will change that. Your feelings are valid and you are entitled to feel them for as long as you need.
Here is my totally unqualified and unsolicited advice to you: DO NOT LISTEN TO OTHER PEOPLES UNQUALIFIED AND UNSOLICITED ADVICE!!!!
Take it or leave it.
I can’t promise you an outcome like ours. Maybe fertility treatments will work. Maybe one day you’ll drink a bottle of wine and three weeks later pee on a stick with two pink lines. But maybe you won’t. Either way you need to go through it in your own way. If you need to try IVF until you have permanent bruises on your butt from progesterone shots, do it. If you need to try the herbs and chill on exercise and pray excessively, do it. If you need to just breathe and mourn in your own pain, do it. There is no one same story and there is no one right way to react to it. If you are reading this and this day is hard for you, I get it. Trust me, I do. I wish I could take that suffering from you and I wish I could give you advice to get where I am now but I can’t. I could give a couple of suggestions of what I think I did to finally get here but in truth none of it will help because your journey is not mine and it’s going to play out in its own unique and mysterious way. All I can do is send you my love, my understanding, and my hope that whatever happens in your story, the final chapter is sincere happiness.
- Jessica Mikel-BertoliniSource: https://13yearsofnyc.com/2020/05/10/getting-knocked-up-the-unexpected-sequel/