If fertility treatments were an Olympic sport, I would be Michael Phelps. My journey to motherhood began the old-fashioned way, eight years ago with my first husband. After two years of failed fertility treatments, I turned to adoption. Her name is Aurora, and she is 6 years old. But Aurora’s adoption story is for another time. This is the story of my return to fertility treatments and how I unexpectedly became the mother of three daughters in the blink of an eye.
Three years ago, my second husband Neil proposed to me on a cliff in Big Sur, California. He had barely gotten the ring on my finger when we agreed that planning for a baby would take priority over planning our wedding.
At the time, I had endometriosis, a disorder that affects the uterus. Neil had low motility, meaning less than 25 percent of the sperm move in a forward direction. According to doctors, our chances of conceiving naturally were less than 1 percent. I wasn’t interested in trying the less-invasive fertility treatments like the drug Clomid or Intrauterine Inseminations (IUI). Before adopting, I had done seven cycles of Clomid and 11 IUIs. Neil and I found a reproductive endocrinologist (RE) in Los Angeles with a high in-vitro fertilization success rate.
The initial 10-day process of IVF was exciting. Each day that I gave myself a shot in the stomach felt as if I were one step closer to having a baby. I knew the "two-week wait" time between our embryo transfer and the day I tested for pregnancy would be the dreaded part.
“The key," the doctor said, “is to not think about it.” It would take a lobotomy for me to not think about it.
I knew the painful disappointment of hearing a negative result. I decided I would assume it didn't work so I could somehow soften the blow when I heard the bad news.
I trudged through the two-week wait, distracting myself and pretending to be strong with my rock-solid “nothing to see here” stance. It was a Friday. The nurse said, “Negative.” My husband was devastated. The part of me who thought I was an experienced fertility player ready for the big leagues laughed in my face, and I was heartbroken.
What went wrong? I was so sure I had done everything perfectly. Was it something I ate? Something I didn’t eat? Was it my negative vibes? My husband, an ex-Navy Seal, was desperate to pinpoint the moment it all went wrong. But in my sadness, I also knew in my heart that our future baby was coming and would be worth the low we were experiencing. Aurora gave me deep gratitude for the “failed” attempts I'd made for a child before she was born. Telling myself IVF wasn’t going to work didn’t help the pain, but believing we would eventually have the baby we were meant to have did.
We agreed we would try again. I vowed this time would be different, so I would believe the baby was growing inside of me. I would be positive. We went back to our RE, and I kept my promise. I didn’t let a single negative thought enter my head.
Telling myself IVF wasn’t going to work didn’t help the pain, but believing we would eventually have the baby we were meant to have did.
This time, the news was good. I was pregnant. Finally. I had a blood test to confirm it and was over the moon.
My pregnancy with my second daughter, Coraline, was everything I hoped it wouldn’t be. I was sick for 17 weeks. I struggled. I wanted this so badly. Who was I to now complain about daily vomiting? But she was born, and life with two girls four years apart felt perfect. I had significant one-on-one time with each of them.
But the surprise came when Coraline was 8 months old.
During a checkup, my doctor told me I was 7 weeks pregnant. I assured her there was no chance. I mean, my history spoke for itself. Odds aside, I'd also had my period just two weeks prior.
“You are VERY pregnant,” she joyfully insisted.
I was terrified. I feared the unsexy inevitable chaos of having two children under the age of 2. I worried about pregnancy sickness and how I would properly care for Coraline. I felt robbed of the precious babyhood I had with Coraline. And I felt so ashamed to feel sad about being pregnant. I felt so much guilt for having the feelings I was having.
Once the initial shock wore off, I found comfort in knowing that it was all so impossible it must be meant to be. Our surprise pregnancy with Blaise, my third daughter, was an opportunity to find grace in the face of surprise.
When people would see me holding a baby over my pregnant belly, they would curiously—and inappropriately—ask, “Was this planned?” I would assure them, “Well, this wasn’t MY plan but it certainly was THE plan.”
My three daughters came to me in three very different ways. Each of their unexpected journeys was paved with tears, laughter, darkness and light. And many ask, so I will answer—the love I feel for each of them is equal. The avenues that led to my becoming their mama were so worth it, and I am so profoundly in love.