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This is What It's Like to Parent After Infertility

Photograph by Twenty20

Several years ago, while in the throes of infertility, I remember thinking, “If I can just have a baby, things will feel normal again.” I longed for that day when things would be better, like having a baby was a cure for infertility. Every new treatment I did, oral pills, intrauterine inseminations and every IVF, I thought for sure I would get pregnant, that this time would be it.

No matter how hard I worked, no matter how much I prayed, I couldn’t stay pregnant. To say I was discouraged would be putting it lightly. As the years went by and pregnancy tests were negative, except for the two that ended in miscarriages, I noticed I was becoming a person that was a stranger to me. I started avoiding certain friends when they announced their pregnancies. I quit going to baby showers and I began to resent those around me when they became pregnant and had children.

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It wasn’t until my fifth embryo transfer, when I finally got and stayed pregnant, that I clued in as to how much had changed inside me. How different of a person I had become. While others excitedly announced their pregnancy, I was terrified of a loss. Every ultrasound (and I had a lot of them) was spent holding my breath, eyes closed, sure my baby had died, until I could hear the tech reassure me everything was ok. Buying furniture and baby items left my mouth dry. What if I’m jinxing myself? In fact, I couldn’t bring myself to accept the fact that we were going to have a real live baby until I heard her first cry.

I left my job to stay home with her, because how could I bear being away from her for 10 hours a day when I worked so hard to get her here?

Now that she’s here, now that I am indeed her mother, I realized I probably parent her very differently had I not gone through infertility treatments. Every night, for the first two months, I would frequently wake in the night and risk turning on the dimmed overhead light, taking a peek at her, making sure the swaddle hadn’t moved its way up to her mouth, checking that her chest rose and fell. I left my job to stay home with her, because how could I bear being away from her for 10 hours a day when I worked so hard to get her here? Her frantic cries would send me rushing to her, heart pounding, wanting, needing her to know I was there.

I thought pregnancy announcements would get easier once she was in my arms, but that wasn’t true. Instead, I swallowed back that familiar jealousy as I learned of easy conceptions, because conceiving for me was the hardest thing I ever had to go through.

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It’s hard to relate to other mom’s who haven’t experienced infertility and loss. The jokes on social media of “Two-year-old for sale!” would put a lump in my throat, because a year ago, I would have given anything to experience raising a child.

I wonder sometimes what life would be like had I not struggled to have my daughter. I used to think infertility was the worst thing I could ever experience, but now I wouldn’t change anything about it. Infertility has made me a stronger person, a better mom. It’s impacted my marriage for the better. It has caused me to take those moments, each and every moment with my daughter, and appreciate them for what they are.

This is my new normal. And I wouldn’t change it for the world.

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