I hope all is well with you.
When I had my first miscarriage, you offered many comforting words, and you predicted, "when you're thirty weeks pregnant, this will all be a distant memory."
Nearly thirty months later, I am thirty weeks pregnant. A feat that itself had seemed like an improbable quest. I am thirty weeks pregnant and I still remember the elation that I felt when the elusive second line appeared on my pregnancy test. I was gobsmacked with disbelief. I was so certain that it was yet another mistimed cycle and we had conceded that assisted reproduction would actually be easier. We had become one of those couples. The urban legends who spontaneously conceive just before starting infertility treatments. We shared the news with some friends who concluded that it must have been the threat of such treatments that coerced our gametes into cooperating. I was so overjoyed that I couldn't be bothered to correct their inaccuracy. Rather, it made me question if I had just been over-reacting. Maybe we really weren't that subfertile.
I vividly remember the morning that followed two weeks later. I woke up to go to swim practice and I turned on my fertility monitor just so I could have the smug sense of satisfaction to see it read CD42. I was six weeks pregnant. It was a sprinting day, and I was so focused on my times, that I had almost forgot that I was pregnant, until I took notice of an errant drop of water that had landed on the ground in a perfectly formed circle. I'm not sure why, but I couldn't stop staring at it and I suddenly had the urge to check for spotting. Sure enough, I saw a very small light pink dot. I probably would have told one of my own patients that it wasn't any cause for concern, but I immediately knew it represented impending doom for my pregnancy. I didn't hold out for any hope and the inevitable took place in the next thirty hours.
Although I know I am so fortunate to be thirty weeks pregnant, I will always feel that an opportunity was taken away from us. We could be experienced parents of a twenty month old, rather than nervous newbies just starting out. We could have contemplated having a second child before my cut-off age of forty. As I hear the excitement in my parents' voices as they talk about the upcoming arrival of their first and only grandchild, I can't help to reflect that they were denied two years of their experience as grandparents. I really try not to think about all the struggles in the past two years that could have been avoided if my spontaneous pregnancy went to fruition.
Even while appreciating my baby's movement, I still felt pangs of jealousy as a swim teammate recently announced her pregnancy. "We weren't even trying!" she added for extra emphasis on just how easy it was for them. I already knew how unfair this process can be, so I found the reminder to be a bit annoying. While feeling genuinely happy for her and her partner, I hold a greater sense of relief for them. She was aware of it too, as she added "We're so glad we didn't have to go through those extremes like some infertile couples. I could never do that!" You mean someone like me... Her words sting, but what really hurts is that I have to acknowledge that I probably would have said the same thing if we were blissfully fertile. Actually, we probably did say something similar after our spontaneous conception.
Infertility became a core component to my identity and even at thirty weeks pregnant, I still cannot separate myself from my past experiences. I walked around a baby supply store quietly and inconspicuously. Even with my prominent bump, I still felt that I didn't belong there. Fellow infertiles have shared with me that these feelings persist even after the baby is born. Infertility affected so many aspects of my life. It caused disruptions within long standing friendships, but also helped me reconnect with some old friends and develop bonds within the infertility community, for which I offer infertility my reluctant gratitude. The label that I dreaded and the group that I never wanted to join became my comfort zone. Infertility is a bit like the Hotel California. You can check out any time you'd like, but you can never leave.
Even at thirty weeks pregnant, I am not cured and I never will be. Our experiences with infertility and pregnancy loss will always be with us and will always affect how we feel. At times, I carry feelings of survivor's guilt. Why were we fortunate enough to have a successful treatment while there are so many others enduring failures? I know science holds the answers, but science also explains why we were infertile in the first place. We feel it is very important to be open about our experience with infertility and pregnancy loss. Acting as if we conceived naturally is disrespectful to everything that we experienced and is a disservice to others infertiles. Words seem so inadequate to express our appreciation for your services, yet I struggle to find such words as I don't think we yet comprehend the magnitude of our gratitude.
We may become survivors, but we're forever scarred. It's a scar on a wound that time can't heal. Maybe in thirty years, but not thirty months later, and not at thirty weeks gestation. It's not a distant memory.