I’ve tried writing this blog post a dozen times already. For six weeks, all I’ve had is the title – “When it’s over.” Those reading this blog are looking for inspiration, hope, insight, and compassion. I am not sure I can offer any of those things at this particular juncture in my life.
We’ve completed our final embryo transfer, it failed, and now we’re done. We’ve endured five straight years of fertility treatments, three IVF cycles, eleven embryos transferred in total, two different clinics, three different REs (plus a consult with a fourth), a miscarriage, and a pretty unoptimistic diagnosis. Technically, there are bigger decisions we could make; more things we could try to make this happen for us. But we are choosing not to make those decisions and that’s hard and heartbreaking.
So if it’s hope you need, this isn’t the blog post for you. This post is about letting go when you didn’t get the outcome you wanted. This post is about the questions I tackled leading up to and after our final negative pregnancy test.
How do you prepare for being done?
For months now, even before our final embryo transfer, I’ve been preparing myself for the outcome I knew deep down we would have – both emotionally and circumstantially. I transitioned from reading stories about successful outcomes to stories about couples who didn’t get what they wanted.
I also knew there would be a gap in my life when fertility treatments were over. I spent so much time focused on making a baby – I wanted to be able to channel that energy into something more positive. So I started volunteering for Fertility Matters Canada and focusing on my health and well-being through exercise.
Of course when we got the news that our final transfer had failed, I was devastated. But I had already put the plans into place to ensure my life was full so that the absence of trying for a baby wouldn’t feel so empty.
How do you know when you’re done?
Everyone says “you just know.” They’re right. For five years, my husband and I were always thinking about our next step, and for this final embryo transfer, we didn’t. We got the negative result. We were/are sad. We grieved/are grieving. But we also just know.
We know we’re tired of failing; we know we can’t keep doing the same thing hoping for different results; we know we won’t be those people who do all the right things and end up with a happy ending; we know we won’t make the really tough decisions needed to have a baby through other avenues. We just know. And because of that, we know we’re done.
How do you feel when you’re done?
Since our negative pregnancy result, I have felt extremely conflicted. On one hand, I feel grief, loss, emptiness, and failure. On long drives, I turn on the sad music and let myself have all the feels.
On the other hand, I feel lucky – we were blessed with a son 6 years ago who was made with minimal medical intervention. I feel grateful every day to have him. He came after two miscarriages and was born prematurely at 31 weeks. It’s not possible to go through that and not feel completely appreciative to have been given the chance to be his mother. And now that we’re done, I look at him in wonder. How does he exist, knowing our diagnosis? How did luck fall on our side just that one time? There’s extra gratitude now.
How does your life change?
Everyone reading this knows that trying to conceive can be all-consuming. Wanting a bigger family (and failing to make one) has affected every aspect of my life. It put unwanted strains on my relationships. It influenced the job I have that allowed me flexibility for early mornings in the clinic. It informed the car we drive and the house we live in. It limited the travel we could enjoy because of Zika and financial constraints.
And now that it’s over, now that we’re done, the doors are open and I am free again. But this freedom is overwhelming and it has put me into an early mid-life crisis. Part of me wants to go wild and visit every Zika-ridden country, having adult beverages every day of the week.
Another part of me is questioning everything.
Is this the career I want? Is this the kind of mom and wife I want to be? Did we make the right life decisions for our little family of three?
And a final part of me, the secret part I shouldn’t even confess, is still hoping that we accidentally (on-purpose) get pregnant. So if I go get Zika, or if I drink alcohol every day, will I be compromising the baby we probably won’t accidentally on-purpose make?
I do not know how to merge these three conflicting approaches to life and it can be a little scary at times. But my hope is that over time, I figure out what life really looks like for my little family. I am confident I will find balance and peace.
How do you move on?
You don’t. You move forward. I found this great Ted Talk that explored this very concept – that your grief has affected you in immeasurable ways and has made you the person you are today. That in of itself means that you don’t move on from grief, but you move forward with it.
This sums up infertility perfectly. Even if you do get your happy ending, the scars of infertility stay with you.
I had a conversation with a woman I barely know who spent years trying to get pregnant and then her and her husband decided to live child-free. When I mentioned our situation, we both teared up. She is ten years removed from her acceptance of being childfree and still, to this day, it pains her.
So we move forward.
I can’t pretend that I don’t still have dreams of finding out we got pregnant without even trying. Or that every month, when my body resets itself, I will be secretly disappointed. Or that every time I see kids playing with their siblings, I won’t feel sad for my son. But we move forward however we can. I know now that my life will be full of awesome things – my husband and son’s love, family, friends, travel, and more. And I know that I’m a different person now than when I started this journey – better in some ways, worse in others.
Maybe six months from now, or years from now, my husband and I will change our minds and make the decisions we didn’t want to make today to expand our family in less conventional ways. But for today, we’re done.
By Vidya Ledsham