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Infertility Cubby

Notes From the Other Side
by Chelsey Langland, Cubby Editor

It seems so odd to be writing this, to be telling you about my pregnancy and delivery. I hate to do it, in a way. I so remember the days when reading about someone else's- anyone else's - pregnancy was enough to put me right over the bend into Ben & Jerry's mode. But here I am, with an almost 8 month old daughter. After almost 5 years of infertility, we conceived spontaneously. Yes, we're those people. But the fact of the matter is, we hadn't "given up", "relaxed", "taken a trip to Italy", or started adopting. In fact, the week I found out I was pregnant I'd been in my RE's office, trying to get the ball rolling on a donor embryo cycle. For people who know a bit about our history and learn of the pregnancy, I make sure to tell them that we were still actively pursuing treatment when we conceived. It seems more honest that way. If you're someone who is looking for reassurance that you might conceive spontaneously, too, our main diagnosis was male factor, with a side of tubal.

You might think that after going through so much, I'd have earned an easy pregnancy and delivery. You could think that, but you'd be wrong. My water broke when I was 29 weeks pregnant, and I spend 17 days in-patient before my daughter was born. She spent another 3 weeks in the NICU before finally joining us at home. It certainly didn't seem fair, at the time, but I think it was better that it happened to me than to someone else. I knew that there were no guarantees, and had spent nearly my whole pregnancy waiting for the other shoe to drop. When the loafer finally hit the ground, it wasn't so bad and I could deal with it the same way I dealt with infertility; by putting my head down and trucking on through.

I guess the first thing I want to tell you is that in some ways, I feel very much the same. I still identify as infertile. And some of the scars remain. I still get tense and nervous when having blood drawn, because blood draws of the past often led to bad news. I still have some lingering social anxiety; it became exceptionally difficult for me to be in situations where small talk reigned and I had to fend off questions of, "Do you have any kids? When are you going to have kids? Don't you want kids?" I lament friendships that I lost. Some because my friends were unable or unwilling to give me the support I needed, and some because I couldn't bear to listen to them as they explored their new, parental roles. I still feel terribly betrayed by my body, a condition which only worsened when it became apparent that it really wanted nothing to do with making a baby.

And yet, in some ways, everything is different. When I walk into daycare to pick up my daughter, they shout that her mom is here, and they're talking about me. I don't have to turn my head or stare at my watch or swallow down a lump when walking by Baby Gap or a stroller or a pregnant woman. I have this beautiful, amazing, wonderful child whose eyes follow me around the room and who wants me when she's scared or upset. The empty places are all filled up with little girl.

What I most want to share with you, though, is something that continues to surprise me. A well-known infertility scholar wrote in one of her books that - and I paraphrase - anyone who wants to be a mother can become one, if she's willing to work at it and explore alternatives. When I read that I thought she was a bit naive for assuming that everyone has an endless supply of both patience and money, because I knew that I was rapidly running out of both. But I think the important thing there is the mother part of that sentence. Because I am continually amazed at how I'm finding that mothering is about my child, and not so much about how she got here. I didn't do all that much bonding with my child while she was in utero. I found it difficult to relate to her, and I was scared, and it just seemed so abstract. The difficulty continued when it was just she and I in a hospital room, even though the fetal monitor allowed me to hear every beat of her heart. No, the real bonding started on a rainy afternoon in the NICU, when we were doing kangaroo care and it was just her and me, as I cupped her back and tried to match the rhythm of her breathing.

I don't believe that people "give up" when they stop trying to conceive, because I think there is a lot of nobility in setting and abiding by limits and knowing when you need to re-frame how you're going to live your life. But at the same time, don't be afraid to explore alternatives. I don't mean to discount the experience of pregnancy. Not at all. I just think that, with all we went through, my delight in my child comes from having her at all, and not by having a genetic connection to her. The rewards are so sweet, if you are able to work and fight and get through the hard stuff. I hope that all of you can reach an ending that makes you happy.

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