It was recently my husband’s birthday– I gave myself a present.
I have ended an eight year “dance” with infertility; I went back on the pill.
Why a “dance” and not a “battle”? A battle, by definition, would mean that I fought back. But I didn’t. I swayed and twirled. I considered and cried. I pondered every ethical dilemma and read every book and website. And then I took steps.
The dance begins:
My husband and I received our diagnosis only half a year after trying to start a family. Being the OCD girl that I am, I had been charting my basal temperature months before we even started trying. So I knew our timing was not off. We had medical testing done because we were about to move across the country and lose our insurance. Since we had excellent coverage, the doctor and I thought it would be good “just to make sure everything was okay”.
The news was presented as poorly as can be imagined. The doctor never called me, so eventually I left a message for her. She returned the call while I was working with two students severely impacted by Autism. Her call went something like this, “The results are very bad. You will never be able to have children. I don’t think anything can be done. I’m sorry I can’t talk more with you about this, but I’m leaving on vacation tomorrow.” I was moving 3000 miles away in 3 days.
Don’t tell my former employer, but I really didn’t work the rest of that day. I escorted the students back to their room. They didn’t even know I was upset. I called my husband to deliver the news. I bawled for about two hours. It was my last day of work.
I spent the rest of the day researching adoption from China. Why China? I had always considered adopting one of my children. My husband is Chinese-American. I had decided not to pursue domestic adoption for a large variety of reasons. These factors put together meant that if I was going to adopt a child, she would be born in China.
The dance is slow and awkward:
The lights are low in the Middle School Gymnasium. There are streamers and balloons. Madonna’s “Time After Time” is blaring from the DJ’s speakers. I slow-danced in this clumsy manner for several years. I did not fight it. I did not accept it. I mostly tried to ignore it. Occasionally, I searched the bleachers for my imagined baby. I was sad and depressed. But mostly I kept dancing. Shifting my weight from denial to longing in a tight circle, making no progress. Because we married young, none of my friends were getting pregnant; there was no peer pressure; none for several years yet.
The dance stayed lethargic because we were too young to adopt from China, too broke to look into IVF. There was nothing to do but keep dancing with my destined partner.
The dance gets jaunty, hectic, and I lose my footing:
My friends began getting pregnant at the same time that we moved into our first home and I got a salaried job. My thoughts centered on babies. I felt sorry for myself and my crummy dancing partner. Why did everyone else have decent partners? Why did people who didn’t even WANT to dance end up with great partners? I grieved for the dance that I would never experience–the fluent, beautiful dance that everyone else was enjoying. My dreams revolved around what I couldn’t have and “everyone else” could.
I avoided baby showers. I avoided pregnant women. I wept.
We were still too young to adopt from China, so I began to research other Asian countries with adoption programs: Vietnam and Korea. I knew that I wanted a child. I knew that I wanted her to share my husband’s cultural heritage. But I also knew I could not wait several years to start the process of becoming a mother.
Family members strongly encouraged us to look into medical interventions. They told us about specific procedures that could work for us. When we mentioned our interest in adoption, they told us, “Don’t you want your own child?”
So we made medical appointments. We met with the specialists. We attended the “pre-IVF” workshop. I had scopes put into places where they didn’t belong. We both gave a myriad of samples of bodily fluids.
People told us we’d regret it if we didn’t try .
But I kept tripping over my dance partner. Would I actually regret it if I didn’t try? When does life begin? Would I stick with my ethics and use all of the fertilized eggs regardless of the number of children? Was I willing to contribute to this planet’s exponential population growth? What about Jesus’ commands to help the orphans? What about all the children already suffering on earth? How could I answer all of these questions? Why was I stuck with this dance partner?
The dance takes a turn, and I twirl away:
We requested a non-standard chromosomal test. On day 1 for IVF medications, we received the discouraging test results. The doctor tried to convince us that these results were inconclusive and not a reason to stop the process. We disagreed. We knew we were done before we had even begun. This was our sign from God. The dance was changing. We could try the medical route later.
That very afternoon I called the South Korean adoption agency to request an application.
We never looked back. I never regretted that decision to stop IVF before it began. I never returned to that clinic (or any other clinic for that matter).
The dance is over:
Although I’ve had no regrets, I still mourn for the experience that I can never have. I feel jealousy towards the couples who can do what we could not. And I get angry.
Angry that every single month I shed a silent tear on the first day of my period, even though I know to expect it. Angry that I have gone through excruciating cramps for the last 20 years without a break for even one month. Angry that when I tried to go on the pill a few years ago, the cost of the medication was prohibitive. (Why would insurance cover the birth of a child but not my medication?) Angry that people continue to say “you never know… it could still happen.”
This fall my insurance company changed and I could afford these medications again.
So I am gifting myself with the end. The end of my monthly wondering, “maybe this month!” The end of awkward comments, “it just takes once!”. The end (or at least alleviation) of great pain.
Good-bye dance partner. The years have been memorable, although not enjoyable. Our dance is over.
And if this was a battle?
Then clearly I won.