On Secondary Infertility and Finding Enough
I was never one of those "OMG A BABY!!!" girls in my youth. I never babysat (no, really), I worked at a daycare briefly at 19 but quickly checked out of that situation, and babies generally freaked me out. When I saw babies, I didn't see adorable. I saw terrifying. I saw fragile, little dolls I could easily break. I was a tall, lumbering girl with butter-fingers and a booming voice. Gentle and graceful I was not, nor had I ever been.
I knew at SOME point I'd want to have children, but it seemed like something very far off. I thought to myself, "Maybe in my 30's I'll get married and have kids. I'll be more mature then. I'll be ready then. I might even like kids then." I thought I had it all figured out.
And then when I was 20, my OBGYN informed me I had a tilted cervix. I sat buck naked from the waist down trying to figure out if I was supposed to be excited or scared. I asked him what that meant and he simply replied, "Oh, it's not bad. You may face a few difficulties getting pregnant down the road, seeing as you also have irregular periods, but it's nothing to worry about now."
"Nothing to worry about now," I recited in my brain as we finished my appointment and I drove home. I was single at the time, but had been sexually active in the past and had no plans to change that. So hearing that getting pregnant might be difficult actually relieved me in a way. No more worrying about accidentally forgetting a condom. No more fear of what late periods meant. I shoved any worries about the news deep down in my psyche, convinced that this was actually the best news I'd gotten all year.
Then, the day after my 22nd birthday I sat on my toilet staring down at two pink lines on a pregnancy test. Yes. I was pregnant. I was pregnant with my boyfriend of four month's child. I wasn't supposed to be able to get pregnant, something I'd reiterated to him time and time again, before we began having intercourse without protection. But, here it was. Here we were. Pregnant, with our lives about to change.
More than a year later we were married and becoming a family. We'd welcomed a beautiful and healthy little girl into the world and turning into a Mother reshaped my outlook on the world and myself. I finally understood that before her, I'd been directionless. Before she came I had no plans, no aspirations, no hope, and no joy. Her existence suddenly gave me a purpose and a sense of self I'd never understood. In no time flat, we knew we'd want another one and we knew we wanted them close in age.
So, as soon as I was physically able, we started trying again. And trying. And trying. And trying. Until more than a year passed, and I hadn't conceived again. I slumped over failed pregnancy tests wondering why it wasn't happening. I bought ovulation tests to predict when I'd be most fertile, only to receive unclear results every time. Eventually I faced my fears and scheduled an appointment with an OBGYN and received more life changing news: I had Poly Cystic Ovary Syndrome. And my body was refusing to ovulate and carry.
I've been living with secondary fertility now for four years. For a long time I was bitter and angry and hurt. I couldn't understand why this was happening to me, as if somehow someone was to blame for it. I continued trying to conceive, researched fertility treatments, found a community of other infertile women, and soaked up as much knowledge as I could about PCOS. But it remained all in vain. My body was not willing to give me what I wanted. And I could either pursue fertility treatments or give up.
And I chose to give up.
You know how they say that hindsight is 20/20? I know in the depths of my being this is true. After "giving up" a little over a year ago, my family and I experienced financial hardships, job transitions, and other trials that had me up at night, almost every night, crying to myself and blaming myself for putting our daughter through this. She hasn't yet had the kind of Christmas or birthday I want her to have. We don't yet own a home and only recently began renting a house with a backyard. And we've faced extended family struggles that forced me to pull away from certain people, despite how close my daughter was with them. I cried because I felt overwhelming guilt for putting her through these things. And I realize now it would have been so much harder had we had two or three small children to drag through the mess that has been our lives the last few years.
Six months ago I sat at the dinner table watching my little family play board games and for the first time since my daughter was born, I felt like we were complete. I felt like we were enough, just us three. And it was at that moment I decided I no longer wanted more children. In that moment all the bitterness fell away. All the sorrow. All the worry. All the pain. It all fell away and all that was left was joy at what we did have...not sorrow for what we didn't.
I'm infertile. And I've decided I'm okay with it. It's been a long journey to get to this point, but I stand here today knowing in my depths that if I never carry another baby, I'll be fine. We'll be fine. Right now, this is enough. And it is a glorious amount of enough.