"Infertility robs you of so much more than just a pregnancy."
I can vividly remember that bright September morning, clad in my newest dress from the Gap, dusting my eyelids with my usual bronze powder, readying myself for my sixth year of teaching. I rested my arm on my dresser and pulled at my eye, ready to apply the liner. All of the sudden, an overwhelming feeling of nausea washed over me and I felt as though I was going to be sick. I smiled at the now green reflection that stared back at me. “This is it,” I thought. “This is morning sickness! I’m finally pregnant!”
Finally pregnant, seems like such a funny choice of words now. My husband I and had only been trying for four months at the time, but to an anal, over-achiever like myself that might as well have been a lifetime. While only very early, I was right. A blood test at my gynecologist ’s office later that week would confirm what I already knew, that I was indeed pregnant. I told everyone I came in contact with as soon as I could. I was so in love with the idea that I was going to be a mom… finally!
Unfortunately, only a week later our whole world turned upside down. A flash of blood one morning had me back at my gynecologist’s office. And just like that, with yet another test, we weren’t expectant parents anymore. My stomach sank. My heart broke. I cried until I felt like my body had no tears left.
We wouldn’t get pregnant again until that March. When we got the news, I was elated. All the pain and worry that I had felt over my first loss dissipated. “This is it,” I thought. “This will be the baby makes us a family!”
You would think I would be more discreet knowing how delicate the early stages of pregnancy could be, but I simply couldn't be. I was beaming! I looked up nurseries on Pinterest, started reading What to Expect When Your Expecting, and paired new-age first names with more classic middle names. My friends and family who had grieved with me for those six months prior were so happy to celebrate this amazing news with us. It truly was a glorious time… until it wasn’t. Once again my pregnancy numbers went down when they were supposed to go up and I was losing another child.
I would go on to get pregnant three more times in the next year and a half, and to lose all three of those pregnancies. Two more chemical pregnancies and one blighted ovum. If your a numbers person I was averaging about two a year. It had become our new normal.
Those were days consumed with myriad tests, painful procedures, new discoveries, multiple, daily injections, early morning monitoring, and ultimately a diagnosis of “unexplained recurrent pregnancy loss.” I read every blog and I downloaded every app. I missed birthdays, bachelorette parties, weekend getaways, and weddings because I was either in a treatment cycle or preparing for one. I forced down a disgusting elixir of Chinese herbs, ate an insane amount of pineapple core, and committed my afternoons to endless acupuncture treatments. At one point, I gave up gluten, alcohol, cold food/drinks, dairy, and caffeine. (Now, I am sure some would say these last exclusions were very healthy lifestyle changes, but sometimes there is nothing that can make you happier than a warm piece of bread with butter and an ice cold margarita on the rocks.) I was willing to do anything to be and stay pregnant. I talked the talk and walked the walk. And none of it worked.
Infertility robs you of so much more than just a pregnancy. Sure, you don’t get to be carefree and casual just peeing on tests and planning how you will surprise your husband. However, its so much more than that. Looking back, I regret who I was for some of that time. For the first year and a half, I did my best to feel happy for my friends and family who were announcing their pregnancies and welcoming their babies; but, ultimately my overwhelming emotion was always feeling sorry for myself. I questioned how God could give babies to drug-addicted woman, child abusers, or criminals, but not a healthy, stable woman who already loved a baby that she was actively trying to dream into life.
In the past year my attitude has definitely changed. I decided I didn’t like the version of myself that infertility had created, and I changed my outlook on my situation in a very purposeful way. I began to focus on all the good that our circumstances had given me. My friends and family stepped up in a way I truly didn’t expect, and could never adequately thank them for. They were there waiting for me when I came out of my procedures, they gave us balloons and cards before big appointments, sent flowers when we received bad news, learned how to make gluten free snacks, and were always there with messages of hope and support. I also had a husband who could not have been more gracious and loving, and a marriage that was stronger than I ever could have hoped possible.
I wish there was a happy ending to my story, but instead there is only a “to be continued.” I have given myself permission to stop being so aggressive and to start being okay with simply seeing where life takes us. There is no doubt in my mind that I will be someone’s mom someday. In fact, I talk to that sweet, little someone all the time. I tell them how bad their fur brother’s farts can be, but how sweet his snuggles are. I explain to them that brussels sprouts get a really bad wrap, but their dad really knows how to jazz them up. And I promise them a life so full, happy, and lovely. I don’t know how that little someone will find their way to us, but when they do we will be here… ready, waiting, thrilled, and with bellies filled of gluten.
Julie Albanese and her husband have been married since November 2013. Although their journey has been one tainted by infertility and loss, it is also one filled with a lot of fun, laughs, and wine. They are obsessed with their French Bulldog and finding their next favorite restaurant.