One woman's struggle with unexplained infertility and IVF.
I wish someone had told me to freeze my eggs.
I got married in my mid-twenties, and we both knew we wanted kids. But not yet, we said together. Life was too fun with just the two of us. Our best friends had had a kid within one year of getting married, and while we adored that baby to pieces, we rather enjoyed sleeping through the night, staying out late with friends whenever we wanted, and being able to pick up at a moment’s notice to galavant off to exotic places like China, Italy, Brazil, the Caribbean, and beyond. We smugly thought we had it all figured out. But life has a way of teaching you humility.
I remember my little sister asking me before I got married if I should freeze my eggs. I shrugged it off. We’d never had any problems with infertility in the family. Then, when she was diagnosed with cancer, she asked me again if maybe she should freeze her eggs before starting chemo. Again, I said why? She was gonna kick this thing and in two years it would all be a distant memory. But in two years, she was the memory, and I still wasn’t pregnant.
After a couple of years of trying in vain the natural way – with a little help from Clomid – we went through 11 rounds of IUI and three rounds of IVF. I struggled with debilitating depression trying to balance the overwhelming grief over the death of my sister while simultaneously hating myself for not being able to carry life. My body was a dud, flawed, defective, not to mention completely overrun with hormones from the shots and treatment, which, let’s be honest, didn’t help my mental health either. At some point, you stop feeling like a woman and feel more like a science experiment.
We traded in the dream of a home for the dream of a family and spent everything we’d saved up to buy a house trying to conceive a child until our little nest egg was all but gone. It wasn’t until we finally went to a specialist in Belgium that the doctor was blunt enough to tell it to me straight. I wouldn’t be getting pregnant anytime soon unless I used donated eggs. Mine were rotten.
You know in the fairytale when Humpty Dumpty sits on a wall, then he has a great fall, and all the king’s horses and all the king’s men can’t put Humpty together again? That was me. I was Humpty. Cracked. Broken. Utterly disconsolate at the foot of an unclimbable wall unable to put me (or to let anyone else put me) together again.
But I still yearned to be a mom. I began to resent that happy young couple traveling the world, staying out late, and sleeping in, ignorantly squandering the good eggs that once were. I hated myself for telling my sister not to freeze her eggs. It was like she’d known, and if I’d just listened, I could have a piece of her still with me. I regretted not freezing my own eggs. If I’d only done that, then I wouldn’t be in this situation, I told myself. Hindsight is 20/20, as they say.
And yes, of course, I considered adoption. I filed all the paperwork, got all my ducks in a row, and waited and prayed that this childless mother would be matched with a motherless child who needed me as desperately as I needed her or him. But those doors never opened.
My husband decided we needed to get as far away as we could. So we booked a week in Hawaii. The salty waves of Maui drank up our tears, and the black sands and secret waterfalls enveloped our pain as we let it all go. We returned home ready to try one more time. If it didn’t work, we’d move to that island in the sun and try to find our peace.
I called up two friends and two cousins and I asked them if they’d be willing to donate their eggs to me. One of them said yes. My cousin told me she believed in a woman’s choice on whether or not she should be a mom, whether that meant no or yes. In her case, it meant no. In my case, it meant yes. She went through a month of grueling hormones, shots, and invasive procedures to give me the most precious gift any woman could ever offer to another who was in my situation.
Today, as my story leaks out through clenched teeth, I can hear my daughter (who bears my beloved sister’s name) and my son laughing together as they destroy who knows what next. Life is messy. Life is chaos. We still travel the world, we just don’t sleep in much. But that’s okay. Because we wouldn’t trade these two little lives for another moment without them. Okay, maybe just like three hours on a Saturday night when we can eat a hot meal in peace and quiet. But other than that, I think right now, we’re living the dream.
So maybe I am glad I didn’t freeze my eggs after all.