Thursday, June 9, 2011

Fertility Roulette

I'm not generally one who spends a lot of time asking "Why?" I can handle the fact that life is unfair and that God has not promised us an easy road. I've had my share of struggles but I can usually see that in the end, things work out for the best and that what I wanted so badly wasn't what was best for me in the long run. There's one area of life, though, in which I do find myself perplexed and sad at the unfairness faced by some people and that's fertility.

As I have said here before, I so often feel like my life runs through mini themes - all of a sudden, an issue emerges that I can't seem to escape to disappear just as quickly as it appeared. In the last three weeks, that issue has been fertility/infertility. It's a bit strange timing since I have come to terms with the fact that our family will be a family of two children and that while I am sad that Pk won't ever have a sister and that the name I have been cherishing for another girl won't be used, two is where we are meant to be. Fertility isn't a concern in our house.

It started several weeks ago. Two good friends who have been trying to become pregnant managed to achieve pregnancy. The first had easily conceived her first and was now pregnant with number two. They had been trying a few months but weren't concerned. She has a few health problems that make it more complicated so she was grateful that things were going so well. The second friend and her husband have had a terrible time. They had been trying for ages and then discovered that there were some significant hurdles for them in terms of having children. They watched as friend after friend became pregnant with one and then another and they were stuck waiting. The pain was so profound. They tried several procedures unsuccessfully and then, several weeks ago, underwent IVF. What a scary procedure. After all the drugs and tests, they only retrieved four eggs, only three were usable and only two fertilized and implanted. Then began the horrible wait. Friend one really struggled - she was excited about being pregnant but didn't want to make too big a deal of it in case things didn't turn out for friend two.

On the other hand, I also heard two horrible stories of pregnancy loss. A friend who I have gotten to know (really more of a good acquaintance) revealed that a few years ago, she lost a baby to stillbirth. They had a totally uneventful pregnancy and had just had a weekly check-up and all was well. Labour started and eventually, they went to the hospital only to discover that the baby's heart had stopped. She had to continue through a full labour and deliver and go home without a baby. While they have since had two healthy children, the scars are just below the surface. Yet another friend came to me distraught. Her brother and sister-in-law were wildly excited about the baby they were expecting. They got excited and told everyone, despite it being early in the pregnancy. They had bought the crib and begun to decorate. She went for her 12 week ultrasound (actually, it was supposed to be 13 weeks) and they couldn't find the fetal heartbeat. The baby had stopped developing at 9 weeks. They couple are absolutely devastated and have to face the imminent miscarriage. My friend was completely distraught as she wanted to be there for them but had no idea what to say.

The complication continues. Friend one had a miscarriage about a week ago. She is handling it really well (other than that her doctor really didn't do any kind of follow up and she is swimming through the mud of trying to figure out what is normal now when her hormones are in turmoil). Friend two is pregnant and just found out that there is one baby (meaning that if she and her husband want more, they have to undergo the entire IVF process again and take on the cost). She is also on edge waiting to do the IPS screening for neural tube defects, down's sydrome and trisomy and also the anatomical ultrasound at 20 weeks, knowing that with IVF, the risks are much higher of complications.

I feel so helpless. I want to say something to calm everyone and to be supportive. I don't want to be the friend who says that insensitive thing that wounds to the quick when I am trying to help. It ISN'T fair. Why should some people be able to have two or three or ten healthy children while others who would be wonderful parents be denied? Why are children born into horrible situations when there are parents dying to give everything to a child? I don't get it.

I have been so lucky and one thing I have come to appreciate in all of this is just how lucky I actually am. I have two beautiful children, and, as people say, the millionaire's family. While I would be thrilled with two boys or two girls, I won't lie - it's great getting to experience both sides. I love the differences between my children. Our age gap is good and my children are healthy (and I pray will remain so). I had uneventful pregnancies other than very big babies who caused a bit of worry near the end because they were so big. My deliveries were vaginal and reasonably smooth. I didn't have a little one in the NICU, my children were born right on 40 weeks and they came home with me from the hospital right away. Why me? Why not others?

I also think that part of our problem is that we don't talk about these things more. When things happen, we don't have a frame of reference and we don't know what to say because we try and hide our pain and struggles. Sure, these aren't issues that we would talk about with strangers but it might actually help if we could talk about them more openly. I have talked here about the fact that Dh and I had trouble with conceiving Baby Bean after such an easy time with Pk and while we only had 11 months of trying, I can't tell you the pain when we thought that there might not be a number two without help. I felt so alone at the time and then, when it did happen, I felt so terrible talking to friend two, who I knew was in a tough situation. Becoming a mother is something so central to our perceptions of ourselves as women, I think that these struggles wound us in ways that are absolutely central to our identities, the pain can be blinding and can overshadow our entire lives. Yet we try and hide it. To me, that just compounds the tragedy.

I don't have any answers or any good conclusion for this post. I just needed to vent. It makes me so sad.

1 comment:

  1. It IS hard, but at the same time, I know that those friends are happy for your good fortune, too. I have a good friend who would kill to have a second baby, but after she lost two pregnancies in a year, has decided she can't try any more, it is too heartbreaking. This wasn't long before I had The Bun. I know that every time one of us is pregnant, is hurts a little, but I also know that she loves us all and wants that for us, too. Her coming to terms with her loss, both the pregnancies and the dream of another child, is a constant, something that she learns to live with on an ongoing basis.

    Worse was another friend in the same situation who was on track to share nearly the same due date with me and The Bun, but who lost her pregnancy. In that case, I wonder more if Bun makes her think of the one who would have been just at the same place as him.