When do you know you’re ready for another child? Some mamas don’t get a choice and find out breastfeeding is not a form of birth control and antibiotics negate actual birth control. Some mamas can’t wait to have another wee one as soon as their bodies have recovered. Others wait and plan or wait and don’t. There are a million different ways to grow a family when your body works.
But when your body doesn’t work, the decision to move forward with your family is a bit more challenging. Mamas that have this so-called secondary infertility are either those with problems conceiving their second child when they had no problem with the first. Or as in my case, those who struggled with infertility to have their first child and now know exactly what they’re getting into with the next.
I know what lies ahead so the idea of leaping head first again into the chasm of fertility treatments is simultaneously strangely comforting and completely insane. On one hand, I know exactly what to expect. I had a pretty decent amount of experience with nine procedures (two Clomid rounds, two IUIs, two IVFs, and three FET attempts). On the other hand, infertility consumed me. It made me scrutinize over every body ache, every pain, every temperature read, every bite, every shot, every appointment, every sideways glance, every day, every month, every year. It depressed me. It isolated me. It made me feel like something was missing in my life. And I hated infertility for it. For making me feel incomplete. And broken.
Yet on the backside of that 4-year battle, I began to appreciate infertility. I accepted my body for what it was. I became stronger. My character hardened. My physical, emotional, and mental wounds healed. I started to stand tall and proudly walk again, just with a hint of an emotional limp. I wouldn’t necessarily high-five infertility, that bitch, but I accepted it as a part of my journey. And then it finally worked.
That’s why even though my house is a wreck or I have a bad day or I lost a proposal at work, it doesn’t matter. The worst is over. I hold on tightly to my daughter and am thankful for her mere presence, her chubby little legs and that grin. And the cherry on top is I don’t have to deal with shitty infertility right now. I have absolutely loved feeling content these last 3 years. I have loved not feeling there is something missing in my life. I have relished in letting go of that hyper-awareness of body and mind. I have loved actually living my life instead of wishing my life would start.
So why in the hell would I want to rock the boat? I mean, the chances of us having another biological child are probably pretty low, even if IVF was successful for us the first time. But the chances of us having another biological child with such a precious, precocious personality as this kid are almost nil. It’s not like I feel I’m missing out on something either. Our daughter is this source of light that radiates warmth and heat. She is more than I ever could have imagined. I am pulling a Jerry McGuire: she completes us.
No, it’s more of that excited feeling I’ve gotten lately when planning our extended family vacations this year. That feeling of love and admiration for our brothers and sisters and their sweet spouses is strong. Palpable. They bring so much joy and laughter to our family. And our lives would be very different without them. You do whatever you want for you and yours. But for me, that’s what we want that for our family at some point in time. Doesn’t have to be now, but I’m fine with some day.
So what does one do? As a scientist, I look at the facts. IVF blows big goats (yes, that’s a scientific fact). From the needles to that damned kittie-wand to a very low chance of success, the IVF process is a fugly one. And to be honest, pregnancy wasn’t really my thing either. Too much worrying its gonna stick in the beginning and too much ass, jowl, and cankle in the end, though the middle was nice. Oh yeah, and the freakishly sudden pre-eclampsia. That was scary! So I’m kinda dreading the pregnancy thing again (doesn’t mean I wouldn’t do it).
But the stress didn’t stop after delivery either. I was a shit-show at breastfeeding as well. Well, okay, that’s not the whole truth. I was just a piping hot snotty mess of a new mom in general. I might have previously mentioned that I was bullheadedly determined to pump on the job, even if it was in the woods on a survey. But I conveniently omitted the story of when I scared that feral hog half to death with my pumping bra. Yeah, that one. He was minding his own business, walking down a path towards me. And as he caught sight of my robot-Madonna cone bra slowly turning towards him and heard me shrieking a Native American war-cry to scare him away, the poor guy fell down in a mad scramble backwards, did an about-face, and sprinted to high hell in the opposite direction from the scariest thing in the woods. Me. As a mother. Shudder.
So I was actually getting excited about the prospects of adoption as a wonderful and realistic alternative to, you know, the stress of getting pregnant and then actually being pregnant. I know several people where adoption has worked out very well. And others not so much. It’s a crap chute like every other choice in life. But most recently a friend who applied for domestic adoption, was quickly home-interviewed, and got a call for a newborn baby in a matter of months gave me the inspiration and push we needed to really sit down and consider it. Because BAM! It’s that easy, right? No brainer. Let’s do this already!
No, you stupid twit. There is nothing easy about adoption. And just to prove it, my heart broke into a thousand pieces for that dear friend who’s adoption fell through in the eleventh hour. After flying half way across the country at a moment’s notice and seeing — God, I hope not holding — that baby in the hospital, she was told the family of the mother stepped in to keep the child. A ripping loss as deep as any. A chance not meant to be. My whole body sobbed for the unfairness of it all and I silently, violently threatened that family to actually come through for that child who was taken away from someone so undeniably worthy. This is not even my loss and I was a hot puddle of snot, slobber, and sobs. Suck a bag of dicks, adoption.
So we’re back to square one. No decision will be easy. Each road has its own cobbles and cracks to trip over. Needles and bodily disappointment vs. paperwork and systemic disappointment. Pessimistic in my outlook, you say? I’m just realistic. I would rather go into a snake-pit knowing how to suck out venom than fearlessly believing I won’t get bit. We all get bit, people, just in varying degrees of potency and depth.
The difference is knowing you can survive the bite and that it’s worth it in the end. No matter how many needles or let-downs or home interviews or old ovaries or take-backs that may happen, it ultimately doesn’t matter. The road will eventually open up and lead to those incredible bonds between siblings many years from now with all their inside jokes, messes, brawls, and embraces. That road will some day lead to a 35-year-old Nina getting excited to help her mama plan our family vacation. With that precocious grin on her face, she’ll count down the days to see her brother or sister and their families like I am doing right now. These early stumbles in the road do not mean much over the traveling lifetime. So let the stumbling begin. (Metaphorically speaking, of course, because this klutz already trips a whole lot on her own and doesn’t need any more help.)