This is my eighth pregnancy. Sometimes I have to pause and really let that sink in. My first two were back in my late teens, when my body was young and nimble and didn’t know any better. The next five were in my mid to late thirties. Four of those pregnancies turned to miscarriages and one became a twin pregnancy that I gratefully carried to full term. I don’t remember feeling tired or run-down with any of them. I think I was just so intensely focused on my goal of having babies that everything else was a blur. And during all that time, I knew that I wasn’t even near done with my epic fertility journey.
But this – my eighth pregnancy – where I am in my 40s and pregnant with twins again – this time I know I’m done. It will be my last pregnancy. Ever. And though I have sadness over it, what I have more is an overwhelming sense of relief. I can finally allow myself to get off the fertility rollercoaster. The ups and downs of “Did my $10,000 procedure work? And if it did, am I going to stay pregnant?” After four miscarriages, I’m painfully practical. So is Steph, and I know she’s more than ready to get off the rollercoaster.
In my online fertility groups for women over 40, one of the most often asked questions is “How do you know when to stop trying?” The best answer I’ve been able to come up with, is, you don’t know until you get there. We’ve been trying to have another baby since August and Liam were 10 months old. They’re three now. When I transferred these three blastocysts in March – the product of a mere 5 eggs that we were able to get from my 4th IVF – I knew even before I got the positive pregnancy test that if this didn’t work, we needed to be done. I needed to turn inward to my family and move on to other things. It was nothing short of a miracle that I somehow managed to get not one but two good eggs, and here I sit 23 weeks pregnant with twin boys. Let me restate that. Here I sit, tired, 23 weeks pregnant with twin boys! But I know that in the whisp of a hope, it could have gone the other way. My little embryos might not have implanted and instead just dissolved away. Or, worse, one or more could have implanted, my hopes would have soared, and then I miscarried. This is the reality of fertility. It is particularly the reality of fertility when you are older, and up to 90% of your eggs can have a chromosomal issue that will prevent them from ever being able to turn into a viable pregnancy.
Steph and I started to try to grow our family 7 years ago. During that 7 years, we did 2 intra-uterine inseminations, had 1 surgery for a cyst on the end of my fallopian tube, learned that both of my tubes were damaged and that even if I had a male partner, I would never be able to get pregnant naturally. I had 4 in vitro fertilization cycles, where Steph shot thousands of dollars of stimulation drugs in my stomach and butt. I collected somewhere along the lines of 55 eggs. I produced, and transferred, 20 embryos, over the course of seven years. Of those, only 5 ever implanted. We lost three of them at various stages – 6 weeks, 8 weeks and 12 weeks. We also along the way transferred four donor embryos from a 26 year old woman. Only one of those implanted, and that embryo stopped growing at 6 weeks. Of my 20 embryos that I created – 20 potential lives, we have 3 year old twin boys, and are expecting our second set of twin boys in 14 weeks. I can honestly say that I put my all into growing my family.
It was definitely a test of will, and if we hadn’t had a resolve of steel, we would never have had our dreams realized. But, every day in the fertility groups that I’m a part of, I’m reminded that a resolve of steel alone isn’t enough. Our story has a happy ending. Many do not. I will never, ever take for granted the privilege of being able to carry and birth a baby. I am ridiculously blessed. To the point where I’m embarrassed sometimes, and am so humbled.
I had wanted very much to savor this last pregnancy. To spend wistful moments rubbing my belly, letting the miracle of my babies’ development truly sink in. But, after my stormy journey, I just can’t be present with that. I want these babies here, safely in my arms, away from my womb, which seems to giveth and then taketh away so freely. I also want my body back. After seven years of drugs, surgeries, and the hormonal surges of 8 pregnancies, it is tired. And it has asked me for an eternal reprieve. I must, in good conscience, grant it. And get on with the business of raising two sets of twin boys! My body would have asked for an eternal reprieve even if I had no babies to hold in my arms. For all the women who have to make the painful decision to stop the journey, my heart aches with you. Because I know how easily my own story could have turned out differently.
What’s next for me? And not the me that is going to be a busy mom to four boys. I’ve got that down, especially since I’ve done it once before, with my now grown children. I’m talking about the me that is separate from my caregiver role. I have other parts of me that I want to nurture, that I haven’t been able to to for many, many years, with all of my energy going into creating a family. Like traveling, and writing. And allowing my body to heal by becoming active. I’m so looking forward to this next stage – my 40s, where I will undoubtedly struggle with balancing raising my busy family while nurturing the other parts of me. But I am so relieved to be turning that corner and putting the baby-making phase to rest forever. It’s been a long run and I’m on the home stretch. I’m looking forward to resting and taking a big, deep breath before pivoting to this next stage of my life.
Just for fun, here are a few of the pictures I have collected so far for this pregnancy.