The little embryo that could…

I knew I had to open up my perception of motherhood to include more than just a biological child. As soon as I embraced a new paradigm for motherhood I felt more at ease.

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Every year the impending birthdays of my children conjures memories of my journey through infertility. As my seven year old daughter celebrated her birthday last month, I am compelled to share how she became part of our family against all odds.

Ironically, it’s not the first time I’ve shared my intimate life with a bunch of strangers. In fact, my husband and I have a series of “sexy time” pie charts that we’ve presented to a room full of almost 100 people. And no, this wasn’t some TED talk we were invited to do as subject matter experts. This was our presentation as leaders of a marriage preparation ministry at our local parish and we were sharing our story with engaged couples at their retreat. It was our hope to prepare them for the potential challenge of having children. You see, no one ever told us it might be hard to have kids.

baby makin’ 101

My husband and I met when I was 22, and we were married by the time I was 24. We waited until we had our dream home in the suburbs to start trying for a family. Because obviously, this was a perfect plan…and everything in life is about planning, right?

I was 27 years old when we started trying for a baby. At first it was a lot of fun but by the time six months rolled by it felt more like a science experiment. I started peeing on a stick to figure out if I was in my most fertile window and let me tell you, there’s nothing less sexy than urinating on a piece of plastic.

Another six months of Bill Nye the Science Guy sexy time eventually landed us in the office of a fertility specialist at The Cleveland Clinic Foundation. At my age (28 by then) I shouldn’t have had any problems conceiving. After another few months of testing and waiting we were ultimately delivered the fateful diagnosis of infertile. The thought of not becoming a mother just wasn’t on the table for me. I couldn’t picture a life without the laughter of children, their chubby cheeks, snuggling…looking back it’s like I hadn’t thought much past the “puppy phase” of kids.

Through the miracle of Advanced Reproductive Technology we were presented with the option to use In Vitro Fertilization (IVF). This was no “satisfaction guaranteed” endeavor so I started mentally preparing myself for potential negative outcomes. One of the self-help books I read at the time compared the stress of infertility as equivalent to other chronic diseases.

One of the most memorable and effective affirmations I read in that book was to tell myself, “I will be a mother someday.”

I had to open up my perception of motherhood to include more than just a biological child. I had to allow myself to envision a life with an adopted or foster child. As soon as I embraced a new paradigm for motherhood I felt more at ease.

the ABCs of IVF.

I’m not really sure what peoples’ perceptions of IVF are anymore, but I can bet that whatever TV show or movie you saw they are all very much unrealistic depictions. My doctor explained there was no Octomompossibility in my future (yes, I was worried about that) and I definitely didn’t think there was anything glamorous about driving 30 minutes to the doctor’s office every morning for bloodwork and “ultrasound wand” work all before I even started my workday.

Not many people knew what I was going through in those days, but those who did would whisper to my husband when I was acting a little crazy, “must be the extra hormones.” I didn’t have the heart to tell them that wasn’t actually a side effect of the fertility medication but I milked it so I could have a tantrum if I wanted.

I received the “you’re pregnant” call from the doctor’s office the day my niece was born, December 22, 2010…three days before my 29th birthday (yes, I’m a Christmas baby!) and two full years after we had started trying for a baby. I honestly couldn’t believe our dreams had come true. At that time, we still didn’t know if we would have twins-since we transferred two embryos. My son, now nine often asks me what happened to “his twin.” To be honest, I don’t know what happens after conception and non-implantation, but my son and I like to think his twin is somehow still part of us.

what’s in a name.

I’m going to fast-forward a bit here because this story was inspired by my daughter’s birthday…and she deserves a bit more attention.

I’ve transferred five embryos through my infertility journey. There was a round of IVF after my son that didn’t work at all. I honestly thought the second time around would be a sure thing — but it wasn’t. I was struggling to wrap my head around the negative result. In fact, I was convinced I was going to have twins. We had no other embryos from previous rounds that had been able to freeze. Starting my third round of IVF was very nerve wracking. Besides the financial implications the emotional stakes were high. Now that I was already a mama, I couldn’t even rely on my mantra “I will be a mother someday.” This time I just had to trust whatever Plan was in store for me. We only had one viable embryo from that third round and it was pretty tough to remain optimistic.

But sure enough…it was the little embryo that could.

When we found out we were having a little girl we started researching names. Our boy name short list consisted of exactly two names: John or Michael. Our girl name not-so-short list included every variation of a princess-esque name that ended with an “a.”

We settled on Gianna because of it’s meaning: God is gracious.

She is indeed our miracle and our gift from God. Both kids are. It’s hard to believe it’s been over a decade since my infertility journey began. I hold a special place in my heart for that time period of living completely in the unknown and trusting a Plan greater than my own…

This was the ultimate lesson in letting go. What experiences have you had where you had to let go and trust the outcome? How did it turn out?

Sending you all my peace, love, and positive affirmations.

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