When we forget what happiness is

The aftermath of infertility

When I was 30, I had the opportunity to accompany my best friend to her second trimester ultra sound appointment. We were both military wives at the time and when her husband couldn’t make it to the ultrasound, she asked me to come instead. To experience something so sacred and personal with my friend meant a lot to me. I was in an unhappy relationship with my then-husband and had no want to bring children into my situation, but to share in my friend’s blessings of a baby opened my heart to the possibility of children someday.

We both cried as her baby girl showed up on the big flat screen tv and we heard her little heart beating away. She was beautiful and perfect and I couldn’t wait to meet this little angel in a few short months. Because of my wonderful experience with my friend and her unborn baby, I always associated ultrasounds with joy, happiness and everything that is good in this world. I always thought my future ultrasounds would be the same as hers and as countless other’s who had shared the joy of pregnancy and motherhood…but I was wrong.

After surviving a terrible divorce and being blessed to find the man who really is my life-partner, I immediately began dreaming of the day when we would be sitting in the room with the big screen, hearing our baby’s heartbeat and seeing him or her all comfy in my womb. Unfortunately, right before our wedding I was hospitalized, underwent emergency surgery and was diagnosed with stage 4 endometriosis and infertility. I began to think my path to motherhood might not be as easy and filled with joy as I thought.

After four months of weekly acupuncture, following a strict diet and taking handfuls of Chinese herbs a day, we were able to get pregnant and I hoped for the best. When my first ultrasound rolled around, I was excited. I looked forward to hearing my little one’s heartbeat and seeing our little pea-in-a-pod growing away in my uterus. Instead, the technician told me that it was too early to find the heartbeat and that we’d have to wait another week and do the ultrasound again. My heart dropped. Although the technician was convinced I’d miscalculated my ovulation date, I knew that the careful tracking of my cycles with my acupuncturist meant we should be able to hear a heartbeat by now.

When routine blood work also came back abnormal, I knew there was a problem. When my husband and I went back for our second ultrasound, I cried in the car on our way to the office. Somehow I knew this appointment wouldn’t be filled with happy tears, excitement and joy. My worst fears came true as my OB (also a close friend of mine) held my hand and told me the baby hadn’t made it. In that moment, I forgot what it was like to be happy. I forgot the joy once associated with pregnancy, ultrasounds and babies. I felt only devastating loss and heartbreak. To make matters worse, I had a very hard recovery following the D&C procedure that removed the embryo from my uterus, and I spent the next 6 months lost in a post-partum like depression.

My husband and I were one of the lucky couples that could afford in-vitro fertilization, and, after 6 months of no luck trying to conceive again, and my endometriosis worsening, we completed our first round of IVF. We were also blessed to end up with 4 healthy embryos to choose from when it came time for our transfer, and now, we are currently in the two-week waiting period to see if I am actually pregnant. Although I feel blessed to even have IVF as a viable option for conceiving a child and thankful that the 26 shots I gave myself over a period of 10 days actually produced healthy embryos, I can’t exactly say that I’m “happy.”

The truth is, I think I’ve forgotten what happiness is. I’ve forgotten what it feels like to be overjoyed, excited or ecstatic over something I really want to have or experience. The sheer pain and devastation over the loss of my first pregnancy seems to overshadow the hope that someday I really will be a mom. Instead of looking forward to my pregnancy test next week, I’m dreading it. Even if it does come back positive, I know there will be more worried days leading up to my first ultrasound and the excitement of hearing the baby’s heartbeat will be buried under the fear that I will never hear a tiny heart beating inside of me.

I honestly don’t know what will happen with this pregnancy. It is my hope that the memories of sadness and despair I now associate with pregnancy and ultrasounds will be replaced by joyful ones and that I’ll be holding my baby girl in my arms in 8 ½ months. Maybe becoming a mom will remind me what happiness is and I’ll move beyond the intense grief that has consumed me.

It is my hope that, not only will I be able to one day know what it is to be a mother, but that everyone struggling with infertility will also come to know motherhood and remember what happiness is.