Last December I spent the days leading up to Christmas desperately trying to get my third IVF cycle underway before it would interfere with Ross’ birthday at the end of January (it did anyway). I gave myself the first injection on the 27th, and the holidays seemed to get lost in the stress and preparation of treatment. Christmas 2017 was the largely the same, waiting to consult with our new fertility doctor for my upcoming second IVF cycle, beginning the daunting search for a carrier, and researching every fertility loan or grant available. Earlier this year I’d thought we might have something to celebrate by the holidays, but it wasn’t much changed– just other phases of the same process. A conversation I had with a friend over the summer ran through my mind often, “You could be pregnant by Christmas!” she’d said, when we talked about our planned embryo transfer for October.
Christmas felt like all I had to hang on to. It was hard to see the new babies and announcements on Christmas cards and to pass over the little gifts I would’ve bought for our second child if they were here. (I see things everywhere that make me think of you.) But the holiday season also came with distraction and the joy of seeing Ross experience all the magic of this time of year. So I threw myself into it, wanting it to be perfect for him because there was so little else I could control. We didn’t put practical things on his wish list like we usually do, just toys and stuff we knew would make him excited and happy on Christmas morning.
For the most part, we made it through the lead-up unscathed. It didn’t really hit me until Christmas Eve what we had lost.
In the meantime, progress continued on the legal process, albeit slowly. Sometime in November, more than three months in, I realized I had to let go of my expectations. It was hard enough for our lives to be on hold throughout the fall, but repeatedly getting my hopes up and trying to mentally prepare for an upcoming transfer only for it to come crashing down was destroying me. Instead, I let myself go numb and accepted both the accumulating cost and the reality that I could neither change nor control the situation. While it was still stressful and frustrating when we hit each new delay or discovered that our lawyer had yet again failed to follow up on something, it at least allowed me to function again.
Finally, after nearly 18 weeks, our struggle came to a very anti-climatic end. A few days before Christmas we had the final contract signed and notarized, and on Christmas Eve I received a clearance letter from the lawyer to submit to our fertility clinic. Of course, by this point, our coordinator was out of the office until the new year, so official acceptance didn’t come through until this morning. For such an enormous milestone, I expected to feel excitement or at least an overwhelming sense of relief, but instead I just felt kind of angry. Angry that so much time was wasted.
Over this last week, as everyone looked back on their last decade, it was impossible not to think about what these years had been for us. We started the decade as newlyweds, married for just three months and celebrating my mom’s birthday at Disney World with my family. We didn’t know it then, but my healthy 74-year-old grandpa was about to be diagnosed with terminal cancer, and by the time we celebrated another new year, he would be gone.
I spent the majority of 2010 with my grandparents as he went through brain surgery and aggressive radiation, and for as difficult as it was, that time was also precious to me. I picked Grandpa up from speech therapy and helped him practice his words. I made him ham sandwiches while Grandma ran errands. I ordered flowers in his name and helped him write the card for his wife to celebrate their 57th anniversary, the last one together. I was the one who convinced him to get into the radiation machine despite his extreme claustrophobia and held his hand as they strapped him down. And I anguished over the fact that we were about to start trying for a family and have children he would never meet. I told him that he would soon have a great-grandson named Ross, after him, not realizing how long it would still be. We said goodbye to Grandpa before the end of that first year of the decade. It felt like a huge turning point in my life.
And then, infertility happened. Looking back now, it’s a shock to realize that 2010 was the only year of this entire decade in which we weren’t actively trying to have a child. It has consumed everything, eaten away at our lives. Seeing it all in hindsight unfolding along a linear path makes me realize just how much time we have lost along the way.
Of course, there have been good times too, amid the overwhelming loss. The best by far being the result of our first surrogacy journey:
It is partly knowing just how worth it all that struggle was that keeps me going now.
Life is always ups and downs. But the many years of ‘downs’ we’ve faced this decade have fundamentally changed me as a person. Ten years ago we were starting out, filled with so much hope and optimism for the future, but infertility is like an open wound left to fester; instead of healing, it grows worse with the passing of time. I don’t know what this next decade will bring, but I hope for the opportunity to eventually rebuild. Assuming we reach the end of this journey sometime in the near future, maybe we will finally be able to begin to heal.