By Lindsay Euller Linsley
I would first like to start by saying that I’m so fortunate to have a beautiful 3-year-old son, conceived through IVF (ICSI). My husband John and I tried for 4 years before we were lucky enough to have Grey. And I’m very sensitive to the fact that many people are still struggling to have one child. It really is something that no one can understand unless they’ve lived it. However, at 38 years old I’m now facing a new set of emotions as we’re starting to confront the reality of life with only one.
It’s hard to know where to start when describing how I feel after two failed IVF cycles so far this year. It’s a cornucopia of grief, confusion, anger, frustration, guilt, worry, and sometimes relief. I’ve felt it all.
We entered 2015 with one frozen embryo. For some background, I’m a working mother–full time. And I like it. My son has thrived in daycare (now preschool) and is nothing short of awesome. High-five to us. I’m also a pretty independent person and, like almost everyone I know, I enjoy my time to read, catch up on my favorite shows, or have a glass of wine (or two) with a friend. So when we started the cycle again in January, I immediately felt any sense of my former self that was starting to re-emerge, as Grey got older, start to disappear again. But I wanted Grey to have a sibling, the timing seemed right with my career, and we had saved up some money. So we gave it a go. But to no avail.
I was sad, but not crestfallen, because I knew we had more time.
Fast-forward to July. Now we’re ready to try another fresh cycle. I stopped any alcohol intake, cut back caffeine drastically, and started up acupuncture again. I was in the game. And because our first attempt at ICSI worked in 2012, I was under the illusion that it would work again. 20 eggs retrieved, 15 ICSI’d, 11 fertilized. Two day-5 blasts. (Strong results but none to freeze). The doctor kept saying “beautiful” during transfer… and I don’t think she meant my visage. But then the 2ww started to dwindle and I died inside a little each time I saw that singular pink line staring at me–and trust me, I saw a lot. Money is no object when it comes to buying pregnancy tests. That’s an industry to invest in, I think.
Anyone who knows me would say I’m pretty even-keeled. I’m a healthy combination of goofy, outspoken, irreverent, self-deprecating, and tough. All characteristics that would serve me well in situations like these. But right now I’m in an emotional chokehold.
I so badly want to give my little boy a brother or sister. It’s a bond that he won’t get to experience otherwise. And there’s my husband. He is so patient and creative with Grey; I want another little person to have him for a dad. Then for me, I feel nostalgic for baby clothes (I can’t bear to part with Grey’s); I love baby snuggles and baby firsts. And lately, I’ve felt real pangs of envy when I see pregnant women–even celebrities. Despite the struggles I know are happening in private, society has most of us thinking that men can just sling underwear at their partners and bam, a baby’s made.
But here’s the real rub… do I want to give fertility treatments more years of my life? The bloating, mood swings, weight gain, shots, doctors’ appointments, blood-work, and constantly anticipating disappointment. We also have to pay out of pocket for treatment, which could instead mean a home renovation, an awesome family vacation (or several), or just the feeling of financial security. It’s a lot for a person to take in.
The fact is that I wasn’t a great pregnant woman. I tried to maintain a sense of grace and strength, and my sense of humor. I was so very thankful IVF worked, but I was wildly uncomfortable with a breach baby and too much amniotic fluid. Now that it’s over and Grey is getting older, I get to enjoy a glass of wine (or two), increase my caffeine intake as necessary, read a book, and travel for work knowing that it’s not a huge burden on John. I get to reclaim a little more of “me” while still focusing on being an awesome mom to my son.
Before we had Grey, my feelings about having a baby were so different. I never would have quit trying. It just didn’t occur to me. And the results were so worth it. He is our life. But how far do I go now?
Now that we have a child, the whole dynamic, and every part of the decision making process and emotions tied to infertility have taken on a strange, new form. One that, until this last failed cycle, hadn’t really hit me. So it’s a tug of war between what’s right for my family, and what’s right for me. I’ve never been a gambler, and sometimes IVF feels like a high-stakes game. I’m leveraging my sanity, my body, and our family’s money on something that isn’t certain.
One thing I am certain about, though, is my little boy will have a good life. We will give him attention, love, adventures, stability, and anything else he needs. And he’ll be fine with whatever the outcome. But will I?
I think I’ll have a glass of wine and think about it.
Lindsay Euller Linsley lives in Amesbury, MA with her husband John and their 3-year old son, Grey. Lindsay, Director of Client Engagement for a tech company based out of Santa Monica, enjoys the occasional business trip, reading for pleasure, home renovation projects and sailing.