My partner and I decided we wanted to have a family a long time ago. By the time we made the decision to get started, we had already been together for over ten years. I think after you have been together with someone for at least ten years, some of the basic questions of life are pretty much settled. You know each other’s rhythms, moods and energy and, thankfully, we knew we had a pretty strong foundation to the house we built – our relationship. We figured we really needed to start a family because we had way too much love to give. After a while it became hard to walk by a baby, any baby, and not feel our ovaries quiver with longing!
Like many other people, we had several twists and turns. My partner was evaluated initially but ultimately did not try to get pregnant because uterine fibroids would have prevented her from carrying a pregnancy to full term. After several months of agonizing the loss of biological motherhood as a possibility, she had an elective hysterectomy because the fibroids were causing excessive bleeding and anemia.
At that time, I was seven years her younger; I was in my early thirties and definitely NOT ready to carry a child. We were admonished by our doctor who basically told us we were past our prime and that the best age biologically to carry a child was 22! My lord, I thought—that’s babies having babies! At 22 I was out partying, certainly not thinking of having babies.
It wasn’t until my mid-thirties that I decided to start the process. I could no longer deny this longing inside of me. I suppressed it thinking that I didn’t deserve such a thing; having come from a very devout and (disapproving) Muslim background- my family had not accepted or acknowledged my sexual identity or my relationship with my partner even though I had come out to them 14 years earlier. Finally something broke inside me, and I realized I deserved happiness. I figured it was Divine Intervention that had allowed me to meet my partner of 14 years so why not? Maybe the universe would allow us a family of our own.
Riding the ‘fertility roller coaster,’ as we called it, was one of the hardest things we have ever done in our relationship.
We spent about three years trying before we actually got pregnant—we had natural cycles, clomid cycles, medicated IUI cycles and finally IVF cycles before we got pregnant. We went through 11 rounds altogether and 4 IVF cycles before success.
Like many others, we took much joy and imbued such hope out of the little successes within each cycle: the number of follicles grown, the grade of the eggs, the number of embryos fertilized… The list goes on and on. And with each failed cycle, our hope and disappointment would come crashing down on us. Not getting pregnant at the end of a cycle, or nearly getting pregnant (a chemical pregnancy) or getting pregnant then losing it very early — so many variations, so many ways to feel disappointed! The pain of losing something we never had to begin with was an entirely new and unique feeling while riding the fertility roller coaster. Yet, after each cycle, we would nurse our loss, lick our wounds, muster up hope and gather up the strength to try again.
I came across this quote by Alice Domar that helped me frame my grief after each failed cycle. My heart was so invested in success every time and my mind couldn’t process the failure after I had worked so hard.
“How do we accept that our intentionality, wholeheartedness and hard work matter even when they can’t be counted on to bring our dreams to fruition? ”
—Alice Domar in “Self-nurture: learning to care for yourself as effectively as you care for everyone else”
I think this quote by Ms. Domar helped me understand what HOPE on the fertility roller coaster truly meant. It was no guarantee, no definite reality, but a possibility — and, in that possibility of imagining a family of my own, I learned it was ok to try again, and again, and again!
With our fourth IVF cycle, we became pregnant with boy/girl twins. It truly was a Divine journey for us. So many ups and downs, and ultimately — two healthy babies. Today, they are nearly 15 months old and sometimes we still look at them and marvel that they are here with us. We hold them tight and thank them for choosing us as their parents.