Spring is filled with the sights and sounds of new life, as flowers push through the newly thawed ground and animals step out to introduce their young to the world. It is a truly harmonious display of life cyclically resurrecting from the cold, darkness of winter. Ancients from vastly different regions were aligned in their symbolic attribution of winter as the dark end of life and Spring as the period for growth, rebirth, and resurrection. Humans of all creeds have historically celebrated fertility during this time as the Vernal Equinox harkened the beginning of a new year and the earth bloomed with new life. Even the modern celebration of Easter has heavily appropriated from these ancient celebrations with the symbolic use of bunnies and eggs in baskets of bright plastic grass. Indeed, April is a magical time of flowers, bunnies, lambs, and life.
Unless you are struggling with infertility, in which case, it is a distressing time of heartache and longing. For me in particular, April has been wrought with a complicated dichotomy of emotions. Throughout my adult life, it has been a month marked by alternating periods of turmoil and joy, hope and despair.
In April 2004, at 21 years old, I experienced my first indication that all was not right with my reproductive functions. After the lonely and stressful several weeks of an unplanned pregnancy, during my senior year in college, I miscarried to both my horror and relief. Still struggling to rebuild a previously demolished relationship with my mom, I had been unable to find the courage to share the pregnancy news with her in the first place. Therefore, I hid the miscarriage as I had the pregnancy. The self-imposed isolation was devastating, as my body worked excruciatingly to expel this unwelcome, unwanted invader from my womb. After the miscarriage, I self-medicated with alcohol and painkillers, leftover from an incursion of kidney stones the previous Fall.
Even now, with my beautiful, bright eyed, miracle boy, I’m tormented by the life that never was. Spring and Easter in particular became triggers for me, as the years passed and infertility became the dark cloud overtaking my very existence. I cursed the callousness of my youth, thinking of how resentful I had been during my first pregnancy, and how desperately I had wished the baby out. My self-loathing peaked during the early years of unsuccessful fertility treatments, but eventually I started to make peace with the fact that I may never be able to carry my own child.
In April 2012, following years of infertility treatment, we finally were able to conceive a child via IVF (In Vitro Fertilization). Despite a rosy start with 18 eggs retrieved, resulting in 12 embryos and the goal of a Day 5 Blastocyst transfer, the optimistic outlook would not last. Day 2 saw several of those embryos deteriorated, and by day 3 I was laying reluctantly in a lonely sterile room, crying through my seemingly pointless embryo transfer. The nurses clasped my hands in support as the two barely viable embryos, a poorly graded 5 cell and a poorly graded 7 cell, both with fragmentation, were transferred into my uterus.
By April 2013, my 3-month old son, my beautiful rainbow baby, had already stolen my heart. He brought me immeasurable joy, but still I was racked with guilt: guilt from the baby I had wished away during my first pregnancy, guilt over the gift of the rainbow baby I didn’t feel I deserved, guilt for the miracle I had been given, but didn’t appreciate enough, but most of all, guilt for the women left behind in my support groups and at our fertility clinic who had not been gifted their miracles yet and mourning for the ones that never would.
By April 2014, I was determined to find a way to pay it forward. I wanted to help shepherd a baby home for a couple at the end of their battle with infertility. A couple who, like we, had already begun to consider what a life without children might look like.
By April 2015, I was two months into my pregnancy as a gestational carrier and spending weekly visits with very anxious and nervous intended parents. I, however, was completely at peace. The joy and sense of purpose I felt was immeasurable. In October of that year, an easy and uneventful pregnancy gave way to a smooth birth. The joy and gratitude on their faces was palpable, as they held their baby girl for the first time. The noise and chaos of the room melted away and for a moment there was only glowing happy perfection as this new life brought them new life, as my son had for me.
And now it is 2017. Today, April 18, we met with our reproductive endocrinologist to discuss the possibility of attempting another round of fertility treatments (IVF again). A new job for my husband yielded an unexpectedly generous benefits package, including a phenomenal insurance plan subject to the NJ state fertility mandate. Having paid out of pocket for our prior treatments of medication, cycle tracking, IUI and IVF (with substantial financial support from family for the ultimately successful IVF), we never considered that a second child was really ever an option for us.
Now, I have a million feelings swirling around in my head, but guilt is no longer one of them. I have no regrets for the journey of life which has brought me to this point. I am cautiously optimistic. Who knows what the future holds for us? It may be another baby born IVF. It may be an adopted child, in need of a loving family. It may be no more children at all. I don’t know. What I do know is that I am ready for whatever is coming next April and all the Aprils to come.
Wishing you all PEACE, LOVE, & BABY DUST.