‘Were my jeans too tight? Should I have NEVER used tampons? We were not in control.’: LGBTQ mom shares journey to motherhood, urges ’embrace the suck and keep perspective’

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“This post… this post is for the future parents, the maybe parents, and the hopeful parents. This part right here is talking to the parents working on first children, or more children, and God bless you, on multiple children. This post is to give volume to the voice of frustration, the voice of patience, the voice of sadness and defeat these parents I’m referring to keep muted for fear of judgment and lack of understanding. This post will talk about our voices, both Steph’s and my own, that were given life during our own challenges at forming our family.

I can remember sitting in the doctor’s office for our informational visit as we started the process. The doctor encouraged us to sign up for counseling before starting actually trying to get pregnant. ‘The audacity she has,’ I thought. We didn’t need counseling. The only thing working against us was the anatomy required to make it happen, so we needed to turn to science. Pretty black and white if you asked us. I also remember Steph squeezing my hand with matched confidence as she clarified we would not be seeking professional help during this process and would gladly sign the waiver that marked it as an unnecessary requirement. My loves, I smile as I remember how confident we were. I smile because we were doe-eyed, innocent bunnies thinking for us it would be different. We had close friends who invested years and savings and nearly broke their bank and emotional backs to start their family, who had encouraged us to stay aware and realistic throughout the process. Steph and I had smiled and graciously thanked them for their advice, but had secretly believed it would be easier for us. We figured it might take one or two IUIs, maybe three if we couldn’t get the timing right.

Oh, such innocent bunnies. Y’all, it took ELEVEN IUIs over three years, and eventually one round of fully self-funded IVF. We invested over $60,000 when all was said and done for the twins. If you had asked us at the first doctor’s appointment to take an educated guess as to how much we thought we’d spend, we would have told you less than $10,000, because by no means would we ever think we’d be able to spend what we did. And we would have cockily told you we’d be pregnant within the year, planning the arrival of our bundle(s) of joy that spring. Life, as we have learned, does not work this way. But if you are like us, you’ve either tackled this challenge, are currently fighting an uphill battle, or are an innocent bunny yourself looking for a healthy dose of the potential reality you may face. Regardless of your age and stage in working to create your family, the authentic challenge faced by couples who don’t sneeze and get pregnant brings emotion and exhaustion unlike any other.

By our fourth or fifth IUI, the process began to take a toll on us. Mistake #1: We had told any and everyone when we started trying to get pregnant. I mean EVERYONE. Why we thought this was smart, I still do not know. Maybe it’s the excitement, maybe it’s the possibility, maybe it’s the never-ending need to be a part of something bigger? Either way, this compounded the level of disappointment we felt after each failed attempt. It went from something we could have dealt with together, intimately and quietly, to something we had to deal with in public, with everyone—and all at once, I should add. It’s not like you could have a party to announce each time that it didn’t work. Typically people paid attention to timing, so the day I’d get my period, or at least the 48-hour window, would be filled with texts/emails/calls inquiring about the results. Each time I had to relive our disappointment while disappointing my friends and family. Talk about exhausting! By the third try, we learned how to tell people we’d let them know when something good happened, but to not ask.

Then, as we approached the attempts where even drugs weren’t helping, and despite our partnership in managing the daily shots and injections, we started to face frustration. For me, I felt like a failure. What was wrong with me? Why wasn’t it working? Was I too stressed? Did I not leave my legs in the air long enough after the procedure? Had my stint at smoking 7 years prior affected my ability to conceive now? Were the jeans I was wearing that day too tight? Should I have never used tampons? Ridiculous, yes, but these were the things I continued to question, inevitably ending with: Would I ever get pregnant? For Steph, she felt even less in control. The questions she started asking herself were around if she had picked the right donor, as I let her control that part of the process. She would start to wonder if we were actually ready for kids, and if this was the right path to take for our relationship. She started to feel resentful and feared my attention on a child (or children in our case) would take away from my attention to her—something she started to wonder if she was actually okay with. Feeling helpless and her lack of participation began to consume her to a point where mean things would be said, and the readiness to quit became frequent.

Remember the suggestion for counseling the doctor mentioned? Around this point would have been an intelligent pivot for us, yet we continued to move forward—depleting our savings, increasing the drugs, changing the donors, and researching any complimentary tactics we could try in the hopes something—anything—would get us pregnant. After six tries, we realized maybe I should switch jobs, because Massachusetts insurance would cover IVF at that point, where New Hampshire insurance did not, but the right job didn’t come to fruition, so we just kept moving forward. Mind you, any others seemed to have no trouble conceiving. Perhaps, before I start my bitter soap-box monologue, we should pause and discuss just how hard it is to get pregnant. Loves, it is REALLY hard to get pregnant. Even when all the biological stars align, you literally have less than 72 hours a month when making a baby is even possible. And then once the insemination happens, you have another 48 hours for it to take and form.

This small window is what makes it so incredibly frustrating when someone you know seems to sneeze and get pregnant. Or worse, come to you complaining they didn’t mean to get pregnant—’It just happened.’ Jumping on the soapbox, the following killed me as we worked through our seventh, eighth, and ninth IUI. My younger cousin, who was dating a lovely woman who already had three children ages 6+, who had gotten pregnant around the time we had first started, announced she was pregnant—AGAIN. No lie. I mean, genuinely, we were happy for them (because he is one of my favorites and she is awesome), but are you KIDDING ME? Here she was, in her forties, welcoming her FIFTH child into the world, where I was healthy and in my early thirties without any identified challenges to having a baby, and she had two pregnancies in the time we invested trying to have our first.

The literal icing on the cake came when two of our very best friends came over for a typical birthday celebration. As my friend  blew out her candles she said, ‘I wish to tell you—we’re pregnant!’ Thank the lord the lights were off while we were singing, so no one could see the tears streaming down my cheeks. Her pregnancy, despite our exhilaration for them, was the hardest to swallow. As part of our daily lives, we were there for every moment she experienced being pregnant for the first time. While her first trimester gave her such nausea it felt like it was all she talked about, I found myself either excusing myself from conversations or not picking up the phone, for fear I would eventually yell at her and say, ‘Don’t you know how badly I want to be throwing up!’  You see, the thing is, when you are in it, it’s really hard to have perspective. It’s truly tremendously hard to tell yourself you don’t want just any pregnancy. It’s nearly impossible to tell yourself ‘everything happens for a reason‘ and the universe will bring you ‘your baby.’

But y’all, after our eleventh IUI, Steph and I couldn’t even muster the ‘fake-it-till-you-make-it’ mentality. We were spent—emotionally, physically, and financially. We saw the three-year journey as a complete waste. We looked at the division that had begun to take place between us, bitterly and resentfully as we started on the journey expecting it would bring us closer together, not further apart. We looked at the savings we depleted as the romantic trips to isolated beaches where fruity drinks are enjoyed with umbrella straws we never took, or the basement that was unfinished, or the kitchen remodel that could never happen. We looked at the toll on our faith and belief we could be parents three years took, and genuinely thought about giving up. But then, something happened. As I mentioned, one option we had begun to consider was my career moving back to Massachusetts to take advantage of better health insurance options. In this search, a friend who owned an eLearning firm proposed I consider working for her. This, my loves, was a moment of divine intervention.

Although the job did not offer better health insurance, and Steph and I would still have to consider continuing to pay out of pocket, it did offer the ability to work from home, a far less stressful environment, and a signing bonus. That said signing bonus, combined with the vacation payout from the job I was leaving, was just enough to cover a round of IVF. Call it divine intervention, call it a silver lining, call it whatever you want. This, for us, was the turning moment in time where our family formation became possible. I must take a moment to clearly state this is not my endorsement IVF is the only way to go or the best solution to forming your family. This was merely the journey our family took in the process that ended in the inevitable. What I will say is the endurance, patience, discovery, and strength we gained in our three-year journey to get to this place was merely the groundwork of what we would need to actually begin surviving for us on this parenting journey.

You see, as I mentioned, Steph and I were innocent bunnies, thinking the journey to parenthood would be easy. We assumed because we were madly in love, had done everything right with dating for three years, a two-year engagement, and a big wedding celebration followed by a year of enjoying the honeymoon phase, we deserved to be parents. How entitled is this sentiment? The concept of deserving to be parents is a privilege too many people take for granted, and one we thought we would be able to as well. What we didn’t realize at the start of the journey was we simply weren’t ready. Let me repeat. We. Weren’t. Ready. Did we think we were? Sure! Did we think, ‘This will be easy’? You know it! Again, did we think we deserved to be parents? Heck yes, sister friend. But as just about any parent will tell you, as you naively answer those questions with confidence like we did—you can never be ready for parenthood.

Plain and simple, it will never be easy. And whether or not anyone deserves to be a parent, in whatever way that has meaning to you, it’s never this straightforward or uncomplicated—because life is just not fair. And despite what greater being you answer to, if you are spiritual, or if you believe you control your own fate—we all learn things about living as humans in this life that aren’t easy to comprehend or make sense of. More often than not, elements like time and space are the only paths to answers we find, and never when we need them the most. This leads me to to the advice I give every friend who has come to me asking for advice on how to get through the awfulness it is to live through failed attempts to form a family: Embrace the Suck and Keep Perspective.

Despite that we were completely unable to do this during our parenthood journey, this is the main piece of advice I give to any and every hopeful parent I talk to, especially those going through the IUI and IVF process. Although I have not had the pleasure of adopting a child, and cannot speak to the nuances of that experience, I have spoken to many parents who have and they have conceded the advice still holds weight in any journey to parenthood. Let me break this advice into the two important factors of focus: embrace the suck, and then keep perspective.

Step One: Embrace the Suck

I’m not sure why we felt the need to keep it all together during three of the most challenging, upsetting, difficult, and awful years of our relationship. Maybe it was pride? Maybe it was embarrassment? Maybe it was fear of actually failing? But instead of buckling down together, relying on each other for comfort, and looking to each other for understanding as we navigated through it, we let the suck define us, and spread like poison to so many areas of our life it should never have touched. We lost happy times together where we could have been learning more about each other, investing our energy in being better partners, and preparing to better support each other as parents.

My advice to those tackling this battle currently is the same as to anyone who’s recently lost a loved one or suffered a serious financial blow like being laid off, and this is to ’embrace the suck.’ Let it hurt. Feel it. Pity party if you need to. Do whatever you need to in order to understand why you are feeling the way you are feeling, get it out, and then take on step two: Keep perspective. My favorite example of this is to pull a Meredith Grey, open up a bottle of tequila, turn up the volume, and dance it out. (Grey’s Anatomy reference, in case you have no idea what I’m referring to.) Pick a vice, be realistic about getting endorphins up, and work through it.

If you want to eat a pint of Chunky Monkey, find a big *ss spoon and dig in. If you want to drown yourself in cheesy goodness, order an extra-large pizza topped with whatever extras make sense to you at the time, and don’t pass go until you are ready to pass out from carb overload. If you want to run it out, literally running away from the problems you are facing, find a kick-ass playlist, and use this motivation to get your burn on. Regardless of what you want to do, own it. EMBRACE the suck, and pick something that will make you feel better at the moment. Because tomorrow, my love—tomorrow you need to get out of your own way and find some perspective.

Step Two: Keep Perspective

Put the tiny violin back in its case. Chuck the empty cardboard pizza box in the recycles, trash the licked-clean pint container, put the remaining lime back in the fridge, and hide the rest of the tequila (Lord hope there’s still some left, because too much tequila is really never good for anyone), put your big-kid pants on, and focus. Perspective is going to be the only thing that will get you to a better place and if you gave yourself permission to embrace that suck, as hard as you were willing you, you better hold yourself accountable to figure out this important next step, for you will be better for it.

Let’s look at perspective like a what-if game—dramatically enhanced for effect, of course. If the universe sat you down and said, ‘We can do this for you—make it so this next IUI is the one that takes, but what if the following happens? What if that pregnancy turns into a fine pregnancy, but after the baby is born in the winter, you’ll suffer from such significant postpartum depression, you’ll never bond with the baby, and end up deciding you aren’t strong enough to have a second child two years later? Then the baby grows up as a single human versus one with a best friend of a sibling because you hadn’t gone through what the universe knew you needed to survive in order to be the parent you needed for your multiple children. Or, what if the pregnancy ends badly before it’s able to come to fruition because the embryo is actually not strong enough to survive the pregnancy?’ What would you say?

Now, what if the universe told you your perfect baby, the one you’ve envisioned as part of your life for decades, will come to fruition, but you had to be patient. That the reason why your son or daughter had to wait to be born on said date in the undecided future was that on their fourth birthday they were going to meet a friend who would be their best friend for life, someone instrumental to the incredible human being they were going to become. Or the reason why your child couldn’t be born this year was because by the time they reached their 20s, they needed to have been preparing to graduate college while interviewing that May for their dream job at a firm where an alumnus from their alma mater works, who will be crucial in ensuring their hire, that will shape the rest of their future from that day forward.

Or, even, if your child wasn’t conceived on the exact day they were supposed to be, inevitably born on the day some nine months from that conception date, they would miss the opportunity to meet the love of their life who would love them as no one else could, and be the partner they choose to spend their days with, growing and family and making a home together. What if the universe said to you they could provide a tiny human to you who would surpass all dreams possible, but you had to trust them, as they had a plan for everything. What kind of perspective could this bring to the incredible suck the trying and waiting and hurt the process of creating a family would bring you?

Like I said: Embrace the suck and keep perspective. As always, thank you for being here, for following in our journey, and for supporting my dream to be a writer. To anyone who reads this, if it resonates with you, please feel free to comment and share to show others they are not alone. And if you are going through this currently, I hope you know you have every right to feel whatever you need to as you work to create your family. Whatever it takes.”

Married wives holding hands, one pregnant and wearing a black dress and the other in jeans and a white shirt
Courtesy of Christina Young

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Christina Young. You can follow their journey on Instagram and their website. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

Read more from Christina:

‘I worry what other people think when they see it.’: Mom says ‘from our messy home to yours, you are ENOUGH’

‘Autism WON today.’: Mom of autistic children details highs and lows, ‘We return to the fight stronger each time’

‘Hey, FAMILY. We’re your people. You’re safe here.’: LGBTQ mom shares moment of ‘community’ on playground, ‘It gave me comfort I wasn’t alone’

‘There will be days you will hit rock bottom.’ I wish they asked about our support system. But I wish they would’ve finished with, ‘It WILL be okay.’: Mom to sons with autism says, ‘It’s challenging, but beautiful’

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