She did get pregnant while she was in the process of adopting. But that is because she was still having sex without birth control. Because who in their right mind wastes money on birth control when you have already determined that you can't get pregnant after multiple attempts at IVF? And the reality is that every once in a while, even women who produce eggs of poor-quality, let a perfect egg rip from their ovaries. And if you're literally having sex around ovulation every single month, your body will take advantage of this single perfect egg and you'll catch the brass ring. It's as simple as statistics. It's as simple as a blind pig finding an acorn, or however that saying goes. It can sometimes happen if you give yourself enough tries. You may be waiting 10 years, but it can happen.
The pregnancy was bittersweet because in gaining this new child, she was losing the child she was meant to adopt (the adoption was postponed and they will adopt in the future). It reminded me of a student I had whose mother gave birth to twins, losing one the day before what should have been a double bris. The girl wrote an essay about burying one baby and then coming back to the house for shiva and the bris of the other twin. It was the happiest and saddest day for that family.
This child came after a long road of infertility, one that Mary-Kath rode as if she were stuck on a Disney ride rather than taking a stroll with her own two legs. You know that Disney ride that I'm talking about--the one that you know rationally you could get off of if you had a panic attack (think Haunted Mansion rather than Space Mountain), but feel at the same time as if you're committed to seeing the ride to its end. Even though you know you can get off, you're not exactly sure how one goes about stopping the ride and walking off without feeling a plethora of emotions. So you just keep sitting in that black buggy, watching the ghosts shake the doors.
Mary-Kath calls it infertility with blinders--that mindset you can enter where you are just making decisions because it's easier to keep going than to take the reins and slow down the ride. Like me, she never took a break. Cycle after cycle, she would get to the end and start over with the only thought being, "maybe this time it will work." Every time the RE dangled a new possibility in front of her, she grabbed it. Because why not try everything--even if it doesn't point towards a solution to your problem? If you throw enough things at infertility, something is bound to work.
She was accepted into the shared-risk program for IVF because she seemed like a sure thing. She was only in her twenties and she looked fine, hormone-wise. But attempt after attempt ended in failure without explanation. She tried PGD (even though they hadn't had documented proof that PGD would help them with their problem)--and they called a PGD specialist who came out from the west coast twice a year to work with their "hard to impregnate" cases. Even though she was in the shared risk program, she spent a fortune.
It wasn't until they were looking at the literature and considering donor egg that she looked at her husband and said, "what are we doing?" While she wanted the experience of pregnancy, she wasn't tied to the idea that the child be biological. And since she had already determined that treatments were an uphill battle rather than a sure thing (it wasn't a problem, per se, with her eggs--it was an unidentified problem), it made more sense financially to go with adoption that had a real child at its end rather than donor egg, which may or may not work.
And of course, as the myth goes, she was deep in the adoption process and looking forward to her future child. And she discovered she was pregnant.
It's not that she regrets the fact that she tried treatments--she just wasn't happy with the way she did them. She made her decisions with blinders on--never seeing the bigger picture (would she be happier on a different path to parenthood? Would she rather try another straightforward IVF cycle rather than paying for PGD?). She contrasted that with her friend who paused between every cycle. Her friend would sit with the results and contemplate them. And she would go to her priest (she was Catholic) and discuss her feelings and discuss the decisions she had to make. Between every failed cycle, there was a pause. She used the time to reflect and gather her thoughts and move forward. She didn't come to parenthood any easier than Mary-Kath. But she came to it less stressed-out, frazzled, emotionally spent.
Treatments are hard. It's emotionally hard and it's physically hard. And it's financially as hard as hell. And when I say "emotionally hard" I mean that it's hard on so many different levels: the loss of your vision of conception, the failed cycles, the waiting, the talking yourself into injections. And it makes sense to take those pauses and recharge and discuss and make decisions with your head rather than your heart.
I just don't know how to do it.
I definitely felt the tick of time--even if I was in my twenties when I began. If I wasn't getting pregnant in my twenties, why should I believe that my fertility would get better in my thirties? I rationalized that my chances would be even lower the more I aged. Plus there was the fact that we wanted more than one child. So I started doing the math. If I had my first at 30, then we'd need to start treatments immediately so I could have my second around 32. And then we'd have to begin immediately again so I could have my third by 35. And I wasn't prepared to breathe or slow down until all three babies had popped out of my womb.
I never sat out a cycle unless my RE made me sit out a cycle or I was anovulatory for a month. And when we were sitting on the sidelines, I wasn't discussing decisions or regrouping. I was taking time for myself or recharging. I was half-standing, half-sitting, posed to race into the game at the first signal.
I'm not very good with sitting still in general.
It's such an interesting idea--the benefit of the pause. I'm not sure if this is a Catholic thing or just Mary-Kath's friend's thing. Is there anyone else out there who self-enforces a pause? And how do you use the time? How do you make yourself recharge and regroup? Or--if you don't pause like Mary-Kath and myself, what do you think of this idea and do you think you could ever put it into effect?
When Mary-Kath was telling me this story, the only thing I could think of was the beginning of that Simon and Garfunkel song, "Hazy Shade of Winter": Time, time, time / see what's become of me / while I looked around / for my possibilities. And later: Hang on to your hopes, my friend / That's an easy thing to say / but if your hopes should pass away / Simply pretend / That you can build them again.
It's a song cautioning about waiting. About not seizing the day, or the cycle. But what about when seizing the cycle leads you to make decisions wildly rather than sensibly? Especially when those decisions concern your health and your wallet? We have such a now, now, now mentality. It's drilled into us at an early age. Don't stand on the sidelines; get into the game. But is this the best way to approach treatments? I really don't know.