I grew up an only child, and while I didn’t really mind it as a kid–there were lots of cousins around to serve as almost-siblings–I also never planned to have an only child, myself. But having spent most of my formative years in a household of exactly two, my mom and me (my parents divorced when I was 3), I never planned on a big family, either. It sounded too chaotic, compared to what I was used to. But then I met the man who would become my husband, who had 3 younger siblings and told me, very early on, that he wanted 5 kids. I was only 19 when he announced this, and I thought he was insane. What on earth would we do with that many kids? We wouldn’t even have enough hands to hold onto them all! Eventually we compromised on 3.
Flash forward to 4 years into our marriage, when I was 26 and we decided to start trying for the family we had discussed for years. It never occurred to me that we would have trouble having a baby exactly when we planned. But we did. So much trouble. There was male factor for him, low ovarian reserve for me. He had surgery to correct his issue, which eventually helped that part of the equation, but there was nothing to be done about mine. We saw lots of fertility docs, tried IUIs and IVF which failed, 5 days after my 28th birthday. I wondered if we would ever be parents.
And we realized that that was what mattered most to us–being parents, not the biology of it. So we started the adoption process, and 3 months after we completed all the paperwork and jumping thru of hoops, our son was born. He joined our family through open adoption and we were overjoyed. My greatest fear–that I would never be a mom–was put to rest. Parts of my life that had darkened during 3 years of infertility turned brighter than I could ever have imagined. And now my attitude was “bring on the babies”–however many, however they came to us. After everything we’d been through, we wanted at least 4, maybe 6.
We never gave up on infertility treatments. Surgery for my newly diagnosed endometriosis, more IUIs, and finally the best shot at IVF we’d ever had, which gave us our daughter, two and a half years after our son. Another miracle, another fear laid to rest–the fear that I would never experience pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding. I knew that parenthood without those was beautiful, miraculous, and amazing anyway, but those were experiences that I’d always imagined I’d have, and I wanted them too. Not as desperately as I wanted to simply be a parent, but still, I was so glad to finally have this experience too.
We had 7 frozen embryos, and we also plan to adopt at least once more. So I figured our huge family was a lock. Last month, we started a cycle for our first frozen embryo transfer. Two didn’t survive the thaw, but we transferred 2, and I was so sure it had worked again. I had so many symptoms, just like last time. But just a few days ago, I learned it had failed. And I was devastated again. So much less so than last time, 5 years ago, before I had a single baby. Now I have an almost-4-year-old and an 18-month-old to fill my heart and my life. And yet, I mourn the potential babies I lost, and fear that the big family that we dream of will not come to pass. We have 3 embryos left and we will try again soon. But that will, in all likelihood, be the end of our treatments. I am so hopeful for next time, but so frightened, too.
With so many frozen, it never occurred to me that my pregnancy with my daughter might be my only one. It was hard on me, I won’t romanticize it–16 weeks of all-day sickness at the beginning, a month of pre-term labor requiring frequent hospital runs at the end–but I always just knew I’d be pregnant at least one more time. I loved nursing my baby for 14 months, but if I’d known that might be the only time I could nourish a baby that way, I feel like I would’ve approached that differently too (I don’t know how, since she weaned herself at that point, but still).
At the same time, my thoughts are turning eagerly to adoption once more. We had such a wonderful experience with our son’s adoption–we matched so quickly with his lovely birthfamily, and we still share a great relationship–and we’re excited to add to our family through adoption again. I worry that with 2 or hopefully more kids already, it might be hard to find someone who wants to match with us, but I’m sure there are expectant mothers out there who dream of a big happy family for their child.
I am so delighted by the two beautiful children we have, yet I feel so strongly that our family is not yet complete. There are people missing, and I want them here, already! Of course our family won’t be completed instantly, but I am so hoping to be moving toward that goal soon, instead of just in a holding pattern once again. Yes, it’s a much more joyful holding pattern now, filled with playgroups and snuggles and the seemingly endless but poignantly fleeting routine of feeding and clothing and changing and comforting and playing and bedtime. But it does hurt all over again that I can’t give my kids a younger sibling when we choose to, but only by beating the odds once again–and then one more time, too.