Six months ago, I was lying on a table with my feet in stirrups, while a fertility doctor checked out my uterus with her transvaginal ultrasound. As my husband looked on, she declared me unusually healthy, and fecund for my age. My uterine lining was thick and lush, and my ovaries were bubbling over with egg producing follicles. There was nothing keeping me from getting pregnant.
You know, other than my husband’s vasectomy.
The downside to abstinence only education, for me, was that once I got married and abstaining was no longer an issue, I had no idea how to work birth control. I thought if I took my little pill every day, I was fine. I had no idea I needed to take it at the same time every day, or that for some women–as my then-doctor put it–a low dosage pill just “primes the pump”. That’s how we ended up expecting a baby just before our first anniversary.
We were thrilled. We were excited. We were broke.
Since we were barely making ends meet, just the two of us, we were both rigid with fear about what the cost of adding Baby would mean. What it meant was $238 a week for daycare, plus the $80 a week for the special formula he needed to supplement my pathetic milk production, plus the diapers, and the wipes, and the onesies he kept growing out of like he was going to win a prize for it.
It meant I had to go back to work eight weeks early, and if I didn’t already have Post Partum Depression, that was enough to give me the plain, old regular kind. I was a wreck, and my husband was getting to deal with all my fallout. I couldn’t blame him for wanting to be sure our birth control wouldn’t fail again. I couldn’t blame him for wanting to be One and Done. Part of the time, I wanted the same thing.
Most of the time, I couldn’t believe how blessedly fortunate I had been to get even the one baby. And that baby was a magical unicorn of a child, whose laugh still makes stars dance in front of my eyes. The odds of us hitting the genetic jackpot we did with this kind, compassionate, intelligent, hilarious child have to be next to nothing because he is a once-in-a-lifetime thrill.
That said, I never stopped having the fantasy of many, many more babies. I hoped something would go wrong with my husband’s surgery, and we would end up with twins. I daydreamed about the little girl we would have. I wanted to name her Delta Marie Buckman, and nickname her Delta Bee. I was going to draw up graphics of a Greek delta with black and yellow stripes, wings, and a happy little face–a Delta Bee of her very own.
Maybe we’d have another boy? Henry, or Jack?
But my husband’s surgeons were good, and every month when my period came, I would cry. I would sit in the bathroom and cry for all the babies I would never get to have, and I would pull myself together and say a prayer of gratitude for the one I had. The one that so many women would love to experience.
Then, one day my period was late. A week later, it was still late. I went three weeks before I bought a pregnancy test, and lost my ever loving mind with joy when it came up positive. The next-to-impossible had happened! I was getting my baby!
My husband and I had just enough time to get used to the idea before the cramping started, and I miscarried the same weekend we’d found out. To tell the truth, I don’t think I’ve ever fully recovered from that. But life goes on, and I had a five-year-old bundle of energy to chase, and he deserved my fullness.
Off and on, we would talk about what it would take to add to our family. Could we afford it financially, emotionally, mentally? And ten years after we’d found out we were expecting our son, it came down to whether, or not we could afford it physically.
At the time of my examination, I was forty-four. My eggs are well past their expiry dates, and the risk for birth defect rises with every tick of the clock. As good as my insides looked, we didn’t want to take that risk. And in order to produce a genetic spare to our heir, the fertility doctor said we would need to make “heroic efforts” in getting to my husband’s exiled wigglers.
However, there was an option we were happy to explore. We could adopt embryos from a couple who had already gone through their own IVF cycles and had little frozen blastocysts left over. It sounded perfect. After a hormone cycle to trick my body into believing we had a baby on the way, a lucky, thawed out embryo would ride a catheter into my womb, like a giant water park slide.
Whee! What a way to get started in life, right?
Given the welcoming factors of my uterus, my overall health (as agreed upon by my GP and my OB/Gyn) this Third Party IVF was the way to go. It was like adoption, and like pregnancy, and also like getting a packet of Sea Monkeys–it was a baby starter kit. A DIY adoption. A pinterest project waiting to happen.
We signed up, and put our names on the wait list for our Frozen Chosen. Delta Bee, or Jack Frost. Or both, if you enjoyed the same daydreams I did.
But here’s the thing about babies and daydreams: Babies are real. Daydreams are not.
I have fantasized about my imaginary babies for years. I have cried for them. I have ached for them. I have suffered for lack of them. But the hard fact is, the cold reality is that the time for me to have those babies has passed.
When I considered the financial and emotional costs of the hormone therapy required to even try for a pregnancy through IVF, and what it would mean to my husband and son for me to go through rounds, and rounds of hope and statistically high disappointment, I started to feel guilty. They would be taking that ride with me, for better or worse–and the statistics all pointed to worse.
When I considered what the side effects of the hormones would do to me, I started to worry what would happen to my marriage, and how mood swings would affect my son. When I ran into a man who was forty-six years older than his twenty-one year old son, I started to fret over the prospect of Delta, or Jack having to haul me around as an angry, demented old woman.
My husband agreed that our cranky dementia was a real concern, though his greatest fear was that one or more of us would die before our baby-to-be was old enough to take care of herself, leaving our son to parent our folly.
The day we had that conversation, my period started. I went into the bathroom and I cried. I cried for my miscarried baby. I cried for my imaginary babies. I cried for my adopted frozen baby. I cried for the decision we were making. I cried for me. And, I let it go.
I said my little prayer of gratitude for our son.
Probably, for the rest of my life I will miss those children I never had. But, I will never regret having done what was right for the family we have.
And, as a consolation prize, I know I have a really good looking uterus.
Lane Buckman is a writer and artist, and the co-owner of Robyn Lane Books. She is living out her happily ever after in a house filled with sweat socks, Legos, and more loads of laundry than three people should be able to make. When she isn’t writing, publishing, promoting, prepping art, or blogging for The Outside Lane, she uses her degrees in English Literature and Religion in her day job as a banker.
We want to hear your uplifting, inspiring, funny, or touching story about your experience as a mother. Please visit our Storytellers page for more information on how to be published on the Good Mother Project blog.