I grew up firmly believing that I’d be a mom one day. Parenthood had always figured into my plans and life goals, but I thought I was being sensible by getting my degree, starting my career, getting married, travelling, buying a place, and becoming financially secure first. Accomplishing all that meant I was 33 when I started trying to conceive, but surely it would happen right away, wouldn’t it? My life up till that point was focused on not getting pregnant before it was the “right time,” after all.
Little did I know that fertility declines after 30 and keeps on declining at an alarming rate. After six months of trying (funny to think back on how long that seemed then), my then-husband and I asked to be referred to a fertility specialist. I was informed that it was unusual to see a specialist before trying for a year, but I wanted to be sure everything was working properly. After an ultrasound and a hysteroscopy, the specialist found a big ol’ fibroid at the top my uterus. Some women get pregnant even with fibroids, but mine was sticking into the uterine wall, which was more of a problem.
That fibroid removal surgery was the first of four. Every year I’d get the all-clear to start trying again, but after no results, I’d go back to the specialist to be told that the fibroid had grown back. In the meantime, I tried anything and everything, from ovulation kits and acupuncture to expensive herbal teas and special diets—you name it, I probably tried it. Four years of this physical and emotional roller coaster led the specialist to recommend IVF following the third surgery. But right before my first appointment at the IVF clinic, my marriage fell apart. My partner wanted off the ride. Not only was I facing the devastation and sense of failure from my infertility, but it was also compounded by our separation and the fact that I had to say goodbye to my chance at IVF (which, at the time, I thought was a sure-fire infertility cure as long as you had the money to pay for it).
Following my divorce at age 37, I was single for a period of four years during which my focus was no longer solely on having a baby, though my clock was definitely ticking! When I met my fiancé three years ago, though, we both saw a future that might include a child of our own. Back to the specialist, I went, and sure enough, my fibroid was back and bigger than ever. Since I was 43, my IVF clinic recommended starting IVF and freezing the embryos as soon as possible because my surgery date was about a year away.
Before my surgery, I received some more bad news. While doing a hysteroscopy, the surgeon had discovered adenomyosis, which is when the lining of the uterus becomes trapped in the uterine muscle wall. Some women develop it from tears during childbirth, but it can also result from uterine surgeries. Adenomyosis can cause extremely painful ovulation and periods, as I know only too well, and can affect fertility. The surgeon hoped to remove it while removing my fibroid, but once he opened me up he discovered it was diffuse—it was in multiple locations and impossible to remove. He told me that women with adenomyosis can sometimes still get pregnant but often have trouble carrying to term. Nevertheless, I still had hope because my fibroid was successfully removed and I had two perfect embryos just waiting for their chance to be born.
Finally, at age 44, it was time to get my little embryos implanted. I actually enjoyed my two-week wait. I talked and sang to my babies every day. I had all sorts of pregnancy symptoms and was sure it was finally my time to become a mother. But, alas, it was not to be. I got the call that told me I wasn’t pregnant, and my world came crashing down once again. We had to make the tough decision not to do another round of IVF because at my age and at such a high cost, it was time to let go of the dream.
Infertility is such a long, hard road, but it’s been a year since I decided to move on with my life and I’m actually doing fine. I’ll always wonder what my life would’ve been like with my own children, but I have a great life. I’ve made some wonderful friends who are also childless not by choice, and together with my lifelong friends and family, amazing partner, fulfilling career, and exciting future plans, I’m happy. Life definitely doesn’t always turn out as we plan, but we can always create a beautiful plan B.