Pregnancy does not cure infertility.
I know I made this statement in my last post, but it's been weighing on my mind so much lately, I need to say it again.
Now that I'm pregnant, people are starting to treat me like any, normal, "fertile" pregnant woman. Most would think, this is what I want - to feel normal. I don't blame them, I can see why people would think this. They might think - she's finally pregnant and past all the grieving and hard stuff, so this is the time to shower her with excitement and baby talk.
But, I'm so fucking not.
I'm an infertile 38 year old pregnant woman carrying a child produced by a 26 year old's eggs in a petri dish.
Nope, not normal.
People are constantly asking me "how are you feeling, Victoria?" - a totally sincere question to ask a pregnant woman.
But, I struggle with it. Just like I struggle with putting on skinny jeans these days. Thank you progesterone for your many, many gifts. #bloatedandbruisedAF
I typically answer, "I'm feeling fine, just a little tired". Which is true. I do feel fine. Just FINE. I don't FEEL pregnant. I don't FEEL any different. My body has been tricked into thinking it's been pregnant for much longer than it actually has been, due to all the hormones being injected into my body. I've gotten used to daily hot flashes, hunger pains, bloating, and cramping. These hormones are my "normal". They have been for a long time.
I wake up every morning and the first thing I do is check my stomach to see if it has grown at all. I've been secretly pretending that my progesterone bloat is actually the baby. I know I won't be showing for several weeks/months, but for some reason I still check. I need a sign that there really is a baby in there. Are we sure I'm actually pregnant? I don't feel sick or nauseous. I'm not overly emotional. My boobs feel fine. And I'm definitely not glowing.
I was told there would be glowing, damn it!! I was told my boobs would be on fire! I was told I would puke! Ahhh, the things I would do to just throw up in my mouth a little bit!
A friend recently said to me "I learned in nursing school that the more sick you get during pregnancy, the more connected you are with the baby."
Well, fuck me. I guess I will be a complete stranger to my baby at this rate.
I didn't get to have a dramatic scenario where the pregnant woman runs to the bathroom to vomit and then looks in the mirror, with tears in her eyes, and thinks to herself - OMG, could I be pregnant? Could it be?
I didn't get to have an emotional outburst to a friend for no reason where the friend grabs you and says - OMG, you are pregnant!
I didn't get to sneak up on my husband and surprise him with the big news!
I missed out on all this. I had a scheduled blood test 10 days after my IVF donor egg embryo transfer.
This is my normal.
I'm also getting a lot of questions about gender - "when are you going to find out the gender?" or "'what do you want it to be?". Again, very typical questions.
But, y'all know, I don't give two fucks about gender.
My unborn child's penis or a vagina is the last thing from my mind.
I'm not counting the days to find out the gender of my baby, in fact, all 3 of my embryos already have designated genders, this was done through genetic testing long ago. We know that they are mixed - either 2 girls and 1 boy, or 2 boys and 1 girl. Most women would kill to know this information and be able to choose which one they use. Nope, not me. Not important.
The Chinese calendar of predicting gender wouldn't work for me either - which is calculated on two factors - the age of the mother at conception and the month of the baby's conception. Who's age would I use? Her's or mine? Which month would we use as conception? The day the embryo was conceived in the petri dish or the day it was implanted? Meh. Forget it.
With fertility reproduction, we forego the fun of all of that jazz. We had the lab choose the embryo that was the best, most quality embryo. We are choosing not to find out the gender until the birth of the baby. This is the one surprise we get to reserve for ourselves. We earned it damn it!
Most pregnant women wonder and visualize what their child will look like. They wonder - will she have my eyes? Or, my smile? I don't get to wonder about those things either. Sure, I wonder what he/she will look like, but I don't get to wonder if he will have my smile, or my eyes. More like - will she have my donor's eyes or my husbands?
What will I get to pass down?
Lately I've been finding myself looking at photos of my egg donor more and more - studying her every trait. Studying the photos of her children. I'm looking at her differently now. I'm officially carrying a baby with her eggs. Before, it was just an idea. A desire. Now, it's real. This beautiful, young woman's eggs are now a part of me.
And always will be.
What is she like? Would we be friends? Will I ever get to meet her one day? What will my child think of her? Will my children look like her children? So many things on my mind.
I've wondered for years - will I ever get pregnant? And now that I'm finally pregnant, I'm wondering - will this pregnancy actually last?
THESE are the things I think about. This is my normal.
I didn't conceive the "normal" way in a bedroom or by some hot make-out sesh in the kitchen.
The only love connection in our kitchen that led to this baby are the daily hormone injections my husband gives me.
And, let me tell you, that is TRUE LOVE!
Our baby was conceived in a cold, dark lab, where a man I've never met acquainted my husband's sperm with another woman's eggs. Once the embryo was officially fertilized, another man, my doctor, inserted a cathedra into my uterus to implant the embryo while my husband held my hand.
I am not a normal pregnant woman.
Our pregnancy "announcement" was a real-life reaction of us crying the day we took our pregnancy test, not some clever, Pinterest worthy stunt after hiding it for 12 weeks for the big social media reveal. I would have loved to be able to come up with some clever announcement, but that's just not us now.
I've avoided baby showers too many times to count, and have been already plotting how I could possibly avoid my own.
I will NOT be having a gender reveal party.
I am not a normal pregnant woman.
This leads me to my next confession...
Pregnancy announcements are still really, really painful.
Please remember this one, it's an important one.
Just because I'm pregnant doesn't mean my infertility just went away. It doesn't mean the pain and suffering is gone. I have a friend who struggled with infertility who has teenagers now (via IVF), and even to her, pregnancy announcements still hurt. If you have a friend or family member who has struggled, but is now finally pregnant, or a mother, she still needs the same kind of compassion that she always did. Please don't forget her struggle, she certainly hasn't.
Let me explain.
When you have struggled for years and years, cashed out your life savings, re-financed your house multiple times, put your body through physical and emotional pain and you FINALLY get your positive, it's only one step to another very long road. You constantly think about all those years your body failed you and how hard it was just to get here - a positive result. The idea of the actual baby is still so far away, and still so risky. You remind yourself every day to be excited, live in the moment, not to stress out, etc. You've waited so long for this, you've sacrificed so much for this, you have fought so hard for this. You deserve to be happy!
You finally do that. You find a way to be happy. You are finally living in the moment. You find your sunshine on a cloudy day.
You are blind sighted by an elaborate pregnancy announcement on Facebook from a friend who knew how hard you struggled and didn't think to call you first. And you are brought right back to infertility - square one. You completely forget that you are even pregnant. You are the same sad, hurt infertile girl you have been for years. All that sunshine was just clouded away, in an instant. You are reminded that this disease is still very much there. It's official - you now know that your pregnancy did NOT cure your disease. And if pregnancy can't cure it, nothing can.
There is a reason that infertility is often associated with trauma or PTSD.
Think about that for a second. Pregnancy announcements trigger a series of physical and emotional reactions that cause us to re-experience our "trauma" and cause post traumatic stress.
Yup, Infertility PTSD. It's a thing.
So, why doesn't everyone know this?
Well, because it's not for them to know. Right? As my good friend said to me the other day - "this is your journey, and it's different from everyone else's". She is right. We have to constantly navigate this stuff and figure it out as we go. This is my journey, and it's different than most. No one truly understands what this feels like until they have gone through it themselves, which is why we have to do our best to share and educate.
Infertility is my normal, not everyone else's.
I remind my friends constantly what I need from them and why I feel the way that I do. It's the only way people can try to understand this disease. How else will they know? Don't be afraid to share your true, raw feelings, it's important. If they can't be compassionate, then maybe you don't need them in your life right now. It's crucial that you find ways to protect your heart, and your partner's.
Lean on your like minded infertile friends for support and validation. They get it. I get it. We aren't "normal" pregnant women, we are extraordinary. We get to tell our children how much they were wanted, and how hard we fought for them. We know what a privilege it is to be able to raise a child.
I will never take this gift for granted.
This pregnancy means the world to me, my gratitude is truly immeasurable. I will always think about the fact that while one person is celebrating, another person is grieving and approach all of my celebrations with this thought in mind. This is a valuable life lesson that I get to teach my child about empathy and compassion.
So no, I am not a normal pregnant woman, I am fucking extraordinary.