Being a mother after struggling through an infertility journey is full of so much emotion. So much joy and gratitude, certainly. Amazement, absolutely. Wonder. And yet... so many of us still struggle with difficult feelings after going through what we went through to get here.
Do I deserve this? Will it last? Is something horrible going to happen to my baby? We're so used to a cycle of heartbreak that sometimes it's hard not to find ourselves gripped with anxiety, certain that our world is going to collapse at any moment and our longed-for child is going to be taken from us.
These feelings start in the very beginning of pregnancy, a time that should be full of excitement and joy. For the 12 weeks that followed those two pink lines, I literally counted the hours. Every morning that I woke up and realized I was still pregnant, I felt a wave of relief so strong it often brought me to tears. As the day went on, I would fight away the anxious feeling that I might miscarry at any moment. I was afraid to exercise, drink a latte, play with my dogs, go to work, have sex...I felt like I was holding my breath and if I just stayed still and quiet, everything might be okay. Stay put, little one. Just hold on. We can do this. I had lost all trust in my body to perform its intended function to procreate, so every day that passed successfully was a miracle to me. Yet I also knew that stress was bad, so I would close my eyes and try to breathe away the negative thoughts. I am a life-giver. I am capable. My baby is healthy.
After we reached the 12 week mark, this anxiety subsided somewhat. I started to have a little more trust. Was this girl going to stick around? We knew it was a girl at week 11 thanks to the NIPT chromosome test. All was normal. A girl. I could breathe a little easier. The fear came in waves from then on, but it came less and less frequently. When I would hear another woman's story of loss, the fear would take root in my lower back and press itself upward, squeezing my lungs and making it hard to breathe. People who haven't struggled with infertility may hear stories of pregnancy loss and easily think optimistically: "that would never happen to me." For us infertiles, we tend to think, "that is for sure going to happen to me." And then we immediately try to erase the thought, lest we manifest it into reality.
When I knew for sure that I would never get pregnant with my own eggs, it felt unimaginably crushing. As if the Universe was sending me a message: you're not meant to be a mother. You don't deserve this. Every time I heard another mom say, "When you have your own child, you'll understand," I would scream inside. It's not my fault that I'm not in that position!! I want that more than you can possibly imagine!! Their comments felt like a reflection on my "choice" to be childless. They felt dismissive, as though I was automatically on the outside of the "club" of motherhood. Standing at the window looking in and longing to join, but without the body that would allow me to join. It was a reminder that I was physically unable to progress to what felt like my perfect "next step" in life.
We finally succeeded after three years of trying every month. But not your average, normal, we-just-relaxed-and-that's-when-it-happened kind of trying. One operation. One HSG and a tubal recannalization. (Post on these procedures to come!) Countless blood tests. Oral medications. IUIs. Monthly high hopes followed by negative pregnancy tests with accompanying heartbreak. News of friends' pregnancies left and right. Hormonal imbalance. Doubt. Bloat. Frustration. Failed IVF. Hopelessness. And then the thing I never thought I would do: Egg donor IVF. The most incredible gift I've ever been given, and the thing I still feel a slight discomfort sharing about (but will be sharing more about in another post, because there is so much to say and not enough is said on this topic in my humble opinion).
And now... motherhood. It's here. It's real. Now I'm rooted in the place I wanted to get to. And the love is greater and stronger than I even imagined, just as everyone told me it would be. Yet I find myself still struggling at times to let myself enjoy it. To see it in the same, easy way that "normal" moms probably do. I still have the voices in my ear. You cheated. You don't deserve to be a mom. When people comment, "she looks just like you!", I feel a strange discomfort and pride all at the same time.
Becoming a mother via egg donation is nothing to be ashamed of. It is an unimaginable gift and miracle. I have to remind myself. When these negative voices chime in, I go back to my breathing. I remind myself what I was told by a Shaman I went to see shortly before I successfully conceived our daughter (also food for another post to come): The soul that is your child is waiting for his or her perfect avenue to you. When that avenue opens, he or she will come to earth and join your family. Egg donation was that avenue for our family. I knew it when I felt joy at the idea of a 65% success rate after being told my chances of conceiving with IVF with my own eggs were less than 1%. I knew it when we found our donor and I had that feeling of peace wash over my body. I knew it through the whole process because we kept getting positive signs that we were on the right path. I could visualize that little soul whispering, thank you for opening the door. I'm on my way.
I look in my daughter's eyes when I want to silence my internal discomfort and fear. She is here. She is strong and healthy. My body grew her. She is safe. She is the one we were waiting for. We deserve this. When she looks at me with love and joy, my heart explodes knowing she is meant to be with us.
To all the mothers who struggled: it doesn't matter how your child came to you. She or he is the one you were meant to have. It doesn't matter whether you conceived naturally after a struggle, if it's your rainbow baby, if you underwent IVF, if you used an egg or sperm donor or adopted an embryo, or adopted a baby or a foster child. You are already an amazing, warrior of a mama, even before your child arrives. You are allowed to be a mother. You deserve to be a mother. You are no less a mother than any other mother. You did not cheat. You were rewarded richly for your faith and your fight. You endured disappointment, loss and heartbreak and still, you persisted in following your heart. You come to the table with the strongest love imaginable. That is all any child needs. Your child is so lucky to have you.
You deserve this. xo