One Year: From Blastocyst to Baby

April 14, 2017 was a super special day for our family because on this day last year, we conceived Isla. One cool thing about infertility is that you get to commemorate the day your baby is placed in your body, with prayers that he or she will take root in your womb, grow and thrive and become your son or daughter.

Me waiting for our precious embryo with my lucky socks on :)

Me waiting for our precious embryo with my lucky socks on :)

It's so wild to look at her now and look at her as a ball of cells, just waiting to be transferred into me. She was our third try with IVF, the second try with our donor-egg-embryos, and my first positive pregnancy test after trying every month for just over three years. Some women fight much longer than we had to and I am always aware that our struggle could easily have lasted longer!

Right after our transfer, holding a photo of our daughter-to-be!

Right after our transfer, holding a photo of our daughter-to-be!

Before facing infertility, I never thought I would undergo IVF. I always thought it was taking things too far, that it was too difficult and too expensive and messing with nature too much. I certainly NEVER thought I would choose to use an egg donor.  But I always knew I was meant to be a mother and once this was our only choice, I found that my heart opened to it and I embraced roads to motherhood that I hadn't expected to.

Growing up, I was raised by the man who married my mom and adopted me when I was about a year and a half old.  He is my Dad.  Since I grew up in a family where genetic connection isn't the most important thing, it was maybe a little easier for me to come around to the idea of letting go of that connection with our own child.  I also know, when the time comes that my daughter has questions about our donor, I'll be better equipped to help her through them.  I understand what it is to be curious about your genetic background and I understand the undeniable link to our genetic parents. That being said, using an egg donor rather than a sperm donor is complex in that the recipient/parent still carries the baby. Isla and I are still connected on a biological level, even though she carries a different genetic code than I do.

I was told by several healers that the soul who was meant to be our baby would come to us the way he or she was intended to and that I needed to be open to receiving him or her in whatever way I could. Once I was able to see it that way, our dreams came true. I am beyond certain that Isla chose us to be her parents and was the child meant for us. Even with scientific help, God doesn't make mistakes.

Our miracle baby at 5 months old

Our miracle baby at 5 months old

Dear Mom after infertility: Yes, you deserve this.

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