In the interest of "do things that scare you," here it is, my face and voice reading the piece that I wrote. Below is the text of the piece. I am very proud of it, and also proud that I can read it without crying. The tape sort of ran out at the end (I still say tape although all this is digital), but all you missed was me awkwardly pointing out my friend the raven who appeared to be sitting on my shoulder throughout the thing. Ha. Also my thank you for listening to me got a bit cut off. THANK YOU. I know logically there are worse things than seeing yourself read something highly personal on video and sharing it with whoever sees it on the interwebs...but today it is terrifying. And sort of necessary. In the interest of bravery.
Wow, that is not the still of my face I would have chosen to begin with, but such is life when you are technically challenged. I own this video, as much as you can own anything on the web. (c) Jess of www.mypathtomommyhood.blogspot.com
A Beautiful Mess of Motherhood by Jess*
I was watching TV with my husband, Bryce, when I saw a commercial that I will be avoiding for as long as it runs. It featured various women gleefully holding up ClearBlueEasy pregnancy tests and embarking on a new amazing journey into motherhood. Actually, I can’t tell you exactly what was in the commercial because as soon as I saw the first scene I covered my face and la la la’d through the sappy music and the squeals of joy until Bryce said it was safe to come out.
It’s been years since I’ve peed on a stick, but I know some things about ClearBlueEasy. I know that the digital test threshold for HCG, the “pregnancy hormone,” is 25 because I called them the very last time I was pregnant, in 2012, so that I could use it to determine when I was no longer pregnant. I had miscarried after my sixth IVF embryo transfer, but I could still produce the word PREGNANT on the screen. In a sick sort of way I wanted to see it, over and over, because even though it wasn’t true, not really, I didn’t know if I’d ever see that word in connection with my body again.
The only other pregnancy I achieved ended in the operating room with the removal of my right tube and the wayward babyling who was trapped within it. I peed on sticks like mad that pregnancy, too, because while I hoped against hope, deep down I knew it wasn’t going to last.
It turned out to be wise, taking picture after picture of pregnant pee-sticks, because I never got pregnant again – that was all I had of the experience.
By the end of our insane 13 cycles of IVF over 5 ½ years, fueled by the hope of those two brief pregnancies, I couldn’t even complete three of the planned embryo transfers as my uterus had decided to call uncle and refuse to make a lining anymore thanks to scarring from too many surgeries. In the beginning, I peed on a stick before the blood test, but quit because a sympathetic nurse saying “I’m sorry” and scheduling the “rehash-and-new-plan” appointment is a hell of a lot kinder than a sad and lonely single line on a stick, or worse, the words NOT PREGNANT blaring from a digital screen. I learned to pee on a stick only when I knew I was already pregnant, however briefly.
That’s not entirely true. I peed on a stick one last time at the end of the last completed cycle, and the result was the worst – a faint second line (I couldn’t take any more words) that didn’t register on the official blood test. Maybe it was a stick error, maybe it was an embryo that started to implant and then…didn’t. Either way, it was not a satisfying end.
While I would have loved to have gotten pregnant and stayed that way, that is not how motherhood will come to me. It was so hard to let go of the hope of pregnancy, especially after using donor eggs and then donor sperm and having those fail. It seemed like the quintessential mother story – you pee on the stick, you call your OB, you go to joyful scan after joyful scan as you nest and prepare for the bundle that comes after a reasonable 40 weeks, give or take. Although I know that’s not how it works out for so, SO many women, hanging on to the dream of that story started costing me motherhood: pregnancy was just not going to happen and we were literally flushing our money, our hopes, and our stamina down the toilet.
I wish that I had realized sooner that parenthood was far more important than a gestational period glorified on social media with Bump Watches, maternity shoots, and cute clothes to show off the belly you’d rub beatifically without even thinking about it. Because now we are 19 months into our wait for domestic adoption, and it is just so hard to be in a place of perpetual waiting, perpetual hope, and perpetual disappointment…so far. I am tired from beating my head against a wall throughout the IVF part of our journey, and now that we are seven years into our quest to have a family it feels like it’s possible we enjoy torture. There is no calendar for the calls. There is no pee stick to let me know I have made it to the next step. We have had a span of 10 months go by without a call at all to cling to, and then received a call where the baby was born the day before and, if chosen, we would need to be able to go to the hospital within 24 hours and take placement. We’d go from not-parents to parents in a dizzying span of time. I felt intense hope for impending motherhood, a feeling of MAYBE NOW THIS PART OF OUR LIFE CAN BEGIN, only to have those hopes dashed in a kind but short phone conversation notifying us that someone else got the “yes.”
We endure this hope and despair and picking my broken self up from the floor to do it all over again because I have this overwhelming desire to be a mother. I can’t have the typical pee-stick commercial experience, or anything even remotely resembling it. My motherhood is dependent on someone else reading the words PREGNANT but feeling hopeless for so many possible reasons, all of them heartbreaking. Neither of us are going to have that joyful moment with this milestone. Hopefully, I will get to become a mother, to feel the joy of parenthood, but it will be because another woman has to make an incredibly difficult decision. My joy; her tragedy.
My experience with motherhood will be different, because it will be shared with my child’s birthmother. We hope to know her, to have her be a part of our lives, but even if she isn’t physically there, her presence will be a constant. There will be complexity for both of us as we navigate this multilayered family tree. We will be on opposite sides of this fertility mess – me, unable to bear a child despite desperately wanting to, her, able to bear a child but at a time where she desperately wishes she wasn’t.
It will be a beautiful mess of motherhood, one that isn’t pictured in pregnancy test commercials, but I am ready for it to begin.
* All rights reserved by Jess of www.mypathtomommyhood.blogspot.com