Kids were never really on my radar – my 20’s were filled with adventure, travel, non-serious relationships, and to be honest, very little responsibility. When I finally met someone in my early 30’s that I actually wanted to share my DNA with, the thought crossed my mind that becoming a mother sounded like another adventure to add to the list, but wasn’t quite ready to walk that path. We got married when I was 32, lived on a sailboat in the Pacific Northwest, and had dreams of sailing around the world. Still – not much of an urge to have kids. It wasn’t until we decided to sell the boat and move to Germany did we think, ‘hey – this would be a good time to have kids!’ So we set off to Europe, my husband to advance his career and me to have babies.
Now at 35, I still didn’t really feel the time pressure, so we were optimistic and assumed it would happen in a couple of months – just as we had planned. I very much fell into the category of ‘when I decide to have babies, then it will happen’. And boy were my plans derailed quite quickly.
Being in the ‘advanced maternal age’ category at 35, I knew we should try for 6 months and then see a fertility doctor if we weren’t pregnant. We happened to live in a part of old Eastern Germany, so many of the services we were planning on accessing would be in German – and I spoke absolutely zero German at the time! So, I recruited a new American friend who spoke German to translate for us. We became quite close quite quickly as you can imagine!
The initial tests came back, and we had a dual factor infertility diagnosis. We went from happy fertile couple to dual factor infertile couple in 10 minutes. That was a bit of a blow to my and my husband’s egos. But everyone was optimistic, they suggested we start with IUI and then if need be, we could move to IVF but we were miles away from that. This seemed harmless enough, so we agreed and began the process. All along, we were navigating a new language, country, customs, fertility doctors, and health care.
To our surprise and excitement the first IUI worked! We were pregnant…! The first ultrasound visits were positive and reassuring – we were 8 weeks pregnant and could see the heartbeat. We were blessed – for about 2 weeks. The 10 week ultrasound was not as we had expected. My ObGyn (or Frauenartz in German) spoke no English, her nurses spoke no English – and she kept repeating with an upset look on her face ‘keine Herzschlag…es tut mir leid, es tut mir leid’. We were quickly rushed to another more advanced ultrasound machine to have our worst fears confirmed…truly there was no heartbeat. They scheduled a D&C for the next morning at 6am…they said we could wait but that it would be less stressful this way. I was in a daze and following the lead of my doctors and my husband, and just nodded my head.
Lesson learned, when doctors give you bad news, don’t nod and agree to ANYTHING. Take a step back and make your own decisions. I won’t go into details but the D&C and the care I endured afterwards goes down as one of the more horrible experiences of my life. So numb from the loss, with no support besides my husband who was also suffering loss, and a couple new friends who didn’t quite know what to do with me. I couldn’t verbalize my questions because my German was so terrible, and I didn’t understand most of what the doctor’s were telling me. Just shuttled around – and boy do they do things differently in Germany! But that is for another blog post.
We did 3 more IUIs over the next few months – all unsuccessful. This snowballed us right into IVF. I never thought that I would do IVF because of the financial hurdles involved and I had always fallen on the – ‘if it’s going to happen, it will happen’ side of things. But because 80% was covered by healthcare and this was Germany so services weren’t highly inflated, we figured the financial cost was quite low, so why not give it a try – and we really believed that we would get pregnant with IVF. We were under-prepared for the emotional, mental, and marital stresses involved with IVF.
Now began the shots, bloating, weight gain, mood swings, headaches, and uncontrollable bouts of sweating. I really felt like my body was no longer mine and could start to feel my stress levels rising. Continuing with my Yoga practice was difficult because of all these physical changes. Yet I persevered and adapted, spending more time in restorative and meditative poses.
We had a successful first retrieval with 12 eggs – 6 of which grew to a high quality blastocysts. Back then (in 2009), it was recommended (at least in Germany) to do a ‘fresh cycle’. So I went straight from the hormonal cocktail of stimms, to the hormonal chaser of a transfer. It was just before Christmas, with our date for a pregnancy test right before the 24th. What a wonderful Xmas present this would be, we thought.
We went to Portugal to spend this time with a good friend who knew what was going on. We left for Portugal before the pregnancy test, but thought we could wait until we were be back. Time was passing and still no period, so we were getting excited. Until New Years eve, I started spotting and getting crampy. Happy Fucking New Year Universe. We were devastated, and was told we had a chemical pregnancy and so sorry for our ‘loss’ which really wasn’t a ‘true loss’ according to the doctors – even though it felt like we had experienced loss yet again.
It took awhile before I could even think about putting my body and soul through the turmoil of IVF again. But, I got back on that train. We had some embryos frozen so we went ahead and did an FET once hope had started to overpower the despair.
Again – no success. During this time I felt like I had the stress under control, but in retrospect I really couldn’t tell because I was numb from the hormones. I would often find myself lying on the floor of the apartment crying and begging to and negotiating with a God I didn’t even believe in. I’d cry at every birth announcement and then turn around and try to punch a wall. This roller coaster of my emotions was quite the ride. Yes all the while, no one suggested I learn to manage my stress. I was doing the best I could with my own practice – but, sometimes having someone hold that space and support you into relaxation makes a profound difference.
I began to see an acupuncturist who helped get my hormones back on track and gave me these small moments of oasis – an hour of refuge that was filled with belief that my body was capable of being fertile.
Time kept ticking away, and moments that could have otherwise be spent joyously celebrating the birth of a nephew or birth announcement of a friend slipped away. After 2 more rounds of stimms with low egg counts and transfers with negative results, I was broken and in need of an exhale. I was in the middle of my menstrual cycle and was at the clinic to tell the doc that we needed a break. He said that it may be time to consider that we may not get pregnant, because, he said, the odds were 1 in 10 million that we would get pregnant without intervention. The relief of taking a break, and the thought of moving on to something different, even if it was without kids, seemed so liberating – so freeing. That was the moment of our surrender.
How the universe stepped in, I do not know – I guess it’s what I call the ‘magic’ – that unknown part of conception that science can’t figure out and practices of old call the universe, or God, or faith, or miracle, or simply the spark of life.
That month we got pregnant without intervention. I carried and then delivered a beautiful baby boy in a small hospital in rural East Germany. It was a CRAZY ride. He was our miracle baby. And maybe the odds were against us, but they weren’t as against us as we thought. At nine months post partum, after have sex probably twice, thinking – how could this happen again? It happened again. And I carried and then delivered another baby boy in the same hospital in rural East Germany 18 months after my first one. We are truly blessed.