We were a couple for twelve years before deciding to become parents, four years living together, and eight years married. Together we made a commitment to alter our life path. We saw hope and possibility; conflict and pain would be there but that was expected. I was in fertility treatment for about eighteen months from 1999 – 2001. The journey to have a child was ours, but gender dictated that only I would undergo treatment.
There were seven diagnostic tests, countless rounds of oral and injectable meds, one session of injectable drug training, fifty visits to the clinic, twenty-five hours in the waiting room eating rubbery mini corn muffins and drinking decaf coffee from the Keurig machine, approximately fifty-sixty blood draws and thirty to forty ultrasounds, seven to eight IUIs, one great doctor, two good doctors, one fair doctor, seventy-five calls from my ridiculously competent nurse manager: your labs are good, you’re ready, come in tomorrow, not enough follicles, can’t move forward this cycle; thirty hours of fertility support group, fifty hours of private therapy, one adoption information session, four miscarriages, one heartbeat, one D&C without anesthesia, one book, The Unspoken Sorrow.
Together we listened to the diagnosis and treatment plan. Together we went to injectable medication training, my husband learned how to load the syringe, knock out the bubbles and avoid the sciatic nerve, he was good at it. Alone, I was lying down on the exam room table, looking at the image on the screen, the clicking of the ultrasound keys in the background. I heard I am sorry there is no heartbeat. Alone, I got up but could not remember how to walk, the thought of moving forward seemed impossible, the floor felt like quicksand.
My friends and family did not know what to say to me, “I am sorry” and “Don’t worry it will happen.” How could they know? Except Mom, of course, “Maybe you’re exercising too much.” Or, “It’s the stress,” always no filter.
I met about forty women in support group, from early thirties to late forties. I do not remember their names or faces but I remember the voices telling their stories: only a 15% chance, fear of loss, guilt that you did something wrong, faith in the process, side effects from the drugs, conflict with partners, joy of announcing a pregnancy.
During that time, we went to work every day. We walked the dog to Steven’s Park, watched The Sopranos and ate dinner with friends at Court Street Tavern. Together, we decided to turn the office into a nursery, my husband brought home paint samples, pale purple, and soft white, he said this seems real now.
I heard the words, sometimes we just don’t have answers, the success rate drops 50% after 40, Do you want to take a break? I said no, one more cycle and then I’m done. Even if fertility treatments were not successful, our journey to parenthood was not ending, it was starting down a new path.
I am one of millions of women who made the decision to undergo fertility treatments. Everyone has their own story. Ours will always be of hope and possibility. Together we were committed to having a child.
Marisa Cimbal lives in Hoboken, NJ with her husband and dog, Elsa, and is the mother of twin daughters. She works in New York City in healthcare communications and is now fulfilling her dream of being a poet and a writer of nonfiction. Most recently, her work has appeared in Humans of the World.