BurlingtonVT Moms Blog is partnering with Vermont Midwives Association to bring you our latest series titled “How I Became a Mother” in honor of Mother’s Day. Each of us has a unique journey on how we got here…here being in this crazy thing called motherhood. Some of us have grown our families through adoption, some through donor sperm. Some of us have struggled with infertility while others of us have needed to rely on faith and science. Bringing a child into this world is no less than miraculous regardless of how it’s done. These next two weeks we want to share with you the stories of how we became mothers, to let you know that no two families are born the same. Join us on this journey as we celebrate Moms!
An Indirect Path to “Mothers’ Day”
I wanted so badly to be a mom but there were some personal road blocks in the way.Firstly, I was afraid to share the news of my relationship and soon to be marriage to the woman of my dreams with my loved ones due to their very vocal disapproval of gay relationships and same sex couples raising a child. I was stuck in between a place of terror and an extreme pull to have the happiness that I knew was out there for me.
In the past I had pushed aside the thought that I would ever have children because of how difficult I thought it would be to explain to my family, friends and even complete strangers my desire to have a family with another woman. Just the thought of the discussion made my stomach tie in knots. I began to tear up and feel jealous when I saw families laughing and enjoying moments together. I would get angry and sad at other folks happiness. I despised this part of myself, it’s not who I wanted to be. It’s not who I was. I deserved happiness and although it would take some work, I knew it was possible. Luckily, I had the support of a very strong and nurturing woman who had been my friend when I first moved to Vermont. After a few years of friendship our relationship bloomed into a deep love. We were married and soon after decided we wanted to share our love by adding a child to our family.
Our first step was to begin counseling sessions to help us work through the insecurities I had about sharing our happy news with my not so receptive loved ones. We spent nearly a year hashing out the old scars and fears and paving the way for complete love and readiness for our new life and the life we hoped to bring into the world. We confronted those fears and left no stone unturned, determined to do everything we could to make a welcome place for the child we were so excited to meet.
Now that we were ready to take on the world, we set up our first appointment with a local infertility treatment center.
With the absence of sperm we were considered in need of fertility treatments. We had spent countless hours looking over all the options for sperm purchase. We knew we wanted to go through a reputable sperm bank verses using a known donor so we found one that we believed to offer the best options for what we were looking for. There were very specific criteria we were looking for in a donor but soon realized that whomever we chose, in the end, we would have a child that we’d love more than words could explain. Still, we dug through the profiles of so many men and narrowed it down to the one. This person, that we may never meet, held half the DNA of the future love of our lives, our child.
After working through the hard parts of coming out to my family, jumping through all the hoops at the fertility clinic, and finding the right sperm we believed we were in the clear. We were on our way to becoming moms.
At our first insemination, I was overwhelmed with excitement and nervousness. I wasn’t sure what to expect, if it would be painful or what I would feel like afterward. While I wasn’t expecting candlelight, rose petals, and passion I had hoped for some sort of warm, inviting atmosphere. It turned out to be far from romantic in any way. It felt very much like a gynecological exam, a sterile and bright room, being prodded with mildly uncomfortable instruments. Afterward, the nurse dimmed the lights and said to relax and envision the sperm swimming up to meet the egg. She encouraged us to stay a while and gave a wink. We laughed awkwardly and when she was gone we looked at each other like, what now. After 15 minutes or so of us giddily discussing the possibility that I could be “getting pregnant” right then and there I dressed and we walked out of the clinic.
Next came the dreaded “two-week-wait”. The period of time where you hope you are pregnant but try not to think too much about it because you don’t want to be let down. This became a torturous time of agonizing wait and analyzing every possible symptom of pregnancy. “I think I feel nauseous. Was that a twinge in my uterus? My boobs are a little sore. I’m awfully teary, is my period coming? I can’t wait any longer I’m going to take a pregnancy test. It’s still early so it could be a false negative.” It became all I thought about. When my period came I was more disappointed than I thought I would be. My Dr. had told us it takes 3-4 IUI’s (Intrauterine Insemination) on average to achieve pregnancy. In my head I knew it was rare for women to get pregnant on their first try but I thought I would be an exception.
We geared up to try again but had no luck with the second IUI either. It was on the third try that we finally saw the precious words on the digital pregnancy test – PREGNANT. My heart raced as I screamed to my wife from the bathroom to come and look. We both smiled big toothy smiles at each other, hugging and doing a happy dance around our tiny bathroom. I quickly did the math, by next summer we would have a baby. I couldn’t believe it; I was going to be a mom. We were going to be moms!
A couple of weeks passed by and all my blood tests came back with hCG numbers climbing, which is what the doctor wanted to see. At our first ultrasound the peanut measured perfectly and everything looked good. It was at our next ultrasound (multiple early ultrasounds are common since we were still being seen at the infertility clinic) that we discovered there was no heartbeat. The ground came out from under me. I could feel my own heart pounding in my chest and silent tears poured down my face. I was so angry and sad. How could this happen? We did everything right. My wife and I went home with very little words between us. We were shocked. Since it was an early miscarriage, within the first trimester, the procedure was fairly simple and quick.
The emotional pain lasted much longer. The fear that something was wrong with me and that it would happen again lasted the longest. That scar is still with me. We started trying to conceive again but this time I was not as giddy and excited as I was before. I was afraid and anxious. I was jealous of how easy it was for other people to get pregnant. We had five more failed IUI’s and each one became more difficult for me emotionally. The doctors tried different combinations of medications, performed tons of tests but still no pregnancy.
After a total of eight IUI’s in nearly a year of treatment I was at my limit. I was hopeless and believed my body was broken; my spirit was broken.
I needed off this roller coaster of emotions and needed time to heal. I spent the next couple of months living for myself again, finding myself again. It is so consuming, infertility treatments and wanting so badly something that doesn’t happen over and over again. One of the best things I’ve ever done for myself was to allow myself a vacation from all that. I had drinks with friends, slept in, had dance parties in my living room, late night dates with my wife, and did so many things that made me happy. I started to trust and love my body again. My wife was a terrific support. She helped me realize that we would be all right, we would be happy, and we always had each other.
I knew I was ready to give it another try.
At this point we had some decisions to make. We only had two vials of sperm left from our original donor, which meant two more tries. My doctors suggested we give our current regiment a couple more tries and then get more aggressive with treatments, meaning IVF (In Vitro Fertilization). Should we choose a different donor? I didn’t want to. I felt this donor sperm was on this journey with us. A part of me believed the child that miscarried would be carried on somehow in the child we may possibly conceive with this donor. Our decision was to continue with the original donor sperm, at least one more try. It was our ninth IUI, we were refreshed and full of the positive energy we had when we first started this ride. Unfortunately, number nine also turned out to not be the one. Not pregnant, again. We sorted through all the donors at the sperm bank again and narrowed it down to a new sperm donor. We would gear up to try IVF, with a new donor and new doctor. The question of what to do with our one little vial of sperm that we decided not to use from the original donor was unanswered. I still had an attachment to it and found it hard to let go. At the last minute, my wife and I decided to go for it one more time. Why not? We had already spent the money on the sperm; it was in our possession being stored at the doctor’s office, what did we have to lose? We couldn’t begin IVF that cycle anyway so we may as well do a shot-in-the dark, unmediated IUI just for the hell of it. That two week wait came and went with little thought. I was pretty confident that without the use of medications to help me ovulate and pinpoint the timing of the IUI that nothing would come from the procedure.
Boy was I wrong. To our surprise, after testing quite early, the pregnancy test was positive. I was cautiously elated and continued to test over the next few days. When the blood test came back with very promising numbers we let ourselves celebrate. We were pregnant! Over the next couple months we tried to balance our feelings of over-the-moon-happiness with discretion and trepidation. We wanted to enjoy the pregnancy but were apprehensive about our hearts being broken again. Once I entered my second trimester we felt we could let our guard down a little and fully enjoy the prospect of becoming mothers. Our dream of being moms was just around the corner. That summer, in June, our beautiful baby boy was born. He was healthy and strong. He grew rapidly and met every milestone above and beyond. Our sweet, determined little boy will soon be two and I could never have envisioned what this experience would be like. Our life is forever changed. My heart is forever changed.
I am a different person for this experience and for what he has taught me, in his conception, birth and two years of life. What a ride. I cannot wait to do it again. I hope I get the chance to do it again but whatever happens I can hold on to what I have and be happy. I can hold on to my family and be happy. I can look back at my experience and be happy. I am so thankful to be a mom.
Written by Jamie
Jamie is a full time mom to a soon to be two year old boy. She is a former special educator and has worked with middle school students, primarily 6th grade. Born and raised in Oklahoma she knows well the taming of tornados, which has proved an advantage against rowdy adolescents and a wild and boisterous toddler. After falling in love with the land and people of Vermont in 2005 she put down roots and made it her home. Spending any spare time she can squeeze by reading, daydreaming, shopping for cute little boy outfits, and eating food from the best local chefs are some of her favorite activities.