Debora Krizak knows the pain of unexplained fertility, and the pride of being a parent after a long and painful journey. In an extract from her book How would you like your eggs? she shares her experience.
I was emptying out my bedside drawers the other day when I stumbled across a half empty box of oral contraceptives. It seemed like a lifetime ago that I had taken them and so I flipped the packet around to have a look at the issue date. 2001. That’s how long I had been off the pill. I’d never really thought about pregnancy before now. My husband and I believed nature would take its own course. Let it be a surprise if we were to get pregnant, and all the romantic notions that go along with it. Five years later and nothing.
Time is a funny concept. The older we get, the faster it goes and we’re middle aged before we’ve even had a chance to enjoy our youth. It creeps up on you like those fine lines on your face that we’re forever battling to erase. In those five years that I had been off the pill, I never gave much thought as to why I hadn’t fallen pregnant. That was until the dreaded baby shower invites started to arrive. Of my ten closest girlfriends, seven were pregnant and expecting within three months. I sighed as I said goodbye to the long ladies lunches and designer clothing. It would soon be about 10am brunches in the park, glasses of maison and baby Dior.
Watching others around me embark on motherhood certainly made me curious to get started. I didn’t want to be left behind but as it turned out, Mother Nature had her own plan. Month after month we tried every trick in the book to get pregnant — standing on my head after sex, elevating the hips, herbal potions, cutting back on our beloved wine and eliminating all coffee and artificial sugar. There had to be something stopping us from getting pregnant. Everyone else did it so easily. Why couldn’t we? It was time to do some further investigation. I was 34 and didn’t want to leave it any longer. I didn’t want to reach my forties and be left without a choice. I’d tried everything and was getting exhausted failing month after month. Physically, it was tough but it was getting even harder emotionally. Sex for pleasure was a becoming a distant memory and the schedule was beginning to take its toll on me.
Everywhere I went I was confronted with swelling, pregnant bellies and menacing questions about when we would be starting a family. These would echo in my head night after night. Why me? Why us? What was wrong with me? What was wrong with us? Apparently nothing I’m told. We are both perfectly healthy and capable of obtaining a natural pregnancy. Yet it hasn’t happened. It’s called ‘unexplained infertility’. I couldn’t help feeling like a bad egg.
The phone rings. It’s another joyous pregnancy announcement. I do my best “I’m so happy for you”, holding back the tears. “How long have you been trying?” Only one month. The first try. Bam. Pregnant. I want to throw the phone. I hate you. I don’t want to see you. No I don’t mean that. I just can’t face you right now. I can’t face my own infertility. I’m drowning in grief. Grief for not being able to discover that same joy. I want to pee on a stick and wave it proudly to the world. I want to fall pregnant unexpectedly and tell my Mum on Christmas day. But it’s not my journey.
Instead, I inject myself with drugs two times a day to make my ovaries swell after putting me in a drug induced menopausal state to switch off my own hormones. I’m now at the mercy of science and daily blood tests. My arms look like a pin cushion and the hot flushes are driving me insane. I get a picture of my 3 day old embryo to place on my fridge, right there beside my daily shopping list. Every affair with the lab costs thousands of dollars. I feel dirty handing over the money to buy a small chance for having a little baby of my own. On my fourth cycle of IVF, I get the news I’ve been dreaming about for so long. I’m pregnant and I get a tiny picture of my eight cell miracle to place on my fridge. Everything is riding on that one tiny picture. The closest I’ve ever felt to having life grow inside of me.
But I learn that a positive pregnancy test doesn’t mean I’ll have a baby to hold in my arms. It’s just another crushing blow to this infertility saga. There’s a thing called ‘chemical pregnancy’ which is technically not a ‘miscarriage’ but I’ve been subtly graced with that one too as I said goodbye to my baby down a rusted toilet pipe in the cold countryside of Hunstanton, UK, This is my only recollection of my holiday overseas as I treated myself to a break away from IVF but cruelly found myself pregnant en route.
None of the memories leave me. I remember the struggle so clearly. But I’m the “lucky one”. So much so, that when my twin baby miracles finally arrived, I’d rush them to the emergency room at the slightest sound of a cough or a wheeze for fear that they would still somehow be taken from me. I live in complete fear.
So when people stop me to stare at my babies and ask “Do you have twins in the family?”, insinuating they were a “natural” conception, I smile proudly back at them and say “No, these are my IVF babies … Five years in the making”. Then I check to make sure they’re still breathing.
I loved you before you were mine. I loved you before your heart started beating. I waited so long to meet you and at times I just didn’t know when, how or why. But now it’s all so clear. If I had not waited, I wouldn’t have you. And it is you that is the perfect soul for me. It was you that I was waiting so long for and it was worth every living moment. I love you my dear child.