4 Things I’ve Learned About Pregnancy After Infertility
After navigating the rocky road of infertility, what’s it really like when you’re finally sporting a baby bump?
The only other time I was able to get pregnant, I made it to just nine weeks before miscarrying. So you would think hitting the third trimester would be a joyous occasion, right? Not necessarily. I recently hit 28 weeks in my boy/girl twin pregnancy, but instead of high-fiving my husband, I spent last weekend utterly terrified that something had happened to one of the babies.
Though the pregnancy has gone smoothly for the most part, things have been touch-and-go with our girl. Thanks to a precarious placenta, she has intra-uterine growth restriction (IUGR), and she’s consistently measured about 2-3 weeks behind our strapping young lad (whom my Mom has affectionately nicknamed “Bruiser”). Despite these setbacks, she’s still been growing steadily and all other vital signs look great. A fighter, our “Baby B!”
But having read an armload of pregnancy books and being BFF with Dr. Google, I started to get concerned about the lack of movement I was feeling on Baby B’s side—especially compared to the ample rumbles, tumbles, and kicks from Bruiser. The worry set in on a Thursday, and by the time Monday rolled around, I was an emotional wreck. I kept picturing Baby B struggling inside of me, gasping for oxygen, her heart on the verge of stopping (if it hadn’t already).
I convinced my doctor to see me immediately, and lo and behold, the ultrasound showed a healthy baby girl kicking the day away alongside her brother. It was such a relief, and I couldn’t hold back the full-on crying breakdown that followed. After all, the rollercoaster of emotions is nothing new, but the thought of actually successfully carrying two babies to term is.
Afterward, I lamented to my husband that I had “infertility PTSD,” and—without minimizing the experience of anyone who has suffered true PTSD—it often feels that way for me and many other women who’ve undergone years of infertility before becoming a mother. Here are a few things I’ve learned along the way:
You’re not out of the woods after the BFP. In the haze of infertility, it’s easy to idealize what things will be like once that positive pregnancy test finally materializes. But pregnancy brings with it a whole new set of worries, especially when you can’t shake the paranoia and worry that accompany infertility. “Will this embryo transfer work?” turns into “Will the amniocentesis results be okay?”
At every ultrasound, I anxiously hold my breath until I see the heartbeat for each baby, and I find myself second-guessing their well-being between every appointment. (Paging Dr. Google….) Sometimes it feels like a race against the clock, trying to hit each new milestone that will take you one step closer to baby. It’s also difficult to allow yourself to plan ahead or buy anything—you can’t shake the voice in the back of your head that the happy ending may not happen.
You’re a little gunshy about sharing your joy with the world. One of the dirty little secrets of infertility is that almost everyone does some form of social media detox to avoid what feels like a constant barrage of pregnancy announcements, back-to-school photos, and other reminders that you’re one of the “have-nots.” I admit, I “hid” a number of people on Facebook for that very reason—there were some points where it was just too painful. Now, on the other side, I find myself being hyper-aware of how people might feel when they see my pictures and posts.
Also, it’s a little strange at first uttering the words, “I’m pregnant.” As if saying it aloud might jinx it. (Case in point: one of my favorite bloggers, Maya of Don’t Count Your Eggs, simply referred to herself as “P” throughout her pregnancy.) Now, almost 29 weeks along, I’m wearing my bump loud and proud…but it’s been a bit of a journey to get here.
Infertility is a sisterhood. When going through all of the infertility treatments, I would often say to my husband, “I can’t wait to leave this behind, but I never want to forget.” And it’s true—even though I’ve reached my goal of pregnancy (and hopefully a successful live birth!), I still feel deeply connected to the infertility community. I run a monthly RESOLVE support group and continue to be an avid participant in numerous Facebook groups for women going through IVF and infertility. At this point, I still relate more to those women than I do “mommies,” and my heart aches every time I read about a BFN, miscarriage, or other setback.
The gratitude and wonder you feel are overpowering. When you spend months and years desperately striving for something with all of your being, it truly feels like a miracle when it comes to fruition. Though I know there will be hard days and plenty of challenges, I’d like to think I’ll never take our twins for granted, and my husband says the same. I can’t wait to meet these two little beings who somehow made their way to us after three years of trying, two IUI and three IVF cycles—during which it truly seemed like getting pregnant was close to impossible. And there will never be a sweeter moment than when I hear that magic little word for the first time: “Mom.”