The Story of Our Son

IMG_0957I never doubted motherhood, though for a time motherhood doubted me.

I never dreamed that getting pregnant–that most basic of human functions–would be difficult. In fact, I spent most of my twenties making sure I didn’t get pregnant. It ended up happening anyway…twice. Which is why when my husband and I finally reached the same point on the X/Y axis of family planning, it never occurred to us there would be an issue. We would drink champagne and frolic and play, the married folk way, and soon enough I’d be penguin waddling and eventually baby swaddling. I was 31.

We frolicked and played until play flew out the window and the frolicking left the building. Months went by, and every month, the back ache and cramps that preceded the arrival of my period were fiercer than ever. Not being pregnant wasn’t enough. The insult was magnified by the near constant pain I was in for 10 days out of the month. More months went by. We introduced acrobatic contortions of feet and hips propped up, princess and the pea style. Sex, once a source of pleasure and intimacy, was now ranked alongside dusting and food shopping. Something that needed to get done.

Each month you wait. And each month you are one month closer to another birthday, another year older. Instead of birthday candles all you can envision is fewer viable eggs. All your wishes go into one maternity basket. And yet still, they fail to hatch. Now I was past 32.


Here’s what happens when you are trying unsuccessfully to get pregnant: You stop having sex unless it’s within the right window. You have sex because your temperature’s spiked, not because you’re feeling frisky. At first you try to make it more palatable, but after a while, there’s no point. You close your eyes and think of England. You do it for your country. Or you wife. Or whoever is the driving force behind having a family.

Here’s what happens when you are trying unsuccessfully to get pregnant: you are forced to endure endless questions about your sex life, its frequency and duration and quality. You stop drinking, and eating soft cheeses or you try elimination diets. You try acupuncture or massage or yoga. You endure endless variations of “Stop thinking about it so much and it will happen.” And no matter how many times you try to phrase it, you will never be able to convey the sheer lunacy of such a statement. How do you stop thinking about the one thing that occupies every thing you do–from shoving a thermometer in your mouth every morning to laying still for 20 minutes with your hips propped on a pillow to obsessively touching your boobs to see if they feel different?

Here’s what happens when you are trying unsuccessfully to get pregnant: you feel as if your body is going out of its way to betray you, that it takes pleasure in failing you in the most basic of ways. All the while it seems everyone else is getting pregnant without a second thought, on the first try, while on birth control.

We finally made an appointment with a fertility clinic. There were countless blood draws and sperm counts, more blood draws. Swabs and still more blood work. Tests and medical histories and questions. Dye injected into my fallopian tubes which felt as if a fire-ball had been catapulted into the cavity of my body. More months.

Then more salt in the wound: a diagnosis of Unexplained Infertility.

Not only could we not get pregnant. There was no reason why we shouldn’t be able to. I was a few months shy of 33.


Here is what infertility is like: getting up at 5 am each morning to travel for blood draws, being invaded and probed with instruments, the slick chill of slimy, blue gel. It’s carrying wipes to wick away the stickiness that stays on your inner thighs for the rest of the day. It’s your husband making jokes about donating porn because they stuff they have is so outdated it’s hard to produce enough to reproduce.

Here is what infertility is like: walking around with constant bruises on the inside of your elbows from blood draws, trying to convince yourself menstrual cramps are really implantation cramps. It’s obsessively checking for blood every time you use the toilet. It’s the heart-break of seeing it there month after month.


Here is what infertility is like: being uncomfortable, physically, emotionally and in conversation. It’s smiling when well-meaning people ask when you’re going to start a family or when others tell you their pregnancy news. It’s trying not to let the whole thing rule your life. It’s wondering if your marriage will ever be the same, constantly calculating how far you’re willing to go, how much you are willing to spend, how many shots are too many. It’s hot flashes and side effects and cancelled cycles. It’s trying hard not to negate everything else in your life and see it only as another month wasted.

Here is what infertility is like: wondering if you do get pregnant if you should eventually tell your child how they came to be. If they will feel lessened, or perhaps they will feel ‘mored’ that you struggled so mightily. But those thoughts are future thought. Success thoughts. They are the little things that keep you going.


We were lucky.

Here is what fertility treatment success stories are like: knowing exactly which day your child was conceived because you know exactly where you were: laying on a cold, paper lined bed with your legs in the air while they slid a catheter inside you, far up, past the twisty turny bits, past the barriers that are working too well. Lying still while they shoot you full of the best and brightest of your partner’s sperm, the stuff that survived the spin cycle they use to separate the Phelps’ from the guppies.

Here is what fertility treatment success stories are like: remembering all the dates.

January 8, 2004: the day my 2nd medicated IUI took place.
January 24, 2004: a positive pregnancy test
January 25-February 4, 2004: More blood draws to make sure my hormones were rising at the right rates
February 5, 2004: watching an ultrasound screen as the technician pointed out the tiniest of flickering–our baby’s heartbeat
October 5, 2004: giving birth to our son
I had just turned 34.


All of this came flooding back the other day when I came across a photo of a newborn surrounded by syringes, homage to the fertility treatments which led to her birth.

We were lucky. Not only did our treatments work, they were some of the least intensive as far as fertility treatments go. Yet it’s something I almost never think about now. Deeply entrenched in parenting, the day to day-ness of my life quickly took over. Those years of heartache became a rung on the ladder, a footnote, a means to an end.

IMG_0959Over the years people have become more open about their fertility struggles. But there is still a stigma, a scent of unnatural on the breeze. There is an assumption of selfishness, of waiting too long or faulty wiring. There are those who think you should simply adopt, as if it were that easy. There is a whiff of not being womanly enough, or in some cases, manly enough. Some think it’s punishment for the past.

We were lucky where so many aren’t. But as that photo illustrates, all the needles and the probes and the blood draws, all the time spent with my knees in stirrups, the outdated magazines, the early morning subway rides before the sun came up, the waiting–how could it possibly be something I would be ashamed of? Every last prick and probe was worth it to see that tiny flicker blink and beat on the ultrasound screen. To hear, nine months later, my husband announce to me, “it’s a boy.”

It’s the story of our son.







25 thoughts on “The Story of Our Son

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  1. That is a happy ending to a hard story — one I lived, too. Our happy ending involved ultimately adopting our son Jacob, and I wouldn’t change my ending either.

    You brought back one thing I had forgotten about my time trying to get pregnant. My cycles were irregular, but literally the day before every single period, there was a news report of a murdered baby. Every. Single. Time. That is truly what nearly sent me over the edge.


    1. It’s like I said to Beth above, a happy ending is a happy ending no matter how you get it. And some of these happy endings end up w/o a child ultimately. I would have adopted easily (from a psychological standpoint–economically and physically there is nothing easy about that). My husband was skeptical, afraid that he wouldn’t love a child that wasn’t biologically his the same. After our kids were born, he told me once that he understood then that being a parent was being a parent and loving your kids was loving your kids–didn’t matter if they were made up of your DNA or someone else’s, it was all the same. It was one of those little moments that made me love him more than I already did.

      The news stories are horrific. As are the ones about being going through these treatments, getting pregnant and miscarrying. It seems so cruel and unfair. I remember thinking once that if I was 18 and addicted to drugs I would probably get pregnant at the drop of of hat. Not the most generous of thoughts, but you lose a little bit of generosity after a while I think. Understandably.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Just a beautiful story…brought tears to my eyes. The suffering, the waiting and the frustration give you more reason to cherish your son.


    1. Claire, it’s funny. I am telling the truth when I say it’s not something I think about at all any more–it’s funny like that. But I think it’s important to share our stories (all of us and all of our stories–not just stories about infertility). I honestly think it’s what connects us to one another. I think it’s why I find solace in writing, it’s how I connect to other people.


  3. Made me want to cry D. Beautifully written. My dates are ingrained, like yours, and we were lucky too. I saw that picture with the baby and the needles, and I went hurtling back to those days…the days of trying to convince myself that the cramps were implantation ones, that any blood was from that too, and not the dreaded arrival of yet another month of failure; each twinge and ache was a “positive”, and then the bitter disappointment. I never really thought about it until I saw that picture, and am so pleased that you wrote this post, to share with others that pain, but then the amazing moment when you do that positive test… Thank you 🙂 xx


    1. It is a unique pain–and one I don’t think about often, but have no trouble remembering when I set my mind to it. I don’t know why women who must use fertility treatments feel as if they are being judged enough to keep it so secret–as it they were second rate pregnancies because they were assisted by medical technology. I thank my lucky stars for that technology. Not every day, but on the days I remember. x


  4. You’re quite right about the stigma. It feels like most aspects of sex (with or without the reproduction) and reproduction (with or without the sex) are only socially allowable topics of discussion when they fit within the narrowest of parameters. Thank you for your contribution to cracking that open a bit wider today!

    And about your October 5th baby? As you know, that’s a VERY GOOD DAY for a birthday. I see great things in his future! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. What are those parameters? Because I feel like sex in the US is something only to be hinted at, and those hints have to be filtered through a male, porn influence, big-boobed filter. I mean even nursing mothers are targeted for the offensive view of a nipple. Once again, there is the stain of the hypocritical. Sex should be for procreating–but when it doesn’t work, and you seek out help, you feel you need to keep it secret. I have very few secrets–it makes my life much easier to manage ;-).


  5. Your story sounds a lot like mine, only IVF hasn’t worked for us. I’ve been through everything you mentioned and seen more doctors these past 5 years abroad than I care to count. We’re hopeful for one more chance. We’ll see. It’s a topic I don’t like discussing and am tired of talking about and answering why we don’t have kids. Honestly, it’s nobody’s business but what happens between myself and my husband.


    1. I will keep my toes and fingers and other twisty bits crossed for your one last chance. Everyone that experiences this experiences it individually of course, and has their own limitations and preferences and fears. It’s exhausting–all of it, the process and the explanations and the assumptions. You are 100% right, it’s no one’s business but your own and you should never have to share that story if you choose not to. But you should also never be made to feel like there is something wrong or that it’s something you’ve done or that a pregnancy achieved with assistance is, in any way, less than one achieved the old fashioned way. As I wrote to a cousin who is/has been struggling with this too–sometimes your happy endings haven’t been written yet and sometimes those endings aren’t what you were expecting, and sometimes they are different to what others would view as ‘happy’, but we make them our own. Best of luck to you. x

      Liked by 1 person

    1. There were plenty of cold, winter mornings getting on a subway train when it was still dark that I felt very alone. But no matter how early I left and how early I got there, I was never the first patient there. And I would sit, and the place would fill up in the space of 20 minutes. Some women on their own like me just waiting for blood draws. Some couples waiting for their names to be called. And then you realize, you’re not alone at all. Not even close.


  6. I love your writing style and it is great to see people sharing their stories. In my opinion not enough people are open to talk about this topic. It can really help others. Would I be able to contact you with some questions? If so then please send me your email address to Thanks!


    1. Oh I do hope that your remembering was a good remembering. It’s amazing how much you forget when it’s all over–all those days where you couldn’t think of anything else, it’s amazing you can have years where you don’t think of it at all.


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