One couple's journey to conceive
Published: May 1, 2023
By: Sandra Gordon
With all 65 of our guests gathered on the lawn of the Victorian mansion where my new husband, Ron, and I had just gotten married inside, the cork flew off the Champagne and filled flutes were passed. A hush fell over the crowd.
“Congratulations Sandy and Ron,” the best man began. “May your lives be long, prosperous and filled with babies!” Clink. Clink.
Everyone raised a glass and cheered. For this momentous event, Ron had shaved his whitish beard, the only solid evidence of his edge in the age game. “I don’t want to look so old,” he had said. He was 43. I was 31, an obvious “breeder chic.”
Don’t get me wrong. It was love. Still, having babies — and my comparable youthfulness to pull it off — was very much a part of the deal. For some mysterious innate reason, we both looked forward to them sooner than later — or even just one. And our guests had us pegged. Forget about the wedding. Get “busy” you guys, everyone seemed to be saying by their enthusiastic response, suppressed grins and elbow jabs.
Fast forward a year and a half. We’re jinxed. Ron and I are honestly trying everything — going on vacation, timing intercourse with ovulation predictor kits and a stopwatch (okay, kidding), trying to relax, and pretending we weren’t trying. But it was evident. Something like 10 percent of all couples around the globe, were infertile (the inability to conceive after one year of trying).
Soon enough, I find myself a regular at the infertility specialist, along with the dozens of others I meet along the way who thumb through non-parenting magazines in the reception area. A common bond: We’re all experts at giving blood. And we all know which is our “good” arm.
The stories I hear. There’s Kate who has been trying for five years and is on her third attempt at in vitro fertilization. Another, Maria, has a similar record and says she bursts into tears when she sees newborns in restaurants. I’m a newcomer, having just endured one low-tech assisted reproductive procedure, but I can still relate. The name of the game is hyping up your hormones, then tracking your menstrual cycle like the stock market with blood and ultrasound tests. My goal is to nab the whereabouts of that all-elusive egg.
For two weeks, I’m lubed up with HCG and Clomid, infertility wonder drugs, and though I’m glad for the technology, I’m resentful. “I just don’t feel right about this,” I said to Ron. Deep down, I just know we can do it on our own. But of course, isn’t that what every woman who is trying to get pregnant thinks in the beginning? Meanwhile, our friends begin leaving us in the dust. There is Anna and David, for instance, a couple so perfect looking that their wedding photo was featured in a local advertisement.
“We’re going to start trying,” Anna confides to me one evening at a neighborhood party. “What about you?” “We’ve been trying for a year and a half,”
Two months later, when all four of us are out to dinner, Anna gets quiet. “We have some news. I’m pregnant.” My stomach lurches. After only two months? Suddenly,
I can’t see my salad. It’s the first time I nearly come to tears because I had been trying so hard to be optimistic. Luckily, I pull myself together quickly. The conversation quickly turns to sonograms and baby heartbeats and not being able to drink.
Out of spite, I signal the waiter and order another glass of chardonnay just because I can. Our attempt at intrauterine insemination (IUI) didn’t work.
Later, as the guys talk, Anna turns to me. “It’s a relief to know you can,” she says, as in conceive. I can’t believe she’s actually saying that — to me. “It must be,” I say, just to be nice.
It’s not like I wanted a child so badly that I had to have one, like a drink of water on a scorching day. It’s just that being pregnant and raising a child is a life experience I would rather not pass up. After a while, when you don’t get pregnant like you thought you would, you start to get a little crazy. Strollers in shopping malls pop out at you, especially those with kids who match your or your husband’s hair color. You feel like clobbering unknowing coworkers who’ve calculated how long you’ve been married and say, “So, do you guys want kids?”
Granted, not getting pregnant on schedule has its moments. “Did you ever think we’d be infertile?” I say to Ron one day as we’re driving home from the health club in a haze of endorphins. “We’re not infertile,” he replies with characteristic optimism. “We’re… fertilely challenged.”
During this time, a realization comes to light. I’ve never had I child, so I really don’t know what I’m wishing for. Will I be patient and selfless like my mother? Or will I be short-tempered and bothered by the minutia of it all, like my father? I can’t really even imagine what our child would look like. Ron is a redhead and I’m blonde. Wouldn’t that make our baby… orange?
And after listening to friends who have kids, I’ve even had second thoughts. “Had I known it was going to be this hard, I wouldn’t have become a parent,” says a friend from college, the weary stay-at-home dad of a charming six-year-old girl.
But every so often, I get a hint of the good stuff. One morning during the holidays a few months later, for instance, when I pick up my mother and grandmother at the bed and breakfast they’re staying at while they’re in town, the proprietor’s 4-year-old granddaughter is there, in the main living room, opening presents. We all sit down for a minute. “Look Ruby,” the little girl says to my grandmother. “A tea set.” Making her way through a mound of wrapping paper, the little girl carries the porcelain pot and teacup over to Gram, who is sitting on the sofa.
“Oh!” Gram says, throwing her hands back in exaggerated delight, just like she did when I was little. “How pretty!” My mother, grandmother and I watch the little girl play with the tea set, mesmerized. Then, I remember. This is not my child. We don’t even know these people. My mother looks at me and shifts in her seat. The spell is broken. Time to go.
The following September, though, after nearly three years, we finally get lucky. Two months after a round of infertility surgery on both our parts to fix some “plumbing” issues, Ron and I try on our own and get two pink lines on the at-home pregnancy test. At the ripe age of 35, I’m finally going to be a mom. “So that’s how it works,” I jokingly tell a friend.
Soon, my elastic pants are tight and my boobs are heavy as grapefruits. Who knew pregnancy could feel this good? After nine and a half months, Rebecca is born by C-section, weighing in at nearly 9 pounds with a full head of dark hair (surprise!) and long eyelashes. “She’s pretty,” Ron says, sniffling in the OR. I’m in disbelief.
What can you say about finally giving birth after not knowing if pregnancy is even possible? Nothing short of: “This is the best day of my life.” Suffice it to say, Rebecca was much more than we had ever bargained for and definitely worth the wait.