“You’re No Spring Chickens”: An Essay of Infertility and Indecision

My husband and I struggled with infertility. We were happy when blessed with the perfect daughter from a successful IVF (In Vitro Fertilization) in March of 2007. A happy little family. Like an athlete who made it to the Olympics after years of hard work, we felt heroic after the hurdles and obstacles we had to overcome to achieve parenthood.  The journey was over.

In 2006, the treatment path that my fertility doctor had set me on was more than successful — the shots, the pills, the weekly trips to Syracuse for a vaginal ultrasound and bloodwork — produced many eggs for harvesting. When the miracle-workers in the lab introduced my husband’s sperm to my eggs, 8 embryos were created – EIGHT viable embryos! 

When the embryos were three days old, the remarkable Dr. Rob of the CNY Fertility Center in Syracuse, took three of the viable embryos and inserted them into my uterus. 

The remaining 5 embryos were frozen. 

Over the next couple years, my husband and I casually considered what we would do with the five frozen embryos. We considered giving them to a family member struggling with fertility. We thought about selling them. We contemplated donating them to research.

By January of 2010, the money we had been granted for fertility treatments no longer covered the cost of storage. My husband and I had fallen on hard times financially and a quarterly fee for storage made our conversations of the embryos no longer a casual chat. We had to make a decision. We paid the fee for the first quarter but promised we would make a decision before the next payment was due.

Forced with making a final decision, the angst of what to do was tremendous, the potential lives of five babies hung over us like a gray cloud on a sunny day. Many conversations later, multiple scenarios discussed, we came to the simple, yet harsh conclusion that we would donate the embryos to science.

Around the same time we made our decision, I was scheduled for my annual gynecological exam. I was quite fond of my OB/GYN. She was an unsympathetic, brass woman who talked like she was raised in Hell’s Kitchen. She told it like it was – and I adored her for it. 

Sure, when I first started seeing my OB/GYN in the early 2000s, I thought I had made a mistake. Was this the right fit for me? But, by my second visit, I was able to make a connection with my wit and humor – and she, in turn, always gave me the most spot-on advice – I knew this was the doc for me. When I told her in 2005 that family planning was not going as expected, and we may need some help, she didn’t mess around with different pill concoctions and tracking my cycles. She knew from my history that she needed to send me to the best person for the job, Dr. Rob and his team of miracle-workers at the CNY Fertility Center. She even gushed like a schoolgirl talking about a crush when she mentioned Dr. Rob – one not to exude warm fuzzies, I could tell from her demeanor that she was sending me to the mightiest wizard in infertility treatments. 

So, when I told her during my annual exam on that day in 2010, that my husband and I decided to donate our frozen embryos to science, she flatly disagreed.

She told me, “one of the saddest aspects of my job is the woman who has no family. Her parents were older when she was born and did not have any other children. Now her parents are gone and her parents’ families are gone and she is alone. When she goes to the hospital for a procedure, she does not have family to sit by her and hold her hand. When she goes to her chemo and radiation appointments for her cancer, she has no one to check in on her when she returns home. When she dies, she will have no family left behind to mourn for her. You and your husband are no spring chickens. You will be in your sixties and seventies when your daughter graduates college. You may even be dead by the time she considers starting her own family. Don’t do this to your daughter. Don’t let your daughter be an only child. She needs family, she needs a sibling.”

And, that was that.

By early summer, after a failed FET (frozen embryo transfer) attempt and only two embryos remaining, I implored that Dr. Rob do the FET. He did. And, the miracle happened.

It was not an easy pregnancy. I cramped and bled at four weeks which resulted in strict bed rest for two weeks. My husband, attempting to make a better life for our growing family, took a job in Boston, MA, five hours away, when I was six months pregnant. I stayed behind with our house, daughter, and dog. I was sick. Very sick. I ended up in the hospital four or five times for dehydration — always dragging my three year old daughter with me because we had no family in the area. I lost twenty pounds.

In March, 2011, two days after my 41st birthday, our second daughter was born.

Today, we have two daughters that absolutely adore one another. Sure, they are still young — I anticipate they will be hating one another during their teen years — but they won’t be alone.

Originally published in April 2015


You Don’t Need Money to Be Civilized

Today, as I stood behind the elementary school waiting for the Kindergarten teachers to emerge from the back door with our children, I passively listened to a young mother talking on her cell phone. She talked loudly, and with much drama, it was hard not to tune in on her conversation. And then…f-bombs started dropping. I quickly scanned the other parents waiting, but before I could register any disdain on the faces in the crowd, the door opened and the lines of Kindergarteners started filing outside.

I gathered my little one and walked away.

However, hours later, I was still bothered by the young mother and her f-bombs.

Am I a perfect parent? Hell, no! I sneak sweets and hide ice cream treats so I don’t have to share. I yell often. And, I spend too much time on my laptop when I should be making precious memories.

However, when I am in public, whether I am with my children or not, I am respectful, considerate, and mindful of others.

We live in a lower economic section of town. Our elementary is a Title 1 school. The neighborhood, proud and respectable, is poor. But, being poor is not an excuse for acting poorly. The two are not a compulsory cause and effect.

So, why did this woman think it was okay to stand outside an elementary school, in a crowd of parents and grandparents from our community, and obtrusively use inappropriate language?

I don’t know the answer, but I do know it doesn’t cost a thing to be a decent human being.

Originally posted January 2017