I always swore growing up that I would never drive a minivan. I hated them. Despite having grown up with them to be able to travel with my siblings and parents in my large family, I always imagined a much cooler way to get around.  Ironically, I always envisioned having a large family myself — three, maybe four children and a partner to raise them with. I just always envisioned driving something, anything else.

Of all the things I knew for certain about my future, being a mother was and is the most important to me. I have adored children for as long as I can remember and have always dreamed of being a mother. Little did I know that starting and growing a family would prove to be one of my life's greatest challenges and heartaches. 

I got married when I was 33. It was smart to wait because I ended up marrying exactly the person that was right for me. We got to grow independently, finish school, travel, and start our fulfilling careers before finding each other. We thought that that was a wonderful thing and helped us to appreciate all that we found in each other. That said, I didn't consider that when we were ready to try to start a family, it would not come easy for us.

Truthfully, I thought I'd be pregnant when I got back from our honeymoon in Costa Rica. It wasn't until a year after our wedding anniversary that I started to look into things a little deeper. Any woman who's ever been through this knows the drill — month after month, you track, you plan, you try, you wait, rinse and repeat. After many invasive tests later, we learned that my husband had a varicocele that required surgery and received the diagnosis of “male factor infertility” and me, in my “advanced maternal age,” had low egg reserve.

After all of our testing at our first fertility clinic, we were told that we would have little to no chance of ever conceiving on our own and that our chances were slim, even with interventions. That news took my breath away. The life I thought we could build together would not come so easily, if at all.  After 3 unsuccessful IUI’s, IVF counseling, and copious amounts of hormone medication,  I decided to switch things up and try a new clinic. This was over three years into our journey and I finally began to realize that I needed to advocate for myself and find people who believed in us and were open to trying different things. 

You see, everything else in my life up to this point had this method: You set a goal, you work towards it, and eventually, you would achieve success. Fertility does not follow this at all. You cannot control or change the outcome, you cannot work your way towards it, well, you could try, but you're still not guaranteed. We added other things into the mix: Diet changes, lifestyle changes, acupuncture, naturopathic support, nutritionists, ridiculous amounts of supplements and treatments, online support groups and regular counseling. 

When we got to our next clinic,  we immediately loved the nurses and our new quirky doctor and lo and behold on our fourth IUI, we were pregnant! Our nurse that did the IUI said it was her first one ever! That two week wait was something: I never felt more beautiful and like a superhuman than when I was pregnant. Words do no justice to the contentment and power that I felt. 41 weeks later, I gave birth via emergency C-section to the greatest gift in my life, our son Isaiah. Raising our son has been more amazing, fulfilling, challenging, joy-filled, and beautiful than I could have ever even imagined.

Here is where the world either tells you to just be grateful, or they'll brazenly ask you when you are going to have another. This is usually followed by the well-intended but useless piece of advice to just “relax” or some other insensitive remark to fill the awkward space of talking about this stuff.

I'll fast-forward a little bit to tell you that we got pregnant naturally two years after my son was born, but miscarried at 11 weeks. That loss required an emergency D&C that was both terrifying and heartbreaking. After that, we tried another 3 IUI´s, had two canceled cycles, one failed IVF before changing fertility clinics again and having another two more egg retrievals, another miscarriage at 8 weeks requiring emergency interventions to stop the bleeding and then I was left with two day-3 embryos and one day-five blastocyst left. I miscarried again at 7 weeks and the did a slew of tests including another sonohysterogram, a products of conception test and various blood tests (known as the recurrent pregnancy loss panel) and got the all clear, only to go on to have our final blastocyst, a beautiful 5AB fail to transfer. This was a gut punch and an abrupt end to the fertility journey we spiraled in for the past 8 years. Done.

Those losses were enormous. I had dreams for those babies. I loved them already. The grief comes in waves, often around special holidays and anniversaries of when I hoped to meet them. 

We have decided to stop pursuing fertility treatments. My body, my spirit, and our budget cannot do this anymore. After 8 years, we’re out. This decision has not been easy. 

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Fertility is not a Cinderella Story. It is not more important to tell you about this if and when we are blessed with another, or if we are reeling from the loss of this not working out the way we had hoped. The real story is what's happening in the right now. Learning to sit in this discomfort and uncertainty and grief. The real life of trying to raise a son, managing fertility treatments, costs (emotional, physical, and financial) and appointments while working full-time and trying to be the wife and mother and friend and daughter and sister and teacher and all of the other titles I try to show up for in my life. It's the duality of it all: It's sitting in deep gratitude for having a child and for even being in the position to try, but still feeling great loss. Some don't even get to that, they can't.

Despite this being the hardest chapter of my life, it is not lost on me that despite that, I am in a position of privilege. I can try, many are not so fortunate. This stretches through the shame of it all, the second-guessing your every choice, resenting your partner for how heavy your load is, and all of the other people who seem to have it so much easier, and then pile on more shame for even feeling those things in the first place when you already have much to be grateful for.

I am sitting in grief and stretchy pants because my womb is full of hormones. I am in the thick of doing the hard work of wading through the mental toll this has taken. As I get ready to go to work and face the day, I am wondering how I can show up for the people who need me. I am thinking of my friends and family, special moments and gatherings I have avoided because I am struggling trying to deal with the triggers and the well-intended, but deeply insensitive questions, remarks, and advice. I am wading through the grief, while also making peace as this journey is coming to a close, one way or another. It's hard to find meaning and the point to all of this without the space and the distance of clarity that only time can give.

I do know I am much stronger than I ever could have imagined. I do know that these challenges have made my husband and I much better parents than we ever could have been because we have such deep appreciation for our journey. I look at our son in absolute wonder and awe that we get to walk this life with him. I long to give him a sibling and hold another newborn baby that is ours. I used to carry a lot of shame for admitting that I wanted more children. I also carried a lot of shame for all of the treatments we have needed up to this point, but I don't anymore. I look at our beautiful son and think about our seven IUI´s, canceled cycles, three miscarriages and three egg retrievals, three transfers, and all of the other treatments, procedures, appointments, needles, loss and trauma like a badge of honor.

When all of this is said and done, however all of this lands, I know wholeheartedly that we did absolutely everything we could do to create and grow our family. We researched, we prayed, we worked with countless experts in their field and navigated our journey exactly the way we needed to with the information we had at the time. Whether or not we have another child, does not change those facts. One out of six will experience this heartache. Now, I may never fill a minivan, but I’m learning to sit with that and know I tried my best. I know our hearts could certainly have filled up many.