|My uterus- well past maximum recommended occupancy|
I am happy to say that I am taking part in The Mom Pledge's Birth Story event! Rather than simply write the girls' birth story as it stands alone, I have divided the tale into two parts- conception and birth, which are very much linked not only in my mind and in the way I reacted to them emotionally, but also in the way I was made to feel regarding how they came to pass. I have linked liberally to other posts where I explain some of the details from this story, which is as complicated as it is personal (so personal that it's probably best to link up with Shell's Pour Your Heart Out as well). This is part one- Origin of the Grublings.
It was inevitable that I would be a woman with essentially naturalistic tendencies.
My parents (at least my father) desperately wanted to be hippies, but they were just a bit too young. My father was determined to go to jail for refusing to enlist for the draft. They ended the draft just a few months shy of his eighteenth birthday, much to his adolescent dismay.
They were vegetarians before they met at fifteen.
I was raised with their values- peace, love, acceptance, respect for nature...
I have fond memories of a community event for Earth Day where we picked up garbage, and I discovered that there were companies that made shoes and backpacks out of recycled tires. Yes, fond memories.
|My parents, the hippies|
My school lunch box was always filled with things like fruit leather and "Vruit" juices. My mom was into organic foods before it was hip. The other kids (and moms) thought that she was crazy.
Of course I grew up to be kind of a hippie myself.
When as a young woman I started thinking about pregnancy and birth, I always envisioned things being as natural as possible. As organic, as un-medicated, and as fundamentally intervention-free as any other animal. But my life has almost never gone according to plan.
The day after we got engaged, my husband was diagnosed with brain cancer. This started a whirlwind of medical procedures... one of which was the storage of his "genetic materials." After all, who knew what the long term effects of his treatments might be? He banked sperm, and we started the long and frightening process of fighting an inoperable, stage four tumor that had lodged itself deep in his brain.
As the year progressed, we began to be truly optimistic. We were winning. We were beating the thing. Our lives could go back to... well, normal.
But not quite. Because under "normal" circumstances, we would have waited to have kids. We would have taken a few years to establish ourselves, we would have enjoyed a prolonged honeymoon of coupled bliss. But things had changed. Now, with this looming over us, we wondered how much time we had. We wondered how long M might have. And how would it be if we waited, and then the cancer came back? If after all of that, we lost him just when we wanted to start a family? Or when our children were too young to know him?
|M's boss gave him a teddy bear with a t-shirt that said, |
"My bald head is cuter than your bad haircut" when he
lost his hair to radiation. That was the same day I got this
awful haircut. I cried.
Sooner, we decided, was better. The sooner we had children, the longer we knew we would have with them. The longer M would have with them.
And so we decided to get pregnant.
We reached this decision in the months leading to the end of M's treatment. He had already been through radiation, and an experimental protocol involving arsenic that may well be the thing that saved his life, and he was finishing up a full twelve months of post-arsenic chemotherapy.
Now, chemotherapy does one job particularly well. It attacks rapidly dividing cells, like cancers.
"Genetic material" is also rapidly dividing cells.
It is incredibly dangerous to get pregnant when one party is on chemotherapy. And the damage caused by the chemo can be permanent. The doctors told us that we would have to wait between 6-24 months to see whether the "genetic material" would return to normal. We didn't want to wait that long. So, we decided to use the stored specimens to make a baby.
Unfortunately, everything happened so quickly after M's diagnosis that we didn't have a chance to store very much. There wasn't enough to go the IUI route (otherwise known as the "turkey baster method"), so IVF it would have to be.
I can't say I was crazy about the idea. It was so unnatural. It was so... clinical. But I wanted to have children with my husband, and I wanted to do it right then, so I swallowed my dissatisfaction and I got ready.
|Our first picture of the girls- the moment of implantation|
I've got to say- IVF sucks. The daily injections, the side effects of those drugs, the constant blood draws, the never ceasing saline ultrasounds... it was awful. I hated IVF. It was the opposite of everything I'd ever wanted making a baby to be. There was no love in that clinic. There was no romance. There was nothing but fear, shame, and judgement. And nearly all of that came from me.
Finally, the day of implantation arrived. Like everything before, it was unpleasant, clinical, and unnatural. The doctor explained that since I had at least been pregnant for that moment that the embryos (they insisted on two, as each had a 30% chance of "taking" and didn't want to have to try again if one failed) were implanted, I would probably test positive on an at home pregnancy test whether or not it had succeeded. So I decided to avoid the stress and just wait for the weeks to pass until I went in for an ultrasound to see what was going on in my uterus.
And there they were. Two functioning yolk sacs. I was pregnant with twins.
There was so much joy, so much excitement...
And then, the judgement began anew.
Nearly every time I told somebody I was expecting twins, they asked if I used IVF.
|Two zygotes in with their yolks|
I always felt that the question, "Did you use IVF?" was utterly dishonest. What they were actually asking was, "What's wrong with you? Why couldn't you get pregnant naturally?"
This was reinforced by the occasional person- always a woman- who would actually ask that.
I felt judged for having used IVF. I felt that other women thought of me as somehow less than for using fertility assistance. I was reminded constantly of the fear and the anxiety and the pain that had gone into the decision, that had let me and M into that fertility clinic for the first time.
It hurt. It hurt to remember those long talks about how old was old enough for a child to remember their father if he died. How old was old enough for there to be meaningful memories. How long I would need to prepare myself to be a single parent, how long we might have as a family.
These aren't the usual conversations couples have when they decide to have a baby.
I never knew what to say to women who did have fertility issues that led them to IVF. I wanted to say that I was sorry, and that I wasn't judging them. But I also felt trapped by their acceptance of me, like we were a support group for a condition that I didn't actually have.
|25 weeks with my twins|
I didn't feel superior to them, I felt separate from them. And I wanted to be separate, to find the other women who must be in the clinic because of chemo or cancer or some other issue that had nothing to do with them. I wanted for everyone to know that I didn't know whether or not I could get pregnant naturally, that I didn't know what my body did or didn't do all by itself. All I knew was that my husband had brain cancer, and he was beating it, but that it had nothing to do with my uterus. Or my womanhood. Or my ability to be a mother.
I felt bad for the women who had tried and tried to have a baby, and had ended up in the fertility clinic for help. I felt bad because I knew what it was like to want to have something huge and meaningful in your life, and not to know whether it would be possible.
And I felt bad for them because I knew how it felt to be judged by "normal" women who could get pregnant whenever they wanted.
I experienced other women actually bullying me and other IVF successes for using fertility assistance (ALWAYS online with the aid of internet anonymity). Because it is unnatural. Because if God wanted you to have a baby, you would have simply gotten pregnant. Because medical interventions have no place in the realm of the Goddess. Because if your body wanted you to be pregnant, you would have gotten pregnant. Because if you just listened to your body and did what it needed you would have gotten pregnant without any help. Because you didn't pray enough. Because you didn't try everything. Because you just wanted the attention of having multiples like the Octo-mom. Because some people obviously aren't meant to have babies.
I wanted to punch those ladies in the face. But it's hard to tell somebody that they're a grade-A asshole when they accuse you of all the things you already feel. When they tell you you are less than them because you failed at getting pregnant naturally. When, in some shameful corner of your mind, you agree.
|SI - 22 gestational weeks|
I didn't fail at getting pregnant naturally. I did everything I could not to get pregnant naturally. I succeeded in getting pregnant with two squirmy creatures who would eventually become my practically perfect daughters.
But I felt that I had failed, a little. Because it was so unnatural. And it was so clinical. Because, "when a mommy and daddy love each other very much, they make love and that creates a baby." And that isn't what happened.
With every complication I had, and there were many, somebody would helpfully explain that this probably happened because of the IVF. Or it happened because I was carrying twins (because of the IVF). So everything that went wrong, from my SPD to my subchorrionic hematoma to my gall bladder disease, was happening to me and my babies because I had failed.
I did a good job of silencing that voice- the one that judged me so harshly for how I got pregnant.
|DD - 22 weeks gestational age|
But every time another woman- who had succeeded- asked me "Oh twins! Did you use IVF?" what I heard was, "You are a failure at getting pregnant, aren't you?"
So through the whole pregnancy I harbored my dedication to a beacon of hope- a natural delivery.
My babies might have come into my womb in a cold, clinical way, but they were going to come out the way I wanted them to. In that, I was determined to succeed.
...knowing that my life almost never goes according to plan. Almost never.
Tune in tomorrow for the second half of the story- the Birth of the Grublings.