“One girl and one boy! Aren’t you lucky!” people often declare when they see my children.
“Yes, I am.” I reply simply.
Because I am lucky, and usually people just want that acknowledgement. They don’t want to hear about my experiences with infertility and pregnancy loss, or that I never cared about gender.
My journey to my girl and boy, however, did not feel lucky at the time.
Growing up, my mother assured me that getting pregnant would be effortless. After all, my parents conceived their first child on their honeymoon and had six kids over the next seven years. She loved being pregnant and had “easy” deliveries. Her third child arrived so quickly that they induced the next three births. So she always told me that having kids would be simple.
While normally I’d delight in proving her wrong, this wasn’t one of those times.
We “only” tried for a year to get pregnant with our first child. When it didn’t happen in the first several months, I started charting my cycles. We purchased basal body thermometers, ovulation prediction kits, and special supplements. It took some time and frustration, but we felt lucky to get pregnant without medical intervention. We were lucky.
While that pregnancy was fairly routine my daughter was born pre-term, and she had a stroke at some point, which required a NICU stay. After three harrowing days of tests and treatments, she was declared stable and released with orders of neurological follow-up. We struggled for weeks with her underdeveloped sucking reflex and fears of another stroke, but still, we felt lucky to bring home a comparatively healthy child.
Getting pregnant the second time around was more difficult. Actually, I seemed to get pregnant relatively quickly, but staying pregnant was a challenge. We lost our second pregnancy at around nine weeks and our third pregnancy sometime around 12 weeks, after having already heard the baby’s heartbeat.
I found out about both miscarriages at routine doctor appointments during routine ultrasounds. I HATE ultrasounds now. I spent that next year mourning the loss of those two lives. Two people I loved but never met. Two bundles of hopes and dreams.
I was lucky though. I had an excellent doctor who knew of my daughter’s medical history and who ordered blood work after my second miscarriage instead waiting for a third, which was the medical standard.
I was lucky to find a suspected cause for my daughter’s stroke and my subsequent miscarriages: a genetic mutation that puts me at a higher risk of blood clotting.
I was lucky to have insurance that covered the prescribed blood thinners when I finally became pregnant a fourth time. And to have a husband who would administer the shots every day until I summoned up enough courage to do them myself.
And though that fourth pregnancy was filled with constant fears of losing yet another child, dreaded ultrasound appointments, and daily injections that turned into twice-daily injections, I was lucky to deliver a full-term baby boy.
“Three years apart! What perfect spacing for your kids! You’re so lucky!” folks exclaim.
“It wasn’t planned that way. That’s just how it happened.” I quietly reply.
My somber words reflect a complex mixture of gratitude and sadness. We struggled to have two beautiful, healthy children, and yet I know there are many couples that struggle far longer and much harder than we did. While I know I am fortunate, it wasn’t luck or planning that got me here. Miscarriages and infertility did, and grief and guilt accompanied me along the way.
Still, I embrace this complicated happiness.