The talk of having babies began as early as our wedding day.
“Congratulations, Sandy and Ron,” the best man said. “May your lives be long, prosperous, and filled with babies!”
All of our guests raised their glasses and cheered. For the momentous event, Ron had shaved his whitish beard, the only solid evidence of his age.
“I don’t want to look so old,” he had said. He was 43 at the time. I was 31. 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 — or even just one — sooner rather than later. And our guests had pegged us. “Forget about the wedding — get busy, you guys,” everyone seemed to be saying by their enthusiastic response, suppressed grins, and elbow jabs.
Trying with no luck
A year-and-a-half later, Ron and I felt jinxed. We were trying so hard to get pregnant — going on vacation, timing intercourse with ovulation predictor kits and a stop watch (OK, kidding), trying to relax, pretending we weren’t trying — but it was evident. Like about 10 percent of all couples around the globe, we were infertile (the inability to conceive after one year of trying).
Soon enough, I found myself a regular at the infertility specialist, along with the dozens of others I met along the way, thumbing through non-parenting magazines in the reception area. We all had a common bond: we were all experts at giving blood. We all knew which was our “good” arm.
The stories I heard: There was Judy, who had been trying for five years and was on her third attempt at in vitro fertilization. Another, Maria, had a similar record, and said she burst into tears any time she saw an infant in a restaurant. I was a newcomer, having just endured one low-tech, assisted reproductive procedure, but I could 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 with one goal: to nab the whereabouts of that all-elusive egg.
For two weeks, I was lubed up with HCG and Clomid, infertility wonder drugs, and though I was glad for the technology, I was resentful.
“I just don’t feel right about this,” I said to Ron. Deep down, I knew we could 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 were leaving us in the dust. One couple, Anna and Dan, were so perfect that their wedding photo was featured in a local magazine ad.
At a neighborhood party, Anna confided in me that she and Dan were going to start trying.
“What about you?” she asked.
“We’ve been trying for a year and a half,” I revealed.
Then, two months later, when the four of us were out to dinner, Anna announced she was pregnant.
My stomach lurched. After only two months? Suddenly, I couldn’t see my salad as — for the first time — I nearly came to tears, because I had been trying to so hard to be optimistic. Luckily, I pulled myself together as the conversation turned to sonograms, baby heart beats, and not being able to drink. Out of spite, I ordered another glass of chardonnay just because I could, since our attempt at intrauterine insemination didn’t work. Later, as the guys talked, Anna turned to me.
“It’s a relief to know you can,” she said, as in, to conceive. I couldn’t believe she actually said that — to me.
“It must be,” I said, just to be nice.
It’s not that I wanted a child so badly that I had to have one, like a drink of water on a scorching day. It was just that being pregnant and raising a child was a life experience that 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 holding kids who match your or your husband’s hair color. You feel like clobbering coworkers who calculate how long you’ve been married and then say, “So, do you guys want kids?”
During this time, I had a realization: I’d never had a child, so I didn’t really know what I was wishing for.
Would I be patient and selfless like my mother? Or would I be short-tempered and bothered by the minutia of it all, like my father? I couldn’t 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 a weary stay-at-home dad of a 6-year-old admit, “Had I known it was going to be this hard, I wouldn’t have become a parent,” I even had second thoughts.
But every so often, I got a hint of the good stuff.
During the holidays, I picked up my mother and grandmother from a bed-and-breakfast they were staying at while in town, and we all watched the owner’s 4-year-old granddaughter open presents. She was showing her new tea set to my grandmother, who was throwing her hands back in exaggerated delight, just like she did for me when I was little.
We were all so mesmerized by this little girl that we forgot we barely knew these people, and tore ourselves away.
The following September, after nearly three years, Ron and I finally got lucky. Two months after a round of infertility surgery on both of our parts — to fix some “plumbing” issues — Ron and I tried on our own and got two pink lines on the at-home pregnancy test. At the ripe age of 35, I was finally going to be a mom.
Soon, my elastic pants were tight and my boobs were as heavy as grapefruits. Who knew pregnancy could feel this good?
After nine-and-a-half months, my daughter, Rebecca, was born by C-section, weighing in at nearly 9 pounds with a full head of — surprise! — dark hair and long eyelashes.
“She’s pretty,” Ron said, sniffling while we were in the operating room.
What can you say about finally giving birth after not knowing if pregnancy was even possible? Nothing short of “this is the best day of my life.”
Suffice it to say that Rebecca was much more than we had ever bargained for, and was definitely worth the wait.