A post by another blogger that I follow inspired me to share my thoughts on this. Do any of you watch the Real Housewives of Orange County? I do. It started one day when I lost the remote and was too lazy to get up and change the channel manually (what is this, 1997?) and now I’m hooked.
In the show one of the housewives is married to man who has 4 (3?) children from previous marriages and had a vasectomy – she has no children of her own. He had his sperm frozen and so they are pursuing IVF to have a child together. I’ve been giving this whole story line the side eye from the beginning. She’s so chipper and so open about the IVF process, but of course it’s happening because he had a vasectomy, not because she’s infertile. No blame on her. No fault of hers. These folks have more money than sense so unlike most of us they’re just moving forward without any financial considerations, which rankled a little. She spends the entirety of several shows complaining about her stim meds and her ovaries and how swollen she feels and is generally very dramatic about the whole thing (yes, it sucks. Really a lot. But come on lady). This woman (Meghan) announces happily to all of her friends right after the transfer “I’m pregnant with my twins!” without even entertaining the idea that something might go wrong in her perfect little world.
BUT. This is a woman who desperately wants a baby. This is a woman who is chronicling on TV the trials and tribulations and the pain and process of IVF – we see her fear when she does her injections. We see her in the stirrups at appointment after appointment. Her husband, a baseball player, is uninvolved and pretty unsupportive, and we see her struggle to curb her enthusiasm and her expectations in the face of his dispassion. After all, he already has kids. As a woman married to man who already had children this really hit home. I have spoken to so so so many of you struggling with being a stepmother but wanting your own children. So often, our partners want to support us in our attempts to have our own babies but are less committed and less enthusiastic – they already have kids, after all. This leaves us feeling alone and (sometimes) selfish. Should we be satisfied with what we already have? But I digress…
A few episodes back Megan and her husband decided to put in 2 embryos and because they’ve had genetic testing (unlimited funds strike again) they know that one embryo is a boy and the other is a girl. They’re going to have twins, she tells the world! (inwardly I cringe). Megan capers around talking about her nonexistent baby bump and her twins.
In the last episode they go in for the ultrasound. There is a lovely gestation sac and a healthy baby with a perfect heartbeat. But only one. And she loses it, right there on the table. She’s devastated that there’s only one baby and not two. I watched this utterly torn, angel on one shoulder and devil on the other.
- Devil – Are you serious? She has a healthy baby! What the hell is she crying about? I know so many people who would give almost anything to hear those words! How dare she? What an entitled bitch!
- Angel – *sob* I get it Meghan. I’m so sorry. You had 2 healthy, genetically perfect embryos transferred and you had expectations and dreams that you would birth 2 healthy, perfect babies. Half of your babies are gone. Your dreams are different. The life you’ve been imagining is no longer a possibility and that is so so hard.
And as you all know I’ve been there. The one time that I was pregnant with my own eggs I will admit to being a little sad that it wasn’t twins – couldn’t be twins (we only transferred one egg). After infertility the idea of the bounty of 2 babies is impossible to ignore. When I lost that baby I felt deeply guilty that I had wished for twins because all I wanted was my one little baby back. So when we were doing our donor egg transfer and the doctor asked if we wanted 1 or 2 embryos transferred I immediately said 2. What I actually said was “2 improves our chances for a baby, and it’s the path of least regret for us.” In truth, I wanted twins. And I got them. I felt them both implant. I knew that at one point at least, I was pregnant with 2 babies. There were some issues with the hCG tests (see previous posts) but when I walked in for my ultrasound I was utterly convinced that I was carrying twins. So I understand the impulse. And I imagine it must be even harder to accept when you know the sexes of the embryos – that makes it even more real and allows your fantasies to be that much more complete and complex. Your future life is so real you can taste it.
We all have ideas about how our lives will turn out and infertility throws a wrench into those plans. It doesn’t matter if you’re a rich reality TV star or a hard-working school teacher, we all have dreams and hopes and wishes. This stupid reality TV show has made me confront the fact that I need to be less judgmental about how people get to where they are and be more supportive of their process. Megan’s pain isn’t any less than mine. Her process isn’t any less important. There’s no hierarchy to suffering. We’re all women working towards a common goal and we need to be loving, understanding and supportive. So if you feel the need for some love and support – hit me up. I want to be a positive part of your process.
Until next time, friends.