Today I’m sharing a piece that I wrote at probably the worst moment of my infertility journey. It originally appeared on the website of Seleni Institute, an incredible non-profit dedicated to women’s reproductive and mental health. You can read the full article here.
If you know anyone struggling with infertility, please share this piece. Not being able to conceive when you want more than anything to have a child is a lonely and devastating road, often hard on your relationships and your finances. Yet so few women talk about it openly. That’s why I am committed to speaking publicly about my experience.
At 37, I felt like a stranger in my own life. How had I wound up a disoriented divorcée panicking about ever having a child of my own? Where was the happy ending Disney promised me when I was a little girl? Why had I failed at forming a family – the adult achievement I valued above any other?
In the face of this despair, I opted for an experimental insurance policy – I froze my eggs. After two weeks of injecting myself with hormones nightly, several ultrasounds, and one small surgical procedure, I put 18 eggs on ice.
My little cryogenic insurance policy gave me the space to make dating choices driven by genuine connection rather than desperation. I returned to enjoying the single life and went on first, even second dates without launching into semi-psychotic rants about how much I wanted to have kids – now.
Six months after storing my future, I received a call from my friend Kiran. “How are you doing?” he asked.
“I’m alright. But I’m single…”
His voice jumped an octave. “Really? Me, too!”
“Well, we should be together, then,” I blurted before my inner censor could kick in.
Kiran laughed. “We should.”
I had met Kiran three years earlier on a beach in Costa Rica. We’d both been surfing, and he stood on the sand smiling at me like something out of a romance novel – a hot, wet mess of bulging arm muscles, curly black hair, and coffee ice cream skin. I felt compelled to say hello.
Our chatter did not pause for the next hour. We discovered that we were both living in California, divorced and childless, in our late 30s, and eager to start families. Even more remarkable, we had both journeyed to Nosara to write and surf for several months. The only rub: This was the last day of my retreat, the first of his. We swapped contact info and promised to connect in person back on American soil.
The email trail formed immediately and quickly brought us closer to each other than we had ever felt to anyone else. Though we were 350 miles apart and both intermittently sucked back into our other relationships, our friendship blossomed.
We’d kept in contact by phone and email until that evening, six months after I had iced down my eggs, when Kiran called to announce that he was single. Then we jumped on the high-speed rail.
Within three months, I had quit my job in San Francisco and moved in with Kiran in Los Angeles. We got married three months later.
During my difficult single years, my psychotherapist read to me a line that poet Theodore Roethke had written about his wife. She was, he said, “More than I’d hoped, less than I dreamed.” Kiran had encountered the same quote while trying to make things work with his ex-girlfriend. Yet the sentiment – that we ought to be willing to compromise – hadn’t sat well with either one of us.
Now that we had found true love, we knew Roethke had it wrong. We modified the quote, saying about one another: “You are more than I dreamed, everything I deserve.”
We began trying to get pregnant immediately. Seven months later, we succeeded. In spite of having felt ready for parenthood for years, we found ourselves as giddy as teenagers.
But when we went to the doctor’s office for the eight-week checkup, instead of hearing our baby’s heartbeat for the first time, we heard and saw nothing. Just an empty sac. I had miscarried. As I mourned that tiny, incomplete life, my solace was the knowledge that I had those 18 frozen eggs if I ever needed them.