Taking My Body Back (After Infertility)

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I thought long and hard about whether or not to post the piece below on That’s So Jenn, and those of you who know me well can attest to the extent in which empathy and sensitivity for others can take over my thoughts. I know some people who are still working on their infertility happy ending, so I pondered how it would make them feel to read about mine. Or what if it was just ‘enough already’ about the pain I’ve been through. I mean, shouldn’t I be ‘over it’ by now? But then I remembered that I’m a writer, and for me, this is solace. To get my story out, to connect with others, and when possible, to inspire hope.

A year ago today was my due date. Who knows when I would’ve gone into labor, but I would’ve had a one-year-old around now. A toddler.

Not the pregnancy I got to experience at the same time as my sister-in-law/best friend, not a cousin for my little guy only 2 1/2 weeks apart, not the extra close bond with one of my dear friends whom we goof about having an arranged marriage with her new daughter and my son. Not the group of baby boys all the same age for our weekly play dates, not the new bonds I’ve formed, not a 5 1/2 month old ball of love…ultimately, not Josh.

I couldn’t imagine any other baby, wouldn’t wish for any other baby, and wouldn’t trade this life as Emma and Josh’s Mommy for anything. Period.

And so I close out the year with this. A thank you to everyone who has rooted for me since I posted my story last December. To the ones who have reached out to me privately to commiserate with their own struggles, show support, or fill me in on great news. To the ones who celebrated in our announcement, prayed for us during our NICU scare, and who continue to accept me for this picture snapping, over-posting, sometimes over-sharing, very grateful Mama.

I started 2017 with Josh in my belly, and I am overjoyed to begin 2018 with him in my arms. Wishing you all a dream-come-true year ahead.

Last winter I was singing a completely different tune. My husband and I were mourning the loss of our due date, while preparing for an IVF transfer with our final, frozen embryo. The tech knew of my story and how I was literally putting all my eggs in one basket. “That’s your baby,” she told me. She was right. It worked. After many scares throughout the pregnancy, our miracle son entered the world this summer, 6 1/2 weeks early. I suppose he didn’t want us to have to wait any longer. After a few week stay in the NICU with tubes in his nose and uncertainty, we brought him home to begin our family of four. He was real. He was ours. Our daughter was a big sister. We could finally exhale.

When I was given permission to return to Zumba class, a rush of adrenaline came over me at the thought of “getting my body back,” realizing that for the first time in 7 years, it is finally mine. All. Mine.

I’m not referring to a 6-pack (I gave up the idea of anyone recruiting me for a supermodel gig years ago…), but the feeling of latitude, indulgence and relief to be done with fertility struggles forever. Pregnancy…and my journey to get there…equaled a long list of things I couldn’t do, which means a significant piece of my life has felt like I’ve been on the do not fly list. I was either gearing up to conceive, growing a baby, dealing with a loss or postpartum. On a vicious, repeating loop. 27 Dresses, but with hospital gowns. I’ve been hormonally altered for my entire marriage, with the exception of the two years in between before trying for baby #2. But even then, that looming next step was always on my mind. Six losses and countless procedures later, I can finally celebrate knowing I never have to do any of this ever again. And it’s incredibly liberating.

After years of donating my body to science and child bearing, I’m finally taking it back.

If I want to workout daily, I can do it. I’m no longer high risk. If I want to tackle a juice cleanse, I don’t have to worry about how it will effect my meds. If I’d rather sit on my butt and eat raw cookie dough (and not that safe, egg-free sh*t, but the old-school from scratch kind), bring it on salmonella! I’m not afraid of you anymore. If I want to gain some ‘happiness pounds’ by serving up a plate of unpasteurized cheese, then bon appetit’ to me. If I want to cannonball into a foam pit at the trampoline park, then watch out here I come. If anyone needs me I’ll be standing in front of the running microwave while eating sushi and drinking wine, because I CAN. The choice is mine. I’m going to start coloring my hair and lifting heavy objects, and packing for some tropical, Zika filled destination. No more pills. No more needles. No more waiting. No more recovering.

I’m taking my calendar back too. No more trekking back and forth to specialists over an hour away during morning rush hour. No more planning social events around whether or not I’d have to fake drink, or being unable to commit to an activity because I may or may not have an appointment at that time. I’m filling my days with fun. With friends. With family memories. With laughter. Which I did before, don’t get me wrong (especially when beaming with sheer bliss after having our fought-for daughter Emma!), but during our struggles, while I was certainly happy and surely living, I just didn’t fully feel alive.

Before my husband and I got married, a good friend advised us to take a minute to ourselves during our wedding reception to soak it all in. While we stood back, arm in arm, in awe of the scene before us, we marveled at the carefully detailed decor and loving company surrounding us. The band had our entire dance floor rocking out to Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing,” which became the anthem for our next 7 1/2 years of marriage. No matter how dark our days were, we didn’t stop believing until we saw the sunshine.

There is now a sense of adventure; a fire and passion burning inside of me again. A zest and an energy that I’ve always possessed, often shared, but now embrace with every sense of my being. No more wanting to run and hide. No more aching heart. I feel complete and content and thankful.

When Hubby and I went on our first date after becoming parents of two, it was about just US again. And flirting. And smiling. And romance. And stopping for late night dulce de leche waffles on the way to the train. For the first time in ages, we weren’t out to mask the pain. We weren’t escaping. I wasn’t holding back tears during our appetizers. We weren’t discussing our next steps about when we were going to try again, or tip toeing around the subject sipping on a cocktail I wished I wasn’t allowed to drink. This time, we clinked glasses to our happily ever after. We toasted to the best chapter of a story that felt like it would never end, celebrating the friendship between us that has only grown stronger throughout all these years. We were in the moment, grateful and dare I say #blessed.

As a Mommy to my two miracle, rainbow children, I have the most responsibility I’ve ever had in my life. And yet, I’ve never felt so free.

 

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