“Do twins run in your family?”
They had to, right? After all, I was an identical twin, pregnant with twins.
I had three answers to that question.
To the person who knows I am a twin, but doesn’t know me that well: “Yes, obviously,” cue smile and nod (even though I’m an identical twin, which, FYI, don’t run in anyone’s family; they’re a complete fluke).
To the person with whom I feel like being a little truthful without divulging too many details: “Kind of, but we had help.”
And to the person with whom I don’t feel like giving a “nice” answer, because a.) we’re buds, or b.) I just don’t care: “We did IVF.”
Most of the time I wanted to jump straight to Answer #3. But, as detonating the IVF bomb on mere acquaintances (or the checkout lady at Target, strangers on the street, etc.), could put me at risk of seeming inappropriate, I usually stuck with some version of Answers #1 and #2.
For a good part of my pregnancy, I carried around a hefty helping of infertility survivor’s guilt. Answer #3 felt important to tell people. “Yes, I’m pregnant with twins, but it didn’t just ‘happen.’ Yes, you’re seeing me with the jackpot prize right now, but you’re not seeing the three years that led up to this moment, the countless ‘natural’ and ‘unnatural’ remedies tried. Yes, I’m pregnant with twins—but if you’re one of the one-in-eight women who is walking through the tunnel of infertility that seems to have no end? I get it.”
Of course, the fact that my husband and I ended up with two babies at the end of our three year infertility struggle is still massively unfair. We put in the years and tears, but we didn’t “deserve” our girls as the natural payout. Why did we only have to struggle for three years, when for some couples three years is but a blip in the infertility stream? Why did our one IVF cycle, ultimately a very expensive roll of the dice, succeed—when so many others make that bet one time, two times, three . . . for nothing? Why were we lucky enough to carry two healthy babies to term?
It is the anniversary of our IVF cycle. Exactly one year ago today I was holding my breath, waiting for the call from the infertility clinic to see how many of my ten retrieved eggs fertilized. Three days after my retrieval surgery, the answer was five. And then on transfer day, there were two. I wanted more. What if our first cycle didn’t work? We needed “insurance,” i.e., embryos in the freezer that we could use on a future cycle if this one failed.
I was fully prepared for failure. I spent the entire IVF cycle praying for the best, but bracing for the eventuality of a “no.” I researched adoption: which agency in our city is the best, typical wait times, how I could get a tax credit to cover the staggering cost (which is significantly more than IVF). Had our story been different–had that one cycle not worked–we would have moved on to adoption, and I’d have a different story to tell. Maybe one day I’ll have that story, too. But the cycle did work, despite my protectionary Googling. Those two embryos are now napping in their nursery; I write this to the whir of the sound machine which lulls them to sleep.
My two girls seem inevitable now, like there’s no way they could have not found their way to us. But one year ago today, I wasn’t sure of anything. Infertility can do that to you. Up until encountering the dreaded “I” word, my life had gone a certain way, with results that flowed naturally out of decisions I had made. I met my husband; we got married. My husband and I decided we wanted new experiences; we moved to a new city. I needed a new car/apartment/job; I searched and got it. But when my husband and I decided we wanted kids? Natural actions did not produce natural results.
Oh, how I envied the women who could just “get pregnant.” When that’s not you, nothing is sure. “When” we have kids becomes “will we have kids? If so, how?” And then, “how much?” Kids are expensive; everyone knows that. But most people don’t have to pay the cost upfront. Those who walk through infertility treatments know the trade-offs: “we can have kids OR a car/house downpayment/freedom from student loans/etc.” Lucky is the infertile couple who can have all of the above.
But my husband and I did it anyway. We did IVF even though it wasn’t a sound financial investment, even though it very well could have failed. We did it because we felt that we had to. Because the thought of doing IVF was more bearable than the thought of not doing IVF. We did IVF, even though when we started down the infertility road I told myself: “there’s no way we’ll ever do that.” Am I thrilled that we took the IVF plunge and it paid off? Of course. Do I ever want to do it again? Umm, no.
During my infertile years, when I spent practically all of my free time on Google trying to figure out how in the world I was ever going to get a baby, I came across something that was very helpful: if you want a child, you will have a child. But you have to be open as to how that child will come to you. Whether via regular ole’ fertility treatments, or the big guns of IVF, or adoption, or surrogacy, or foster-to-adopt–you can’t place a mental, permanent “X” over something and say, “Well, I’m never doing that.” Because maybe that is the beautiful instrument by which you will get your children. In the words of Jimmy Fallon, who dealt with infertility for five years before a surrogate gave birth to he and his wife’s first daughter: “Do whatever you have to do.”
My worries now are totally different than they were a year ago. Now I think of my girls, and I wonder: how will I nurture their individuality while still encouraging their friendship and loyalty to one another? How are we going to pay for two in college at the same time? How do I get them to SLEEP? I’d love to say that I sit around every day and remember to be grateful for the ridiculous luck that made those two embryos stick, the magic that turned those clump of cells into my daughters. But I’m sleep-deprived and homebound these days, and that can turn me pretty grumpy. In my good moments, though, I remember. And then my most eloquent prayer sounds something like this: “thank you thank you thank you THANK YOU.” Thank you for the years of infertility that brought us here. Thank you that IVF worked. Thank you for my daughters, my completely unnatural twins, who came because of science and God and luck, not because they “ran in the family.”
I like our story better.
About the Author
Jennifer Locke is a stay at home mom who spends her days wrangling her adorable twin girls and writing fiction. She lives in Dallas, Texas.