Poked and Prodded on the Way to Parenthood

I overcame infertility once, but it doesn’t make me a ‘normal mom.’

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Me and my babe.

I have the best baby on the planet! Am I biased? Of course. But I feel this to my core. That's because my babe decided that I was his mom.

Well, he had some help, but out of 72 eggs and over 20 embryos he is the little guy who said, "yes that uterus looks comfy enough to settle in." It only took two Jews (myself and the doctor), several Russians, a team of nurses and an adorable ginger (my husband).

It's weird, and sometimes difficult, to think about how we were brought together. Although I do not consciously think about it daily, my babe's origin is always present. It's this little thing in the back of my mind that subconsciously informs most of my decisions.

I always knew I wanted to be a mom. Quite frankly, there is nothing else I was ever so sure about in my life. My body was made to carry babies, ALL OF THE BABIES. I even remember exactly when my husband and I decided we would start trying: December 27, 2013. I came home from walking the dog and told him, "I am ready, let's start having babies." He laughed and said, "great, it's about time."

I went to the gyno, talked about when I would get off birth control and we proceeded according to plan, but after going off birth control, I knew something was off; I wasn't getting my period and was losing weight easily/quickly. After my 28th birthday I was diagnosed with unexplained infertility.

This was an insane blow to everything I expected for my family's future. Unexplained infertility meant we couldn't have a baby and no one could tell me why. It meant that I would become a test case for a slew of meds and a grueling process of elimination. It was and still remains the darkest time in my life. It was difficult to function on a daily basis because I was on so many hormones; my brain was fuzzy, my emotions were all over the place and my heart was broken.

I used to joke that I have cried on every street corner in Chicago. My husband and I would take long walks with our pup, which always led to me having a mini meltdown. Nothing in particular triggered it, it was just the state of our situation that put me over the edge every few hours. There was the time I walked into a wall, times I showed up to appointments that didn't exist, yelled at my friend on the street only to realize she was standing behind me, and the list goes on.

I was a shell of myself. I couldn't go to baby showers or look at social media. My friends seemed to be popping out babies left and right, and while my heart wanted so very much to be happy for them, I couldn't bear to be reminded of what I couldn't have.

My husband and I felt like outsiders. We did not have friends who were in our situation. If we knew people going through in vitro fertilization, it was due to age or Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. And while the daily injections were similar, the uncertainty that loomed over my condition made me feel different and alone.

During those two and half years I would go to therapy to be reminded that this was not my fault. People who eat Doritos get pregnant; people who lived in Nazi concentration camps got pregnant. In other words, no matter how much kale and cardio I worked into my routine, I did not have control over getting pregnant. It was a tough and bitter pill to swallow, but it was a great lesson for this Type A gal.

In 2016, my husband and I created a timeline that had a clear end in sight. This eased some of my anxiety. Then, after a statistically above-average 14 different medical procedures, (a mixture of surgeries and invasive, painful tests), we finally got our sweet baby, Grant.

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Once I became pregnant, I felt re-introduced to the world and comfortable engaging with people who had babies "naturally." I knew what it felt like to have morning sickness, backaches and to breastfeed, and I never once took any of it for granted. Throughout my pregnancy I would say "thank you" if I felt sick. While breastfeeding, I praised my body for working with me to sustain my baby's life. I know I am lucky and not everyone gets this chance.

Grant is beyond adorable -- the sweetest, most gentle, hilarious, kind, super-smart baby. He is my favorite person on the planet. I know he thinks I am the funniest and as my husband says all the time, "you two love each other in the weirdest way."

But despite my comfort, the trauma associated with Grant's creation has never truly left me. And as we gear up to try for our second baby, that anxiety has crept back in. And while it is different this time because I do not have to wonder if pregnancy will ever happen for me, I do have to wonder if it could happen again. And I want it so badly for me, for my husband and for Grant.

If it doesn't happen again, the question looms regarding the affordability of adoption (ya'll, adoption costs about $30,000 minimally and IVF set us back $20,000 even with insurance) and the list goes on and on.

Those feelings of isolation and resentment sometimes creep back in even though I know I am the luckiest person in the world. As friends start having their second and third babies, I listen and pretend I am like them. But I am not like them and will never be.

I do not know what it is like to miss a period, or to take a pregnancy test and tell my partner. I only know being poked and prodded from the inception of pregnancy until the end. I wish I could be carefree and "have fun" while trying. I've tried, and will continue to put forth effort, but there is always the looming anxiety.

One in eight couples experience infertility, according to RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association. That's 12 percent of all married women, people -- that's HUGE. That's also why I am very vocal about my experience because I have been in too many spaces where my son's existence is a presumed marker of fertility.

If you are a parent and trying for your second or third kid, try to remember that the process that brought you to playgroup is different from the next parent's. Your journey is exciting, but you never know how it might make someone else feel. Bring compassion and kindness, and everyone will benefit.

Annie Warshaw is the CEO of Mission Propelle, a girl empowerment after school program. When she is not empowering elementary-age girls, she is teaching Gender Justice at Roosevelt University. She is currently the co-chair for the Local School Council at Pulaski International School. She lives in Bucktown with her amazingly supportive husband, perfect baby, Grant, her dog and two cats.

Read more stories in the "Bringing Up (Jewish) Baby" blog series at www.oychicago.com/baby.

"Bringing Up (Jewish) Baby" is being produced in partnership with jBaby Chicago, which helps expectant parents and families of newborns and tots (0-24 months) make connections, build friendships and engage in Jewish life in Chicago.

Bringing Up Jewish Baby Vol 2

"Those feelings of isolation and resentment sometimes creep back in even though I know I am the luckiest person in the world."

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