Friday, April 29, 2011

Myth: Children Come When You're Not Stressed

If the first year of trying was all fun and games (which for most women is not the case), then the diagnosis of infertility during the second year will surely get the stress hormones surging. It was about two years into this stressful trying when much to my relief, I found out I was pregnant with E.  I thought, "Ah, Finally. What great timing...he's going to arrive at just the right time in my husband's medical school training." Little did I know that the nine months I carried E and the months that followed his delivery would be a "series of unfortunate events" as we would later refer to them in our Christmas letter.

We were living an ocean away from all our families as my husband began medical school in Israel. The stormy events started when we heard about three American tourists who had been severely burned in a fire and were hospitalized at the medical center near the medical school. They had no cell phones and no way to contact their families so I spent days running back and forth between our apartment and the hospital bringing them food, computers, phones, and a little love and encouragement.

After weeks in the burn unit caring for these unfortunate tourists, my husband and I got a 5:00 a.m. phone call from my sister-in-law in the States saying that my husband's parents had been seriously injured in a plane crash. A mere twelve hours later, we were on-board a flight back to the States with no assurance they would still be alive when we arrived. Six hours into the thirteen hour flight, my husband began having severe lower back pain. It was a kidney stone. His first one ever. I could only stand in the galley of the plane and watch - white as a sheet and probably near dehydration myself - as my husband writhed in pain.  After hours of labor-esque pain, without pain meds, he passed the stone. Upon landing, we rushed him straight to the ER at the very same hospital where my in-laws were being prepped for emergency surgery. Over the next six weeks, I took care of them in the hospital and later at a rehab facility before finally joining them in their transition back home. I was somewhere into my second trimester by this time. And I remember driving to see my family and feeling little E move for the first highlight in the midst of a lot of chaos.

My husband flew back to Israel and began taking make up exams for the exam period he had missed....while also trying to begin an entire new semester of 2nd year med school courses. He was in over his head in so many ways and continued to have kidney stones that would appear at the most inopportune times, like the night before an exam.

The weekend I arrived back in Israel, I had such severe abdominal pain that I had to go to the ER. After lots of blood work, ultrasounds, and prodding they diagnosed me with acute pancreatitis... which itself was a freak diagnosis since I was young, healthy, and not an alcoholic. The doctors wanted to admit me to the hospital, but after 8 hours in the ER I only wanted to go home. I begged and pleaded and eventually convinced the doctors to let me tough out the recovery at home. And although I got to recover at home, the insurance nightmare that followed created more stress than I would have experienced if I had just stayed the night in a hospital bed.

Finally, after nine trying months, our little bundle of joy arrived. BUT he didn't enter the world until I had endured 23 hours of grueling one-minute-apart contractions (20 of those hours at home without an epidural) followed by another 3 hours of extremely difficult pushing before E arrived. As I held his little warm body in my arms I thought to myself, "Well, so much for perfect timing." The book of Ecclesiastes says there is a time to be born and a time to die...but it doesn't promise ANYTHING about it being a happy, stress-free time!

Four weeks later, I had just gotten the hang of breastfeeding when a fire broke out in our apartment, leaving my poor husband hospitalized for smoke inhalation. 24 hours later, I was in the same hospital with appendicitis and an emergency appendectomy. That was the breaking point for the hubby, who had to withdraw from his 2nd year of med school. Again, not exactly what I would call perfect timing. In fact, I was pretty sure at this point, that I had given birth to the perfect baby in a world that was absolutely falling apart around me! We ended up with a total of 8 ER visits in under one year.

Of course, I love my son with all that is in me and I would take him in a time of serenity or in the eye of the storm. He is wonderful even when the timing is not. One thing I learned through all of this is how little control I have in life and in my family planning. Whatever control I feel I have, is often just an illusion. My period came back when E was 3 months old, and I again bought into a popular fertility myth: that once you've had one successful pregnancy, the next one will come naturally and easily.

We began trying again when E was 6 months old. As I write this, it's been 4 years since I got pregnant with E and still no more pregnancies. We're now facing IVF as soon as we can scrap together the funds. I obviously don't need to brace myself for having children one year apart, or stress about not being able to nurse my babies for a solid year because of impending pregnancy. No, I'll take children whenever and however they may come to our family.

It's only been a couple weeks since I broke my silence and entered the world of infertility bloggers. If you would also like to raise awareness about infertility myths and learn more about National Infertility Awareness Week check out Resolve's website here. And for a basic understanding of infertility click here.

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