As I walked through my house, I began collecting things: a basal thermometer, bottles of folic acid tablets, ovulation predictors, pregnancy tests, leftover fertility drugs and, last but not least, the fertility doll I bought in New Orleans on my 30th birthday. With my husband at my side, we bid farewell to our fertility journey, walked out to the garage and tossed the bag filled with fertility products into the garbage bin. My initial vision for this moment was to light a match and watch as the flames engulfed all traces of trying to conceive over the past four years. Unfortunately, we live in Toronto (and in close proximity to our neighbours), so merely tossing these items into the garbage had to suffice.
When the items hit the bottom of the bin with a thud, we felt an immediate rush of anger and relief—anger because we had accepted the dreaded “unexplained infertility,” which really means that no one knows why we couldn’t conceive, and relief because my husband and I could now walk to our favourite restaurant for some delicious food and, let’s face it, lots of wine without worrying about “What if?”
Trying to conceive was fun at first, until I had a few unsuccessful months behind me. I probably should have paid closer attention in my high school biology and health classes because who knew that you really only have a few days a month to try to make a baby? Not me! We were living in a house with poor air conditioning (particularly in the bedroom) in the middle of summer, I was working on a stressful campaign at work, and all my friends were getting pregnant on their first or second try. With the pressure mounting, our failed attempts became much less fun.
After six months and no positive pregnancy tests, it was time to try something new. We experimented with specialized diets, herbal medicines, cycle tracking, special lubricant, acupuncture and that darn fertility doll (hey, when you’re trying to conceive, you’ll spend money on anything that might work). When those things didn’t work, I got a referral to a fertility clinic. We had officially been trying for 18 months, and I was only 30. Getting pregnant should have been easy, right?
Fertility treatment started with cycle monitoring and fertility drugs, followed by three rounds of intrauterine insemination (IUI) and two rounds of in vitro fertilization (IVF). Each cycle ended the same way: a phone call from the nurse letting me know that my blood test was negative and a reminder to come back on day three of my cycle for the next round. It cost $40,000. While most of our friends were using that money as a down payment on a house or to buy a car, we were spending it trying to have a family.
Each cycle was an emotional roller coaster. It started with pride and excitement every time they told me how many eggs I’d produced or how well my husband’s “swimmers” were doing, followed by hope and then dread, and finally sadness as we heard the bad news from the nurse that we weren’t pregnant. After receiving bad news, I would spend days feeling depressed, lying in bed and binge-watching TV. Then pride and excitement would kick in again and the cycle would repeat.
I can’t explain why, but I never fully bought into fertility treatments. I’d heard a lot of success stories, but there was always a part of me that felt like this was not the path for us. Before our last round of IVF, my husband and I signed up for an adoption seminar to keep our options open if we were unsuccessful again.
I put my everything into that last round of IVF. I made sure to take time off work and really relax. But in the end, it didn’t matter. The phone rang and the message was the same as always: “Sorry, Shannon, but, unfortunately, your pregnancy test came back negative. Come in on day three of your next cycle and we can go from there.” Oddly, I felt relieved. I was officially done. I had tried so hard to believe in a process that I was skeptical of and, now that it was over, I knew it was time to move on. My husband knew it, too.
Two weeks later, we announced to our families that we were going to adopt. It was the first time I believed wholeheartedly that we would become parents. The “what ifs” weren’t over, but now they were different. At the adoption seminar, I finally felt hopeful. Adoption was still going to cost money, but there was much more of a guarantee, even if it took years.
That night, as we threw away all traces of trying to conceive, we knew we were choosing a new path: adoption. We now call ourselves Mommy and Daddy to two beautiful boys who remind us each day that adoption was the right choice for us—and we haven’t looked back.