I felt a substantial aversion to the title of infertility when it was first bestowed upon me. Physically, women are reminded that our bodies are built to bear children. We learn this at a young age when we first have our periods. For young girls, this stepping stone of womanhood may come as a surprise. As an adult, I felt perhaps equally surprised that my body had in some way let me down.
My fifth pregnancy was the first that persisted through the first trimester. By this point, I had experienced the miracle of hearing a child’s heart beating for the first time. In turn, I had also experienced the horrible silence of a quiet room while an ultrasound technician desperately searches for a sign of life that will not be found.
In the midst of my infertility, I learned through karyotype testing that I am a balanced Robertsonian Translocation carrier, between chromosomes 13 and 14. Every time I become pregnant, there is a 25% likelihood that the baby will survive the first trimester. While often I’ve felt alone in my grief, I came to learn that my chromosomal abnormality is amongst those most common in causing early term miscarriage. Saddled with potential long-term infertility, my first lesson was that I was running a marathon to reach my desired outcome – not a sprint.
I grappled with viewing my infertility as a scientific/biological disposition. In my search for answers, it sometimes felt like a moral obstacle course or jigsaw puzzle that I needed to work out with a universal power. Feeling unworthy of motherhood is a heavy load to carry. In time, I freed myself of the belief that I was being punished. There is no one to blame; it simply is.
Regular sessions with a psychologist allowed me to recognize that my conception issues must not control my own happiness. Not knowing what the future would hold, I became determined to live in the present moment. While I chose to keep much of my miscarriage experiences private, I still felt supported by many individuals. I cherished affirmations received from colleagues in the workplace. I shared laughs with family and friends. I wasn’t too hard on myself for having a bad day.
While my chromosomal abnormality presents a chance of adverse development for my unborn child, I don’t feel so different from any other parent. I have every hope that my baby will have the best chance for a healthy and full life.
When we embark on the adventure of becoming parents, we take on a monumental responsibility. We must care for ourselves and the children that we may bring into this world, despite the hardships that are sure to come our way. I will always carry with me the memories of pregnancies lost, but I believe those experiences have allowed for personal growth and a greater capacity for empathy.
For those on longer journeys to parenthood, I wish you resiliency, peace, and the power of community to carry you forward.
Rachel Emme Carr, California