"Are you guys going to have another kid?"
Every now and then, I get this question. Friends at school, colleagues at a conference, they'll ask about my daughter and then want to know if my wife and I have plans for a second. It's an innocent, natural question to ask. But it's one that always used to give me pause, make my stomach drop just a little bit. I never knew how to answer it, so I'd laugh, shrug it off, make a joke about being in school or how one is enough to handle, etc. But lately, I've been being honest with people.
"Well, our daughter's an IVF baby, so ..."
And people understand.
This week is National Infertility Awareness Week, the advocacy week sponsored by Resolve.org, which advocates for awareness and financial incentives for couples who have fertility issues. They advocate both for adoption and for fertility treatments like in-vitro fertilization. I've never been a huge fan of "raising awareness" — it always seems so passive, so nebulous — but this week matters to me and my family. Because this week is why my family is the size it is. We have our daughter because of the skilled, miraculous hands of Dr. Robert Kiltz and the wonderful people at CNY Fertility Center, and the incredible patience and skill of Dr. Dhruv Agneshwar and the amazing nurses at Sante.
Raising awareness here matters, because infertility is one of those topics people just don't talk about. It's misunderstood. It's extremely personal - probably the most personal, emotional medical issue a person can have (particularly a woman, with how motherhood is defined in our culture). Treatments for it aren't generally covered by insurance, and they are extremely expensive. Even the best treatments only carry a 25% success rate. Not everyone wants to have kids. But if you do, and you can't, it's a devastating feeling.
We tried for more than two years to have a kid. My wife, who's the strongest person I've ever met, put her body through sheer hell in that time. Surgery. Pills. Injections. Blood draws. Early morning exams and procedures. If there's any doubt my wife was born to be a mom, that process disproved it.
Finally, after so many years, tears and frustrations, we did a round of IVF. Ten days later, Feb. 7, 6 a.m., my wife jumped on me in our bed, waking me up with the biggest smile I've ever seen on her or anybody's face. She was holding a pregnancy test. Positive.
My daughter being born was the best moment of my life. But that moment, seeing my wife and that test, was the happiest moment of my life. Bar none.
Our daughter's 3 1/2 right now. She's awesome. She's frustrating. She's smart. She's all attitude. She's creative. She pushes. She loves to sing. She screams at us when we sing the wrong part of the song. She's pretty like her mamma.
There are tough times. Of course there are. But when those times come, it helps to think back. Back to the waiting room at CNY Fertility, to the couple we were and the couples we saw there, hoping and praying for a miracle. Back to those two years of prescriptions and procedures, of wondering if this would ever work. Back to the early mornings and late nights, to the tears and the silence and the hopes. Always to hope.
If you'd have told us back then that we'd be fighting with our daughter over who gets to sing Gaston and LeFou on the radio, we'd have taken that. In a heartbeat.
Because every screaming fit, every frustrating tantrum, every skipped meal and messy room and bathroom accident is an absolute gift. It's a miracle, is what it is.
And that's the real awareness of National Infertility Awareness Week. It's not just about the big issues. It's about me being aware, every day, of just how lucky I really am.