After Infertility, Every Milestone Is Bittersweet

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after infertility, every milestone is bittersweet

When we think about our babies growing up, we tend to think about them in terms of baby milestones. Their first smile. The first time they rolled over or crawled or walked. Their first solids. That first word and the first sentence. So many changes happen in the first year of our child’s life, and we tend to celebrate each one of them. We record video, we write them down, we gush to friends over coffee. But when you desperately want to expand your family, and you aren’t sure if another baby will come, those milestones are bittersweet.

I suppose it’s similar to my mom friends who are on their last babies. They’ve completed their family with two, three, four, or more kids, and when the last one comes, there is a sadness that occurs with each milestone as it passes, knowing they’re experiencing something for the last time.

But what about those of us who want another baby and aren’t sure if it’s ever going to happen again? My daughter is the best thing that’s ever happened to me, but I know in my heart my family isn’t complete. My body seems to have other plans.

It took me and my husband six years to have our baby. We went through in vitro fertilization five times and exhausted our funds. Our daughter is truly a miracle, but the thought of going through it all again is too much sometimes. Another baby means flying across the country to the clinic where our stored embryos are, spending thousands of dollars on flights, rental cars, and hotels. It’s several thousand dollars for the procedure itself. And all that comes without any guarantees that we’ll have another baby—that’s just for the mere possibility of another baby.

After going through what I did to get our daughter, her milestones were some of my best and saddest moments. Finally, I could witness my little girl’s first smile, her first bath, her first kid’s meal out at a restaurant. These were the moments I desperately fought for. But every time one passed, I couldn’t help but think, “Enjoy this. You may never get this again.”

On the last of my daughter’s “first” holidays, Halloween, right before her first birthday, I cried as my husband and daughter prepared the pumpkin to carve. Were we ever going to have another child who would experience her first pumpkin?

Every new experience with my daughter was a goodbye to the baby she used to be. When she walked, I knew there were going to be no new rolls across the floor. When she learned the joy of solid foods and happily munched avocado slices, I said a silent goodbye to the infant who needed to nurse every two hours. In toddlerhood, I had to let go of the crib as she snuggled into her new full-sized bed. I no longer got to listen to her delightful nonsense babbles once her language started giving way to full sentences.

I’m so grateful that I’ve even had the chance to experience these milestones at all. So many women I know have gone through the heartbreak of infertility without ever getting the chance to hold a baby in their arms. But as I’ve come to learn, infertility is still infertility, no matter how many children you have. The pain is still there, and the choice to grow your family on your own terms is still taken from you.

Yes, there are so many new joys I get the honor of experiencing with her. My tiny helpless infant is growing into a little girl who loves dressing up and holding serious conversations with me as we pick leaves off the path and look for rabbits on our walks. I look forward to my future with her and all the fun that will bring.

I just worked so hard for these moments. I pushed my body, mind, spirit, and bank account to the brink to have these experiences, and they may very well be my last. Selfishly, I’m not ready for that. I hope our next fertility treatment works. I hope my body can sustain another pregnancy without so many complications. I hope I get to experience more of those baby milestones as I see my firstborn become a big sister, something I know she’d be wonderful at. But I’m not guaranteed anything.

In the meantime, I will continue to cherish every development my little girl goes through, even as I struggle with the unfairness of infertility and the uncertainty of completing our family.

Photo: Getty