There’s no one-size-fits all happy ending with infertility
When Patrick and I dated in high school, we talked about how gorgeous our children would be if we ever got married; having biological children was a given for both of us. Fast forward a decade: our inability to get pregnant left us heartbroken and empty. But like two optimistic 20-somethings, we persevered, believing if we tried hard enough, we could make it happen. It wasn’t until after our first in vitro fertilization cycle resulted in pregnancy, followed by a miscarriage a few weeks later, that we had to rethink our happy ending. Was our desire to get pregnant or be parents? Those are not the same thing.
Slogging your way through infertility typically results in a willingness to do whatever it takes to get pregnant. With every injection and doctor’s office insemination, you dream about documenting your growing bump in the weeks and months following a positive pregnancy test. Browsing Pottery Barn Kids, you add items for a nursery to your cart, practicing for the day when you can hit “purchase.” While many infertile couples do end up giving birth, many more have an outcome that doesn’t look like what they originally set out to achieve. That doesn’t make their ending any less happy or less beautiful.
Here are six happy endings that prove there’s no one-size-fits-all resolution for people struggling with infertility.
- You achieve pregnancy, just not in your body.
For different medical reasons, a woman may not be able to carry a baby in her uterus. Having another woman carry your baby in her womb may be the best solution. The surrogate may carry a baby created from the sperm and egg of the infertile couple. But it’s also possible she may carry a baby with no genetic connection to the mom and dad-to-be. Regardless of the baby’s genetic make-up or the fact that he or she enters the world by way of a different vagina, you better believe that’s a happy ending for the couple who’s struggled with infertility.
- You become parents through adoption, but never deal in diapers.
When couples choose to adopt, they may not become parents to a newborn. Adopting a baby or child from overseas almost certainly means your child will be seven months old or older by the time he or she arrives in your arms. Adopting older children comes with its own set of rewards and challenges, and for some people, this is the way they choose to become parents.
- You opt to live child-free.
Family and friends may not understand this choice, but some couples find resolution and peace by choosing to end their quest to become parents. This decision often comes at the end of a long, painful journey. Don’t diminish their struggle and devalue their excruciating decision by saying, “Now that you’ve stopped trying, you’ll get pregnant!” They haven’t chosen to stop trying to get pregnant in hopes of achieving some “happy accident.” Be supportive and be an active part in helping them forge their new version of happily ever after.
- You have no genetic link to your child.
This kind of happy ending may emerge through adoption, egg donation, or sperm donation. The lack of a shared genetic code doesn’t diminish the joy of a new child coming into a family, nor does it impact how much the parents love their child. Families don’t have to match on the outside in order for their hearts to match. People who become parents through these paths achieve an ending that’s satisfying and absolutely lovely. So, take that, genetics!
- You parent many different children but never have legal custody of them.
Infertility teaches us how to let go and reshape our dreams. This learned resilience equips some people to become foster parents. Through this choice, you get to parent children when they’re incredibly vulnerable and need the love and guidance of an adult. This happy ending swings the front door of your home wide open for babies, children, and teens to whom you’ll be like a mother or father.
- You get pregnant without your husband being in the room.
When we did in vitro fertilization, the doctor asked if I wanted my husband in the room when he transferred the embryos. My response? “At the very least, my husband should at least be in the same room with me when I get pregnant.” It’s true that IVF and other assisted reproductive technologies can suck the romance out of making babies, but when those procedures lead to a pregnancy and birth, it’s a happy ending. Jeers to anyone who tries to diminish the joy that comes from these births by labeling the IVF process as weird science. Suck it, Dolce and Gabbana.
Our happy ending came by way of adoption—three times! As anyone who has struggled with infertility will tell you, finding your happy ending is really the moment when you begin writing the first chapter of a whole new adventure. Be a part of that story by wrapping these parents-to-be in love, support, and acceptance.