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Alyson's Story

Listen to Alyson's Story:

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I never wanted to have kids. Don’t get me wrong - I love kids. Actually, I think I’m pretty good with kids if I can say so - they like me… but I didn't think that they were for me. I have always identified as a career person - it’s who I am. My world has always been built around my job. But when I met Josh, now my husband, this changed.

Alyson with her nieces.

In 2016, after a year of dating, I remember that we were going to the wedding of one of my best friend’s and at the same time, my period was really late. We went to the wedding with this idea in our heads—what if I’m pregnant? Would we be ready? After the wedding we took a test. We were nervous sitting there waiting, but it was negative. I think we were both relieved. We hadn’t been together for that long and didn’t feel ready for this responsibility. And as Josh always reminded me, “ You don’t want kids, right?” Well, no, but maybe…Maybe with you. Maybe with him I was beginning to see a more secure future for a child. Maybe with a partner who was participating fully as an adult, I could imagine it. And so yes, I began to imagine and we started talking about a future together. I always say that we move really slow, Josh and I. We were friends for a year before going out on an official date. It took us four years to move in together. We got married after eight years of dating…We take our time. But this isn’t really the best idea when it comes to having a child, especially when you are classified as “geriatric” when speaking about getting pregnant.

My entire life, I’ve heard, “Wow, you look so young!” and in Josh’s opinion, I “act very young too!” (haha!) When someone asks how old I am, no one can believe it. (Thank you so much Mom and Dad for my amazing genes!) However, comments like this shouldn’t be a guide for running one’s reproductive life. Science does exist. Let me go back.

 

In 2019, when Josh and I got engaged, I decided to stop taking my birth control pills. We started talking more about his wish to have children and I had accepted and embraced the idea. More than that, I began to dream a little. I did want to see him as a father. I did want to have this experience and adventure with him. I was scared but now I was actually with someone who I could see myself taking this step with—this wasn’t always the case. I realize I’m telling this story by focusing a lot on Josh’s feelings. I don’t know that I have fully examined my own feelings about having a baby. I’m not always sure how I feel about it.

Time passed. Covid happened. We bought a house. We finally had our wedding. Time passed and passed and passed and nothing. I wasn’t really worried about anything but in 2021 I realized—wow, we have been trying to get pregnant and nothing has happened. When talking to my friends, everyone told me, “It’s going to happen, you’re young, it will happen when you aren’t expecting it, it happened to Janet Jackson, it happened to Serena Williams…” Looking back, I shouldn’t be taking this kind of advice from my friends—nothing against them—but they aren’t experts. It was time to consult a professional.

Alyson and Josh at their wedding.

I made an appointment with a recommended Fertility and Reproductive Medicine Center. I had a consultation with a very friendly doctor. I told him everything and he         said I needed blood tests and an ultrasound and that Josh would need to do some tests and that we’d both need to make an appointment to see the psychologist together. We agreed that this was the way to move forward. I wasn’t scared, I felt like this was going to give us some resolution or the answer we were looking for. But it wasn’t that easy. I didn't know the options decreased after one turns 47, and I was already 46. After looking at my uterus, the doctor told me that while I was very healthy, unfortunately, I was probably just too old. Josh didn’t have any issues. His swimmers were swimming, if you catch my drift. I have to give the doctor credit—he didn’t say any of this to me in an offensive or dramatic way—he was direct, without anecdotes about celebrities nor flowery language. It’s science. And he was the first person who talked to me this way—with facts, with numbers, within the scope of reality. He recommended that we still go to the psychologist because while I was 46 years old, my body was still healthy enough to carry a pregnancy with donated eggs for at least four more years.

Josh really believes in tradition. When it’s fall, he wants to take walks under orange and yellow leaves and eat warm apple cider donuts and watch football on Sundays. During Christmas he has to see the movie “Family Vacation” at least three times and Christmas music plays all month long while he sings along with the gusto of Santa Claus himself. He has very specific ideas about how he wants things to happen and when it comes to family, I think he has dreamed of having children for a long time. He wants to have the experience of finding out he’s going to be a father or to have the opportunity to surprise his parents. He wants to play ball with a little boy and be his coach someday. He has this vision in his head very clearly. And me? How do I feel? Can I see myself as more than just a career person? Can I see myself as a mom?

Choosing an egg donor out of a binder like you’re looking through a shoe catalog doesn’t fit within his vision. But we went anyway to the appointment with the psychologist. We thought for a while about this idea. I have a friend who offered me her eggs for free. We talked about the money we’d have to pay (like $30,000—and I'm not going to discuss my opinion here about this—I would need to write another essay about who can afford this and the injustice of it all…). After a few months, we didn’t feel this was the solution to our problem.

In the year since we had these appointments, we’ve continued to try to have a baby but maybe with a bit less determination. We’ve tried to be happy every time a friend or acquaintance announces their pregnancy on Facebook and when we see a commercial where someone is showing their parents the sonogram, we sit a bit in awkward silence. 

 

I try not to cry watching the neverending stream of videos on Instagram of women surprising their husbands with a positive pregnancy test. And although we aren’t depressed and we’re not fighting, this issue does live with us. I have to ask myself, am I enough? Are we enough, just us, to do this for the next 40 years?

Alyson’s tracking of her period cycles on an app.

A week ago, I went to an event celebrating the publication of a book about infertility. The book is a collection of beautiful art and essays inspired by the infertility journey. There was an artist there, with these incredibly big pieces that were beautiful and impressive—they looked like the stained glass windows in a grand church and were made with the very materials of the artist’s own infertility journey. The packaging from all the medication, the empty syringes, all made into a collage that formed the Virgin Mary and her baby. Her words sounded exactly like my own thoughts. “...With everything else in my life, I could figure something out, there was some kind of solution, but with this, I couldn’t do it on my own. I couldn’t fix it without help.” Something was opening up in my heart—I think probably for the first time I was allowing myself to feel everything I had been feeling. This situation, this journey was indeed difficult. This did, in fact, make me sad.

During her talk, she explained that she had a necklace that she wore throughout the process of trying to get pregnant that first time—during the rounds of taking Clomid, during IVF, through multiple miscarriages, and finally during the decision to use a donor. She told the audience that she was ready to give it to a woman who deserved it. After all the speeches, I went up to say hello and to thank her for the honest way in which she shared her feelings. Suddenly, she offered me the necklace. I was stunned. I didn’t have stories like the artists and writers in this book and at this event. Yes, I felt the sadness each month when I bled, during all of the months monitoring ovulation in an app on my phone, but I hadn't gone on a hero’s journey like they had.

The official definition of infertility is trying (and failing) to have a baby for a year without contraceptives. It can be classified as a disease, or a disability. For some reason, this makes me feel uncomfortable. I don’t know if I’m worthy of being in this same circle of artists in this event. After turning 48 and trying to get pregnant for four years, feeling heartbroken with each month I get my period, I think I have just come to the conclusion that this will not happen. I didn’t feel worthy of taking the necklace. I couldn’t accept it. I said thank you, bought the book, and went home to tell Josh. He said I should have accepted this gift. 

 

He still has hope. And me? I don’t know. 

Imitor Virgo Fructuarius, Eva Nye.

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