By Amanda Osowski
The first time I went through Infertility, I was unphased by many things. I didn’t give extra thought to the demanding schedule of appointments, tests, procedures and injections. I didn’t focus on the restrictions placed on me. To be honest, I didn’t really think of anything outside of how these things - these appointments, tests, procedures and injections were hopefully going to lead me to my miracle baby.
And, they did.
It was a long, emotional road, but after four failed IUI’s, an egg retrieval, a failed fresh embryo transfer, PGS testing and a frozen embryo transfer, I became pregnant with our daughter. My experience with Unexplained Infertility left me with a subtle, cautious optimism that after a relatively uneventful pregnancy and a health delivery, I could possibly conceive naturally in the future.
When my daughter was a few months old, my husband and I decided we were ready to begin trying for a second. We’ve always wanted a big family, and after struggling with Infertility once, we weren’t sure what trying to conceive would look like for us. Unfortunately, we were right to be hesitant. Month after month I was back to the desperate feelings of negative pregnancy tests and miserably heavy postpartum periods, and the discouragement and frustration I’d willingly let go of after our first IVF success.
Our second round of IVF was initially scheduled for shortly after my daughters first birthday - the first time my fertility clinic would consider pursuing another transfer. It was then delayed by five months due to COVID-19, which changed our timeline, our appointment schedules, and obviously, the age and understanding of my kiddo. At 1 year, she was less opinionated, less on the move, and less vocal than she is now at 17 months old, and that has made this process slightly more complicated for my emotions.
The early morning appointments at my fertility clinic have been routine. I generally have left before my daughter is awake, and she’s had extra morning time with dada. When I’ve gotten home, we’ve snuggled and played like usual. The major change, for us, happened when I began PIO injections for my FET preparation.
The injections come with a variety of IVF restrictions, from no intercourse with your partner to avoiding baths and saunas, to limiting caffeine and not lifting anything heavier than a milk jug.
My daughter weighs more than a milk jug.
My daughter weighs about 25lbs, which means that there is about a two week period, from the start of PIO to the confirmation (or denial) of intrauterine pregnancy where I am not supposed to pick her up, carry her around, lift her in and out of her crib or her carseat or anything else.
There’s two challenges with this.
First, my daughter doesn’t understand. So, when she comes to me and says “uppey” or points to my arms, I have to say things like “no, kiddo” or “I'm sorry kiddo” or “Mama has a booboo right now and we can play together on the floor but mama can’t pick you up” and she screams and cries.
This has become exponentially more emotional the longer it goes on. My sweet girl doesn’t understand those things I’m trying to explain to her. She doesn’t understand why last week and every week before that, mama picked her up all day, every day, and now mama won’t. This pierces my heart in ways that I can’t explain. I know that this is only a short chapter, and that when its over she won't remember it, but I will. I absolutely will.
The second challenge is childcare. We are lucky enough to have consistent daytime care, even in this pandemic, but what we were affording and balancing meant that there were always a few hours each day, either early morning or late afternoon, where it was just my girl and I. However, not being able to lift her means that I can’t be the sole care provider with her at this time. It’s just not feasible. This means trying desperately to arrange additional childcare, so that when my husband is working, there is someone besides me to take care of our daughter.
Mentally, emotionally, logistically and financially, this has been a huge challenge to our IVF process this time around. We’ve also had to get creative at scheduling injections in the morning and at night, 12 hours apart, where our toddler is either occupied, asleep, or with someone else. Juggling, friends. I’ve become much more proficient at it.
Here are my tips to anyone walking through these same things:
Over-communicate with your partner and your support network. You’re going to need more help with your toddler, and it’s important to ask for it. This is also going to impact your emotions about motherhood and IVF and pregnancy, and I think it’s so important to share those with people you love and trust so you’re not carrying them around all on your own.
Put everything on paper - whether you use a physical or electronic calendar, I have found it to be instrumental to have everything in one place. My and my husbands work schedules, our toddlers schedules, IVF appointments, injections, etc. This way we can always see what’s on tap for the next day, who is covering what, and what extra assistance we’ll need (if any).
Give yourself grace. Balancing a toddler and Infertility, alongside with a marriage, a career, and a global pandemic, is A LOT. It’s ok to feel overwhelmed, stressed out, frustrated, etc. Give space to those feelings, and try to schedule some time (even if it’s just 30 minutes a week!) to take care of you.
I see you, mama. I am you. And I want you to know that you’re not alone!
Amanda Osowski is the mom to an IVF success story, an infertility and postpartum doula, a target enthusiast, self-proclaimed mom-tographer, and a lifelong fan of coffee shops. Amanda founded Heartfelt Beginnings to help educate, support and cultivate new families from the struggle of infertility to the balance of parenthood. You can find Amanda on Instagram and Facebook and you can visit her website at Heartfelt Beginnings.