I already shared the story of my ultrasound at the infertility clinic - the ultrasound I had to bring Harriet to, the ultrasound that first introduced me to the twins. But I want to talk more about it, specifically about the internal aspects of that experience.
To refresh your memory, I had gotten a positive pregnancy test the week earlier and was having an ultrasound to confirm it. I was six weeks, five days pregnant. Andrew was camping on the north shore and both of our babysitters had sick kids, so I brought Harriet along to the ultrasound. She slept on my shoulder as I walked into the clinic and took the elevator to the fourth floor. I had called the clinic ahead of time, asking if they could scoot me right back to a room so I didn't have to make anyone's clinic visit all the more unpleasant with the presence of a longed-for child. I stood in the hallway while I waited to be called back to the ultrasound room.
I was facing the desk, and when I turned around, there she was - a woman a bit older than me in a wheelchair and hospital gown, being slowly pushed down the hallway by her husband. The tear lines on her face looked like they had become permanent ruts over time - riverbeds of sorrow. I assumed that she had recently woken up from an egg retrieval and had been given bad news. She looked up at me holding my daughter and the look on her face spoke so clearly - Really? A woman with a child in the infertility clinic right now? In my moment of pain and disappointment? I can't take any more of this.
Her husband looked at me too, but his look had a little more anger in it. I could tell he felt protective of his wife and I don't blame him. She looked so vulnerable and broken-hearted. I wanted to protect her too, but without meaning to, I was the one rubbing salt in her wounds.
Thankfully, soon after they left, I was called back for my ultrasound. I left the office with tears on my cheeks too...but they were thrilled/humbled/grateful tears, not the tears of disappointment I had seen on the face of the woman in the wheelchair.
In the elevator on the way to my car, mixed up with elation and shock were feelings of...what else? Guilt. I was her. I was that woman with the toddler on my hip, two babies in my belly and a free IVF in my back pocket. This realization stunned me. I am one of the fertile infertile. I am one of those women for whom fertility treatments actually work...more than once. The mix of emotions can be dizzying - gratitude, joy, the ever-present guilt, even embarrassment. There are worries about hurting others, offending others, selfish fears of having my infertility invalidated because I'm pregnant again.
I love being that woman and I hate being that woman.
But I've also been that other woman with two babies in heaven. I've been that woman who brings down the mood during conversations about pregnancy by adding a comment about the birth of my son after he died. I've been that woman whom no one wants to invite to their baby shower. I've been that woman whom moms can't be real with about the toughest parts of pregnancy and parenthood. I've been that woman who protects her pain ferociously and damages relationships along the way. I've been that woman who unfollows the blogs of pregnant women because I just...had to. I have been that woman, angry and disheartened by the presence of a child at the fertility clinic.
I've been that woman too. And I hated being her. It was so, so hard to be her. And it sure is easy for me to say now that I'm on the other side of it, but despite all the pain and waiting and uncertainty, I'm glad that infertility is part of my story. I will always love the babies that we lost and wouldn't trade their place in our family for a honeymoon oops baby...not in a million years.
As I click "publish" on this post, I am praying with all of my heart that the tearful woman from the clinic is now pregnant and that several years from now, she will be wrestling with these same feelings - what it's like to be infertile with a toddler on your hip and another (or two) on the way.