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My Struggle to Get Pregnant

One woman’s journey to finally becoming a mom

A smiling woman with dark hair sits on grass holding three little boys on her lap.
Alisa and her three boys. | Photo credit: Courtesy of Alisa Schindler
A young couple sits in a stairwell. They look sad. The woman is wearing a green blouse and her head is resting on the man's shoulder.

Are you having trouble getting pregnant?

The rain outside falls in a steady beat against the window, while the wind rouses the newly blossoming flowers into a rhythmic sway. It is still dark and grey on this dreary Sunday morning, yet we are warm, holed up in different areas of the kitchen, the heated floors working their magic. My oldest, at the table, concentrates on a paper that is due the next day while I concentrate on not interrupting to give a lecture on the perils of procrastination. My middle son sits at the island watching a YouTube video with headphones on. Occasionally, he cracks up from some private joke between him and 674,000 other followers, while my youngest bounces around me asking if the brownies I’m making are ready before they’ve even hit the oven.

I look around, capture the moment and let the love fill me to tears. I’m a mom, I think, and the thought comes almost from nowhere, kind of like my middle son’s burst of laughter. It happens like that for me occasionally, especially on slower days like this where we never change out of our PJs. In the quieter moments, I fully appreciate that I’m actually a mom, and these are my beautiful children. The realization never ceases to amaze me.

My oldest is 15, my middle son is closing in on 13 and my youngest is 10. To know me now is to never understand that for years, pregnancy was a bubble floating just out of reach; rays of sunlight that would never be mine.

Thinking back on that time, it almost feels like our fertility journey happened to someone else. Almost. You never fully recover from years of disappointment. It changes you.

Trying times

The first time, it took almost two years before I finally conceived. My cycle was fickle, sometimes disappearing for months on end. Yet, I still remember with giddiness the night we decided to start “trying.” We were so innocent and excited. We were young and patient and truly believed that if we wished it, it would come. But the only thing that came during that first year were more friends announcing their own pregnancies and me sinking further behind the smile that I kept on my face.

Year two, we found a fertility doctor—a wonderful woman full of positive energy. Back then, I was adamant about wanting a “natural” pregnancy, or at least as natural as possible. So, I took estrogen, stopped drinking alcohol and coffee and started eating warm foods, which according to my acupuncturist would make my womb a more “inviting” place. 

“To know me now is to never understand that for years, pregnancy was a bubble floating just out of reach; rays of sunlight that would never be mine.”

Cycle after cycle we tracked my follicle’s growth only to watch them wither and die before maturity. There were months of disappointment, moments spent crying in the shower, and bickering with my husband who was just as frustrated as I was but could not possibly understand what it was like being a woman who could not conceive. I was the failure, not him, and any sadness or hope in his eyes made me retreat even further away.

Our families and friends didn’t help either. Not that they meant to hurt. They just didn’t realize how devastating their innocent questions felt. “What’s happening on the baby front?” “So, when are you guys gonna pop one out?” I’d smile at them all and think failure, failure, failure.

At the end of that second year, when our doctor and I finally agreed that we needed to move on to more invasive measures, it happened. Well, it didn’t just happen. There was an HCG shot in the ass and a clandestine encounter with an IUI (intrauterine insemination) turkey baster, but it turned out to be my most natural pregnancy of the three.

Tiny blessings

I was pregnant.  I was really pregnant. I was finally one of those women my eyes found everywhere—in restaurants, at work, passing me in the street—the ones holding a secret inside themselves that seeped out in the dewy glow of their skin, the way their hands touched their bellies and the smile of their eyes. And just like that those two years didn’t even exist. All that mattered was being pregnant now, until nine months later when all that mattered was the tiny alien looking creature nestled in my arms that I refused to let go.

Alisa welcomes her first son, Jack, into the world. | Photo credit: Courtesy of Alisa Schindler

Fifteen years later, that baby has grown into a beautiful, smart, gentle young man with mischievous hazel eyes that glance over at me from his book and toss me a goofy, sweet smile. I melt.

I am so blessed to say that I had two more children. For my second child, I went straight to our fertility doctor and right on Clomid, a drug whose whole purpose was to stimulate ovaries into producing multiple follicles. Unfortunately, it wasn’t until the sixth and last possible cycle allowed on the drug that the miracle happened again. I was pregnant.

I was pregnant. I was pregnant. I was pregnant. And my second son was born with eyes as blue as a happy sky that a year later turned a stunning green, and which now stare merrily into his little screen.

Baby #2, Owen. | Photo credit: Courtesy of Alisa Schindler

Embracing IVF

I always wanted a third child but my husband was grateful for the two we had. Not that I wasn’t, but something in me refused to let it go. I wore my husband down until he agreed.

Back to the doctor. But this time my body did not respond to the Clomid. If I wanted another baby, I needed the heavy artillery—IVF. We went for it.

There were pills to take, drugs to mix and shots in my stomach that I had to give myself. There were trips to the doctor’s office for routine blood work where I was generally forced to bring one or both of my children. It was awkward sitting in a waiting room with other women, most of whom were still hoping beyond hope for one child.

I knew what it felt like to want something that it seemed everyone else in the world had. Something that seemed my birthright as a woman. Yet despite the guilt, I sat there because, if I could, having another baby was my right, too. And I saw this unborn baby in my dreams.

Last, but certainly not least, baby Leo was born. | Photo credit: Courtesy of Alisa Schindler

He jumps around me now, full of the energy of a puppy. His curls are as bouncy as his personality and life would not be complete without him.

All three of my babies make up my happiness. Although I’ll always remember the days when I truly believed I would never be a mom of one, much less three.  Now, looking around my warm kitchen at these beautiful boys, I am so full of appreciation and joy. Maybe more so than if it happened easily, but maybe not.

I am a mom. I whisper to myself and feel my eyes well. I am a mom.

Now all grown-up, Alisa poses with her three beautiful boys. | Photo credit: Courtesy of Alisa Schindler

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Published April 24th, 2018
A young couple sits in a stairwell. They look sad. The woman is wearing a green blouse and her head is resting on the man's shoulder.

Are you having trouble getting pregnant?