When I turned 40, I started trying to have a baby. I was single, and on the tail end of a couple of consecutive relationships that weren't of the parenting kind. Being a single mom never scared me and I dove into the job with all the fervor I had previously put into sex and drinking.
Full of bravura, it never occurred to me that I wouldn't be successful at getting pregnant. Several doctors told me that at my advanced maternal age I should be going straight into "serious" fertility treatments. I wasn't ready to hear that, so I ignored them. Nevertheless, I was a bit taken aback when I got pregnant, via IUI (intrauterine insemination) almost immediately.
Despite the fact that I had a stress-free pregnancy, I was never the world's biggest fan of being pregnant. I spent the entire pregnancy answering the question "Is this your first?" with "...and last!" Then I met my bright and sparkly daughter. On a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being shy and 10 being outgoing, my daughter is an 11. From the moment she came out, she made it clear that she would not be going through the slings and arrows of childhood without a partner in crime. So a month after I stopped breastfeeding, I started trying to get pregnant again.
By now I was nearly 43. Still, it never occurred to me that I would have a problem getting pregnant. I was more concerned about keeping my costs down, since I now had expenses that I never imagined before plunging into parenthood. So I made a pact with myself that I would try until I was out of donor sperm, and if it didn't work, well, it wasn't meant to be and I would call it quits.
I had watched so many friends go through everything in the world to have a baby – including years of their livelihood and their entire savings – and that just wasn't going to be me. Three cycles later I was out of donor sperm and not at all ready to acquiesce to having an only child.
I was in a bit of a panic now. The original donor was no longer available. It seemed really important for the kids to be full siblings. I felt they would already be challenged by not having a known father and I wanted them to have that with each other. So I paid a lot of money, and wasted a lot of time, re-activating that particular donor. After long months of waiting and a switch to IVF, I was sure that I was about to get pregnant.
But after half of an IVF cycle, I only had four follicles. One of my ovaries had "broken" about 10 years earlier, and the remaining one was 43 years old. Despite an increased drug regime, it was only making four follicles. I sat the doctor down and I did the math. I told her, according to the numbers she herself had given me at the outset, the likelihood that this would work was statistically insignificant. I shut it down and turned it into an IUI cycle. I didn't get pregnant.
I decided to try a different doctor. I had no idea where all this money was coming from to keep doing this, month after month, strategy after strategy. Sometimes a Christmas check from my dad would get me through the next cycle. Sometimes a tax refund. Then I started cashing out my retirement accounts.
The third doctor was a realist, telling me that at nearly 44 years old, there was no greater chance of getting pregnant with IVF than with an IUI. So we went into several cycles of that, including a heartbreaking miscarriage. At the end of a few cycles, I was nearing the age of 45, so he suggested that I go with a frozen donor egg.
As someone who didn't even want the kids to have different sperm donors, this was a hard pill to swallow. I was filled with a million concerns. I wondered what my traditional Italian extended family would have to say about this one. They'd handled my single motherhood with a reasonable amount of grace, but this was pushing it.
After all these years of trying, one donor egg cycle later, I was pregnant. I'll never forget the day my daughter found out that she was going to have a sibling. I didn't tell her. I knew that after all these years of asking, after all these years of stories she had woven about her imaginary sister, she wouldn't actually believe me.
So I took her with me to the OB and let the doctor tell my daughter. Sure enough, my daughter didn't believe the doctor either. But once it sank in, she ran around for days pulling up my shirt in public and screaming "My mommy has a baby in her tummy!" At night, she kisses my belly goodnight and "reads" books to the baby.
Children have an amazing art for seeing what's real and what's important – a skill that sometimes de-evolves as we age. How that baby got there is of absolutely no concern in the mind of a 4-year-old. And she has taught me a lot. This has been my journey – our journey, as a family. And we couldn't be any more excited to be a family of three.