Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Loribeth's Story

Loribeth is the contributing editor for Living Child-Free after Loss. She writes daily at The Road Less Travelled where she tells the story of her daughter as well as life after the stillbirth and infertility.

My husband and I got married young (and broke), right around the time that real estate in our city started to skyrocket. We wanted to be “responsible,” and so spent the first 10 years of our marriage establishing our careers, buying a house and building up some savings. We finally took the ttc plunge when I was almost 35 and he was 38.

Infertility was something I read about in magazines that happened to women with irregular periods (not a problem) and sexually transmitted diseases (ditto). I full expected to be pregnant within four to six months.

Two and a half years later, when we had all but given up hope, I finally found myself pregnant in February 1998 at age 37. Sadly, it was a rollercoaster pregnancy, and our tiny angel daughter, Katie, was stillborn on August 7, 1998, when I was 26 weeks pregnant.

We continued ttc for another year, but in the fall of 1999, with my 39th birthday fast approaching, I convinced my husband that we should go to my ob-gyn for some tests. Maybe there was a simple reason why I wasn’t getting pregnant?

And so began our journey down the slippery slope. After the tests, we moved on to an RE, where we did several cycles on Clomid, and then (after much negotiating with my husband) three IUI cycles using injectable drugs. My third and final, unsuccessful IUI cycle ended in early June 2001, when I was 40 years old. It left me a physical and emotional wreck, worried about the physical impact these drugs were having on my health, popping Ativan for anxiety attacks, and seeking counselling.

My husband said this was the end of the road -- he wanted a baby, but not at the expense of my health. Realistically, we knew our chances of success were very slim when you factored in our ages, our lousy track record to date, his low sperm count, my wonky hormones, and my bicornuate uterus. The financial considerations were also pretty daunting.

We discussed adoption, but we knew that would mean more time and uncertainty, a lot of bureaucracy and scrutiny, and perhaps more heartbreak. It meant getting off one rollercoaster and getting onto another. I wanted a baby, but I was tired of riding rollercoasters. I wanted my life back. I knew my husband and I could have a good life together, just the two of us -- because we'd already been doing it for the past 16 years. Perhaps if we had been in our mid-30s instead of our 40s, we might have felt differently.

The infertility counselor we saw suggested that we take the summer off and focus on doing fun things together as a couple – try childfree living on for size and try to forget or avoid anything to do with infertility and then take another look at the situation and make a decision. So that's what we did. And by the end of the summer, I knew that, much as I wanted a baby, I couldn't go back to infertility treatment. We were done.

That said -- living childfree is not just a matter of saying you’ll do it and suddenly you feel better (although it was a HUGE relief not to have to deal with treatment anymore!). You can’t turn a ship on a dime, and you can’t erase the dreams and expectations of a lifetime overnight. You have to find new things to focus your time and energy on, trivial as they may seem when compared to raising a family. Some people might focus on their careers, but that’s not us.

We both work for a large financial services company in downtown Toronto – me in the corporate communications area and live in Suburbia. We volunteer for our pregnancy loss support group and dote on our two teenaged nephews. I’ve taken up yoga and scrapbooking, and early retirement within the next 10-12 years is likely do-able. Our marriage is far from perfect, but I think we are a lot closer than many other couples we know. Surviving loss and infertility was hard. We deal with it differently in some ways, and we both bear the scars, but I think that these experiences have ultimately brought us closer together.

There weren’t any or many blogs seven years ago, but I found a few message boards for women in similar situations that became a huge comfort to me. I started reading blogs a few years ago and decided to take the plunge last fall. I found reading other women’s stories to be inspiring, but there weren’t many blogs (or resources generally) for women living childfree after infertility and/or loss, and I thought I could add my voice to strengthen the choir! I’ve always found writing to be extremely cathartic -- and knew I would need an outlet, approaching the 10-year mark of our daughter’s stillbirth. Blogging has been a blessing in my life this past year, and I’m thrilled to be a part of the Bridges team.


chicklet said...

you got me on the early retirement part;-)

You actually got me on all of it, cuz we're in the last treatment I want to do, and am really starting to weigh out all of this, and how much more I want to do. Adoption is very tempting right now as Cambodia pulled at my heartstrings, but years and years more... not sure I want that.

SeaStar said...

Thank you for this Loribeth - another truly bridging story, giving me a glimpse into the life you are building, as it is not as you wished it.

Kymberli said...

Loribeth, thank you for sharing this in such detail. I have often wondered how people grow to come to the decision to live childfree. I know that people arrive at that conclusion with varying sets of reasons and then handle it differently once the decision is made. I am looking forward to reading and learning more from you.