Two years ago on Thanksgiving marks my “rock bottom” of infertility. I had just suffered another miscarriage, from a pregnancy that so much time, energy and money had gone into. You see, we did a year of IVF cycles and genetic testing and only came up with two good embryos; this was one of them. As many of you can relate, my heart and soul was already tied up with that little mass of cells. No matter how unhealthy it was to get my hopes up, when that pregnancy test came back positive, I was already head of over heels for that little guy. I started dreaming of fun ways to share the news when I went out of state to visit my family for Thanksgiving.
And then, the unthinkable (and still, unexplainable) happened: on first day Rosh Hashanah, I started cramping. Not soft, implantation cramping, but the violent ones of embryo rejection. Grieving and questioning G-d’s plan, I was inconsolable for months. I dreaded facing another family holiday, still without good news to share. And then the pregnancy announcements came, one from my sister-in-law and one from my cousin; immediately, I knew that they had both gotten pregnant around the same time as I had (except theirs happened in the regular way), and I just crumbled. I did my best to put on a plastic smile, of course. By then I was pretty good at wearing that particular mask.
Alone, however, there were no smiles; in truth, my mind and heart got pretty dark. Like the Biblical infertile women before me, Sarah, Chana, and Rochel, I reached my “Give me children or else I am dead” moment that Thanksgiving. I couldn’t even cry. My body had already emitted all the cries it could produce. I just froze, unable to move forward. I concluded that if this was my lot in life, I definitely had no reason to live any further. I no longer had the strength to carry on as infertile girl, the one who organizes support groups or writes for Yesh Tikva or carefully researches and plans every detail of the next treatment. I begged G-d to just take me out of this life. I can’t explain all of what happened next, but I remember that I became consumed with images of crashing my car into something, and somehow I managed to get back home without going through with it. I came to bed and cried to my husband that I just wanted to die already.
Thankfully, he called my therapist, who got me an emergency appointment with a psychiatrist, who obviously put me on depression medication. Ironically, I was diagnosed with postpartum depression, largely because of my situation, but they also thought my hormones might be a little out of control. Can you imagine when I told me Reproductive Endocrinologist that I was going on depression meds for PPD? But thank G-d, they calmed the hormones and dulled my pain long enough for me to keep living, one day at a time.
As Thanksgiving approaches this year, I can’t help but reflect on Thanksgivings past take note that there are likely others who are approaching the coming family gatherings with similar trepidation – or who might, unfortunately, have to endure others’ happy announcements when you’re longing for nothing more than being able to share some good news. If you think you might be approaching your rock bottom on the infertility journey, please share this information with a partner, neighbor, relative or therapist who can hold your hand and help you through it. And if you’re the one making the happy announcement or bringing many children to a family dinner this coming weekend, please, please try to be sensitive to the feelings of others.
(Oh, and by the way, the following year (last year), I finally got to make that cute pregnancy announcement. This Thanksgiving, B”H, I’ll be introducing my child to the extended relatives that haven’t met her yet… But that’s another story entirely.)