My wife and I recently celebrated our 12th anniversary; it was a lazy Sunday and our big event that day was getting comfort food at Taco John’s. We have simple tastes, and nothing says twelve years of successful marriage more than a Six Pack and a Pound! Emily and I have known each other since 2000, when we met at – what was, ostensibly – a Star Wars Prequel party. Like any couple that has persisted through 12 years of marriage, we’ve had a number of challenges and an abundance of joy. It has been a wonderful journey, and I look forward to the rest of our lives together.
We do not have children.
And here is where the story becomes a bit more complicated. We have always considered having a child. There has never been a point in our lives where we told each other, “Yeah, we’re never doing that.” We would talk about “starting a family” (more on this phrase in a moment) every 3-6 months to discover if the other person was ready for that phase of our lives. Neither one of us ever felt compelled to voice strongly, “This is something I want now.” So we agreed to wait while we enjoyed our lives together. I graduated with my doctoral degree and we moved to Texas in 2005, then bought a house there in 2006 figuring it was a good investment. (Hah!) She started working and then went back to school to earn her MBA in the following years. We developed an amazing network of friends while living in Houston and visited family in New Jersey and Minnesota whenever possible.
Life settled into a routine.
We were living a Dual Income No Kids’ (DINK) lifestyle that allowed us freedom to travel – and do little things like randomly call up friends on any given Thursday to meet up for a happy hour or start a blog about gaming! We tolerated good-natured (for the most part) barbs lobbed our way by others that judged our decision to go about our lives without “starting a family.” That phrase always bothered me; my wife and I are a family whether we have children or not. Over the years while some of our friends and family settled in with newborns and toddlers, we traveled across the United States as well as overseas to Paris in 2009 and Middle Earth in 2012.
Our talks about having a child intensified after we got back from New Zealand; it really was a trip of a lifetime, and it felt like a turning point for us. We had long, passionate, tearful discussions about the rest of our lives. What do we value? What is important? Do we want to continue to prioritize travel or focus on other things?
We decided in Spring 2012 that we were prepared to take on the responsibility of having a child. Around this time, I learned of a job opportunity in my wife’s home state of Minnesota and applied for the position. While I was waiting to learn about that opportunity, we tried to get pregnant. I got the job in Minnesota, and we decided it was a good time to move. We sold our house in Texas and moved in with her parents so I could start my job in October 2012.
Our early efforts to get pregnant were not successful.
The next six months were a jumble as we lived with her parents for a few months while looking for a house. She applied for jobs, and earned a good position in December 2012. We closed on a house in January 2013, and life continued onward rapidly. This was followed by a general period of “getting settled” into our new routine. We returned to trying to have a child and never got to the point of being pregnant.
The doctor visits started.
You sort of take for granted that you’ll be able to have a child. Everyone seems to be able to do it, and many times friends and family members get pregnant while not even “trying.” We were trying – and trying – and it was not producing the desired result. We met with doctors and learned that getting pregnant would require more than a simple “Netflix and chill” evening. There were more doctor appointments, some medical procedures, daily injections, and an incredible build-up to each month’s pregnancy test.
The morning of the pregnancy test each month became a painful routine. My wife would wake up and go to the bathroom. I knew she was taking the test, so I would be awake and waiting. There’d be a few minutes of silence. I would remain in bed – hopeful – but expecting to learn that she was not pregnant. And month after month, she’d come back to bed and update me that she wasn’t pregnant. Depending on the month, we’d comfort each other, shed tears, voice anger and frustration, or simply lay there silently wondering if we should keep trying.
Are we supposed to have a child?
You start to question fate and the purpose of your life, “Maybe it’s not meant to be?”
My wife and I took a break from the monthly rollercoaster of trying – and failing – to get pregnant.
We later met with a doctor once again and it turned into a “Come to Jesus” meeting; he told us bluntly that continuing to attempt pregnancy without additional measures was extremely unlikely to be successful. He recommended a fertility clinic in town, wished us good luck, and ushered us out of the office. You know that feeling when someone is telling you something you don’t want to hear or can’t accept, and it feels like you’re sitting in front of a high-powered wind turbine – only you can’t move a single muscle because you’re equal parts paralyzed and dumbfounded?
That was me.
I was thinking, “Screw this guy! He seems so sure of himself. He doesn’t know what we’re capable of!” Never (okay, rarely) one to act out of impulse, we walked back to the car quietly and decided we had much to consider and discuss. Our plan all along was to try to have a child, and if it did not work – “then it wasn’t meant to be.” But we had spent the greater portion of 2-3 years making this goal a major element of our marriage and lives together. We had to figure out if we were closing this door for good. There was grief to confront and process.
We eventually met with a fertility counselor and learned about the options, which were all intensive and expensive. Through all of this, Emily and I decided that it was important for us to be parents, and regardless of how that happened, it remained something we wanted for our lives. We took the plunge and signed up for the fertility program; and then waited for six months.
In December 2015, I passed out while exercising at the gym. I ended up in the hospital for a few days as they adjusted a medication for my heart rhythm. While we were in the hospital, we learned that our waiting was over and we could proceed to the next step in the fertility program.
Life and (near) death.
My awareness of life as finite is too keen; it is both a blessing and curse. Growing up with major health issues, you learn to appreciate life on another level because you realize very early that you can’t take it for granted. Tomorrow is not promised. So there I was, lying in a hospital bed, wondering what in the blue hell my heart is doing and if it’s going to last, and there’s my wife supporting me and talking about having a baby.
It’s the damndest thing.
Thankfully my health stabilized with the new medication and I returned home. We had a solid plan in place for 2016 and we returned to the goal of getting pregnant. There were more medications for my wife, more doctor visits, more injections, and I held her as they transferred a fertilized embryo into her body. Watching the embryo transfer on the ultrasound screen reminded me of the Samus Aran Morph Ball from Metroid. The embryo was “home” and now we needed to wait again to see if it survived and started to grow.
We realized that staying home during the two-week waiting period would be painfully anxiety-provoking, so we planned a trip out East to visit New York and see my family in New Jersey for a few days. We had a couple of options while out there – see Pearl Jam in NYC or Philadelphia or see Hamilton on Broadway. We decided to pool our resources to see Hamilton, and while I could have seen Pearl Jam play Ten in its entirety (can’t believe I missed this!), it was the right move to see Hamilton. My reaction to Hamilton will be its own post at some point, but to summarize: there are many songs in that piece of art that focus on maximizing your potential and striving to be the absolute best that you can be while alive.
Living with health issues all my life, lyrics like, “Who lives? Who dies? Who tells your story?” hit like a freight train, especially when your wife might be pregnant and you’re wondering things like, “How long will I be around to experience this child if they’re born?”
We got the news that the embryo survived and Emily was – for the first time – pregnant. What a relief! Now there’s a whole new list of things to worry about such as, “What if the pregnancy does not last?”
More medications, more injections, more doctor visits, and more ultrasounds. And so far, she continues to be pregnant.
We’re beginning to accept this as a reality. She’s pregnant, and we’re going to have a baby boy in our house (what!?) in January 2017.
It’s difficult to fathom.
I mean, holy balls, my wife is pregnant and we’re going to be parents.
There’s going to be a new person in our family.
And now the most challenging aspect of character creation — what to name him?