The 3-month-old playing at my feet was trying to make sense of what he was seeing. He may be little, but he knows my smile, he knows my laugh, and he knows my adoring gaze; but my tears, well, they were something new to comprehend.
While my baby’s tears are due to tiredness, hunger, frustration, and sometimes loneliness, my own tears were a mixture of so many emotions: sadness, relief, guilt, disbelief, pleasure, and endless happiness.
This time last year, I was suffering through the never-ending two-week wait following our first round of IVF. That I was doing IVF at all was something I could barely fathom and found hard to internalize. However, after months of failed IUIs, a diagnosis of unexplained infertility (which is apparently the good kind), and my “ever advancing” maternal age (I would turn 36 just before the treatment, although, as I tried to convince myself, my eggs were still pretty much only 35), I had been shunted off to the IVF department of Shaarei Tzedek hospital in Jerusalem.
Following so many disappointments, I didn’t allow myself to believe the IVF would work. I just didn’t want to face the crushing feeling of yet another call from the nurses telling me how sorry they were that they were calling with bad news (the same kindly nurses who check that you had sex when you were supposed to).
But amazingly, everything went to plan, and one of the two embryos we transferred implanted and developed into the gorgeous, playful, and confused 13-week-old boy furrowing his brow as he tried desperately to decipher the tears, which had come seemingly out of nowhere, streaming down my face.
If he could ask, I would have told him that they were tears of relief and disbelief; relief that in the grand scheme of things, my husband and I didn’t have to wait so long for him, our take home baby, and while our personal journey had been very hard, we only had the disappointment of failed cycles to contend with rather than the pain and heartbreak of miscarriage from which so many suffer.
The disbelief, I would tell him, results from being convinced that we were doomed to failure. My husband, on the other hand, an optimist through and through, barely raised an eyebrow when I woke him in the middle of the night to show him the pregnancy test I had just taken. After all, he thoroughly believed throughout the whole process that everything would work out for the best, and so the pee stick I wafted around at 4 in the morning was nothing more than confirmation of what he already had faith would happen at the right time.
I would also tell the baby, although I hope he already knows, about my immense happiness. I have spent hours that add up to days just staring at my little son. He usually wakes up with a smile, and these days I do, too. From times when it was hard to drag myself out of bed, where I passed hours weeping, I now spend my days laughing and giggling, playing games and playing the clown. Long forgotten songs from childhood are coming back as I look for ways to entertain my growing and ever more inquisitive boy.
Despite the relief, however, something darker lurks beneath the surface of my happiness. There’s guilt—guilt that we got off “so easy” in comparison to too many of the wonderful women I know struggling with both primary and secondary infertility who are no closer to fulfilling their dream. Their days are still filled with pain, both physical and emotional, while mine are now filled with love, laughter, and completion.
I’m also crying for my old friends “worry” and “what if.” What if it’s not so easy next time (and I already know I want there to be a next time)? What if I’m not strong enough to deal with this whole process again, especially given that aging does not make it any easier? What if it doesn’t work? Will my one beloved child be enough?
For now, though, as my tears dry up and I watch my child use his newfound skills to grab a hanging toy, there is only gratitude. Gratitude that things worked out how they were pre-ordained, and that such a miracle is part of my life.