I have thought and thought about what I wanted to say to you for months, but truth be told, I was too scared to write it down — as if writing down your story would make it not real. It seems absolutely unfathomable to me that in just a few weeks I will be holding you in my arms, and not just seeing you move across my abdomen like a trapped alien. You have been a spark in our dreams for so so so long, and despite the fact that you have been doing a headstand on my bladder for weeks, I still don’t quite believe that I am pregnant at all.
Baby Girl, it’s important to me that you know your story. Every person walking this beautiful earth is a miracle — but you, my dear, have shattered glass ceilings from the womb.
Baby, my body doesn’t generally work the way we expect it to. Things that happen automatically for most people — breathing, heart rate, digestion, and yes, reproduction, don’t happen automatically for me. By the time you’re old enough to read this, I’m sure this will be obvious to you, when we can’t share most foods and you’ve had to tag along to nine zillion appointments with your Mama.
If I had a dollar for every time I was told it would be clinically impossible for me to have a child, my bank account would look very different. But Baby Girl, I always believed in you. Even when it seemed foolish — in fact, especially when it seemed foolish. I don’t take well to being told what MY body can and cannot do, I just had no idea what it would take to make it happen.
Baby Girl, you are a miracle over four years in the making.
I have been kicked out of three different fertility clinics in Virginia — some stringing me along for 6–9 months before deciding that they wouldn’t accept me. I had endless MRIs and blood tests and ultrasounds and hormones. I was sent to perinatologists, cardiologists, endocrinologists and several other “ologists” for approval, only to be told it wasn’t enough. Some blamed my heart, others my stomach, others had truly no rationale at all, and just flat out said no. One group refused to see me for a consult in the first place. One doctor went so far as to say that my chances of getting pregnant were about as likely as the Virgin Mary.
(To which I’d like to point out that the BVM did, in fact, have a child. Kind of an important one, too. Just saying.)
There are certainly multiple avenues to having a family, and your dad and I considered every last one. We would have walked to the end of the earth and back, but on many levels that wasn’t enough. Possessing not one, but two, genetic mutations with unknown ramifications for life expectancy didn’t exactly sell me as Mother of the Year in the world of adoption and surrogacy.
I was running out of options, and quickly.
I started contacting larger university hospitals in the area, in hopes that their size and research potential would make me a more desirable patient. Two turned me down from the very first phone call.
As a last ditch effort, I called Johns Hopkins.
When the administrative assistant asked me to come in for a consult, it was my turn to refuse. My heart couldn’t handle another disappointment. I needed something to grasp onto before I dragged myself down another likely dead-end. So I asked that before I come in for a consult, the doctors know that I had a pacemaker, gastroparesis, extensive neuromuscular obstacles and a non-functioning autonomic nervous system. She took the message and I expected, like always, to receive a “thanks but no thanks” a few days later.
By this point, I had learned that most fertility centers are outpatient centers — meaning they aren’t attached to a hospital, and typically function as their own little community. This is great for 99% of the population. Baby, I’m sure you’ll quickly learn that your mother doesn’t often fit into the mainstream. These centers don’t so much have an EKG machine, let alone the ability to handle a pacemaker. Most, I was told, don’t even have a pulse oximeter on hand. Penelope the Pacemaker and I were just too much to handle.
The next day, I got a return call — I didn’t even hold my breath or get nervous. I knew how this went.
Hopkins also has an outpatient fertility center.
Hopkins Fertility is miles from the main hospital.
But Hopkins Fertility shares that outpatient center with the ophthalmology clinic.
Yes, my dear. You’ve probably already figured it out.
There are FAR more patients with pacemakers having their cataracts done, than there are trying to have babies.
THAT side of the outpatient center had just about every cardiac machine known to man.
Most importantly of all? They were willing to share.
Shout out to every last 80-year-old human with a pacemaker having their cataracts removed. I’d like to personally hug you, make you brownies, and invite you to a heart-healthy dinner for existing. The brightest of gold stars, my friends.
Now this ability to share equipment wasn’t a guarantee — my case had to be brought before the entire department to review and approve. I had to interview with the maternal fetal medicine team. I had to have letters of approval from my cardiologist and endocrinologist. I had to be willing to live close to the hospital if I got pregnant. Above all, I had to understand that unlike The Hunger Games, the odds were most definitely NOT, in my favor.
I did. I knew the odds. But I had to try.
For nearly two years, in a complete veil of secrecy, I drove to Baltimore 4–5 days a week. In 2017 I put 11,590 miles on my car, solely for medical purposes. I gave myself endless shots in my abdomen, took pills, wore patches, and bent over the sink with a grimace while your dad aimed giant needles at the bullseye drawn by the nurses on my hind-end.
My genetic material, along with your dad’s and your grandparents’ was taken to make a protocol to test our embryos. They didn’t have a test kit for my mutations, because no one else exists that has them. We had a 1:8 chance.
After two rounds of egg retrievals, months of hormones, genetic testing and what felt like a direct siphoning of our bank account, we came up with absolutely nothing. Not one genetically clear embryo. Not. A. One.
I did three more rounds of egg retrievals, battled blood clots and ovarian hyper-stimulation syndrome, and retained 15 pounds of fluid in my abdomen, which sounded like a fish bowl when I walked. We sent the embryos off, and we waited.
Throughout these entire four years, your father and I told next to no one about this process. The odds were so small and the stakes so very high. Many nights found me huddled in a dark corner of a parking lot giving myself shots between clients and praying no one walked by the car at that moment. There were endless comments about my weight gain from well-intentioned friends and family who assumed my 15 pounds of jiggly fish bowl meant my stomach was healed and I was eating more. In actuality, that couldn’t have been further from the truth.
For months, I opened every email with trepidation and flinched when the phone rang. I found out after 2 months of waiting that the lab took a summer break for a few weeks, and hadn’t even processed our embryos yet. I avoided hospitalization over the last round of egg retrievals by the slimmest of margins, and my doctors were clear that my body may be waving the white flag.
The stakes could not have been higher.
The odds were 1:8.
We sent FAR more than eight. Enough to have many, many genetically clear embryos.
The call finally came in.
There was one.
That one, baby girl, was you.
After over four years, four fertility clinics, five rounds of anesthesia, hundreds of needles, endless complications, a brand new genetic testing protocol, and a whole lot of hope, we had one. And if it didn’t take, we had none.
By all accounts and research, you are statistically impossible.
But Baby Girl, you took the word impossible, and said I’M POSSIBLE.
You shattered glass ceilings far before you were 5 cells big.
I couldn’t be more proud.
Baby, I wish I could tell you that I will be able to guard your heart and your mind every day of your life. I want to say that you will want for nothing and never feel a moment of self-doubt or sadness, but I know that’s not how this both brutal and beautiful life works. In fact, you will someday learn that we NEED those moments to grow and learn and become the most authentic version of ourselves.
So Baby, I hope you will tuck this letter away somewhere safe, and read it often. I hope that in those moments of loneliness or waning confidence, you will remember just how hard you worked to be here.
It’s important to me that you know this story — YOUR story. Tomorrow I’ll be 37 weeks pregnant, which means that you, my little miracle, are a full-term baby and I’m pretty sure my heart may just explode with wonder. Your dad and I wrote the prologue, but now the story is yours to write, and I cannot wait to read it.
Come what may, you are WANTED, you are LOVED, and I will ALWAYS believe in you.
All my love,