“If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.”
Just when I decided on a life without kids, the universe decided to throw a wrench in my plans. I once had an Indian guru tell me that my life “is like a fascinating mystery novel. You’ll never know what’s coming next, and there will be many twists and turns.” Fuck. Basically my worst nightmare. My entire 20s was a whiplash-inducing roller coaster ride. All I can handle at this point are the teacups. To cling to the illusion of control, I spend an unhealthy amount of time planning my life out to the last detail. Seriously, my google calendar is insane. And guess what percent of the time my day plays out as planned? 0%.
Around Christmas of 2016, I began to feel very pregnant. Logically, it seemed impossible. I had the paragard IUD, which had effectively protected me from pregnancy for the past 7 years. But I know my body, and I felt pregnant. My hyper-rational husband swore that is was near impossible, informing me of the minuscule odds of being pregnant over and over like a mantra while I echoed back “You’re right, you’re right, it’s probably fine.” This call and response continued for days as my head swirled with nausea and my breasts became progressively sore.
On New Year’s Eve, I started bleeding with bad cramps two days before my period was due. I told my husband that I thought I was having a miscarriage and that I wouldn’t be able to go out anymore. He was still convinced this was all in my head and spent the night sulking that our NYE plans were ruined. So I went to bed alone with a heating pad on my belly, feeling strangely sad about the lost pregnancy that I never wanted.
I got in to see my OB-GYN a couple of days later and she confirmed my suspicion. “Your IUD is dislodged. Either it came out because of the miscarriage, or it was already out of place, and that’s why you got pregnant.” How could this happen? I thought the paragard was supposed to last over 10 years! She explained to me what my previous OB never told me: the paragard IUD does not necessarily prevent conception, but it usually prevents implantation. Doctors are not exactly sure why it works, but something about the copper affecting the mucus lining of the uterus. It’s not perfect, and it’s possible to repeatedly have chemical pregnancies with it. However, there is no perfect birth control (except abstinence), and the IUD is still one of the best options for someone like me who can’t tolerate hormones.
I bled for the next 10 days and got my period again in two months. It was time to decide what to do about birth control. Suddenly the floodgates of ambivalence were opened again. Was this a sign? Should we try for a kid? Is it even possible for me to survive a pregnancy with my current health issues? The experience of being pregnant, albeit briefly, planted a seed of desire that now I had to contend with. I could tell my husband was feeling the same. We handled the confusion the way we always do: with more research.
We decided to consult a high-risk OB doctor, and I confessed all my fears. When I was in my early 20s I got accidentally pregnant with a scum of a man who I dumped before I knew I was carrying his child. I was planning to keep the child without his involvement, but I got hyperemesis gravidarum and lost 15 pounds in a month. I decided to terminate the pregnancy, not only because I realized that I would always be attached to the kid’s horrible father, but because I felt like I was dying. The pregnancy made me anemic and underweight and would mark the last time I ever weighed over 98 lbs.
Now in my late 30s weighing 93 lbs with a chronic illness, my prospects of having a healthy pregnancy were slim. The OB told me that if the hyperemesis gravidarum came back, it would be a miserable pregnancy. They would be able to keep my baby and me alive but the child might have low birth weight. I would need a Zofran pump, a PICC line for IV nutrition, and ongoing IV hydration. By the time the baby came out, I would be so malnourished that I would not be capable of breastfeeding. There could be permanent damage to my body. She said, “Frankly, if I were you, I’d use a surrogate.”
So we set up consults with every fertility clinic in the city. We learned that I had a ton of eggs, so one IVF cycle would likely be successful, and we could keep the embryos frozen until we were ready to find a surrogate. The medications to stimulate the eggs would probably exacerbate my symptoms, but it would be short-lived. The total cost would be somewhere around $175k.
$175k?! Think of all the shoes! We could buy a house with that money! Plus I’m a control freak, and you’re telling me to hand my baby off to another woman who could be eating, drinking, smoking god knows what, and what kind of person would want to be a surrogate anyway? Later I would learn that most surrogates are basically angels with pure and generous hearts (that could also use the money.)
The indecisiveness continued. In the meantime, we were using the rhythm method combined with basal temperature tracking because hormonal forms of birth control make me too sick. At the beginning of August, the weekend of our anniversary, we had some very passionate love-making sessions. Great sex is rare later in marriage because it inevitably becomes routine and boring. But this weekend we felt especially in love and had sex on day 7 of my cycle.
Afterward, I decided that was too close to the edge of my fertile window, and we should do something about it. The morning after pill would undoubtedly make me sick, and we figured out that if we got a paragard IUD within 5 days, then that would effectively prevent pregnancy. So once again, I decided to close the door on kids.
I felt relieved as I drove to my OB appt. All of my doubts were a clear sign that I should not have a kid. Now I could move on with my life and put a stop to this dizzying ride. With my legs spread and my body tensed in anticipation of the painful IUD insertion, my doctor paused. “Now are you sure? I just feel obliged to ask, because of your age. Your fertile window is closing, so now would be the time to act on that. So, are you sure?”
If I had to predict how I would react at that moment, I would tell you that I’d be appalled. How dare she pressure me like that? I know how old I am, I’m not an idiot! Mind your business, and stick that thing up there already! Instead, I blurted out, “No! No, I’m not sure,” and slammed my legs shut.
She could hear the trepidation in my voice and spoke to me like a friend. She told me that she got pregnant the first time at the same age as me. She had also been uncertain, but it turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to her. She teared up as she spoke about the gratitude she had for her daughters, and to my surprise, I teared up too. Unethical or not, I appreciated her advice and left the office without an IUD.
I had a positive pregnancy test two weeks later.
Continue reading: “We Got Pregnant And Terminated”