“When are you having another baby?”
“Is she your only?”
“You should have more kids.”
These are the comments I heard almost daily. At the playground, the library, my daughter’s dance class, and the children’s museum. Anywhere I went with my daughter, people felt like it was OK to say these things to me. Little did they know, I was struggling to conceive when they made these statements, and each one felt like a dagger.
Before I even knew how the journey to parenthood would go, I had no idea there would be so many unexpected experiences. I got pregnant with my daughter on the first try at age 35. We had no idea it would happen that quickly, and we were just in the initial phases of trying when she came to us. Our miracle baby.
During my pregnancy, uterine fibroids that I had pre-pregnancy, began to feed off the extra blood flow and estrogen, and grew rapidly alongside my baby. Every ultrasound I saw my baby girl and the biggest fibroid, Leo (leiomyomas- the medical term for fibroids) growing side by side. We had many ultrasounds to make sure there was space for the baby to grow and exit. At my daughter’s birth, Leo had reached 10 cm, but she was able to push him aside and come out in a non-medicated, vaginal birth.
When my daughter was just three months old, we moved to Columbia for my husband’s job, where we didn’t know many people and had no family. At six months old, I went in for a postpartum ultrasound to see the status of Leo and his friends. He had shrunk down to 7cm, and the OB didn’t think I would have trouble conceiving again. I didn’t know anyone else with fibroids, so I had no one to ask about trying to conceive with them.
Fast forward two years…
We decided it was time to start trying for baby number two, after much consideration and realizing I wasn’t getting any younger. I assumed it would be like the first time. One try and we’d have our baby. Well, it didn’t happen then, or the next month, or the next. It was one disappointment after another.
After six months of trying, I checked in with my OB/GYN. We did all the tests for me and my husband. Nothing appeared to be wrong, except for the presence of the fibroids. So, we kept trying. And people kept asking about our reproduction and giving advice.
“It’ll happen when you least expect it.”
“Have you tried XYZ?”
Nothing seemed to work.
At this point my daughter had begun asking for a sibling as well. She saw her friends with their siblings and our pregnant neighbors and wanted the same for us. I was also teaching prenatal and postnatal yoga while trying to conceive, and she knew that other people had babies in their bellies. Why can’t you mama? It broke my heart because I wanted it for her, for me, and to grow our family. She would walk around with her baby doll stuffed in her dress pretending to be pregnant. Being the youngest of five kids in my family, I never imagined having an only child.
After a year and a half of trying to get pregnant, I was ready to see a Reproductive Endocrinologist and get some concrete answers. I was just about to turn 39 and knew that my chances of conceiving were getting slimmer. We did the HSG with the dye, and the doctor saw that one of my fallopian tubes was blocked and Leo was causing my uterus to be misshapen and more difficult for an egg to implant.
According to the endocrinologist, I wouldn’t be able to have another child without invasive and expensive medical procedures. I would need an open abdominal myomectomy to remove the fibroid, which would mean two to five days in the hospital and a six-to-eight-week recovery period. After that I would need to wait six months to even try to conceive, but we’d probably need IVF, and then a C-section with six more weeks of recovery. She said all this information while I lay there on the table, legs spread, in the gown, butt hanging out, and said I should schedule the surgery and then left the room. It was the worst bedside manner I’ve ever had. I sat up and it just hit me.
I started balling knowing that this was probably too much for me and my family to handle. She didn’t say let’s talk in my office or make an appointment to discuss the options with your husband. Luckily the nurse stayed with me and comforted me while I cried and processed. I had envisioned a home birth after our baby was conceived the old-fashioned way of just having sex with my spouse. This new scenario told me I was broken, and it would take so much to fix. I went from trying to have a baby to being told I was infertile.
It was like my identity changed in one moment.
At home, I had a three-year-old child, a six-month-old puppy, a husband who worked crazy unpredictable hours, no family nearby, and I had just launched my own yoga business. It did not seem feasible at the time to go through all of these procedures. Plus, I would do so much to my body without any guarantee of having a baby at the end of the journey.
Soon after, I started therapy to help process this shift in my life expectations. I loved being pregnant and being a mom, but this didn’t seem in the cards anymore. As I told my therapist about my feelings of loss, she mentioned my daughter also felt a loss. She would never have the sibling she desired. The therapist recommended we write down how we both were feeling.
We couldn’t find any books about that related to our struggles, so it was difficult to explain what was happening to my daughter. Together she and I wrote the book On Brighter Days that we recently published with a local publisher and only child mom. Her new hybrid publishing company is called Artist Madrid Books, and she believed that our story should be told since there was nothing out there like it.
My daughter and I discussed all of our feelings about wanting a baby but not being able to have one and being okay with our family of three (plus one, if you include our pup, Nia, who she often refers to as her sister). The book focuses on all the positives of having an only child and it helped me to process the disappointment of infertility and find the bright days with my perfect one and only. I have found closure in my reproduction journey and now enjoy birthing children’s books.
I have grown so much through the last few years during this phase of motherhood. Now I have a professional website with my book information, and I have been selling my book around Columbia – at local markets, Odd Bird Books, and Good For the Sole shoe store. My next book comes out November 2022 and focuses on Nature Schools. It will be sold at Barnes and Noble.
My motto has become, pain is a conduit for creativity. This journey has taught me so much about myself and how to overcome sorrow and loss through creation. I hope my families story helps other families who struggle with secondary infertility.
Kyla Saphir is a mother, yoga instructor, early childhood educator, and the author of the children’s books On Brighter Days and I Love Nature School.