My name is Stacy Bjorkman, and I am on AGC Scholarship’s Board of Directors. You may have read a little about my story in the “About AGC” tab on the website, but I’d like to share a bit more with you.
My now ex-husband, Jason, and I struggled with infertility for about 5 years. We conceived naturally the first time, but I miscarried our little girl at about 17 weeks when my water broke in the middle of the night. After that, there was radio silence in my uterus. So we got on the fertility train: the tracks with lots of twists and turns, but no stops, no final destination. After four medicated IUIs and four IVFs (two of which ended in miscarriage of twins), we were finally blessed with our son, Henry. With the help of both a reproductive endocrinologist and a reproductive immunologist, Henry arrived in our arms after a treacherous 36 weeks of fear, endless morning sickness, and lots and lots of drugs – but he was here – a REAL LIVE baby!
I remember watching House MD one night when I was pregnant and crying my eyes out over a story line where the woman was going through infertility treatment. I remember telling Jason that I was so glad that it was finally over for us. If we were to only have one child, so be it. We had beaten infertility – finally – and I could never imagine going back. But we don’t get to make those choices in the end, and the universe had other plans.
What we didn’t know at the time was that Henry would be born with a very rare genetic disease that is always fatal in infancy. We were readmitted to the hospital when he was 7 weeks old, and the rest of his life was a fact-finding roller coaster. He had a feeding tube, a breathing tube, and lived the rest of his days at Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago. After all our heartbreaks, frustrations, struggles to become parents, we lost our only son when he was seven months old. Now I can hear you gasping and saying “Oh no! How terrible! How could that happen?!” – all questions we’ve asked ourselves, believe me! But don’t be sad for Henry. He had a short life (too short, to be sure), but it was a good life, and he did not suffer – not one bit. He lived the life he was meant to live, and I have found joy and peace knowing that we squeezed every last bit of happiness from each day he had on earth. The tragedy is that I am now once again a mother without a child. Is that selfish? Maybe. But this blog is about sharing my true feelings, and that is how I feel.
I would like to share part of a “Henry Update” email I wrote in March 2013, just weeks after we learned that Henry would not live to see his 1st birthday; we still thought that Henry would make it back home for a short time. The pain of infertility was back, and my emotions were raw…
March 13, 2013 – I’ve been starting to have panic attacks about infertility again. It all started with a conversation about a double stroller. When you try to go home with a baby on a ventilator they make you buy a double stroller. One seat is for the baby and one seat is for the ventilator, the breathing bag, and all the other supplies that must go everywhere Henry will go – even if it’s just from his bedroom to the kitchen table. I told the team I didn’t want to buy a double stroller because that will just be one more thing we’re going to have to “put away” when Henry dies. We don’t need one more reminder that, not only do we not have ONE kid to put in a stroller, but we certainly don’t have the need for a DOUBLE stroller. Eff.
I thought that the infertility beast was dead, but here it is, not dead at all. I don’t think I can do it again. Infertility made me an anxious, obsessed, no-fun, unhappy person who had to pretend to be happy, pretend to care about lots of things I didn’t really care about. I honestly don’t think I can survive going back there again. I don’t have the desire or the energy to pretend, and thinking about it makes me want to go to bed and stay there for years. Even what we are doing now – and believe me, it’s not at all fun – pales in comparison to infertility. It pales because we have Henry to love right now, and we know that no matter what happens, his beautiful little soul will be okay. And because I carry his heart with me. I carry it in my heart. But when Henry is gone, what’s left is infertility. Our nemesis. Empty, lonely, misunderstood, shitty infertility. And what are our options now? Test our embryos and transfer the genetically healthy ones to me? To a surrogate? Do we trust our embryos? Adopt embryos or eggs? Do we trust my body? Adopt a live baby? All of those options take a LONG time and cost a LOT of money. What the heck, man? This was supposed to be over. This WAS over. And for a short time I had forgotten how badly it hurts. But it’s creeping back, just knowing what’s coming. I know what you’re all going to say – I’m putting the cart before the horse – but you know me well enough to know that’s how I roll, right?
So for now it’s just Henry. Every second of the day, it’s Henry. It’s just loving him up, and trying not to think about the demons in our past that will also be the demons in our future. We will eat up every smile, love every diaper change, relish in every bath time, and even embrace every boogery nose (I’ve learned there is something disgustingly satisfying about suctioning boogs from his nose – it’s a sick satisfaction!). He is our gift from God, and for that we are so thankful. He has made His face shine upon us.
Okay, back to present day…I guess my point in sharing all this is to convey the gravity of infertility. People seem to “get” the horror of a terminally ill child. Who wouldn’t see the heartbreak in that? But the truth is, infertility can be just as bad, if not worse, but people don’t understand that unless they have faced it themselves.
My hope is that AGC Scholarships will not only help some families afford the more expensive avenues to family building, but that we can bring awareness to the deep seeded emotions that accompany unwanted childlessness. The pain of infertility is intense – more so than many people realize. To those of you reading who feel this pain, you are not alone. I have felt it, too. I still feel it every day.