My husband was diagnosed with testicular cancer when he was 25. Interestingly, the removal of his tumor-infected testicle was not what caused his infertility. A second, more invasive surgery and 4 rounds of chemo were ultimately the culprits. Given that we went into the process with male-factor infertility. I assumed with one, maybe two, IUIs, I’d be pregnant. I felt that I was due a little luck after nursing my husband through an excruciating cancer experience in my mid-twenties.
After the third failed IUI, my doctor strongly recommended moving to IVF and storing embryos with my 28-year-old eggs and the finite amount of stored sperm we had. We were on board. Anyone who has suffered from infertility knows, days feel like months and one cycle can feel like an eternity. I knew IVF would be grueling and expensive. But, I was desperate to become pregnant and afraid to keep wasting vials of precious sperm on IUIs. I did a cycle of IVF, took a month off, transferred one frozen embryo a month later, and delivered my son, Max, 9 months later.
Throughout the journey, one frustrating lifestyle change was toning down my athletic yoga practice. My doctor was concerned about ovarian torsion.
Cliché as it might sound, though, I did learn to appreciate yoga’s other aspects, like breathing and meditation. It was in class that I met a fertility sister who was undergoing IVF as well. It was to her whom I gifted my leftover medications. We had some really nice exchanges throughout our treatment cycles.
I feel very lucky to have gotten pregnant after only one transfer. Especially now that I realize that life doesn’t just hand us ease as an equal and opposite gift following hardship. I got through this journey in the same way I got through my husband’s cancer. When you don’t have a choice but to persevere, you get through things. Things you see others going through that you can’t imagine coming out of alive. I give so much credit to my amazing husband, my supportive friends and family, and an insane amount of Netflix and chocolate. Our world initially felt so defined by my husband’s cancer saga. I was determined to paint our life with something far more joyous. Pregnancy after cancer is possible.
My husband’s cancer ordeal left him infertile and fated me to IVF in order to conceive. I’m convinced that my two beautiful, sweet kids are extra special because they were custom-made in a lab.
I’m also a yoga instructor, and so I practice and teach gratitude as a foundational component of yoga. All that being said, I have a hard time feeling genuine gratitude while pregnant because, well, I hate carrying the very babies that I seriously love to have.
I have no justifiable reason to feel this way: my pregnancies have been straightforward and uncomplicated. I am also extremely aware of how lucky I am to have carried and delivered two healthy kids. Especially after spending a year in my twenties in a cancer hospital at my husband’s bedside.
Even after enduring unsuccessful IUIs and going through IVF, the results of my husband’s medical traumas. I still feel mystified by women who feel divine and whole when they are pregnant. Women who deliberately take bump selfies. Or, even pay for professional photographs of themselves wearing jeans and no top, gazing sexily over one shoulder, exposing a perfect semi-circle of a belly.
From the hunger-nausea of the first trimester. To that awkward is-it-a-food-baby-or-a-baby-bump look from passerby in the second trimester. And the tediousness of changing positions in bed or sneezing without peeing in the third trimester. I somehow can’t replace my deepest love of being a mother with my visceral state of irritation while a person grows inside my body.
During my first pregnancy, my inability to cultivate gratitude manifested in guilt and self-judgment. The second time around, I learned to embrace my authentic feelings. Women have to battle infinite expectations surrounding our bodies and fertility. Yes, it’s important to count our blessings, especially when personal experiences endow us with the wisdom and perspective to do so. But, it’s equally important to radically accept ourselves.