Growing up, I always wanted to be a mom. I wasn’t in a hurry for it to happen, though, and went to university and started my career with the goal of being financially stable and independent. I thought I’d meet the right person and everything would fall into place when the time was right, white picket fence and all.
Then, at the age of 29, I was diagnosed with cancer. I was given the option of preserving my fertility, but was told that it would delay my cancer treatment. It was the most difficult decision I’ve made in my life and I don’t think I’ve ever cried as hard, but I decided to forgo fertility preservation. I felt that I needed to give myself the best shot at survival and was worried about the toll fertility treatments would have on my body prior to starting chemotherapy. I do not regret my decision but I sometimes wonder where I’d be now if my decision were different.
One year post cancer treatment, I decided that I needed to either open or close the door to my chance of having children. I booked an appointment for fertility testing. Naively, I was hoping to be told either a concrete, “Yes, you can have kids,” or a concrete, “No, you cannot have kids.” Instead I was told, “Your egg count is low. It’s now or never.”
I had given up on and mourned my loss of fertility once so it felt like I was being given a second chance, albeit one with some conditions attached. I decided that life was too short to not fight for what I wanted and I knew if I didn’t capitalize on this opportunity, I would always regret it. As I don’t have a partner, the next thing I knew, I was online shopping for a sperm donor.
This was an experience in itself. I would send the profiles I liked to my friends and family and get their opinions. Everyone was amazingly supportive and encouraging. A few weeks later, I was the proud owner of three vials of “deposits.”
In discussions with my fertility specialist, it was decided that I would try a maximum of two rounds of intrauterine insemination (IUI) and then move on to in vitro fertilization (IVF) if the IUIs didn’t work. Most people know what IVF is, but are less familiar with IUI. IUI is essentially artificial insemination. The sperm is injected directly into the uterus where nature takes its course.
I had my first IUI in February. I was anxious and excited. I downloaded pregnancy apps and followed along day by day with what I was praying was happening in my body. I tried to be cautiously optimistic, but in my mind, I already had names and nursery decor picked out. Two weeks later when I received the negative test result, I was devastated. Just like with cancer, my body had failed me once again.
In the beginning of March, I had my second IUI. This time, I was much more reserved. I deleted the apps and tried to keep myself distracted. I was scared to feel excited. A week after my IUI, COVID locked the world down. When I again received negative test results, I wasn’t even surprised. It felt like the universe was conspiring against me. I was on a strict timeline and COVID-19 had closed the fertility centre down. My next step was IVF but there was no knowing when that could happen.
Like a lot of people during lockdown, I tried to become a healthier version of me. I worked on stress management, meditation, and sleep hygiene. I focused my energy on what I could control, as opposed to what I could not. I set a goal to intentionally walk outside over 100km a month. I was starting to feel more like pre-cancer me, but I still yearned to be a parent.
After what felt like forever, I received the call for which I was waiting; the fertility clinic was reopening and I could begin the IVF process. I felt — and still feel — a conglomerate of emotions: excitement, fear, happiness, doubt, and that’s before the influx of hormones that my body will soon be subjected to.
I am excited to begin moving forward again, but terrified that it won’t work. I am elated that I am one step closer to my dream but reticent to put all my faith and trust into a body that has failed me. Regardless, I know that I will not regret my decision to try to become a parent.