12 weeks and one day into our first pregnancy, my wife and I met a group of old friends for dinner and drinks to make our big announcement. As expected, “We’re pregnant!” was met with an eruption of joyous outbursts, hugs and high-fives. Apparently, I hadn’t finished talking. Over the chatter of congratulations, I heard three little words leap forth from my mouth at a disproportionately loud volume: “WE DID IVF!”
The fact that I yelled it out may have hinted at my discomfort too well, and at least one person knew it. (Thank goodness these were old friends.) My friend Susan sitting across from me could have easily asked, “Why are you yelling?” Fortunately she didn’t, because she is an intelligent and insightful person, and a mother. Instead “That’s great!” was accompanied by a sympathetic nod telling me everything is okay. IVF is okay.
Clearly not to me.
Listening to friends and family discuss the pros and cons surrounding procreation over the years, I always concluded that when my time came I would – excuse me, we would – follow a birthing and parenting philosophy based on a natural approach, which did not include scientific tampering and in-vitro fertilization. The natural approach was a logical fit for me – I wear a beard, recycle, compost, leave no trace, drive a clean Diesel, almost always vote left of middle, and surround myself with others who are like-minded. After two years of unexplained infertility, the culmination of countless clinic visits, second opinions, and moments of tearful embrace, me lost most of its relevance, along with my half-baked philosophy towards extending my lineage naturally. You do not choose nature. Nature chooses you.
Nature chose for my wife and me a drive to Beverly Hills to visit an infertility specialist with a success rate twice the national average to discuss options for IVF. Why? Because in the course of things that occur naturally – the rotation of the Earth around the Sun, blinking, breathing, a tree born from a seed – it was not in our nature to create anything from our own seeds, unassisted.
Fortunately for us, nature works in mysterious ways, and a few months later, on our first attempt, we were pregnant and continuing our new doctor’s winning streak of successful procedures, times two – twin girls. Nature chose to provide us with an opportunity to create life by leveraging science. It was one big twisted piece of natural irony that flew right over my head given my blinding level of excitement, not to mention my preoccupation with epidurals, doulas, formula, and other topics of baby babble, at that time.
Was it obvious to my friend Susan I was not completely cool with the choice we had made to conceive via IVF, this un-natural choice made to preempt adoption or death of the family name? Or worse, was she witnessing the uncompromising me (and my beard) faltering under pressure? Most likely she thought I was a little tipsy, getting louder by the pint.
It wasn’t until later that night while staring at the ceiling fan in bed that my vision came to me: my quaint, tree-lined suburban street, the sidewalk lined with picketers waving signs reading “CHEATER,” “SCIENCE LOVER,” and worse “UN-NATURAL BIRTHER.” Me was at risk of being publically outed a fraud. The unfortunate truth of my situation rushed back in. You do not choose nature. Check. Nature chooses you. Check, wait : no. Nature didn’t choose me, or us, at all. We are not the “chosen” anything. We have unexplained infertility. Which is like tearing out the final chapter in a great novel: Is it over? How does it end? (How does it begin?) What happens next? Frustrating beyond belief to say the least.
Yes, we got ourselves pregnant by cutting corners and buying our way in. Yes, we have two beautiful little girls that are thriving and developing beyond expectations. As grateful as we are, other people get to read the ending and often can surmise a sequel. We get six frozen backup embryos – a.k.a. “kidsicles” – at an annual fee of $350 back at the lab as a reminder.
And no answers.
Nature was toying with me in a dark comedic sort of manner. Although I never truly disputed her power over me, she found it necessary to remind me who does the choosing and when, having some fun in the process at my expense: unexplained infertility, a c-section delivery five-plus hours after a vaginal delivery, middle-of-the-night tandem breast feedings, burpings and changings. I get it already. I’m just a passenger on this bus ride through life.
In two weeks, the girls begin solid food. Besides, next week presents a whole new set of choices starting with jarred veggies versus farmers market, nanny versus stay-at-home papa, beer versus wine (for momma and papa). This convoluted relationship with nature I appear to be fueling with my overflowing vat of putrid earthworm castings from the backyard, this “who chooses who” poop, in-vitro fertilization – these are the least of my concerns.