“Problems cannot be solved at the same level of awareness that created them.” – Albert Einstein

If I have only one piece of personal wisdom that I have gleaned over the years, it is this – sometimes, it is far, far harder to walk away than it is to stay and fight.  And sometimes walking away is the sanest choice to make.

I am not a person who walks away easily.  My mother, the astrology afficianado, tells me it is because I am an Aries Rising.  These are people who stay in a struggle long after they stopped remembering what exactly it was that they were fighting for.  That’s what those big, thick horns are for – to keep you from flattening your forehead when you bash it against that wall repeatedly.

Me?  I think it’s because I am a redhead.  Goes with the hair.

My life is littered with examples of my failure to follow my own advice.  I stayed in my first serious, and abusive, relationship far beyond the point where I could even be pitied.  I stayed in my first marriage for ten years, likely two years beyond the point where it could be considered a marriage in any true sense of the term.  Only in the last five years of my life have I been able to shrug and walk away from an argument when it is patently obvious that it had ceased to be anything winnable, or even subject to compromise.

Well, I have since learned to cut my losses.  And this latest has been the unkindest cut of all.  Today, I walked away from our dream of another child. 

Because I put off the whole having-a-kid business until over 37, we had a struggle to have Harry.  Two years with no birth control, followed by six months of really trying gave no results, until at last, at the ripe old age of 39, I went to an OB, who sent me (without passing “Go”, and on an emergency consult), to a reproductive endocrinologist.  After four months of tedious, expensive, and often unpronounceable tests, and having my blood drawn so often I seriously considered inserting a spigot in my elbow, the news was grim.  I had a less than 5% chance of having my own children even with medical intervention.  The RE recommended going straight to using an egg donor (again, without passing “Go”).  I went home and cried for three days. 

When the swelling in my eyes went down, and I could speak without my voice wavering, I called the doctor back and I told her I wanted to try three rounds of IUI (I will spare you the details, go look it up) with follicle-stimulating drugs and my very own eggs, thank you.  My logic being that in three months, my chances with donor eggs would be exactly the same.  I wanted to keep fighting.  I wanted my chance.  In our very first month, exactly one week after my 40th birthday, we conceived Harry.  My doctor couldn’t believe it.  Nine months later, our little miracle gift from God arrived with his Daddy’s brown eyes and sense of humor, and his mother’s red hair and temper.  Poor kid.  I will warn him later.

We had never intended on stopping our family there.  Two was always the number – nice, even, companionable.  I am of the philosophy that when the number of kids outstrips the number of parental units, you are borrowing trouble, but two seems just right.  However, spacing these two was proving to be a bit problematic.   Because I developed pre-eclampsia in the final weeks of my pregnancy with Harry (again, I will spare you the details, google it), my OB didn’t want me even thinking of another pregnancy until after Harry was a year old and my liver was happy again.  But I was 41 and those ovaries were on the fast-track to menopause.  We didn’t bother attempting on our own what we knew took a professional to do.  We went straight to the RE clinic shortly after Harry’s first birthday.

Despite my dismal numbers, past performance breeds hopefulness, even in trained professionals.  My new doctors, two states away from the RE that gave me Harry, sounded confident after looking over my charts and my bloodwork.  My intitial response to the drugs was surprisingly good, and despite delays from a cervical cancer scare that ended in a blessedly negative culposcopy (more google), we got two good rounds of IUI that we had every reason to hope for success.  With Harry to alleviate the pressure the fear of childlessness places on you, we were more relaxed than in 2004, and we set ourselves a line we would not cross.  Three IUI’s.  Three rounds of uninsured drugs.  $6000.   We could not justify wagering Harry’s future college education against a brother that would borrow his clothes and steal his halloween candy.

The first two rounds ended uneventfully and unfruitfully.  Not a complete shock – even in a perfectly healthy, 20-year-old, chances are only 20%-25% per round.  We staked our hopes on the last round, told the RE to up the drugs, and went for broke.

I have managed, at 42, to have the skin of a 30 year old and the attitude of a 25 year old.  But my ovaries know I am faking it.  They went from hopefully responsive to full-stop protest, even after two full dose increases on the follitropins (Google is your friend, really).  Our job is done here, folks.  Elvis has left the building.  Out with a whimper, not a bang.  After a honest conversation with our RE, we simply decided there is no point in throwing good money after bad, and we are stopping the treatments and not pursuing another IUI.  “Three’s a charm” just turned into “Two and Oh…”.  The fighter in my heart was screaming “BRING IT ON! MORE DRUGS! ONE MORE SHOT!”, and for once, the sane, rational adult voice in my head stepped in and said gently “Enough.  Time to stop.  Time to walk away.”

I told myself back in June that, if the worst happened, I would see it as chance to get on with the next phase of my life.  No more counting days by my three-ultrasounds a month.  No more needle marks in my belly.  Don’t need to worry about gaining back the 14 pounds I have lost on my diet.  No more birth control (now there’s added value for you).  I can plan long-term now.  I can get rid of those outgrown baby clothes and toys that I carefully stored in hopeful self-deception and make more room in the garage.  Those nursing bras can be finally thrown away in recognition that my already baby-ravaged breasts are going to get a break.  A permanent one.

Funny how I don’t feel so liberated.

Instead I will go home, and I will hug my one baby-turned-toddler in my lap and watch yet another round of “Elmo’s Favorites” without one complaint.  I will pull out those tiny baby creepers that he wore on his first day as as separate, individual, human being, and I put them to my face and inhale the still-sweet smell clinging to them.  And will I put them back in the box, back in the tiny crawlspace beside Harry’s room.  I will pass them on some day.  Some other time. 

Not today.


November 20th, 2006 at 5:16 pm
21 Responses to “Life as three”
  1. 1
    bubandpie Says:

    It sounds like you’ve made a wise decision – and oh, what a heartbreaking one. It is a kind of loss, what you’re going through, and I’m so sorry.

  2. 2
    jodi Says:

    Wow. I am so sorry. I won’t say, you can always adopt b/c people that say to me all the time and it’s so condescending. Like you don’t know that. We are only having one child for a lot of reasons, one that includes pre-eclampsia enduce bed rest w/ my son. Ignore the people who tell you you have to give your child a sibling. You have to give your child a healthy mom.

  3. 3
    Cinnkitty Says:

    Much Love to you all. Harry will grow up as an incredible child with you as parents. That’s a given!

  4. 4

    A familiar sounding story – only I was older than you and the odds I was given was “one in a million” We entertained the idea of donor eggs too and decided not to decide anything. Three years later I scheduled a hysterectomy and two weeks later I found out I was pregnant. Sometimes giving up is good. I now how a 3yearold who the doctors tried to convince us was impossible. I would love to have another child too, but I’ve learned that it’s not really up to me or the doctors.

  5. 5
    Tracey Says:

    I am sending you an e-mail this afternoon or tonight. I got too much emotion to post it all here. (It’s all good stuff, just a bunch of it!!!)

  6. 6
    Jenn Says:

    Thanks for sharing this. I can see these same tough choices on my horizon and it is really nice to know that there are examples of the kind of courage I will need out there. Again, Thanks.

  7. 7
    Carol Says:

    Why not adopt? I know someone mentioned that this was not a good thing to say, but I have to ask, why? Why does the baby have to be your own flesh & blood? –An extension of you. Babies are wonderful, no matter who the egg or sperm donor are. Lots of people can be biological parents, but it takes hard work and a lot of love to be a real parent, and it doesnt require your own eggs and sperm. I understand that what you are experiencing must be hard to deal with and my heart goes out to you, but please don’t rule out being a parent of two just because you can’t produce your own. You sound like a very kind, loving mother. If that’s what you love and want to be, don’t waste it just because you can’t produce it.

    Hang in there and what a blessing for the one you have!

  8. 8

    Found you through Antique Mommy. As a formerly infertile woman who now mothers triplets thanks to the alphabet soup of RE, HCG, IUI and GOD, I am feeling you.
    I would love to have another, but have been told absolutely not, due to what the first pg. required of my body.
    People not in your position do not understand that longing in the heart of a woman. When people say to me, “Well, I mean, you have 3, what more do you want…” I really want to rip their head off, so I will offer no words other than I’m Sorry.
    Praying strength for the journey and may you find true peace in your decision!

  9. 9
    Susan Says:

    I hope somehow, some way, a miracle happens and gives you the surprise of a lifetime.

  10. 10
    Robbin Says:

    Adoption has been considered more than once. The big problem is the same reason we never considered IVF. Expense. It was $6K to go through the IUIs – less than that with Harry because insurance covered drugs that time. Adoption will cost us an estimate $15K at the minumum, upwards to $35K. As two people who recently lost their home and everything in it during Katrina, that’s a cost completely out of our reach. We could find an older child, but generally agencies prefer to adopt them into home without children or without younger children. In Arkansas, for a public adoption, we were told they are not even interested in parents who only want young children or infants. Period.

    The only other option is adopting a special-needs child, and I am going to be honest with myself and you – I don’t have the resources financial, or psychological, to be able to do that, and provide security for the son I have. I don’t think it would be fair to him to bring in another child that required that kind of time and dedication.

    There may be a lot of kids waiting out there to be adopted, but believe me, they don’t make it easy, or affordable, for you to get there.

  11. 11
    Carol Says:

    Gosh, I didn’t realize it was so expensive to adopt. That’s a shame. And you lost your home by Katrina?? Oh my goodness. I bet it was hard dealing with all that. –I wish you the best.

  12. 12
    maggie Says:

    I too found you through Antique Mommy, and I’m also the older mom of one and only one. I hit 41 and realized that maybe we needed some help since sex w/o birth control for seven years hadn’t done the trick (okay, I’m an idiot). One IUI and three IVFs (and one miscarriage) later, we got the girlie – who’s now three, and was born shortly before I turned 43. We never even thought about trying again, though we don’t use any protection. Somehow, I just knew it would be fruitless. I do twinge at the sight of tiny babies and pregnant ladies, but mostly I’m just thankful for the one. And sometimes I think some miracle will happen! Maybe it will for you?

  13. 13
    veronica Says:

    Thank you for your beautifully written post. I hope you find comfort in your little boy.

    Even though it is painful, you sound so wise to stop. There are so many women who never give up, and are destroyed by it.

  14. 14
    Kacey Says:

    Gee, Antique Mommy really gets around! When she says “Go read”… lots of us go read! Please, don’t laugh when I say that I had fertility problems. I went through hormone shots, pessaries, two surgeries and all sorts of basal temps and no messing around when we wanted to and enforced sex when the temp chart said it was time. We tried for years and finally had the first child four years after starting. Then, we had two more in the next three years. My husband decided that he could not take the worry and stress that went with childbirth and gave up with those three. Even though my plate was full and running over, every month brought the slim hope that somehow I might be pregnant. I even thought that the rumbles of gas felt like inutero kicking. We are women and our bodies cry out for the fullfillment of giving life — that can be the only explanation for the familes of 10 to 12 children. You will find that you are needed in the lives of many children who are not lucky enough to have mothers like you. Who else will be the room mother for the second grade or the Scout Leader for the boy in Jr. High? I said not to laugh at my infertility, but I didn’t say that I was all done birthing kidlets by the time I was twenty-four. I know how you feel, but not the desperation, since I had twenty years to keep trying.

  15. 15

    Oh ho ho ho! Sometimes this is just where God wants us! Completely resigned and living in the present. I tried for years to conceive a second child (granted, I was younger) with no “luck” until I could honestly say, “not my will, but your’s Lord.” I was pregnant within 2 cycles without any medical intervention. I was blessed with a 3rd baby 2 years after #2; lost 2 last year, and am still waiting and wondering if there are more sleep-deprived nights in my future. (I’m 38.)

    Menopause can start and stop for a decade as I understand it. I have many friends who are still having babies in their early 40s. Seriously! Never say never is all I’m saying.

    Meanwhile…being contented with what you have and where you are is the best feeling ever, isn’t it? God bless you Robbin…

  16. 16
    amy Says:

    good luck to you, robbin. i hope that your decision today eases your mind and lets you have some peace and helps you focus. i agree, who knows? you may just get a surprise down the road. i will say, as long as you have your health and one beautiful little boy to cherish, you are truly blessed. i think that every day after my slightly tough pregnancy last year that produced a gorgeous little girl, who just turned one. i do hope for a second little one down the road but i’m trying to realize now that i should just take it a day at a time and what will be, will be. there is a lot to be thankful for. what a perfect time of year to reflect on that.
    (found you through antique mommy) =)

  17. 17
    M&Co. Says:

    Giving up the child that looked like me with my husband’s disposition was the hardest thing I ever did. I bid you peace in your choice.

  18. 18
    abogada Says:

    Oh, I have those same struggles. I got married at 39, went through everything from Clomid to IVF over a several year period, and I finally conceived with donor eggs. Our daughter is now two, and I so want another one. I think if I didn’t have nine frozen embryos, I could walk away. But it haunts me, every day. I would risk another one; I just turned 47 (I had my daughter at 44). My husband, on the other hand, is eleven years old than I am and is against it. The problem? He’s left me a window — if I really, really want to, he will “go along.” Another window, just like the embroyos are. I imagine it would be so freeing to just be able to walk away from the dream of a second child. But I just can’t yet. I’m glad that you have found peace. I pray that I will.

  19. 19
    Emily Says:


    possibly helpful?!

  20. 20
    WhyMommy Says:

    Robbin, this post must have taken incredible courage for you to write. Perhaps almost as much as the decision took. I admire you and the peace that it sounds like you’ve found. I am finishing my second and last pregnancy, and already I am so sad that there will never be a third (due to my own medical struggles and the 7+ months of bedrest this pregnancy has cost me). This post puts it all into beautiful perspective, and I thank you.

    Hang in there and keep your chin up. You’re doing beautifully.

  21. 21
    Kim Edwards Says:

    While living in Arkansas, with NO savings, but a loving, incredible husband and four biological children ages 12-18, we adopted at birth, two precious little boys from an agency in Texas. Their mothers had wonderful care, received counselling, but were just young and unprepared to parent.There were no alcohol or drugs involved.I was 39 with the first adoption and 40 with the second. They allowed us to pay $100 a month but we could not finalize until they were paid for. Through incredible generosity of friends and even our older children working jobs, we finalized when our first was 10 months old.The total fees was $6000 for the first and $7000 for the second. Our older children are now 25, 24,22 and 21, and the little ones are almost 9 and 7.They are wonderful blessings to our family. Please contact me if you want any info. My prayers are with you.