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Throughout my IVF journey, I assumed once I got a positive pregnancy test result, a huge weight would be lifted off my shoulders. A sense of peace would come over me, and I'd know deep inside that all the pain and worry I'd endured was worth it.
To a certain extent, those assumptions were true. But the day I found out my IVF cycle was successful, was hardly the end of my journey. In some ways, it was only the beginning.
Now, I faced a new set of doubts and fears. This probably had a lot to do with having recently lost a pregnancy late in my second trimester, after traumatic and shocking events I still struggle to accept.
But anyone who has endured IVF, did so because being pregnant, or trying to get pregnant, produced intense suffering. Bottom line: the road to baby hasn't been easy if you are willing to inject yourself with hormones for months, without a guaranteed outcome. I have to believe those of us who are lucky enough to get pregnant have those fears about another loss of some kind in common.
Meanwhile, I required hormone injections for another month after my successful transfer cycle. I understood my growing baby needed that progesterone, but let me tell you, facing huge needles every night was still no picnic.
To help me get through the shots, I'd clutch a onesie we purchased for our baby the day we got our good news. Other nights I looked at an ultrasound picture, as I braced my body for that all-too-familiar pinch.
I also created a countdown calendar to help me focus on the light at the end of the tunnel. I'd gleefully cross off each day with a big "X" the instant my husband finished administering my injection.
After my final injection, again, I assumed I'd feel hugely relieved. Instead, a heavy sadness blanketed my heart, as I reflected upon everything we'd been through to get to this point.
That's the thing about IVF: how you are going to feel at any step along the way is unpredictable. One of the most shocking moments was when I was discharged from my doctor's office. Instead of jumping for joy, I cried the whole way home for reasons I still don't understand.
In the end, I'm so grateful IVF exists, and that we did it, because I was able to conceive a child who won't be affected by the crushing genetic issues our sweet angel baby suffered from. But the process turned out to be far more physically and emotionally grueling than I ever could have imagined.
Here's what I learned after all of it: I am so much stronger than I thought I was. If I can do this, taking other risks aren't so daunting. Not all of them will pay off. Either way, I have so much more faith in myself after IVF.
Most importantly, I have so much respect for anyone who has endured a loss, and has the courage to not give up on their baby dreams. Especially if it means their journeys take a completely unexpected path, as mine did, toward IVF. And they come out on the other side, no matter the outcome, and keep on going.
Read more about my IVF journey:
Photos: Melissa Willets
Opinions expressed by parent contributors are their own.