Having a baby after 'serious' infertility is not like having a baby without struggling. It is not better or worse, it is just different. There is a lot that is the same - the love, the joy, the tough bits, the good bits etc - that is the same. I made the mistake a few years ago thinking that somehow ex-infertiles felt more of the 'wow' because of their struggle, but that is not true. While it could be true that someone who had to go through 6 IVFs in order to conceive might feel more of the 'wow' than say a teen mom who has an unwanted pregnancy, I've realised that all moms who love their babies, love their babies. In other words, the love an ex-infertile mom feels for her baby is no better or more than the mother who conceived easily.
That sounds convoluted, but what I am trying to say is that while I don't believe the journey to have your child defines how much you will love your child, it can influence how you love your child.
I don't want to get into the whole Pain Olympics thing, however I do believe there is a difference between those who face just 'some' difficulties in conceiving, and those who have come face to face with the terror that they might never conceive. It's a psychological difference, a state of mind rather than a difference in how many IVFs you've done. You might have done 15 IVFs and never had to face that fear. You might do one and be right there. But once you've crossed that line, once you've lived your fear, it is hard to go back to a state of being when you thought it was a matter of 'when' you would become a parent, not a matter of 'if ever'.
Without trivializing other peoples serious experiences, I suppose it must be like facing a very serious health condition, or a life threatening experience that catapults you into another state of consciousness - it makes you live in the place where your future is not as you would wish it to be, and you have no control over how to get back to where you once were. Often, only once you have been really ill do you appreciate how extraordinary wondrous everyday health is. In a similar way, facing the reality of a childless future can make you appreciate the depth of your blessing when you do one day conceive.
Having been through 9 IVFs and all my losses, made me acutely aware of how exceptionally lucky I was to have my twins when they were born. It is a wonderful feeling and its a lasting feeling. Like that butterfly feeling you get in your tummy when it's your birthday and you are just about to open your big birthday present... it's a wonderful feeling, but it is also an exhausting feeling.
There was so much hard work / heartache / tears / money / pain / hope / fear that led up to the moment that they were born. Their birth was the culmination of so much, that mixed with my joy was a huge amount of.... I am not sure exactly what? Exhaustion? Fear that they would be taken away? Guilt if I didn't enjoy every single moment? Angst. I did not enjoy their babyhood. I felt like I had to be on my guard all the time, in case it all went away. That because I had worked so hard for them, I had to continue to work hard to parent them. I had to constantly be in a state of heightened alert. Everything was so intense. Intense joy. Intense love. Intense angst. Exhausting.
And then along came Max. The freebie. The unplanned bonus baby that I had to do absolutely no hard work for. An easy conception, an easy pregnancy, a relatively easy birth. No work! No planning. Nothing. It is the weirdest feeling. I still look at him and think 'huh?' How on earth did you happen? How is it possible to love a baby so much that I didn't sweat blood and tears for? Surely the harder you work for something, the more you love it?
I can't get over how much I love this freebie baby. I look at him in amazement. He is like a guilty pleasure. I feel like I just picked up a hundred bucks off the street and there is no one around for miles so I really can't be expected to hand it in to anyone. That hundred bucks? Its mine! I didn't have to work hard for it, I didn't have to give anything up for it. It just landed in my lap. And I can spend that hundred bucks on anything I want, on something just for me.
That is how I feel about Max. Even though it is HARD WORK to have a baby when you are SO OLD, and even though having 3 kids and running a business is hectic, I am so damn grateful that I got to experience what it is like to love 'normally', whatever that is. Fuck, it is the most divine feeling in the world and I am so lucky and grateful that I got a chance to experience it.
It has been incredibly healing for me, and it has helped me to love the twins 'normally' too. Much less angst, much more enjoyment. Max is the beautiful, soft, healthy, normal completion to a story that started out so normally, got so sad and so bad in the middle, and now has ended up so normally*.
I know I am saying 'normal' a lot, but so much of what I went through was so abnormal that to be 'normal' is something I am so grateful for.
Damn, I am a lucky gal.
Here are pics of us at the dam a few weekends ago. My kids took off their pants and walked in the freezing cold water.
* PS I am clearly not without any angst. My middle name is angst. I just had a HUGELY angst moment when I thought 'omg, I have jinxed things and now my children will die because I dared to let go of the 'iamsograteful' / 'iamsolucky' / 'promiseiwillneverforget' feeling for a bit'. I still have some of the angst, but it is mostly normal. Or as normal as I will ever be.