The time we got a positive / by Martha Keyes

We are pregnant!

It still feels so strange to say those words. For two and a half years, pregnancy was this constant yet ever-elusive goal that we channeled all our resources to. I really wondered if I would ever see a positive pregnancy test. You teach yourself and prepare yourself not to expect positive tests, but there's always that resilient bit of hope that refuses to be ousted. Even after you get a negative, you look online to check what the chances are that it's a false negative. Sometimes I almost forgot what the point of all the appointments and medications and procedures was. They just became a fact of life. You just keep on trudging through. Our journey to start our family has taken us places we absolutely never thought we would go--emotionally, physically, financially, mentally, and spiritually. We literally traveled the world to bring about this pregnancy, journeying to Prague twice for IVF cycles

A week after a second try with IVF in Prague, I couldn't stand it any longer. We were supposed to wait at least another week to test, preferably ten days. Brandon and I had talked about how long to wait to test, but we both decided we would rather go ahead and just test that day. The anxiety of not having any answers got to the point of outweighing the potential of a negative pregnancy test, since I knew with a negative I'd still have some hope that I had just tested too early. We went to good ol' Walmart to pick up a pack of 5 tests (because I pessimistically figured that if this try hadn't worked, we might as well have some on hand for later testing). I didn't want to deal with trying to use Superman vision to spot an incredibly faint line (seriously, some people see second lines on pregnancy tests when I could swear there is nothing there--just look on pregnancy forums and it will blow your mind), so we bought tests that would just say "Pregnant" or "Not Pregnant." Cut and dry.

We got home, and I went straight to the bathroom. You're supposed to test with "first morning urine," but I didn't have that kind of patience! I followed the instructions, walked out of the room for about 30 seconds, and came back in, knowing it would still be working on displaying a result. So when I saw the word, "Pregnant" already staring back at me, my eyes grew wide and my heart stopped for a second, only to then begin pounding. I stared. I looked for a hidden "Not" on the screen but couldn't find one. And then in a zombie-like stupor, I walked into the kitchen and set it in front of Brandon, who was playing a game on his phone trying to distract himself, as he later told me. He looked up from his phone to the test, and then at me. We stared at each other and then at the test; at each other and then at the test. And then we cried and hugged.

And then the crazy kicked in. And by that, I mean that we wouldn't leave that test alone. Okay, mostly it was me being crazy. I barely dared blink. I twisted and turned that screen every which way to make sure that we hadn't somehow missed something, or that the word "Pregnant" wouldn't suddenly disappear and be replaced with a big, fat, "NOT!" Seeing dozens and dozens of negative tests over the years will do that to ya, guys. We walked away from the test, and I quickly flipped back around as if I was going to catch the test playing a trick on us behind our backs. Brandon just laughed at me. And, though I laugh at it now, I was terrified of the moment that the miracle word "Pregnant" would disappear because the screen had turned off. I checked on it so many times. And it is still sitting on our bathroom counter to this day. And it still reassuringly says "Pregnant." Bless you, Clearblue Digital.

But that wasn't the extent of my crazy. I knew from past experience that even those digital tests use the two line system inside. So what did I do? I broke that thing apart to check the lines, of course. I wanted to see how dark the test line was. I know, guys. Cut me some slack. But the line was surprisingly dark! When I tested again the next morning and broke that test apart (I broke apart three total), its test line was even darker. It was reassuring. And, yes, a bit insane. 

But since those moments, I have felt like I better understand something my grandfather said. 

Righteous sorrow and suffering carve cavities in the soul that will become later reservoirs of joy.

Our cup runneth over! All those heartbreaks and aches we experienced over the past years make our joy now ever the more bright.

I would be lying if I said I've felt constant gratitude during pregnancy so far--I'm afraid that the constant nausea really gets to me and makes me not very fun to be around a lot of the time. But when I (not nearly often enough) stop to really think about WHY I'm nauseated and WHY my energy level is about 1/4 of normal and WHY I'm breathless for no apparent reason, it makes my head spin. I am participating with my husband and God in the creation of new life. It is a miracle, and it is entirely of God's making. We did nothing to deserve the miracle. We don't know why we have been blessed by it. But we'll take it! And gladly.

Infertility is a trial I wouldn't wish on anyone, and there are some who suffer through it for so much longer than we have. But there is something so incredibly special and awe-inspiring about seeing your babies when they are literally only one cell and then seeing them grow to two cells and then to four and then to eight, knowing that those cells hold incalculable potential and the power to change everything about your life. It is surreal, and it is something that the overwhelming majority of people don't experience with pregnancy but which we were able to experience thanks to IVF and our clinic in Prague. It is impossible not to feel awe-inspired by such an experience. God truly brings about great things through small and simple things.

The joy of finally getting a positive pregnancy test was both overwhelming and nerve-wracking. It felt like we had jumped over one massive hurdle and now faced so many others. Anyone who has gone through infertility knows with painful familiarity the chances of chemical pregnancy, ectopic pregnancy, and miscarriage, and they absolutely sap some of the joy out of those first few weeks. You can't help but worry. Life has taught you that what you want will not come easily, and that lesson haunts you right when you want to scream with happiness. I read so many articles online trying to prepare myself in case this didn't end well for us. I also tried to just relax and enjoy it. My fear and faith battled all day, every day. Meanwhile, Brandon and I watched documentaries and videos about what developmental processes were occurring at this point in pregnancy, and we will absolutely always firmly believe that life is a miracle. It is a literal miracle to me that anybody ever gets pregnant after better understanding all the biology involved to bring it about. Our first ultrasound at 6 weeks blew my mind once again as we watched and heard the heartbeats of not just one but two babies who were then only 1/3 of a centimeter big(!); whose heart muscles had only recently begun beating after one small muscle cell spontaneously contracted in both of their bodies. It was incredible. It strengthened my testimony of God. 

I know that some people hate the phrase "we are pregnant," but I find it fitting in our situation. This truly has been a joint journey, and it continues to be. From our initial decision shortly after our wedding to pursue starting a family; to beginning to wonder quite early on if everything was normal; to each and every test and procedure we went through over the next couple of years; to the nerve-wracking decision of how many embryos to transfer--it has been the two of us together. And now, even though I am the one experiencing the physical symptoms of pregnancy, Brandon is experiencing them secondhand in a very potent way. I have become but a shadow of the wife he is used to--and a moody one at that. He has had to pick up all my slack (oh, so much slack) and indulge me as I demand as many as three naps in one day, completely demolish our monthly restaurant budget because cooking is out of the question, yell at him to get out of the room so I can vomit alone, complain countless times a day about my nausea, request yet another bowl of ramen (I'm disgusting, I know) or handmade mashed potatoes, do approximately diddly squat around the house, etc etc etc. He has been a trooper through it all. One of the things I treasure most about him is his overwhelming desire to be a dad. As we've struggled through infertility, I've watched him love nieces and nephews with such sweet intensity and seen the longing in his eyes and heart for kids of his own. He has taken everything in stride and has helped calm my overly-analytical mind and the fears I have about my inadequacies and about saddling my husband and kids with those inadequacies. Though he is not one to wear his heart on his sleeve (understatement of the year), his desire to be a dad and the disappointment he has felt with each of the failures we have experienced have been undeniably apparent and have made me feel so grateful to have him by my side through it all. I know some women in this world would give anything to have a husband by their side who has even a fraction of the desire to be a father that Brandon has. It is his greatest wish. I have always had an (ironic) fear of having twins, but I know that with Brandon by my side, the load I will have to bear as a mother will be shared by him as equally as is humanly possible. And so will the joy. That's just who he is. 

I also know that there are so many--dear friends, acquaintances, strangers--whose hearts are still consumed with those cavities of desire and longing; whose journeys continue and seem interminable; who feel selfless joy for us but also that familiar pinch of being left behind or of losing an ally. I have not forgotten those feelings and the loneliness of that road. I have not forgotten you, friends. I won't tell you the words you so often hear from people who don't understand, who find it so easy to brush aside your adversity with words like, "Your time will come!" or "Just relax, and it will happen." I will only say that I haven't forgotten. Infertility has shaped who we are in so many ways, and I know how painful that shaping can be.

We are so grateful to all of our friends and family who have prayed for us and thought of us and shared our sorrows and our joys. We owe so much to so many, and it has been so heartwarming to feel the shared joy people have expressed at our news! Thank you all!

Shared joy is a double joy; shared sorrow is half a sorrow.