Her Story: Alexia BenzakenDecember 10, 2020 6:59 pm
As I started to write this article, I thought about a very recent conversation I had with two of my close family members. We spoke about how taboo infertility, miscarriage, and pregnancy struggles are. It’s so sad to actually say this out loud. I am the type of person who likes to share past experiences, especially if it can help someone else. Unfortunately, most people are not like this, and when I was going through my struggles with secondary infertility, I found it really hard to connect to other people. In my case, there wasn’t anything wrong with me or my husband and doctors kept giving us hope. Yet, here I was five years down the line, with no child to claim for it. I believe that everyone has their destiny already pre-written and being faithful or spiritual or religious or whatever word you could relate to helped me get through those five years.
Where did this all start? I was 22 years old crying in the bathroom because I found out I was pregnant. I was on the pill! I didn’t even realize someone could get pregnant on a pill. I was THE statistic – that .003% chance. Birth control pills that contain both estrogen and progesterone are 99.7 percent effective with perfect use. I felt cheated. Can you imagine that? My career had just taken off and I didn’t know what to think. I called my husband and he reassured me that there was nothing to worry about. We were a happily married couple expecting our first-born – this was so exciting! Nine months later I give birth to a healthy baby boy! I just had the best pregnancy. I had no idea what an infertility struggle was or what it felt like.
Everything was hunky-dory. I couldn’t wait until my son turned two and we decided it was time to add to our growing and blossoming family. We tried and tried and tried for another baby, until we realized five years had gone by and our son didn’t have a brother or sister. I hate to sound shrewd, but I really didn’t feel the anxiety or nerves about getting pregnant until I hit the five-year mark. You could say we got comfortable in our lives. We moved into a house, traveled, lived life. Once the calendar changed years, I knew that I had to take charge of my situation and turn to the doctors and science. In my head, I kept telling myself, “It’s not a big deal. They help everyone else, why can’t they help me?”
I went to the first of many specialists. After taking baseline bloodwork, the doctor congratulated me for being pregnant! I did not even think that I was. I was only on day 12 of my period and later bled for another 10 days, only to realize I was pregnant and had miscarried. As it turns out, my body was producing too much progesterone and estrogen and apparently that doesn’t help when you are trying to get pregnant, or stay sane for that matter. My hormones were all over the place! I put my faith in doctor’s hands and let them guide me to what I didn’t realize would be an extensive and invasive process. I met with a fertility specialist, who explained the benefits of a fertility treatment called an IUI, or intrauterine insemination. I was clueless when it came to treatments other than IVF. I knew I would be on fertility medication, on injections, and I was ready to go in for the procedure.
I had a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that I wasn’t necessarily going to have that loving moment with my husband in order to get pregnant. Throughout the process, I had a great support system; my husband was my biggest supporter and helped me through everything. He guided me and gave me strength, courage and even hope. He always told me everything was going to be okay. But, of course, I still felt like a failure. I’m sure behind closed doors he did as well because, after all, we still were not able to get pregnant. We were both able to produce a healthy baby before, yet my body wasn’t doing what it was supposed to do now. G-d created women to create another life. Why wasn’t my body doing that? It is an answer I could never give you, yet I still kept my head high and chugged along!
We went to parties, greeted friends and family, paid respects, attended my best friends’ bris, all with a smile on my face and a heart filled with happiness – pure happiness. I know it may be really hard for people to believe that I was truly happy in the moment for my friends and everyone else but I really was. I was happy for everyone and anyone who told me they had gotten pregnant or were expecting again, because thank G-d, we couldn’t forget that I already had a healthy five-year-old son at home. A healthy, encouraging, supportive, adorable and most importantly again, healthy son. But I couldn’t help but feel like a charity case to people.
Sometimes, when living in this community, you feel like you are part of a big open world. Everyone knows everything about you. When you get engaged people ask, “When is the wedding?” When you get married people ask, “When’s the baby coming?” When you have your first baby, people ask “When’s the second baby?” And then there comes those people who say, “It’s been five years, what are you waiting for?” You can smirk and shake off the question or you can have the guts to respond and say “Oh, you know I’m just twiddling my thumbs here, trying for five years, but no big deal, G-d has his plans, right?“ I wish I could tell you I was the person who had the guts to say that to people. I didn’t. Although now when people say, “Wow you have such a big gap – seven year difference!” I point my fingers up to the sky and say “Hashem has his ways.”
Well, back to our IUI chronicles. After three failed IUIs, I finally got pregnant on my fourth, though it didn’t last long. Eight weeks into the pregnancy, I found out that I had contracted a disease called CMV (Cytomegalovirus). We had wanted to celebrate this pregnancy because I had finally gotten pregnant! Yet, I couldn’t get out of bed and was sick as can be. Depression kicked in, and I was a disaster. The doctors educated my husband and I on the severities of CMV and what happens to a fetus if it contracts the virus. In my case, the baby did contract the virus and at week 25 of my pregnancy, I had a miscarriage.
This miscarriage felt different. I had zero connection to this pregnancy from the start. How? This is all I wanted, and after so long, how could I feel nothing? Hashem works in mysterious ways. I realize now that Hashem saved my life and that this miscarriage was a blessing in disguise. Our Rabbi came over to give us some chizuk and I confessed to him, “Rabbi I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I just lost a baby and I feel relief. I finally feel like myself again.” He responded with these next few words that have stayed with me and touched me. He said, “Sometimes it takes losing a Neshama to regain your own.” This is when I started living again.
I went through the hardest months of my life, only to come to terms with the fact that we still didn’t have our “growing family.” Throughout those months of tears, anxiety, and depression I was NOT myself. As I mentioned, I had no connection to this last pregnancy and it felt off. The day I went through my procedure, I cried tears of joy because at that moment I finally lifted my hands and looked up and said, “Hashem I see you! I hear you! I now know how in control of my life you really are! So from now on, I will not worry for myself – HERE take all my burdens and pain, take it! It’s all yours!”
I made an appointment with a Reproductive Endocrinologist in NYC in order to pursue IVF. He came highly recommended and he lived up to the expectations. He was kind, thoughtful, professional, and a sheer genius. My appointment was set for January 19th, 2016. IVF here we come! A lot went into this final day – driving every morning at 6am to Manhattan for blood work, tests, etc. Until, Saturday night, December 12th I realized I was 10 days late. My best friend called me and I explained to her what was going on. I was late, but like every other time, I was not excited. She showed up at my door 10 minutes later and left a pregnancy test at my door. I obviously took it. The first test didn’t seem to be working, so I rushed to take the second test. While I waited for the second test results, I received a text from another friend telling me she had a dream that I was pregnant. This was all happening in real time! I finally got the results…PREGNANT. Wait! What?! How? I ran downstairs and told my husband to immediately go to the closest pharmacy and buy two more tests! All tests showed “PREGNANT.”
We cried and hugged, but didn’t get too excited because we knew I needed the bloodwork to confirm. We went to the doctor, and just like that I was pregnant! This was pregnancy number 4 and baby number 2, all natural. Fourteen months after that came baby number 3, naturally. You see, science works and so does faith. I am not a religious person who covers her hair, but I am a regular girl who had a terrible hand dealt to her when it came to trying to have a baby. It’s all about how you rise above it all! My advice to everyone else is to RISE! My story is not yours and yours is not mine. But I’m here sharing mine so that you know that infertility is not a taboo topic. It should be spoken about and shared with one another.
Women are all made differently. And how your body reacts to becoming pregnant is UNIQUE. What works for some will not work for others. When it comes to pregnancy, everyone has their own story and journey, and no one is the same. Thank G-d that we are in a time and day that we have access to science and medicine and progression in this field. Next, educate yourselves! Be aware! Speak up to someone you trust and turn for help! Last but not least I leave you this…LOVE! Don’t forget to love.
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