Lisa Blair Fratzke
It Will Be Worth It
Updated: Oct 5, 2022
When James and I first decided to have a baby, I had a lot of fear. Fear for how our life was about to change. Fear about pregnancy. Fear about birth. Fear about whether I really wanted to be a mom. Fear about how society was going to treat me once I took on that mantle.
It felt like we were starting that journey because of the pressure of time and because it seemed like the right next thing to do after getting married… and not because it was what we actually wanted.
And yet, as month after month went by and we got negative result after negative result, I started to realize it was something I deeply wanted.
That there is a certain sort of heartbreak when you get another negative pregnancy test, and you feel that your body is failing at doing the very thing it was created to do.
I think there is a reason that the Bible mentions barren women so often.
They have become some of my favorite verses.*
There’s something about those verses that made me feel seen by God during a journey that we were going through very privately. The pain of not having kids when you are trying to is a complex and nuanced web of emotion.
I felt like a failure. And yet, somehow relieved that my body wouldn’t have to go through all those changes. And yet, sad that it wasn’t.
James and I tried to have a baby for a year and a half before my cancer diagnosis. I know there are many couples who suffer with infertility much longer than that.
When I was diagnosed, everything came to a halt. The focus was no longer on creating new life, but saving mine.
The decision we made to remove my bladder meant that I would not be able to carry a baby. If we wanted to have kids, we would need to pursue surrogacy or adopt.
Part of me was deeply heartbroken, and part of me was relieved.
James and I told ourselves that maybe this was for the best. Maybe we weren’t meant to have kids. We didn’t have to have kids. We desired to have a crowded table in our house, and there were other ways we could pursue that.
And then, the surgery was a success. I was cancer free. I started to heal and get better, and the idea of having kids crept back to the forefront of our minds.
If we wanted to have kids now, it wasn’t going to be easy. It would be a long and expensive journey. So, this had to be something we knew we really wanted.
And, we both realized we really wanted it.
We recently decided to embark on the IVF journey and retrieve my eggs.
It was a life giving and healing process for us. My body responded well to the medicine and my doctor** was able to retrieve 36 eggs. Out of those 36 eggs, 27 fertilized and 17 made it to the blastocyst stage. Of those 17 embryos, 9 are genetically normal and viable for implantation.
In the midst of a very dark journey, we started to see the light peeking through the clouds. I won’t be able to carry our baby. We will need the assistance of a surrogate.
And although part of me is relieved about that. There is another part of me that feels a deep sense of loss.
In the midst of our IVF journey, I was reminded that I would not be able to carry the baby, and a wave of grief that I was not prepared for overwhelmed me. I cried for hours one night because I wouldn’t be able to experience something that most women get to.
I wouldn’t feel the excitement at seeing a positive pregnancy test and feeling my body change. I wouldn’t feel the baby kicking or experience odd cravings. I wouldn’t know the pain or the joy of childbirth. I wouldn’t get to share that experience with James. I wouldn’t have those 9 months of growing our little one within me.
And, as much as I feared that experience, I now mourn its loss.
I thought I had already mourned that loss, to be honest, when we made the decision to remove my bladder. But, I’m learning that loss is not that simple.
You don’t experience loss once. You experience it over and over again in 500 different ways.
So, James and I have decided to try to have a baby.
It’s not going to be easy. It’s not going to be normal. It’s going to be a journey that is uniquely ours.
We are going to be dependent on the kindness of a stranger to carry the love of our lives for 9 months.
It’s going to be scary and life giving and exciting and new.
It’s not going to be simple, but I’m not sure anything in life is.
But, I know this for sure: It will be worth it.
*One of my favorite verses is in Isaiah 54:1. I found this verse the most encouraging when James and I were thinking we may not have kids at all: “Sing, barren woman, who has never had a baby. Fill the air with song, you who’ve never experienced childbirth! You’re ending up with far more children than all those childbearing women.” God says so!” (Translation: The Message)
**My fertility doctor is actually the brother of my urologic oncologist and the surgeon that removed my bladder. We had such a wonderful experience with him that when he told us his brother specialized in fertility and surrogacy, we didn't hesitate to go to him. I'm the first patient that they've collaborated on since it is uncommon for someone my age to get bladder cancer. They are both at the top of their fields and it's been a tremendous blessing to be able to keep my care "all in the family"!