Sharon Butzke
Dear Julia,

1421 days. That’s how long we waited to see the two pink lines that told us you were on your way! You will be one year old in a little under two weeks and I can’t believe how much our life has changed since Friday, March 4th, 2016. I had been suspicious since Wednesday, but forced myself wait until the test was most likely to be positive. I had seen too many negative results to count over the previous 4 years. You would think I’d be used to it, but I don’t think anyone ever gets used to disappointment on that level. “Unexplained infertility” – the most frustrating diagnosis I think anyone could ever receive. I was no longer in control of my body or my life and I had no idea what the future held. My confidence and sense of self-worth were shattered. The thought that I might never bear children consumed me and I worried that I was letting your Dad down. I felt like we were stuck “in limbo”.

Throughout our infertility journey I discovered a whole new language: TTC, DH, OPK, BD, TWW, FMU, POAS, BFN, AF (anyone who has had any type of trouble conceiving will know what those mean). I started charting my BBT in an app on my phone. I monitored my CM. Our BD was scheduled around anticipated ovulation. I visited websites with names like “Stirrup Queens” and read personal accounts of medical tests that I was scheduled for. I searched for success stories involving fertility medications I had been prescribed. I also found support groups online. To some people it might seem like a form of torture to go online every month during your TWW and overanalyze barely-perceptible changes in your body. “What were your earliest pregnancy symptoms?”. “How many DPO did you get your BFP?”. But I think it’s what kept my hope alive. Barely alive as time went on, but still flickering.

It’s amazing how anonymous strangers can start to feel like your closest friends. They know exactly what you’re going through and you don’t have to worry about getting tangled in the web of emotions that comes with your real-life infertility “buddy” getting pregnant before you do. Which is unavoidable, by the way – one of you is definitely going to get pregnant before the other. Even though I told myself I would be happy for her if it every happened, I experienced the same (by that time, automatic) reaction I felt when hearing anyone’s pregnancy news. Jealousy. Exasperation. Despair. Followed by anger at myself for not being able to be happy for her. Even though I knew she had more than “paid her dues”, so to speak, I felt more alone than ever. I wondered if maybe I didn’t deserve to get pregnant – maybe infertility was some kind of trial meant to test me, and I wasn’t handling it with very much grace.

I’m sorry for getting side-tracked, and I hope this isn’t coming across too negative, but I think the hard stuff is an important part of your story!

I also have to tell you about something “spooky” that happened right before I got pregnant. The clinic I was working at offered after-hours services for our clients. I had never enjoyed being on-call, but tolerated it because I liked the clinic and hoped to be a part-owner one day. Also, your Dad came with me to every call, which helped a lot! Anyway, on this particular day in January 2016, I received a call late in the evening from a client I had not met before. Unfortunately, her cat was very sick and required humane euthanasia. The client was a lovely woman who clearly loved her cat very much. She lived alone, and I could tell she was reluctant to leave the clinic because she didn’t have anyone at home to comfort her. We started chatting and she told me about her life. At one point during our conversation, she asked me if I was religious. I replied that I was, but that my faith had been severely shaken by my struggle with infertility. I don’t remember all the details of what she said next, but eventually she thanked me for my kindness and ended with five words that I truly believe changed my life: “You should be a mother”. On the drive home I was filled with an odd sense of peace and a surprisingly strong feeling that, yes, I did deserve to have a child! A few days later this client sent me a beautiful thank-you note and a short letter that said she would pray for me. I used the word spooky because this encounter happened very shortly after the absolute lowest point in my life (you don’t need to know the details, but it was related to infertility). I wonder if she was my guardian angel, sent to renew my faith, because you were conceived in February 2016.

On March 4th, 2016, that second pink line came up right away. Even though I knew that false positives are extremely rare, I took a second test (I think just to experience the euphoria of watching the second line appear again!). I was pregnant. Up to that moment your Dad and I honestly didn’t know if it would every happen. I took the test Friday morning, but I didn’t want to tell him until the evening because I was pretty sure he would want to call in “sick” to work and I knew that I couldn’t do the same. It was pretty easy to go to work that day, anyway, because I felt an absolute glow of pure happiness burning inside of me. During the 27-minute drive to work, I don’t know how many times I just touched my stomach and smiled. I floated through 7.5 hours at the clinic and drove to Shoppers Drug Mart to pick out a card. I wrote your Dad a beautiful note and tucked the two positive tests (in a plastic baggie, lol) inside. When he got home from work, he sat down on the couch – ready to enjoy our usual Friday evening of take-out and catching up on TV shows. I handed him the card. He looked down at it briefly and asked me what it was (he later told me that he was “disappointed” that I was only holding a card because, when I said I got him a present, he immediately thought it was the new James Bond movie that had come out on DVD that day! LOL). He opened the card and, as soon as he read the line that said “I’M PREGNANT”, turned to me with tears in his eyes and said “Are you f***ing with me?!!”. As if I would joke about that after everything we had been through! He jumped up and gave me the longest, most wonderful hug and our life changed forever (as cliché as that sounds).

Back to you, my love – the whole reason I am able to write this letter in the first place! I will never be able to explain to you how much joy you have brought to our lives. You have such a sweet, happy disposition and you truly light up every room you enter. Even strangers comment regularly that I’m a lucky Mama! They certainly don’t need to remind me. I wouldn’t say that I’m grateful for the darkness we had to fight through to get to you – I wouldn’t wish that experience on anyone. However, I do think it has given us a deeper appreciation for you. Our gratitude turns good days into amazing ones and definitely makes the hard days easier. Labour was hard. Breastfeeding was hard. Sleepless nights were hard. But nothing could be more difficult than living without you.

In some ways I still feel like such a new mom (and I am, lol). But, in other ways, it feels like you have been here forever. Amidst all the uncertainties of parenting, there is one thing I am sure of – you belong here, with us. We will face your challenges and celebrate your successes together. You will never be alone. Your Dad and I will do everything in our power to help you achieve happiness in your life. We love you…beyond measure, always and forever.

Love, Mama & Daddy