Sierra Hillmeyer (31) and Theodore Apollo (10 months)
Durango, Colorado | Photographed in Portland, OR
Sierra shares -
"We had one early miscarriage after 11 months of trying to conceive. At that point, we had begun the initial testing for infertility, and there was such hope in that positive blood test that we wouldn't need intervention after all. Even though the pregnancy lasted such a short time, we had already fallen in love with the future that could have been. I took the loss really hard, and it was the beginning of our intensive year of assisted reproduction.
We ultimately did 3 IUIs and 3 IVFs. Once you start seeing the eggs and counting the embryos, every month becomes a loss of sorts-every one a dream of what could have been. Our first and second IVFs failed in different ways. Our third and final IVF looked like it was going to be another failure. On transfer day, we thought only one embryo had survived. I was on the transfer table when they said the second one looked slow, but viable. We chose to transfer both. Twelve days later, we got a positive home test. On the first ultrasound at 6 weeks, we were overjoyed to see a little flickering blob. We had about 30 seconds of elation until the doctor said the heartbeat was much too slow, and that we should expect to miscarry in the next day or two. He said that the chance of a viable pregnancy was about the same as winning the lottery.
I remember calling my mom and telling her “It’s over”. After two years, tens of thousands of dollars, countless needles and probes and hope and despair, our journey to becoming parents was over. A few abysmal days later, we had a follow up ultrasound to confirm the miscarriage. We had agreed not to look at the screen, and told the doctor we didn’t want to know any details. My eyes were locked on my husband’s when the sound of the heartbeat filled the room. That quick, perfect heartbeat. That miracle, beat-the-odds heartbeat. It felt like everything was upside down: for days I felt like it was all a dream and I would wake up at any moment. I held my breath for the entire pregnancy, convinced that somehow my body would fail me, and fail him. My confidence and hope grew with every checkup: in pregnancy, for the first time, my body didn’t let me down.
I don’t love the way my new body looks or feels, but I can work on smoothing the outside. I try to focus on the fact that despite everything stacked against us, my body grew my child. There were many nights when I despaired that I would never have the experience of carrying a pregnancy, of pushing through contractions or breastfeeding. This body isn’t a work of art, but it works. I never thought I’d be grateful for a mom-flap and stretch marks, but I am.
We gave up so many of our ideas and hopes for how our family would be created: in a perfect world, my child would have been conceived passionately, privately, with no fears or scares for his safety. His birth would have been gentle and out of the hospital. I would have gotten to breastfeed without supplementation and frustration. Things would have gone the way I imagined them before infertility. We don’t live in a perfect world. But despite it all, we ended up with a perfect baby
Throughout infertility and, to a lesser extent breastfeeding, I have focused on how my body has let me down. I waged war on it during IVF; I battled it with every pill, every pelvic exam, and every injection. I’m participating in the project to mark my truce with my body. I’m ready to forgive and accept, and celebrate that I get to be Theo’s mom."