This is part two in MeiMei's quest for motherhood. Stay tuned for part three as told by her husband, Kiran. If you missed it, here's part one.
At 37, I felt like a stranger in my own life. How had I wound up a disoriented divorcée panicking about ever having a child of my own? Where was the happy ending Disney promised me when I was a little girl? Why had I failed at forming a family – the adult achievement I valued above any other?
In the face of this despair, I opted for an experimental insurance policy – I froze my eggs. After two weeks of injecting myself with hormones nightly, several ultrasounds, and one small surgical procedure, I put 18 eggs on ice.
My little cryogenic insurance policy gave me the space to make dating choices driven by genuine connection rather than desperation. I returned to enjoying the single life and went on first, even second dates without launching into semi-psychotic rants about how much I wanted to have kids – now.
Six months after storing my future, I received a call from my friend Kiran. "How are you doing?" he asked.
"I'm alright. But I'm single…"
His voice jumped an octave. "Really? Me, too!"
"Well, we should be together, then," I blurted before my inner censor could kick in.
Kiran laughed. "We should."
I had met Kiran three years earlier on a beach in Costa Rica. We'd both been surfing, and he stood on the sand smiling at me like something out of a romance novel – a hot, wet mess of bulging arm muscles, curly black hair, and coffee ice cream skin. I felt compelled to say hello.
Our chatter did not pause for the next hour. We discovered that we were both living in California, divorced and childless, in our late 30s, and eager to start families. Even more remarkable, we had both journeyed to Nosara to write and surf for several months. The only rub: This was the last day of my retreat, the first of his. We swapped contact info and promised to connect in person back on American soil.
The email trail formed immediately and quickly brought us closer to each other than we had ever felt to anyone else. Though we were 350 miles apart and both intermittently sucked back into our other relationships, our friendship blossomed.
We'd kept in contact by phone and email until that evening, six months after I had iced down my eggs, when Kiran called to announce that he was single. Then we jumped on the high-speed rail.
Within three months, I had quit my job in San Francisco and moved in with Kiran in Los Angeles. We got married three months later.
During my difficult single years, my psychotherapist read to me a line that poet Theodore Roethke had written about his wife. She was, he said, "More than I'd hoped, less than I dreamed." Kiran had encountered the same quote while trying to make things work with his ex-girlfriend. Yet the sentiment – that we ought to be willing to compromise – hadn't sat well with either one of us.
Now that we had found true love, we knew Roethke had it wrong. We modified the quote, saying about one another: "You are more than I dreamed, everything I deserve."
We began trying to get pregnant immediately. Seven months later, we succeeded. In spite of having felt ready for parenthood for years, we found ourselves as giddy as teenagers.
But when we went to the doctor's office for the eight-week checkup, instead of hearing our baby's heartbeat for the first time, we heard and saw nothing. Just an empty sac. I had miscarried. As I mourned that tiny, incomplete life, my solace was the knowledge that I had those 18 frozen eggs if I ever needed them.
And we did.
When my 40th birthday loomed on the horizon, I still wasn't pregnant. We had been trying for a year and a half. Although my frozen eggs were only two years younger than I was, they significantly improved my chances of success with IVF. I congratulated myself on my foresight as I arranged to have them shipped from San Francisco.
But the day after the shipping company confirmed that my precious cargo had been safely delivered, I received a call from my doctor in LA. "I'm sorry, MeiMei. I have bad news for you. It appears that all 18 of your eggs were destroyed."
It took me several minutes to process what I'd just heard. My eggs were now a worthless scramble. The $12,000 I had spent and the emotional agony I'd gone through as a single woman – was all for nothing.
I screamed at God, "How can you betray me? What have I done to deserve this? Haven't I been a good person? All I want is for my dream of having a family to come true!"
It took weeks of coping with depression, hours of doing yoga and meditating, and many mornings of patting my swollen eyelids with cucumber gel for me to begin to accept my new reality: There was no more backup plan.
"Didn't anyone ever tell you not to put all your eggs in one basket?" my brother joked. I had recovered enough by that point to let out a weak laugh.
My fertility doctor assured me that I still had a decent shot at bearing my own children. There was hope. But our first two rounds of IVF failed.
The surprising thing? I'm okay. And that's because of the meaning I have gained from this mess of broken eggs and dreams – from my infertility to my relationship failures. My partnership with Kiran is the most important aspect of my life. While my 18 frozen Plan Bs didn't help me the way I intended, they did at least buy me the time and peace of mind to find true love.
And there's more: Motherhood may not happen for me the way I imagined back when I used to role-play with my dolls. I may never give birth to my own biological child. In that case, Kiran and I are open to adoption. But no matter what, however it happens, we feel certain that the little person who eventually makes his or her way into our lives will be more than we dreamed, and everything we deserve.