Usually around 8 p.m. I’d start the routine: Get out the ice packs, alcohol pads, and a washcloth to use as a sterile surface on my nightstand. Then I’d take out my shots—sometimes just one, other times as many as five. I’d lay everything out on the washcloth. I’d prepare the shots, sometimes having to mix them, other times just opening a package. Some I’d let the air out. Some it was recommended not to. It was hard to keep track at first, but eventually I got the hang of it.

I’d put the ice packs on before certain shots in an attempt to lessen the bruising. Then I’d lean over, pinch my stomach, and start injecting. Sometimes I’d ice after. I’d remember the days I’d get woozy and sometimes faint at the sight of blood and chuckle in my head at how much of a pro I was now.

That was my reality every day for two years.

My daughter, Tess, was conceived via in vitro fertilization (IVF) as a frozen embryo transfer. After a long road that included failed IUIs, a transfer, intralipid infusions, steroids, and blood thinners, I considered it a miracle. Every pregnancy is. Yet I never quite relaxed throughout my pregnancy. That could be because I had to continue certain shots, which I was told were sustaining her. Initially I hid the bruises but eventually I started wearing them as a proud badge.

Tess was born in November 2017 and naturally changed my life. I remember giving myself my last shot and thinking, “Until next time.” But the feeling of next time was so far from my mind, especially after everything I’d been through. I was also busy professionally. After Tess was born, I launched Mo’ Mommies, an online community for moms and moms-to-be, where I opened up about my IVF journey. Helping other women going through similar struggles became a mission I was heavily devoted to. In the meantime, I also co-founded a play space, Union Square Play.

And it was only until Tess turned 1 that my husband and I were finally starting to feel like we were getting into a flow. Attempting to have another child was the furthest thing on our mind.

Finding Out I Got Pregnant Naturally After My IVF Journey

While out for dinner one night, two of my mom friends, who had children around the same time my daughter was born, announced they were pregnant. I remember thinking, “I can’t even imagine that right now!” But the next morning, I woke up feeling slightly hungover, which then turned into me fearing I might have the flu. Later that night, I had an intuition and told my husband to go buy a pregnancy test. Aside from how sick I felt, I also hadn’t gotten my period. I had heard that IVF can sometimes lead to woman conceiving naturally but, truth is, I didn’t think I’d ever fall into that category since my husband also had reproductive issues.

Nonetheless, my husband came home with two tests. We put Tess to bed, and I took the tests. I almost forgot to look at the results but once I did, I couldn’t believe it. There it was: a dark plus sign on each test. I had accidentally gotten pregnant. I’d love to pretend it was just elation after that, but it wasn’t. It was confusion, disbelief, panic, and the most prominent feeling of all: guilt.

I felt guilt for all of the moms with fertility issues I was pioneering and advocating for through my blog, play space, panels, and workshops. Becoming pregnant naturally, without even trying, almost as if it was the easiest thing in the world, made me feel like an imposter.

I felt guilty because of Tess. I didn’t feel I had enough time of just focusing on her and now I was going to focus on another? I also felt guilt for Matt because I knew he also wasn’t ready.

Because of the guilt and need to process the pregnancy, we waited a few weeks to go the doctor. But once we were in the doctor’s office, listening to the heartbeat for the first time, I started to really comprehend the magnitude of what had happened. I realized my story stands for so much more than a shocking guilt-ridden surprise. Yes, it was the surprise of a lifetime, but it was the reality that everyone’s journey in parenthood is different—and there’s no reason to feel guilty about that.

My unexpected baby, Nell Isabel, was born in November 2019, and I don’t even have the headspace to feel guilty anymore. Not only is it impossible to because I’m filled with thoughts on how to care for my two girls, but also because I realize there’s no room for guilt when you take on something as selfless as motherhood.

By Jennie Monness