The internet is a pretty amazing thing, which I can attest to through the benefits I’ve found of having this blog. This story — tat we all know too well — reposted in it’s entirety from Quora is absolutely heartwarming. Enjoy and Happy Mother’s Day!
Three years ago, in the early months of 2010, my wife and I were in the process of moving back to California and, finally — we thought — ready to start our own family. We weren’t, however, prepared for what Mother Nature had in store for us. A few months of “trying” quickly turned into many months. It was frustrating for us, yes, but especially so for my wife who is healthy and devoted much of her professional life to working with students of all ages. It struck me as too unfair for her to be denied her own maternal experience, one she desperately craved.
Before we knew it, we were dealing with the spectre of infertility. We tried nearly everything to figure out the cause. She withstood a battery of medicines, diagnostics, and other not-so-fun check-ups over the course of two years. Each month, we scientifically tried to time her cycles, which were usually followed up with disappointment a few weeks later. It was all cyclical: timing, action, waiting, hoping, and trying again.
In the ten years I’ve known her, I’ve only seen her cry three times: when she heard her maternal grandmother had passed; when we attended her paternal grandfather’s funeral; and when, on a seemingly random weeknight when I came home from work, just like any ordinary day, she was sitting on the couch, big slow tears oozing from her eyelids. I still don’t know what triggered her emotions that random weekday, and I’m sure I’ll never quite understand, but it was clear her despair ran deep.
I read somewhere that in a study of women diagnosed with infertility, the psychological effects of such a diagnosis could cause a person to have an emotional reaction similar to one who received word they had terminal cancer. Of course, it’s hard to equate infertility with terminal cancer, and I’ve unfortunately had grade school friends who left this Earth too early as a result, but I believe there is something to this, there’s something to being told “you don’t have long to live” and “you cannot reproduce.” It’s really about life and death, our shared fears about the inevitable and our desire to live fully before that inevitable time.
Through this process, I learned a few things. Many, many other couples and women face this, but of course, it is not often discussed.  How does one put these kind of deep emotions into words? I learned that men are only capable of understanding bits and pieces of the puzzle, but not everything. Personally, I felt helpless. Perhaps as a byproduct, I tried to be tactical about the situation to help. I tried to investigate our options. I counseled very close friends. Mainly, I tried to distract my wife by just doing things, traveling, and so forth…a simple technique to, for a moment in time, escape our reality.
This is where the story starts to turn.
As most of you may know, I’m a heavy user of Quora. In this situation, Quora became one of my sources for information, and I also asked this question (anonymously) in a feeble attempt to crowdsource from tips about what I could do to help us, to help her, cope with a new reality:Infertility: What are some specific coping strategies for couples who are experiencing the emotional pain of infertility? This turned into an incredible Quora thread, with 15 answers, 29 followers on the question, 401 views, and one question monitor (that’s me).
Most of the answers on this thread were fantastic. I was shocked, even as a Quora fan, to see the depth of opinion and information flow onto this page. I commented on many of the answers and tried to engage with the writers of those questions, seeking any more knowledge I could extract from them. One answer on the thread did catch my eye: Holly Finn’s answer to Infertility: What are some specific coping strategies for couples who are experiencing the emotional pain of infertility?
I looked up to learn more about Holly Finn. Turns out she actually wrote a book on the topic (“The Baby Chase”). Wow. How did she find my question and take the time to answer it? I had to know. I sent her a private message on Quora to thank her for her detailed answer, and tried to hunt down and guess her email address to deliver the same sentiment of thanks. And, she wrote back. Turns out she works in Palo Alto. Turns out she’d be happy to meet. I couldn’t believe it.
I told my wife to go late to work one morning so we could treat Holly to breakfast. This turned out to be an important breakfast. Almost immediately, my wife and Holly hit it off. She understood everything. She gave me a long list of things to do to distract her, and shared highlights of her own ordeal. I don’t want to tell Holly’s story, but she was moved enough to research the issue (both the science and the sociology) to pen one of the seminal books on the subject itself. At the end of our discussion, she asked my wife about what treatments we had tried, and she stopped us mid-sentence — she wanted us to meet with a doctor she found during her research. She was so insistent, there was something strong behind her voice. She offered to make the introduction, and we took her up on her offer. We met Holly in March 2012.
Based on her recommendation, this doctor agreed to meet my wife and put her close to the front of a very long line. Once we were in his hands, everything seemed to turn positive. Slowly, but surely. There were risks and unknowns along the way, but things seemed to trend in a good direction. But, there was still a ways to go. Now, in April 2013, almost 13 months after we met Holly, my wife and I are extremely lucky: she gave birth to our first child, a baby girl, last Thursday morning. We are all home now, healthy and happy. And thankful. And in shock. In disbelief. Something we thought may never happen actually happened.
Now, sitting at home today on a lazy, sunny Sunday while my wife naps with our new daughter, I wonder: How did Holly join Quora? How did she find my question? Of the only seven (7) answers she’s written on Quora, how was I the beneficiary of one of them? How random was it that she wrote a book on the subject? How random was it that she worked in Palo Alto, less than a mile from my apartment? What motivated her to meet us in person, to take time out of her day to help us and, implicitly, revisit her own painful experience on the subject? How was she able to listen to our history, suggest a course of action, introduce us to a doctor she recommended, and have that recommendation follow-through?
It seems like everything on the web is measured in unique visits and engagement metrics. How many users come to your site, and how long do they spend there? On a web that is ever-expanding, I created one page as a unique visitor (me), viewed only 401 times (as of today), and attracted another unique visitor (Holly), which led to a new friendship for us, and eventually, by the power of something I will never understand, gave us the gift of another unique visitor, our new daughter. Holly “paid it forward” by helping us, and through this process, I have learned that many other hopeful moms and families go through this as well. Our fortune is not lost on me. It is tempered by this reality, and in return for our fortune, I have decided, just as Holly did, to pay it forward in my own way. If there’s anyone else out there going through this who wants (non-medical) advice, guidance, coping tips, or just someone to talk with, I am here and will reply to any and all emails I receive. If there’s a way I can help, I would love to be helpful.