It’s National Infertility Awareness week. Welcome to several new readers of Preacher on the Plaza! And I’m happy to use this blog over the next couple of days to give others a platform to share their stories of grief, loss and deferred longing. Even if “infertility” is not your thing and you read my blog for other reasons, I ask you stick with me. Did you read Sarah’s and Ronda’s stories earlier in the week? Like them, chances are you know someone going through infertility or who has infertility in their story just as I wrote about in Birthed: Finding Grace Through Infertility.
Today, I’m glad to introduce you to my friend, Lara. Though you might see her happy family photo at the bottom of this post, there’s so much more to her story. So much imagining, re-imagining and tears that went into building her family as it is today. I was reminded as I read her words that we truly never know what someone is going through (or has been through). I admire her perseverance.
My below the belt troubles started when I was a teen and by 20 I was flatly told that I would never have children.
It is hard, when you are still a child yourself, to really know what infertility means in practical terms but looking back I cannot recall ever feeling “incomplete.”
Yet, I had a niece and nephews that I adored and a good life, full of travel and access to experiences that many people never get to enjoy. I felt strong, secure, and confident with my empty belly. I filled my house with expensive, light-colored furniture and fragile works of art. I bought sexy and impractical shoes. I researched graduate programs, planned exotic vacations and genuinely enjoyed my life. I was the Anti-Mommy.
And then, on a blind date in 2002, I met my husband, Jon. A man born to be a father.
He was a youth mentor, coach, and all around kid-whisperer. All children loved him and it was mutual.
I never hid my issues and told him on our second date, before he even knew my middle name, that I was incapable of carrying a child. When he proposed, I was thrilled to say, “Yes!”, but also unambiguously stated, “All you get is me. But, I’m all yours. Forever.” He said he was okay with this bargain and I believed him.
From where I stood, this was a really good deal. A few weeks after the honeymoon, the comments started. “Don’t wait too long, aren’t you thirty?” People were well-intentioned but relentless. I started to feel less like a prize and more like a burden.
So I decided, maybe we should at least try.
I started with the gateway fertility drugs as well as yoga, meditation and, herbs. And I prayed. Fervently, earnestly, and often while on the toilet holding a pregnancy test pee stick. After almost a year, I found a specialist.
Our baby chase didn’t always work out so well. There were losses, and failures that hurt like losses. I tried to get and stay pregnant for almost eight years.
I succeeded at least five times, possibly more depending on what you mean by “pregnant.”
If you think you can’t be “a little pregnant” than you have a lot to learn about chemical pregnancies, blighted ovum, and other such novelties.
I tried everything from we will just “not think about it” which is much harder than you’d think, to medications by injection, and procedures that I wouldn’t wish on anyone. Physically, the process of miscarriage was the same as early labor, only without the joyous payoff. No baby to cradle, just more cramping.
My husband and I took the losses very differently, at least in the outward sense.
I’m sure he was as heartbroken as I was. I cried often, unable to let go of the deep throb of heartache that replaced the baby’s heartbeat. Each time as I physically recovered, I felt like I had lost my mind and my baby. My confidence, my sense of purpose and my ability to mother the child I did have all suffered. But I kept going.
When I look back and ask myself the hard questions, I know I did it because I am stubborn but also because I wanted to make people happy, especially Jon.
On one of my visits I went through the normal drill, I put the cup on the ledge in bathroom and waited in the drafty examination room. I remember shivering with my legs folded under me trying to keep warm and hoping that the nurse would come soon. The walls were so thin that I could clearly hear a doctor giving instructions to patient in the next room. “Scoot your bottom all the way down. Good. Good. Now let your legs fall open. Great. Now stay right there. You will feel a tiny pinch.” Frustrated and in a disintegrating paper robe, I wished could just put my clothes back on and leave. There was something especially humiliating to me about laying naked on a table, scooting, opening, and yet falling short. But in the balancing of my options, nothing was more humiliating than spending another year having to answer the question, “Why don’t you have any children?”
“It’s positive.” I heard the nurse say to someone in the hall.
Unexpected fear like a lead weight landed on my shoulders. I knew she was talking about me. My hands covered my face as the door opened and the doctor and the nurse walked in. “Surprise, you are pregnant!” she says. I forced a smile but inside I screamed, “No!”
I imagine God hearing me, scratching His head and saying, “That ungrateful so and so. She begs you to give her a child, and then she’s upset when you do it.”
I was also afraid. I was considered high risk and lived every moment until the baby was born wondering if that day was my last day as a mom. While pregnant, I did even more fervent toilet praying with every twinge, cramp or pink spot. But we made it and I gave birth to my first child in 2005. I now am a mother of two.
If I could go back in time, I would tell my heart-sick self to ignore the lie of shame and acknowledge that there are few better ways to guarantee an unhappy life than rejecting contentment, living like someone owes you something. God doesn’t. In fact I owe Him more than I will ever be able to repay just for waking me up in my (mostly) right mind today. It has not been easy, but today I honor my losses and rejoice in the knowledge that I have been given exactly the full and beautiful life God intended for me to live.
I’ve come to embrace my children, as well as our infertility journey, as a gift.
This bumpy road is a testament to free and unmerited favor. My children, the living and the lost, are reflections of God’s grace and their presence reminds me that their lives, like my own, belong to Him.
Lara is a technology law practitioner and aspiring retiree. She lives in the DC Metro area with her husband and two children who share her love of baking, naps, and old school cartoons.