the nightmare is always the same. A doctor is telling us there is nothing else she can do to help us. We are not accepted by adoption agencies or foster care.
I haven't had it in almost a year, but this week it woke me up again. I crept down the hall where the kids were napping to see them in their beds.
In the last few months, Joey's godmother defied odds (no ovulation) to conceive and in January we celebrated my best friend from high school's son's first birthday. She overcame PCOS to conceive him her first month on clomid. But this Monday we remembered something much more somber, the stillbirth at 25 weeks of our neighbor's second son. Maybe that's why the nightmare returned.
Until a woman has experience infertility, she cannot know the pain of wanting a child she may never be able to have. Until a woman has experienced miscarriage or infant-loss, no one can describe to her the pain of almost seeing this dream come true only to have it illusively slip through her fingers.
I am incredibly blessed, when I wasn't getting pregnant, my husband told me that was okay. We'd adopt and if God decided we would not be parents that it was not our failing and that he didn't need to be a father to feel fulfilled in our marriage. I have friends' whose marriages ended because of infertility. In one of the most cruel cases, a friend conceived one time in 3 years of trying and lost the baby at ten weeks. After she and her husband agreed to stop trying, she found out he had been having an affair and fathered two children while they had been going through the church approved IUI method. Her marriage was annulled last week.
It is hard, sometimes to not think of myself as still infertile. It sounds crazy, I know, but it's true. In my family you just got pregnant and made babies. No one saw doctors or had tests, or, in my case, surgery. But as I explored my own cause of infertility and miscarriage (a uterine septum I was born with), I discovered that there is a good chance that before medicine was as adept at diagnosing it, someone in my family had suffered as strongly a I had. One of my maternal great-grandmothers apparently had several, possibly ten, miscarriages and, lucky for me, three live births, one of whom became my grandfather. I type this with hesitation, as infant loss and infertility are still taboo in our culture. A woman who cannot conceive is considered less than a woman. She is often left out of social gatherings surrounding a birth because no one wants to catch her eye or talk with her about babies or birth. People say they do this to consider her feelings, but really they want to avoid their own discomfort. And there are cultural references from this. In the Bible. In Genesis. When Jacob was forced to marry Leah, the older daughter when he truly loved Rachel and after he married Rachel his love for her well out-did that for her sister, God felt bad and made Leah fruitful and she multiplied. And God closed Rachel's womb. Is it any wonder we think of infertility as a curse or punishment from God?
When I was in my teens, my mother's sister was pregnant with her first child. That summer, when we visited NY, my mother and her other two sisters hosted a baby shower at my grandmother's home. Among those invited was a friend of my aunt's from high school. During the shower, my mother asked her if she had any children. She said no. Later, my aunt told her that the previous year, at 26 weeks pregnant, this friend had lost her baby. My mother was mortified that she might have put this woman on the spot but my aunt quickly reassured her, telling her that she and this friend talked often and one thing her friend had told her was that her biggest obstacle was people treating her like a normal person. Yes, she was heartbroken, and yes, it was still painful, but treating her like an outcast wasn't helping the cause!
In my teenage years, I admit, I would have been one to avoid had I known, but the harsh reality of my twenties has changed me. I share my pregnancies with friends I know are having difficulty conceiving because I know what it feels like to be left out. I tell them that if I am talking too much baby talk to please be up front and tell me, I work and do other things, I can talk about them too! If they are feeling sad or dejected, I don't offer platitudes (you can always adopt!, have you thought about in vitro?) and I don't tell them things like "it'll happen before you know it!" I listen, I sit and I listen. And I take some of that load from them. Sometimes we cry together. I do tell them, this is a loss, it is real and you have the right to mourn it. One friend told me she loved me more than I could know for saying that. It was what I wished someone had said to me.
Maybe it helps me appreciate my kids more when they are pouring maple syrup on my kitchen floor or finger painting one of my dogs, or biting. Maybe it's made me a more patient mother. Maybe it's made me more pro-life. But that nightmare, while it still haunts me, is one I wake up from with gratitude and rejoicing because it is just that. It's a life I glimpsed, but God spared me from. But with that glimpse God gave me a direction: for all those women whose reality is the nightmare, be the light.
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