One Sunday morning at church, just before we were thinking about trying to have children, I watched a woman in a video voice her pain. The video highlighted people’s struggles and how the community they received from church helped through the hard times. Standing next to her husband she spoke about how they had been trying to conceive their second child for over a year. I remember thinking, “At least you already have a child.” I was so dead wrong. We’re always a little naive about the things we have no experience with.
The love you have for one child does not consume the love you desire for another. After over a year of trying to conceive our second child I still feel like a family member is missing, just as I did with Felicity. If anything I know much more so what is missing now. Here I am in that woman’s shoes. Over one year in, with secondary infertility.
There’s nothing to describe the ache a woman feels for a child she cannot naturally conceive. Months before I got pregnant with Felicity I had an ultrasound and my blood drawn a few times. I found myself in the doctors’s parking lot, looking down at my freshly poked arm. “Another blood draw, maybe some answers this time, all worth it if I can get one step closer to you.” I whispered to no one but my unborn babe. I filled her journal with prayers. I confessed how I longed to hold her in the blanket I had been knitting for her in faith. Then one day I was able to wrap her up in it and I thanked God for my little blessing. Between exhaustion I cherished every little moment I could of those newborn days. I’d often cry as I held my tiny 1 month old, 2 month old, 3 month old because I was certain she was actually growing right there within my arms. Because I knew one day she’d be walking, one day she’d stop nursing, one day she’d start running. And would I ever have another infant to hold, to nurse, to love?
This time around, after the ultrasounds, after the medical bills roll in, it all feels heavy. Unfair, frustrating and lonely. Now I know what that woman in the video was going through. Secondary infertility brings it’s own set of struggles. Anytime I feel exhausted, I feel like I’m not worthy to have another child. I’ve felt like I can’t confess my motherhood struggles because all I may get in return is, “She’s only one, how would you handle another?” that’s a hard thing for a mother to hear when she is unable to conceive. We’re allowed to feel exhausted too, we’re allowed to have our days and also long for more children. Hearing and believing that we would be an inadequate mother to more children adds immense strain to the struggle.
There were some days this Spring that I couldn’t bring myself to play with Felicity. I’d watch her blowing dandelions in the yard. Though I wanted to stand up and chase after her my body remained paralyzed, distraught. My heart ached for another little one to call me mama. That seems silly that I couldn’t just cherish each moment with my young daughter, but you see it’s not that simple. If only I could cast aside the longing and be everything Felicity needed me to be. May she forgive me.
One night as I brushed my teeth I thought about how that month’s fertility medication didn’t work. All was silent throughout the house and I had a moment to process. Would I try the medication again next month? Would my insurance approve more ultrasounds to see what was not functioning in my body? How would my hormones affect my family life? Well meaning encouragements rattled around in my head, “God has a plan for your family. It will happen one day.” I played them over and over again. Oh how I hoped that they were true, but the hope held no tears from welling up in my eyes. I rinsed out my toothpaste, knot in my throat. My heart’s desire was so great that I couldn’t keep tears from falling in the sink. Brandon walked into our room and he knew I was having a hard time. He knew because I told him that morning that the test was negative, but I didn’t confess that I had taken 4 negative tests up to that day. This obsessive hope, negative stick after stick, eyes tight not wanting to peek for fear of disappointment. Going through this twice now has become too much for us. This is what I couldn’t possibly understand before.
One day, just a few months ago I thought for certain that I was pregnant. Brandon’s parents were coming to visit in a couple weeks and I’d played out sharing the news with them in person over and over in my head. I didn’t realize just how certain I felt until I knew I wasn’t. My heart sank completely. Our walls blurred all around me and I felt consumed by grief. I went to hug Brandon hardly able to tell him it wasn’t happening, head buried in his chest and feeling so tired of the letdown. My body, since the minimal amount of fertility medication that I took earlier this year, has struggled to correct.
I won’t say that I’ve lost all hope, but I am tired of hoping. This process for our family personally has become too grueling. Though I know many couples take all of the tests and do every treatment out there I don’t feel like that is the path God is calling us to. I no longer have a desire to take more fertility medication because of how it has changed my body as well as affected my mental state, which in turn affects my family. I have had a year of fluctuating weight because the comfort I found in food was so great. After recognizing the danger in that I’m ready to shift my focus, be ok with being uncomfortable and find out who I am aside from a mother. We have no great desire to find out what else may be ‘wrong’. I feel that Brandon and I are in no way created wrong. God has designed us in such a way that will either lead to a surprise blessing or welcoming a child into our home that did not come from my own womb. That is the way that we hope to see our family grow. Since this decision to let go of what we thought our family might be we’ve felt at peace. My sister says that’s God’s confirmation.
It’s time for me to be healthy both physically and mentally, to stop moping, to focus on Felicity’s needs. It’s time to tear down the nursery, set the baby things aside and say, “This doesn’t mean never, just probably not soon.” It’s time to bond as a small family of three while keeping our hearts ever open to however our future children come our way.
I realize my naivety now and I wonder what else I remain naive about. How do we look at others struggles and understand them on the same level? I don’t know if we can. I think all we can do is listen. That’s hard to do because sometimes it’s easier to simply encourage. I’m challenging myself to hear people’s struggles and understand that their pain is very real to them and I may encourage them, but I may never know what they are going through really.
Friend, oh dearest reader, whatever you are struggling with right now, I am sorry. I wish I could sit with you, hold your hand and tell you it’s ok to not be ok for a time. This may pass, but for right now, in the midst of it, I am sorry that you are going through this.