I invited my friend Sherri to blog here today because her story is one that so many men and women can relate to. I know that those of you who face infertility - and the exhausting emotions that come with the cyclical hope-disappointment-despair - will be particularly blessed by it. And for those of you that do not face such a battle, my prayer is that Sherri's words will make everyone a little more aware, a little more sensitive, and a lot more compassionate. I know that you all will show Sherri so much love for sharing her story here. I have the world's best blog followers. (Or technically the worst since like 0.001% of you that read the blog regularly have actually subscribed. So, go ahead and fix that first by subscribing below... and then show Sherri some love.) Many, many thanks to Sherri for her beautiful, honest, and wise words.
When you mix cornstarch and water together, you end up with a sticky yet somewhat stable material called “oobleck”. It’s on the fence of deciding whether it is going to be a liquid or a solid. Under pressure it feels hard, yet when you try to hold it- it liquefies. Oobleck is an accurate description of me walking through years of infertility. I was a solid form, working in a dental office, married, attending church, paying the bills. Yet as the official diagnosis came into perspective, I became messy and fragile underneath a hard exterior.
Something I learned is that infertility doesn’t discriminate. There is somewhat of an age factor, but it crosses the lines of all socioeconomic levels, race, ethnicity, etc. I was 24, and I believed the doctors when they said to not worry, pregnancy will happen. Instead, I endured years of painful, violating tests with little results.
The urologist, who was pregnant, of course, did not take our situation seriously. She waved her hand in front of her protruding belly and said, “Don’t worry, you’re young! We’ll get you pregnant!” As a dental hygienist —a healthcare provider— her statement steams me; I never promise anyone a particular outcome. She probably was not as daft as I am remembering, but that’s what infertility does to you, or me, that is. It makes you angry.
I was hardening on the outside, and at the same time I was a crying, snotty mess whenever I was home. My intimate life that I shared only with my husband and God was furled out on display for all to see. I felt dissected.
We wanted our pregnancy announcement to be an exciting surprise, and with every holiday that came, I daydreamed how I would tell Jeff and our families that we were expecting. I thought of everything.
I dreamed of a baby in Autumn, so January was the target month. I was careful to plan sex around ovulation in March because I didn’t want my baby to have to share Christmas. I planned every holiday and the pregnancy announcement gifts for our parents, and every holiday that passed by was a reason to start thinking ahead for the next one. It’s probably good that Pinterest wasn’t around then. I was happy for friends who announced their pregnancies and I dreamed about sharing the experience of pregnancy with my friends and with my sister.
I stopped purchasing clothes altogether because we were on limited finances due to the testing (Jeff and I had a couple of years where we didn’t have insurance, so our budget was blown). The truth is, I blamed ‘no shopping’ on the budget, but what I was secretly hoping was to be saving for maternity clothes.
I stopped planning trips, and whenever someone talked about going away or flying, I would think to myself, “Well, I’m not sure if I will be able to travel in x months”. I visited my bestie— Melissa, in Italy, which was great, but leading up to the trip, I wondered if I’d even be able to travel or if I’d be pregnant. The constant waiting for our little miracle was wearing on me, month after month.
I lived my life in two week chunks. TWW is an abbreviation for the two week wait that occurs after ovulation and before you start your period… it’s pretty stressful. It was even more stressful when Jeff started traveling for work. He is an awesome husband and a provider for our family, but it was very easy to hate his job. It was my own hurt, expectations, and hormone driven craziness that made me angry and take it out on him when he spent entire weeks out of town. The window for conception is pretty slim, and I know that my brokenness inhibited our relationship.
I yearned to have morning sickness. Any time I thought I could possibly be pregnant and I had some feeling of an upset stomach, I was elated. There were two times that I thought that I was pregnant because I was a couple of days late - and I was never late. But, as cruel as AF is (Aunt Flo for the non-infertile people) those periods were worse. I have always wondered if I miscarried, and though I told myself that it shouldn’t matter, I was still curious. I took a lot of pregnancy tests… and ovulation tests. There were times that I was so sure that I was pregnant that I would stare at the line hoping that another one would show up. One time, okay probably more than once, I took a test out of the trash. It’s called BFN (Big Fat Negative) when that second line doesn’t appear. I bought the tests at a CVS near my office— that way no one would see me buying them. Same with the multivitamins with DHA in them— I didn’t want anyone to know before we were ready.
The hardest part was succumbing to reality— this was never going to happen. Honestly, right up until the week before my hysterectomy, I believed that God could change our situation, that I could have a mini-me.
Once I realized that Jeff and I were most likely not able to carry a biological child, we were years into our journey, and I was mentally fried. We were tired of discussing it with each other and exhausted from walking this path alone. I didn’t realize this while in the process, but I had intentionally yet unknowingly isolated myself from my friends and family. It was easier to talk to my patients than it was my family, because I would be a teary, crying mess.
My wall went up brick by brick with every pregnancy announcement, whether it was real or on television. I know this sounds ridiculous, but I stopped watching Grey’s Anatomy because a character was pregnant. Incredulously I would exclaim, “They can’t just write that in a script and have it happen!” and cry myself to sleep. The Nature Channel, Springtime with all those baby animals being born, any children’s advertisement on television, and new Disney movies —they all were reminders of what wouldn’t happen for us. Okay, I also hid every post, story, or live feed video of that pregnant giraffe on my newsfeed. Quite honestly, I’m just glad that the birth is over with.
I remember hating Christmas. I’m a Christian, Christians can’t hate Christmas! Well, if you are an infertile reading this, what I am going to say is not a surprise to you. So here it is for everyone else wondering how I could have possibly hated Christmas: Mary was a VIRGIN. Then, pregnant. I know. I know the Christmas story, but I also know the feeling of grief, the loss of my dreams and the bargaining that comes hand in hand with infertility, and when you see a pregnant virgin, well, you don’t always think clearly. Also, I have an issue with children out with their parents shopping at 11pm and the Christmas season seems to bring all the craziness out. (I’m mostly referring to my own feelings here, not the overtired children in large chain stores when I believe they should be in bed.)
When I think of how I felt years back and what it may be like for you now, I feel the urge to vomit. Infertility is so unfair. My heart aches for you, longing to hold your child, waiting to hear the name, Mommy. Infertility is not your fault.
Hear me, dear one. Infertility is not your fault and it is not “part of God’s plan for your life”. The reason that you are unable to carry a baby is not because you haven’t believed enough, prayed enough, learned enough Bible verses, or that you don’t trust God enough. (Or, that your hubby is wearing briefs and taking a bath instead of airing out the goods in boxers).
So, I have some news for you: you don’t have to mimic oobleck, and thank goodness, neither do I. It took me many tear-filled years reading books on infertility, reading scripture, and praying to see that I needed to give myself a break and break free from my own expectations. I forced myself to sit through countless baby showers, baptisms at church, holding friend’s babies, and many other uncomfortable tasks because I felt I had to display that hard exterior. It’s okay to do those things, and sometimes they are fun, but if you feel like you will end up a drippy, snotty mess, stay home and pamper yourself. I’ve learned the power of the word, No.
I’ve also realized that it’s okay to share my story, and when I have, people have shared with me their hurts because they’ve felt comfortable with me. I was debilitated by my isolation, and I carried a heavy burden —opening up allowed me to see how many people supported us.
No matter your situation, I would encourage you to seek out counsel— whether professional or online through a group site or a blogpost, or read a good book. I follow “Waiting for Baby Bird”, and she has been a blessing to me, I wish I had her posts years ago. One of the books that was pivotal in my life was Kathe Wunnenburg’s “Longing for a Child: Devotions of Hope for Your Journey Through Infertility”. Her insight inspired me to free myself from my expectations and to take a break when I needed it. In one of her devotions, she connects anxiety with her birthday, and I realized that I did the same. Understanding that increase in anxiety, I purposely surrounded myself with the ones that I love and that love me.
Dear friend, you are not alone. You may feel alone in your walk, but know that the Creator of this universe —the God of Heaven— is holding you, gathering your tears, and longing to heal your broken heart.