When I found out I was pregnant, I looked from the little blue cross on the pregnancy test to the instruction leaflet and back again at least three times. I don't know how many pregnancy and ovulation tests I've gone through in the past 18 months, but it's been a lot--well over 50. I started buying them in bulk to keep the cost down. And until that day, every test had been negative.
I called Jay into the bathroom and we both looked for a long moment at the blue "positive" sign. He smiled and held out his arms to me. We held each other and stood there in silence, both of us still staring numbly at the benign little plastic stick on the counter.
After the steps we've taken to conceive a baby, you would think that I would have laughed or cried or been overcome by a strong sense of... impending motherhood? Promised blessings realized? Gratitude? --but I didn't feel anything.
A couple hours later, I took two more pregnancy tests--all different brands--just to be sure. It didn't seem real. We lined up the three pregnancy tests--all positive--on the counter and stared at them for a long time.
I know there are many couples who struggle with infertility for much longer than a year and who have to undergo much more invasive procedures than I did. I didn't know how many steps up the infertility treatment ladder I would have to climb or how long we would wait or what would finally work. I do know that once I found out for sure that there was something "wrong" with me, that we wouldn't be able to conceive a baby without help, I felt like my body had failed me, like I wasn't whole. I cried myself to sleep every night for a week.
This is supposed to be easy! I told myself. This is supposed to be the most natural thing in the world! And as silly as it sounds, I was haunted by this thought: What if I had been born 50 years ago? 100 years ago? Would I ever have been able to conceive a child?
I would like to think I kept perspective those 15 months of negative tests, of monthly blood draws, of different and increasingly intrusive medications. I tried to stay practical, to keep faith, to avoid feelings of jealousy or hurt. Knowing that I was doing everything I could, that there was a plan, helped my analytical mind be at peace. Most of all, I cherished my time with Jay, those days of having him all to myself, enjoying our family of two. We do nearly everything together--the grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, errands, outings, even reading. I know it can't always be like this, and I have treasured this time.
It is difficult to live in The Now, to enjoy what I have even while wishing for something more. Some days were worse than others. I have a propensity towards jealousy and spitefulness, and as the months crawled by and my lab results were less and less promising, I worried that I would begin to begrudge others their happiness. Mercifully, miraculously, I was blessed with the ability to separate my own challenges from the successes of others, to brush off oblivious but jarring insensitivity, to keep jealousy in check. It was a borrowed gift, but it also saved me from being hurt or offended when I was questioned or teased about our family planning. "Whenever they come" was my standard response, said with a smile and sometimes a wink.
I am not generally prone to tears, but one Fast Sunday, I lost it. There were two baby blessings in church that day, and during testimony meeting, both of the beautiful, radiant mothers stood and shared their thoughts and gratitude. I completely broke down. My face crumpled and I shook with almost-quiet sobs.
I wasn't jealous. I wasn't angry. I didn't resent these women or their families. I was afraid--terribly afraid that I wouldn't get that experience. That our family would never grow. That I would continue to wait interminably, indefinitely.
I know that I am lucky. I know that a year or 18 months is brief. I know that there are many women who--for whatever reason--will not get to experience childbirth or traditional motherhood. But I also know how it feels to face uncertainty, to walk a path without knowing when, if ever, the destination will be reached, to work towards a goal that may well be unattainable. It is scary. It is lonely. It is easy to feel judged or misunderstood.
I share this because, though I don't want to burden anyone with more information about my life than they want or need to know, I think it's important. I am almost ashamed to tell my story now, when I've already stepped into the warm circle of light at the end of the tunnel--the words feel empty and contrived when viewed through the lens of my gratitude. But I want others to know they are not alone, to do my small part to break the silence, to belatedly challenge the social taboos of infertility.
I want to spread hope, to show my gratitude, to share my story.
I wrote this last June or July when I first found out I was pregnant. It's been sitting in my draft box ever since. I don't know what I was waiting for, exactly; I think I was just afraid to over-share. I stumbled on this quote today (from a blog I've never read) that made me feel like it was time:
"Sometimes we look out at our lives and it seems the garden is empty – plans dead as withered leaves, dreams laid waste. Could we rejoice in the season of waiting, believing that God who brought Jesus out of the black tomb and brings green shoots out of hard earth will bring new life out of all dark seasons too? Could we know that beauty is in this whole process, the waiting part too, not just the end result?" - Katie Davis, via here
It resonated with me, and I wanted to share my "waiting part" with you. God truly does give us beauty for ashes.