It has been a long couple months. Good and bad - and unfortunately I haven't been the most positive 'long-sufferer.' This is a long, drawn out post of how I've been feeling, and I won't be offended if you have little interest - I have little interest in having these feelings, too.
For some reason I've had a realization lately that seems so intuitive, yet it still brews inside my head. Here's the ah-ha:
I told you so!
I love taking pictures of my socks. I twiddle my thumb and forefinger pretty much 100% of the time. I work overnights in a hospital and actually enjoy watching the sunset on my way in and the sunrise on my way home. I have long bouts of insomnia, which makes my already dark under eye circles even darker. I could survive on extra sharp white cheddar cheese and water with lots of ice. I always scratch the bridge of my nose in the middle of a conversation when I'm nervous. And, I don't have kids after many years of trying. I know - shocking, eh.
I know so many people that face this very same problem, maybe just wrapped up in a different package. I don't feel special because of infertility, and maybe that's why I haven't really come to terms with the fact that time is continuing to pass and we still don't have children. I do believe they will come when they are supposed to come. I believe the Lord has a plan. I believe in the power of gratitude, and remembering all that we have. These truths keep me going.
Yet, during the long nights when I have an incredible amount of time to think, reality slaps its ugly hand across my face and I'm reminded that I am infertile. Suddenly it seems every direction I turn, there are maternity clothes and big, round bellies and amazingly cool strollers and cribs and scrapbooks and blogs with proud papas holding their new babies and touching updates of labor and motherhood and losing the baby weight and perfectly poised children in photographs that could give Anne Geddes a run for her money..... and I continue to wonder:
- Am I doing enough to try and have a baby?
- Do I really want kids now? (I'm not getting any younger)
- What is wrong with me? (loaded question)
- Will we ever have kids naturally?
- Should we adopt/foster/steal a child? (ok, maybe not steal one...I'd pay for it)
- What else can be done?
This is just the short list that seems to form. Thankfully the list no longer includes, "Why is this happening?" because one thing I've learned is I will not get the answer to that little gem until after this life. But a hefty list, nonetheless. The reason why I don't love writing or talking about infertility is because it's a polarizing issue. Most of our friends have kids. I love kids. I love our friends. I love that our friends have kids. When people have children, their lives are changed forever. Instead of wondering what to do for date night, people start wondering when the last time they even had date night because they haven't slept in three days because their baby is teething. Children change daily activities - play dates at parks, diaper changes, potty training, school registration, visits to the zoo, and on and on. When almost all of my friends have kids and I do not, suddenly what once was similar is now different. Reid and I can still have date night about 4 out the 7 nights of the week (not that we do that...it just wouldn't be a stretch to do so). My daily activities include sleeping, making food, choosing scrubs for work, picking out fun socks, and scanning patients. I have time to read books, I can watch episode after episode of any show, and I can go grocery shopping without any distractions. I earn money after hours of work, while my friends are earning kisses and hugs from their youngsters after hours of play, and even some are doing both.
Is one better than the other?
It simply goes back to my first statement: I'm different. It means nothing but that. But, talking about infertility is uncomfortable. It ends up uncovering very personal information and delicate emotions for the infertile one - and those that are not infertile want to say the right thing, want to help any way they can, and are different because they have kids! Oh, what a fun topic! Next up: Immigration.
So, here is my introspective reasoning for why I struggle accepting our current reality....
As a young child, I was absolutely terrified of being late. Being late meant people would start looking at me and I would be the center of attention. I would cry on the way to soccer practice (common occurrence) if we would be late and staying home was a much better option than being the last one to arrive. My mother also has a knack of bringing up her children in conversation, and talking all about what they've done and how great their life is going - and then, with you standing right there, encourages you to talk about yourself. This is where I scratch the bridge of my nose and mumble something unintelligible while giving my mom the stinkiest stink eye I can muster. She means well, but I have shortness of breath thinking about those moments. I can't be a thespian for this very reason - not only am I terrible at acting, but it means people would be staring and I just can't hack the attention thing. I'm way too self conscious.
I also learned at a young age that the more I would study and do homework, the more I would excel in school. I was never the brightest or the fastest or really the best at anything - I just knew if I put in the work, I would see results. It was natural to incorporate that pattern into everything I did, and most often, it would work out as expected. I remember during 6th grade, going to my friend's house after school and finishing all our homework before rollerblading. It wasn't a rule set by her parents or mine - it was our rule (cause we were flat out nerds - love you, Amy). This always ensured it was done on time and nothing was forgotten. Thanks to my grades, I got accepted to college, as well as x-ray and ultrasound school - done, done and done.
Finally, pretty much everything in my life has had a beginning and an end. School, sports, church meetings, mission service - you name it, there was always a timeframe. This made it easy to avoid doing any one thing for too long. Being patient and struggling during a bad basketball season wasn't devastating because in a few months, it would all be over - just in time for track to start. During my time in Germany, I always had in my head the knowledge that this would one day be over. This made my time there so very bittersweet.
Thus, deeply ingrained lessons of my life:
- I don't like being the center of attention
- If I work hard, results can be expected
- There's an ending in sight for just about everything
Those are the three main reasons why infertility is like the trifecta of death at times for me.
Simple example: After meeting new people, they will see my wedding ring and kindly ask, "do you have children?" When I give my short answer, "no, not yet," invariably several heads will turn and wait for an explanation. (Instant center of attention).
I explain how we've tried such and such, and blah-da-de, blah-da-de, and most often I get, "oh, well it'll happen when it shouldhappen!" (absolutely no ending in sight with that comment)
By the end of the conversation, I have been given about ten different ways we should try to conceive because it worked for someone's brother's distant cousin's younger sister that also could never have kids until she _______________(lots of ways to fill in that blank). I eventually find myself concocting some natural peanut butter-jalapeno paste for my underarms because that's what someone read in Cosmo about increasing your fertility, and if I try everything, it will work! (work => results).
Well, it hasn't. After taking many morning temperatures, checking the color and consistency of something I'll keep unnamed, chiropractic work, acupuncture, herbal remedies, fertility medication and finally a fertility specialist and intrauterine insemination - we've gotten close, but nope, no children. The baby names I originally picked when we were first married have all been taken. The stroller and crib and bedding sets I thought were so cute when we first started trying are no longer hip. I have friends with three and four kids, and some friends getting pregnant that are still young enough to be covered under their parent's insurance. And life just seems to keep......passin' on by......
I don't have any profound lessons to share. Unfortunately I feel as though I am learning to become someone acquainted with grief - mourning the loss of babies unborn, and the loss of opportunities to share being a mom with friends and family I love so dearly. I have many patients that come during wee hours of the morning, who are going through miscarriages, and I see the glimmer in their eyes fade ever so slightly when they can tell something is wrong. In those moments, I am keenly reminded of when I was that woman, on that stretcher, looking at an ultrasound that no longer showed a baby.
A couple came in a few nights ago and she was having a miscarriage. Their faces spoke volumes when I got them in the ultrasound room and I knew I wasn't going to make it through without having a little meltdown. She had such a tender spirit and her husband was so very present and wanting to make this all better.
I started scanning and they had already been told the news. I was simply looking to see if everything had passed.
We started chatting, just light conversation, and soon she saw my wedding ring and asked my favorite question, "so, do you have children?"
I told them no, and eventually said that Reid and I were in their same shoes on Mother's Day this year. They were surprised and kindly offered condolences and we kept talking and crying until the scan was finished.
As I told her the doctor would review the images and give them the news, she simply took my hand and said, "Erin, thank you for being you. You were what we needed tonight."
Little did she know I felt the same way about her.
"No matter what circumstances you sisters experience, your influence can be marvelously far-reaching. I believe some of you have a tendency to underestimate your profound capacity for blessing the lives of others. More often than not, it is not on the stage with some public pronouncement but in your example of righteousness and the countless gentle acts of love and kindness done so willingly, so often on a one-to-one basis."
--James E. Faust
--James E. Faust
Thankfully, he's different too :)