NIAW stands for National Infertility Awareness Week, which is April 21-27. In honor of those who have and are experiencing this devastating condition, I offer my story.
Some of my friends know my story of infertility and how I walked through that dark forest of doubt, shame, and despair, and came out on the other side. I wrote about it in detail here: http://piecesofme-kimmee.blogspot.com/2011/04/out-of-control-part-1.html .
Infertility is a silent affliction. People don’t talk about it much, and I’m not exactly sure why. For me I know there was a shame about it even though I consciously knew there wasn’t anything to be ashamed of. When I think back on it, I believe my shame came from the feeling that my body was failing me and I was defective somehow. Teenagers could get pregnant in the back seat of a car, but my husband and I – upstanding citizens with a desire to parent and the means to support a child – we couldn’t. And it wasn’t something people could readily see about you. If you wanted people to know, you’d have to tell them, and it’s not that easy to fit infertility into a normal conversation.
Adding to my shame was the fact that I already HAD a child from a first marriage. So not only did I feel shame because I couldn’t get pregnant, I felt ungrateful for the child I did have and greedy for wanting more. Shouldn’t I concentrate all my mothering on the child I already have? Isn’t she enough for me? Shouldn’t I be happy I at least had one? Well, right or wrong, I wasn’t.
I spent hours discussing the situation with God (OK, some of it was long-winded rants against what felt like unfairness). I was terrified that I would not be able to have more children, and that I had carelessly squandered my first pregnancy when I should have held it in my hands like a delicate and rare bird, appreciating all its nuances and colors. I always assumed I could get pregnant any time I wanted. After all, my first pregnancy happened right on schedule. I was young and nonchalant and didn’t pay enough attention to the miracle taking place inside my own body when I should have been living in a constant state of wonder at how perfectly our God designed our bodies, and what a gift a baby is. And now I might never get the chance to experience it again.
We signed up for some medical intervention, including lots of invasive testing, and were told that nothing was wrong with either of us. I wallowed in despair. I obsessed. I took my temperature every morning and spent enough on ovulation predictors and home pregnancy tests to finance a vacation. A nice vacation. I watched endless episodes of “A Baby Story”. I unloaded on friends until they just didn’t want to hear about it any more. I cried. And I prayed. God, just one more baby, just one more. I won’t ask for two or three, just one. I bought tons of baby gear out of sheer hopefulness (or maybe denial) until I had several plastic tubs full.
In the end I did get my baby, after years of frustration. After my two best friends had both called me with trepidation in their voices to tell me that they each were pregnant. After years when the sight of a newborn would send me running out of the room in tears out of a desperate longing for one of my own, and the sight of a pregnant woman would inspire a embarrassingly strong wave of jealousy. Years that I spent doing everything within MY power to get pregnant, only to realize that there’s only so much I can do. After we finally had our beautiful baby girl we had two devastating miscarriages (one requiring a horrifying outpatient procedure), and after those miscarriages I never got pregnant again. We still have no idea why we had so much trouble conceiving although we suspect it had to do with a method of birth control we used, and my doctor had no explanation for the miscarriages and the inability to conceive after them.
I completely believe that every experience in our lives is something God can use for His glory, and infertility is no exception. Nothing is wasted. I can’t claim to know how God means to use MY experience but at the very least I can be open about what happened to me and willing to tell my story.
We did go on to add one more child to round out our family, an adorable baby girl we adopted from China. She deserves a post all of her own to tell her story, but I will tell you that she could not be more mine if she shared my genes. In some ways she is more like me than my two biological daughters.
I tell you all this to let you know that there is hope. There are many ways to be important in a child’s life and many paths to parenthood. You can adopt, you can pursue infertility treatment, you can use a surrogate, or a sperm bank, you can become a foster parent. Or you could be a mentor, a volunteer, a tutor, and you could sponsor a child through an agency like Compassion International. There are millions of children in the world today who need the love and attention of loving adults. Maybe one of them is waiting for you.