As I type this, my second baby is rolling, kicking and stretching his or her limbs from one end of my belly to another. The movements are so robust that I’m certain my husband can see them from across the room.
I can say this time around that I remember this feeling. The back aches, the finger swelling, the heartburn, insomnia and the uncontrollable urge to clean the oven were all pregnancy fairytales that were once reserved for my “normal fertile” friends to share with one another over cocktails or backyard barbeques while I sat there imagining it, eager for the stories but childless and without much hope.
After six miscarriages in eight years, countless, unproductive infertility visits and procedures that resulted in the same painful “we just don’t know” answer, I can’t emphasize the hopelessness enough.
I spent years trying to balance the dream I had of a life with children with the reality of the very certain possibility that we may remain childless.
And while I had the privilege of hearing early stage heartbeats, that little flutter only made the threatening loss cut deeper. Each pregnancy was terrifying. Each loss was devastating and each doctor’s visit was discouraging because I wouldn’t allow myself to be encouraged. My heart had enough breaks already and I didn’t want it to shatter so much that my infertility defined me.
I refused to let it. I continued to work on building a career. I filled my days with work and play and plans. I didn’t want to be consumed with counseling or support groups, chat rooms, rabbit-hole research or more clinic visits. When there got to be too many doctors and not enough answers, we took a break. I ignored it. I made myself busy enough so I could convince myself I didn’t have time to deal with it.
And then I hit my 30s and time slapped me in the face. And so did another loss, a reminder that when it comes to creating a family, sometimes you don’t have the luxury of wait and see. In fact, fertile or not so fertile, you often don’t have any kind of control over the process at all.
So I sat down with my husband and we had a discussion about whether or not we could live the rest of our lives without children of our own.
Which was a stupid question, because of course we could. We’d been doing it for nine years. We weren’t naïve enough to think that children were the key to marital bliss or complete fulfillment. And we didn’t necessarily believe parenthood was our only calling in life. But it was one of our dreams. And it was what we wanted.
And so we set out again on our journey. We decided we would call another doctor and at the same time we would find out all we could about what it would take to start the adoption process. We talked honestly about how fostering might fit into our lives, and got real about whether or not our hearts could handle it. We jumped in to take our future off of pause and give it one last try, understanding and open to the fact that there is more than one way to build a family.
Two years and one simple but life-changing diagnosis later, I was pregnant for the seventh time, only this time it was different. I got to feel her move inside of me. I got to experience the mood swings and the backaches and the contractions and heart wrenching agony of the wait and the birth.
I got to hear her suck the air of this world and let out her first scream, and as time marches on, as it does, God willing, I’ll l get to continue to watch her grow up healthy and strong and become a big sister.
I never thought I would get to do it all once, let alone be given the gift of doing it all over again.
I share this today, this brief, nutshell story of how we, at long last, became parents, in order to honor all of the different ways we come to be called family. Because that’s what this month’s issue is about. It’s about acknowledging the complicated, beautiful, and often painful and brave ways we sacrifice and hope in the name of taking care and loving someone.
It’s hard now to imagine as I sit with my growing belly among the toddler toys scattered from one end of the living room to the other, that there was a time I wasn’t a mother. When your hopes become reality it’s easier to forget the pain of the process.
But that’s not the case for everyone. So many families are still on the journey. So many mothers and fathers are waiting with no tools but modern medicine, paperwork or simple hope to meet their children. And at the end of the day I believe the only thing that might ease the pain is sharing our stories of what we’ve learned and how we feel.
I know, at least, that was the case for me.
So that’s what we’re doing this month, we’re sharing those stories and we’re providing some resources, but most of all we’re celebrating all the special ways we come to belong to one another.
Have a unique story on how you built your family? Share it on Facebook.com/PrairieParent or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org