National Infertility Awareness Week is April 23-29. More than 15% of couples will encounter and experience infertility. See my guest post, Infertility While Others Are Pregnant, on award-winning Shelley Skuster's space. (It's also an excerpt from my book!)
We are on the other side of infertility.
Do I know if I can conceive and carry to term again or if we would experience secondary infertility? No. Do we plan to find out? The answer is complicated.
We tried to conceive without medication for over a year. I had a laparoscopy done to remove most of my painful, quickly-spreading disease of endometriosis. We conceived on clomid, a horrible hormone driven drug, only to miscarry.
We hoped together, before we were wed, adoption would be woven into our story. We also hoped to experience the miracle of pregnancy.
As we continued to embark on our journey to building our family, pursuing children both biological and adopted, we did our best to hold our hands open. We hoped for both.
Neither is more valuable than the other, both entirely valid ways to build a family. Each so special, so unique, so miraculous.
Six months into our official journey of adoption, when the pregnancy test turned positive, our world was gripped by fear rather than excitement. What if we have to say goodbye? What if they force us to pause our adoption process? What if…?
Wading through the days turned months turned years of waiting and wondering wore my hope thin, but never removed it. Walking through miscarriage made me skeptical of a “successful” pregnancy, but not entirely - just enough to feel a false sense of heart-protection.
As we met each pregnancy milestone, marking each week my body grew rounder and wider, making me swell with not just a baby but a miracle baby, I anticipated birth.
I day-dreamed about the birth experience to come.
When 20 weeks of pregnancy passed into the calendar, we welcomed our first born into our home and family via adoption. I looked forward to our birth experience being a family-of-four event.
Having served many families as they welcomed and birthed their children into the world, I had years of envisioning this day: the day I would birth a child. The day I would conquer birth. The day I would work so hard, physically pushing an actual human out of my body, having him placed on my chest, flesh on flesh.
The awe is not lost on me that people do this, that people birth humans.
When my 2 day home birth turned into a multiple-day hospital transfer and then into an extreme experience of birth trauma, I wasn't ready for the sorrow that would soon consume me. I wasn’t prepared for the miracle baby conceived after trying [for what felt like forever] to also be wrapped up in grief and pain, a sense of loss. I wasn't prepared for our bonding to take intention, for my attachment to him to be a choice and act of deliberately grateful love.
When the miracle I conceived and carried was extracted from me rather than delivered, when I wasn't present for the moment of meeting, when I woke up to nothing but excruciating pain unsure what had happened to me and my body and not really caring where my baby was because of the torturous agony, the ensuing sorrow that followed the days and months shook me.
But not just sorrow - guilt and shame laid themselves into me, preventing me from talking about this birth experience with anyone but our midwife and my counselor. Guilt and shame that after trying to conceive and carry for so long, after losing lives to miscarriage, I felt sad about how our birth turned out.
We are on the other side of infertility.
Sort of. You never really forget the pain infertility imprints into you. You never forget the years of waiting and wondering, the medications, the tests, the doctors, the tears.
Our society is something else, isn’t it? We don’t like pain and we sure don’t like to validate it. Pain demands much of us.
When someone tried to assure me that I was no less my son’s mom because I hadn't birthed him vaginally, my heart raced when I confidently told her birth of any sort wasn't what made me a mom. My cheeks burned hot when I told her there was no question in my mind that I was a mom - I was a mom before I birthed a biological child.
When [many] someones tried to assure me that I shouldn't be sad about our birth trauma because “at least I have a biological son,” I was quiet and refrained from being vulnerable. I was too tender to respond. Vulnerability invites many things, and if not shared with safe people, pain and shame are on the top of the list.
I kept to myself a heart that ached deeply, a heart that endured years of societal-shame for desiring to experience a pregnancy, for mourning a baby through miscarriage, for hoping for a home birth, for grieving the trauma that unfolded as our birth. I withheld sharing with anyone the story of our birth, because it is sacred and vulnerable, infused with sorrow and sadness.
People like to avoid pain as much as possible. Pain is uncomfortable. Choosing to insert our hearts right along someone’s pain is hard, unpopular, and all too rare.
When walking through the years of trying to conceive only to miscarry, I was careful about what I shared with who.
It is difficult for the world to truly understand the desire for a pregnancy doesn’t devalue the worth or love of my son via adoption.
It is defeating to constantly explain that adoption was not our Plan B, we did not get pregnant because we adopted, and birth trauma should have a voice even after infertility.
We are on the other side of infertility, and people are still just as careless with their comments and statements. [Christian] Culture doesn't know how to practice compassion, not truly.
But I am here to continue offering a voice to pain, doing my best to remove shame, make space for sorrow and loss. Not so we can wallow in it; but so we can keep on keeping on.
I am on the other side of infertility and something I have learned is: grieving doesn’t make us less of a person, it makes us a whole person.