What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. Today's submission is from Becca.
Hi, I’m Becca. Although I currently spend most of my time playing peek-a-boo, wiping noses, and driving to play-dates, my life wasn’t always this way. The road to my children was long. So what I’d like to tell you about is the impact of infertility. Some people may think this is too personal of an essay to share, but I would quietly disagree. Too many people are affected by infertility, pregnancy loss, and just loss in general. And yet we talk about it too little.
I wrote this essay way back in 2004, right after I lost my mom to cancer and less than a year before we adopted my son, James. It was not a hard decision for us to choose to adopt. I had always dreamed of adopting at least one of my children and my husband and I both thought it silly to waste time, money, and emotional energy on treatment for infertility when there were so many children who needed homes. However, it *was* extraordinarily hard to come to terms with the fact that I might not also get to carry and give birth to a child.
I know now that things unfolded exactly as they were meant to. I wouldn’t change a thing, even if it meant experiencing every single broken heart all over again. Without a doubt, this is the family I was meant to have and it brings tears to my eyes to envision a world without my James in it. And yet. The grief I experienced way back then was real, and grueling, and pervasive. To ignore or deny that would be to discredit the pain of all those who continue to struggle on their journey to parenthood. With that in mind, here’s what I want you to know.
I have read the impact of infertility can be compared to losing a loved one. When I first read this, I thought it was a hyperbole; that infertility could never bring as much pain as losing someone you love with all your heart. I was wrong. I know this because in the past year, I lost my 53 year old mom to cancer and, in the same year, have realized that my dreams of conceiving a child will likely never be realized.
To those who have never experienced the emotions of infertility, it may be hard to see the comparison.
It became crystal clear to me one night as I was sitting at a football game, surrounded by a new mom and an expectant mom. The game was spent reveling in the miracle of childbirth, chatting about where the best place to give birth might be, comparing the best buys for strollers and baby gates.
To many, this may not seem like a hard situation. For me, it was tough.
I was at the beginning of a new treatment cycle, and was still working through the fact that my last attempt to conceive a child, like the thirty before it, had not worked. With only one treatment cycle to go before we officially stopped trying to conceive, I was in mourning. Mourning for the little baby that I had always dreamed of growing inside me. Mourning for the infant that would have had my husband's eyes and my nose.
Mourning the feeling of a tiny newborn, one that I had helped create, sleeping in my arms.
If it is still hard to imagine how difficult this situation might be, maybe I can compare it to losing my mom. Except, instead of the huge outpouring of love and support I got when I lost my mom, imagine if nobody acknowledged her death. Imagine that every day was Mother's Day, and everywhere I turned, someone was talking about what he was going to buy his mom. Imagine that I was sitting at that football game, a few days after my mom died, and my two friends spent the entire game talking about their moms; what they were going to do with their moms the next day, how much joy their moms brought to their life, how they couldn't imagine their lives without their moms. Tough situation, right? That's what infertility is like.
When I lost my mom, I couldn't imagine how life could go on. I had so many dreams for our future together.
My mom taught me everything I know about life, and I needed her desperately for all I had yet to learn. As time passes, I am slowly learning that life does go on; that there is happiness here. It's not a bad life...it’s just a different one than I had imagined.
Grieving a loved one is a process of sorting through all your hopes for the future, and slowly untangling that person from those dreams. In the same way, experiencing infertility requires a slow release of the dreams that you had of conceiving, carrying, and giving birth to a child. It doesn't mean you can't have a child. It just means that you may have to untangle your hopes of conceiving from your dreams of being a parent.
As my husband and I let go of our plans to conceive a child, we are pulled in the direction of adoption. I can't help but feel that my son or daughter is out there, waiting patiently for us to help him or her find the way home.
Infertility *is* losing someone you love. I have loved my unborn biological child for as long as I can remember. It is heart-breaking that I will never get to meet her. But mourning also requires moving past the "should be" and learning to live in "what is". Should I get to have my mom as my guide for many more years to come? Yes. Should she have gotten to meet her grandchildren? Absolutely. Should I be able to experience the wonder of a child growing inside of me? You bet. But there is no "should be". Grieving is a process of letting go of the "should bes" to make room for what is.
There are good things here, too. I am a much stronger person than I was a year ago. I have learned the value of my amazing husband, my beautiful friends, and my supportive family. I see with amazing clarity how precious life truly is. I have very little fear left, for the things I feared the most are coming true, and I am still standing. My compassion for those who are suffering has deepened, and I am no longer afraid to comfort them. I have patience for the small trials we go through each day, because I know how hard life can be. I can see God's fingerprints everywhere. I have met many angels in my journey, most them disguised as people here on earth. I am grateful for the truths that have been revealed to me.
Yet, through it all, I grieve.
"There will come a time when you believe everything is finished. That will be the beginning."
Becca is a coffee-drinking, fast-talking, inspiration-seeking, adoption-loving, sometimes rambling, always smiling, working mama of two who has a tendency to spill things. When she’s not busy kissing her baby, playing with her 5 year old, or doing laundry, you'll find her blogging about her adventures in motherhood over at http://www.liveoutloudwithme.blogspot.com/