In honor of Mother's Day this week, I am feeling nostalgic. Please join me as I take a trip back to those early days...days of hope and joy, and fuzzy-headed (rather large) miracles...and also stories of sadness and loss, and months of fragile hope and darkness. The jumble of emotions and stories which pave my journey to motherhood.
Catch up on the Journey:
Nothing glues my feet to the battleground faster than a crusade for my daughters. In any battle for my children, I am single-minded and unyielding. I'm sure I'm no different than most moms--we fight for our young. No matter the arena--health, safety, security, friendships, academic--moms have a built-in tenacity to protect their babies.
That is exactly how I felt about having another baby. We didn't feel our family was complete because we wanted Rebecca to grow up with a brother or sister. Or, to describe it more like it felt in our hearts: We didn't want Rebecca to grow up alone.
Disclaimer. Now, for those of you who grew up as an only child--or who are raising only children--please don't take offense! Dave and I grew up with siblings, so this is what we desired. We understood that lots and lots of single children grow up in rich environments, where the bond between parent and child is so special, they wouldn't have it any other way. But, because of our experience growing up with siblings, that is what we desperately wanted for Rebecca.
Why. I'm explaining this mind-set to help you understand the depth of my emotion behind trying to get pregnant again. Through all the difficult months of waiting, the hormonal-induced hoops I made my body jump through, the dark tunnel of disappointment--my battle cry remained: I didn't want Rebecca to be alone. I didn't want her to be alone someday when Dave and I are gone.
Here we go again. We knew it took 2 full years for us to get pregnant with Rebecca. I had met with a fertility doctor back then, but miraculously, I had gotten pregnant before we started any treatment. As soon as Rebecca was about a year-and-a-half, we started trying again. We spent a year charting my cycle and doing all the helpful tricks infertile women do to get pregnant. (Sorry, that's as specific as I'm going...my family reads this blog, you know!!) Suddenly, out of hundreds of used pregnancy tests, I saw 2 lines again! They were fainter this time--but still definitely pink!
Happy happy joy joy. Call it a premonition, or just God being kind to me, but as Dave and I experienced the joyful news, I asked him not to tell anybody just yet. We shared the news with our close family and couple of girlfriends, but no one else.
Oh, the plans! Just because we didn't share the news widely did not diminish how completely overjoyed we were! As soon as I saw the pink lines, I started planning. I imagined our newborn baby that September. I'd already had a Spring baby--now I was going to have a Fall baby! I started thinking about the age difference between Rebecca and this baby--2 1/2 years seemed just the perfect amount.
And then, the not plans. We got to enjoy the excitement for a couple of weeks. At about the 8th week, I spent the entire day with a friend. When I got home that afternoon, I just didn't feel good. It was a Wednesday night, so Dave took Rebecca on to church, and I stayed home and put up my feet. It was while they were gone that I started spotting and cramping a bit. I called my doctor, and he felt like I might be miscarrying. Since it was after-hours, he suggested I come to the office the next day to test my HCG levels. He said we'd check the levels after a couple of days and compare the numbers. If the numbers went down, we'd know I was miscarrying.
Sadness, and joy. I was scared, and heartbroken. But, still I was holding onto hope that just maybe I was only spotting. I had known women who spotted for a little while, and still had healthy pregnancies. While I was waiting on Dave to get home so I could tell him, I got a phone call from one of my dearest friends. The moment I heard her voice, I knew something good had happened. This was my friend whom I had shared the infertility road with. She had battled it much, much longer than I had, and still had never gotten pregnant. She and her husband had decided to adopt, and after a very long wait, were selected by a young birth mom. However, after the birth mom delivered a precious baby girl, there had been some legal snags. The adoption was put on hold, and seemed like it wasn't going to happen. My dear friends had been heartbroken...until that Wednesday night, when suddenly the legal issues resolved, and they were asked to make the several-hour drive to come pick up their baby daughter! Can you imagine their JOY? They threw bags into their car, packed up the baby clothes and diaper bag they had purchased earlier that month, and started driving towards their daughter. Their daughter!!
Opposites attract. This part of my journey was a study in contrasts. Here I was suffering the beginning heartbreak of a miscarriage, when I received the ecstatic call from my dear friend who was experiencing some of the BEST news of her LIFE! Of course, I cried and could hardly keep from yelling into the phone I was so excited for her!
When I got off the phone, I was both overcome with joy, and heartbroken. How is that possible? I don't know. But, it's exactly how my heart felt that night. And, how it felt in the long days ahead of me.
Inside myself. I don't know if you've experienced a miscarriage or not...I sure hope not. I found that I walked through tragedy the same way I treated labor--I turned inside myself. On the outside I moved through the days and activities. I had to--I had a very busy toddler who was into everything! Most people around me had no idea what I was experiencing. But, internally, all I thought about were my hopes and dreams that were dying a little bit every time I sat on the potty. I don't mean to be gross, but my miscarriage was very slow. I bled for a couple of weeks. I grieved most of that miscarriage, alone, and in the bathroom.
Grief. It's not that my husband wasn't supportive, and grieving in his own way. Or that my family and close friends weren't checking on me. They were all very kind and sensitive to my needs. I just chose to grieve alone, and at my own pace.
On a mission. I wasn't frozen by my grief. Rather, I took my time grieving, and then moved ahead. I felt I had a greater purpose ahead of me--I was on a mission to produce a sibling for our Rebecca. Nothing like a woman on a mission to keep things moving! Waiting only 2 of the suggested 3-month waiting period after a miscarriage, Dave and I were back in the sack. (Did I just say that?)
Infertile Myrtle. After a couple more months, we made an appointment with a fertility doctor. Dave and I started jumping through the hoops. We found out I had Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). Although that is a pretty common diagnosis, it did explain my difficulty in getting pregnant. It also explained my hormone imbalance, which probably caused the miscarriage. The doctor put me on some medication to help balance out the hormones. He also started me on Clomid--which can make a girl's hormones crazy. Which is how I felt most of the time during my infertility treatment--out of balance, and a little crazy.
Laughter is the best medicine. Honestly? I could write an entire book on this part of my journey. The tests, the shots, the specimen cups, the everything! I have so many funny stories about visits to my fertility doctor. Even though I felt hopeless and depressed every month that I wasn't pregnant, somehow I kept my sense of humor about some of the unusual positions I found myself in at the doctor's office...literally! Perhaps I should just tell you my wonderful doctor's name, and that would give you some indication how I kept my sense of humor... Dr. Richard Stiff. And I am not even kidding! "Honey, Dr. Stiff needs your specimen cup."
Just me, my husband, and Andy Griffith. Oh my word. A girl has no modesty left when she is being treated for infertility. I especially remember an evening when I was on the exam table. Dave was on one side of me, and Dr. Stiff on the other side. We were all 3 watching an episode of The Andy Griffith Show on the little television...while Dr. Stiff was performing an AI procedure on me. Okay, I'll say it more plainly: We were all giggling and watching The Andy Griffith show--while I was being artificially inseminated. Surreal. At the time, I thought, "Oh my goodness gracious. I am going to get pregnant while watching Andy Griffith, and with Dr. Stiff and my husband right beside me."
The months became years. But, like every other month, that treatment, and those hundreds of dollars, went down the drain. And even though my fertility doctor, and everyone on his staff, were some of the kindest people I've ever encountered in a medical setting, I felt like my sense of humor and sense of hope were going down the drain, too. I really tried to stay focused on the goal--having a baby so Rebecca could have a sibling. But, that wasn't easy when the months of trying were turning into years. I prayed and prayed, but wondered why God hadn't answered. Surely He didn't want to deny our Rebecca the chance to have a brother or sister. Did He? I didn't feel like I was selfishly praying for another child. I just didn't want Rebecca to grow up alone. Surely God could hear my cries?
Alone is a quiet word. I felt Rebecca's aloneness most when we were on vacation. She just didn't have anyone to play with. Vacations were tidy events--and just so quiet. Of course, I over-compensated, and felt like I should play with Rebecca constantly, in order to fill the gaps. Dave and I talked about how we could start inviting a cousin or a friend to travel with us, so she wouldn't have to be so alone.
It's the end of the road, pal. It's funny how women who start down the path of fertility treatments, find themselves facing questions they didn't even know existed. Since I'd had such a dear friend already face these questions and treatment options, Dave and I had decided beforehand how far down the treatment road we would travel. We finally got to the end of that road for us, and the end of money we knew we could spend. I can't say that my heart was content--because I still just wanted to get pregnant. But, I can say that I felt at peace about our decision to stop treatments.
Where to, mister? At the end of that fertility path, I turned to the next available path. Dave and I stood at the front of that path, and decided to step out in faith onto it. That very day, with fingers quivering on the numbers as I dialed, I made the call to an adoption agency to ask for a packet of information. After I got off the phone, I felt a sense of relief. I sat there, my heart pounding in my chest, and my hands shaking a little, and smiled a bittersweet smile. I knew we were heading in a direction we never planned...and even though it felt a little tiny bit like failure, I knew it was a good direction.
...To be continued...
Personal Note: If any of you reading this are traveling any of these paths I've mentioned, I just want to say: I'm sorry. I know you don't need my sympathy, but I do understand a little of what you're feeling. Some of you have reached out personally--and I want you to know that I am still praying for you. Every time I see your picture on FB, or see your name, I say a little prayer. My heart hurts because I KNOW yours does. I know the emptiness and the anger you feel every single time you begin to feel hopeful again.
Please know that this Mother's Day I will be thinking of you, and praying for you. Mother's Day is such a bittersweet holiday for me. I can't ever fully enjoy it...because I KNOW. I know what it feels like to be the one that doesn't get to stand up with all the other mothers (stupid tradition anyway), or one that only gets 1 hand-drawn card...when you'd do anything for 2 drawn cards.
I wrote today, with you in my heart.
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