Posts tagged Infertility
In the Midst of Darkness, Hallelujah We Sing

Have you got that one defining experience under your belt that changes who you are? Has your role as mother ever veered off course, only to drop you upon land you don’t recognize? Maybe you look in the mirror and hardly recognize the person you once were…

It took my husband and me 14 months to conceive our daughter. As the conception process goes, it started off exciting. We were exhilarated at the thought of bringing a baby into our lives. Time slowed, though. The more periods that showed up on my doorstep each month, the more deflated I became. But it happened at last! There came one day I peed on that blessed test, and I reveled in the mystery that is creation.

In early 2013, after a textbook pregnancy, I landed softly into new motherhood. As it goes, in the months that followed my daughter’s birth, my heart, my body and my mind rocketed through wild emotions and experiences. I felt elation, tumbled into postpartum depression, and squirmed my way through sleepless nights, unintelligible cries and a premature return to the workforce. I conquered it all, though. Being a mother suited me, it seemed. Having a child fit me well.

As time passed, my husband and I hemmed and hawed about how seriously we should take our efforts at controlling conception. I wasn’t sure we should ever waste another dime on birth control. And sure enough, as soon as we were ready to try for a second, we conceived! I was pregnant with my daughter’s sibling as if by miracle. I was elated, I was nervous, and I was exhausted. I was a mother to a preexisting 18-month-old. I was over the moon to someday meet this beautiful new being, but monitoring my pregnancy week-by-week was a thing of the past. I was already up to my eyeballs in spoon-feeding, breastfeeding, diaper changing, and tiny-toddler-wrangling.

When that growing baby of mine reached nine weeks gestation and then let go inside my body, my world crumbled. My baby’s heart had stopped beating, and mine shattered into pieces.

And to the floor I fell and stayed. Our fruitless efforts at conceiving a third time became so arduous that I found myself in my doctor’s office. I was told that I would never fall pregnant again. Secondary infertility clambered up my back and settled as a weight upon my shoulders. So through and beyond the floor I continued, downward and into the earth, deeper and deeper, until I landed in darkness.

In a succession that spanned two years, I gave birth, lost a life, and was robbed of a future I thought I had laid out in front of me. Instead of looking toward the future with hope, I mourned the passage of time with a longing for what would never be, and a bittersweet gratitude for what I have. I have one daughter, a miracle in her own right, but she is the only little person to whom I devote my love, and the only one I will raise and watch grow. So instead of wild chaos, sibling rivalry, and hand-me-downs, I will watch with equal parts joy and heartache as my only child ages far faster than I want her to.

Never again will I get my yesterday with her back, or the day before. Our days of breastfeeding and spoon-feeding mushy peas are behind us. I've already seen her first tooth break the surface of her gums and I've watched her take her first step. My husband and I have been through potty training, we've taught her how to dress herself, and now we're watching her learn to ride a bike. Each of these milestones are ones to celebrate—and celebrate we do indeed—but I grieve over the passage of time all the same, and I do so in a way that I can only surmise is unique to those of us who never wanted to raise a child with no siblings. 

On most days since that loss, I sit down in quiet stillness with myself. Are my struggles visible? Surely they’re etched deeply in the lines on my face. Do I make room for all with which I wrestle? Do I house my pain? Do I hold it, nurture it, or give it space? Well, surely I must, for all of it has its place.

My life, as I watch it unfold, is both infinitely rich and deeply lacking. My present looks nothing like I wanted it to. I am broken, and I am beloved. I am a stronger, more resilient woman than I used to be. My heart has been crushed and broken, and my mind is a great ship enduring rough seas.

And so, I am exactly the mother that I am because of what I have weathered. I pour myself into my daughter, and I drink her in with fervent love. I live with a white-knuckled and ardent desire to take everything I can from my time with her, and in return, give her all that I have. The loss of her sibling and my ensuing infertility completely reformed the way in which I parent. It changed my trajectory, my speed, and my level of intensity and my dedication.

Yes, my hope is gone, and yes, a child of mine is lost. But what remains is a deep love for what I’ve been given – for my one living daughter – and a knowing that it's my very privilege to spend the rest of my life with her.

Every struggle, every hardship, every great feat we conquer – all of it envelops us, hardens and softens all the same, and lifts us up to heights we’d never before seen.

“Hallelujah,” sings Leonard Cohen.

 Hallelujah, hallelujah.

 We are mother.

JOURNALIST: Sandy Jorgenson

Coping with Change

Feeling unheard is disheartening, particularly when it is by those who’s job it is to hear and assist you. Since the age of twenty-one, three months after the birth of my second child and immediately following the application of the intrauterine device, I've dealt with abiding health concerns. I wonder if every doctor I sought out didn’t take my concerns seriously because of my age? My youth may have given the illusion I was inexperienced or even attention-seeking with my descriptions of how I was feeling. To be sure, I urged them to consider otherwise. I needed to be heard, seen and alleviated, and after three years of battling, someone finally heard me, saw me and did everything in his power to help me. 

My diagnoses: High-grade abnormal cervical cells and chronic acute pelvic inflammatory disease, causing severe endometriosis and an iron level of two due to my body’s inability to regulate. The words “you are going to need a total abdominal hysterectomy” are forever etched in my mind. It is a devastating blow to any woman – the loss of such an honouring ability. At the time, though, it wasn't as devastating as most would think. I was all-consumed with being free of these health issues rendering me exhausted, irritable and depressed. A future with these burdens would be a grim one at best, with no relief in sight and already experiencing what one doctor called a “chemical pregnancy”. I had to view this as nothing more than an opportunity to close the door on these burdens, but in retrospect, I couldn't have possibly grasped the value of what I'd have to sacrifice - something I'd likely grieve the rest of my days. 

The day of my surgery arrived quickly. I sat in the pre-op room, being pep-talked and prodded with needles, while trying to calm my eager spirit. I remember saying to myself “giving the children you have a healthy mother outweighs giving them more siblings and remaining this way.” Soon after, my nurse entered the room to bring something to my attention. I braced myself, preparing to hear my irregularity caused my iron to be too low to preform surgery safely, and I'd have to wait. That would have been easy to accept compared to the news I actually received – the news I’ve yet been able to fully comprehend. She told me what I thought was simply irregularity, was in-fact much more. “You are having a miscarriage, dear.” Aside from the rapid, painful pounding in my chest, everything went silent and I felt like I was suffocating. I wanted to scream, tear the I.V. from my arm and run to my husband; however, I was alone and my only option was to pull myself together. But how? On the day I was to become barren, I was loosing a baby I was unknowingly carrying. “Emily? … Emily?” And I was brought back to reality. “What will I be telling the Doctor we will be doing?” I looked up at her, tears on my cheeks, and replied “well, I guess that confirms it then. I still have all of the health problems I came here with, and a uterus that can't carry a baby, so why keep it?” She left to inform the doctor we would be continuing as planned. 

For months following the surgery, I was content with my reality. Becoming well felt revitalizing. I could play with my children, I had energy and it was as if I was finding myself again - the parts of me that had lost their vibrancy through the dulling hinderances my health problems presented. One-by-one, as a result of this newfound passion for life, aspects began to fall into place – bringing fourth a flame in my marriage that had become merely embers. At nineteen and twenty-two, my husband and I hastily married. The first five years of our marriage consisted of a whirlwind of events, resulting in our passion and pursuit for one-another ranking in low on our list of priorities. However, this now-burning flame brought with it another, one I thought I had escaped the flames of. But like the first few years of my marriage, the flame of desire to carry life within me hadn't fully extinguished, even through times 

I was convinced it had. The burning embers that remained were now receiving the oxygen needed to flare-up and tear through me. 

My husband and I really know each other. We are truly happy, and are deeply in love - three gravely important things we couldn’t say about our relationship through the first five years of our marriage and our pregnancies. These realizations lead me to wonder what it would be like to experience a pregnancy and birth in this security; to actually try and conceive, to feel the overwhelming emotions together when beholding those two pink lines on a test. Crying those tears of joy and knowing even through the uncertainties pregnancy and life in general may bring, I could rest in the conviction of remaining hand-in-hand with my partner. The mutuality of these feelings brings me comfort, but also a hefty sense of guilt, being the one unable to make this dream of ours a reality. But, he reassures me and challenges me to stop and observe all we already possess – our divine, God-given reality. 

For as long as I can remember, my Creator instilled in me the desire to be a mother and, in His timing, I became one. Were we ready for this profound responsibility? Some might think no, but I believe our Makers plans were, and are, far above our own. If we had waited until we thought our marriage possessed the strength required for the journey of parenthood, my illness would have kept us from knowing and raising the two beautiful souls we have today. I may be unable to create and bring more children into this world for us to raise and our children to call siblings, but what I am able to do is equally as rewarding. I am able to vibrantly live a life of health, love and joy, with my husband and the two incredible children God graciously allowed us to call our own, for that, I am eternally grateful.

Journalist:  Emily Earle