We talk a lot about birth and pregnancy here, but we know that every woman faces obstacles in her motherhood journey. We want cord to be a safe space to share both the good and the bad. The joys and the struggles. Today, I'm writing about infertility. If you have an infertility story you'd like to share, please email me (firstname.lastname@example.org)
My daughter's second birthday is just around the corner. It's hard to believe it's been two years since I carried her in my belly because I still remember the way her foot felt, pressing up against my ribs. Two years of breastfeeding, of baby-wearing. Two years of laughter, of crying. Two years that far exceeded my expectations of what motherhood would look like.
But I can't lie. During these two years, I've also felt anxious. I've had to fight off a panicked urge. We need to get pregnant again. We need to get pregnant now. I have these thoughts at least once a day. On bad days, I think about it constantly.
The road to conceiving my daughter was not an easy one. We spent over two years and many hundreds of dollars trying to get to the root of my infertility issues. I felt so many different emotions during those months. I felt guilty, I felt inadequate, I felt broken. I felt jealous. I felt scared. We did acupuncture, I changed my diet, we saw specialists, we prayed. When we finally found out we were pregnant in the office of our reproductive endocrinologist, I cried. "It's over," I thought.
Naively, I imagined that once I became pregnant, or perhaps once I became a mother, I wouldn't have those messy emotions anymore. My infertility story would be just that: a story that I would tell and occasionally remember.
But I've found that my story isn't over, and those messy emotions never went away.
I want to have more children. I've already crafted the perfect birth team for my next birth. I dream about getting a positive pregnancy test (something that I never got to experience with Lucy). And we have names picked out, because, well, I'm a planner.
But my husband and I both agree that NOW is not the time.
I'm a full-time birth photographer now. To say I'm busy is an understatement. When I try to be objective, I recognize that having a baby right now would not be the best thing for our family. I love my simple life with our daughter. There's such sweetness in the time I get to spend with her: just Lucy and mama. If I had it my way, we'd wait to try for another year or two. But then once we tried...we'd get pregnant right away. The second part of that dream is what causes those yucky emotions to begin to rise up again.
Because of my history with infertility, I'm scared. I'm scared of waiting. I know there's a very good chance we could have another long road to conception ahead of us. I remember, acutely, the pain of each negative pregnancy test. I remember the tears. I remember the thick fog of blame and guilt that clouded my vision and ability to create.
And so then I just want to get it over with because the anticipation is almost worse.
And if we wait two years to start trying, what happens if we can't get pregnant for two MORE years? I worry about feeling desperate to provide Lucy with a younger sibling. I worry that the sting of those negative pregnancy tests will be even more acute when my daughter is asking for a baby sister or baby brother.
Just like before, I feel a mixture of jealousy and excitement when I find out that one of my friend's is expecting. I wonder, "Will that ever happen to us again?"
I think many people assume that if you've struggled with infertility, your problems are solved once you have a baby in your arms. Even I thought this was true at one point in time. But as I interact with more women (IVF mamas, infertile mamas, loss mamas) I realize that the pain doesn't magically disappear with a positive pregnancy test or a safe delivery.
Even after giving birth, it's hard to trust our bodies when for so many months they weren't working the way they were supposed to work. It's hard to let go of the feelings of inadequacy, of failure, of brokenness. Having a baby doesn't fix that (having a baby doesn't "fix" anything).
And so here I am. In a strange sort of limbo. We're trying/not trying. We're waiting/not waiting. I've found that letting go of control is the best way to tamp down those yucky emotions. We weren't expecting to get pregnant when we did...and it ended up being the perfect moment in time. I'm hoping and praying that perhaps we'll get that lucky again.
But all the while, I'm learning the importance of savoring the moments I have with my daughter. I'm tempted to wean her (in hopes of resuming my cycle) but I know that for now, at least, the connection I have with her is too special to sacrifice. And when I worry about having siblings too far apart, I just think about my older sister and younger sister. My older sister and I are fifteen years apart (almost a whole generation) and my younger sister is five years my junior...and yet we're the very best of friends. Family rarely looks the way you plan it...and that's a good thing.