I am extremely blessed beyond words to have my partner, best friend, and husband alongside of me for every part of our journey. He keeps us laughing, he is selfless, and refuses to give up. We both believe that the length of our relationship has seen much more than some relationships and marriages will experience in their entirety. Lucky us!
This year especially has been one that has wiped us out. It has been a year where both of us have not known how to hold on as the storms have raged around us. We have kept to ourselves as we have suffered and tried to process through the news of our infertility. We wondered if it was appropriate news to share, who to share it with, how to share it, how people might respond, etc. Ultimately, with the encouragement of my husband we have decided to share with you via this blog. Some things we say might not make sense and that’s okay. This topic really can’t make sense unless you’re experiencing it or have experienced it. This week, National Infertility Awareness Week, is important to me. It’s the only time when I feel it’s really safe to say anything about this highly unspoken about topic.
This infertility has caused a great deal of stress in so many ways. It’s not what I expected but I didn’t really expect it. This National Infertility Awareness Week has given me time to reflect and think to how my life has changed a bit since my diagnosis. If I could offer two bits of advice for this week that most people don’t think about it would be this: a) Don’t ask an individual when her and her husband plan to have kids. I get this all the time and unless she’s one of your best friends it’s not appropriate and something we don’t want to have to think about if for some reason we are distracted and not fixated on it at the time. b) I really debate sharing this one- I’ve strayed away from social media a lot since my diagnosis and have blocked some friends but perhaps it’s not necessary to post a picture of your child everyday on social media. I know they are adorable. I love them too but maybe just send it to family and close friends via text. I’m probably overstepping my grounds so I will stop.
Looking for Sundays
This year I abruptly entered a new decade. For what seemed like maybe even years prior the actual day that I would hit thirty years old, I felt flustered. In my head, I wasn’t worried about the number, getting older, etc- but for me it was a benchmark. A time that not only I was supposed to, but others as well, would stop and look back at what had happened so far. To be honest, even typing those words now increases my heart rate and has me looking around the room for a place to escape. That benchmark that I unconsciously placed in my head and on my heart was so far off from where I was, where I am now, and perhaps where I’ll ever be.
The day I actually turned thirty I barely remember. Looking back now I can’t even recall the day of the week. I don’t even remember waking up and remembering it was my birthday. Very few days prior to my birthday I lost my little brother. Not the son of my mother and father but a young man I had known since the day he was born. His family and my family have been intertwined since before I was born- over 30 years. He was mine, he was ours. We lost him so unexpectedly that the days following the news of His departure were filled with shock, disbelief, horror, and a million things to do. I began the million things to do. I don’t think I slept for the better part of six days and when someone stopped to mention my birthday I was horrified. There was nothing to celebrate. Robby was gone. It was fitting now; it was fitting in my life. I ate breakfast at a restaurant, ordered a hot chocolate, and called it a day.
Now this benchmark I mentioned. I pictured thirty as a time with a bit more stability. I mean, I know, I know- not a vacation home, 3-car family stability but definitely stability greater than this. I didn’t know that 18 years ago the journey that I began with my health and it’s difficulties would only continue to grow and debilitate me greater and greater as each day and year passes. I wasn’t aware that I would be an over-achiever for the first half of my life, graduate with two degrees, to only now be unable to work due to my illness and be completely ashamed of that. I didn’t know that my health would not only cause great financial stress on my family and prevent my husband and I from the only future we only dreamed of- being a mom and dad. That Benchmark- It had me standing tall- with the ability to look people in the eyes and tell them about what career I’m pursuing with my costly education, it saw me with two children(by now) or at least in the midst of raising one with one expected to arrived anytime now, and it saw me making my husband’s dreams of being a father come true. It wasn’t anything extreme. It didn’t even include the great American dream of owning a home(not yet at least). Yet I didn’t make it.
This past summer, after a major operation and some extensive testing, Nate and I were told that we would never conceive a child on our own. Furthermore, we were told that someone should have told us this news when we first got married because it was never going to happen. In fact, if someone had told me when I was first diagnosed 10 years prior I might have had a chance at saving my eggs. Upon, seeing our fertility doctor we were then told the ranges I needed to be in were in the below, below normal range. I believe "dismal" is the word they were trying to find on their charts. As far as egg supply goes, I’m not even on the chart anymore.
There has never been a time in our marriage where Nate and I haven’t been “trying” to start a family. Having had to have emergency surgery on my reproductive organs just 3 weeks before our wedding and having had a total of over 13 reproductive surgeries we knew that it was never something we should put on hold. However, the finality of the words from a doctor that it would “never,” that I was “barren,” that we should have been told this “years ago,” that it was time for a “hysterectomy,” they sent us to a place where we never thought we’d see. A place where silence rang a blood curdling scream, and where words failed to issue any repose.
I cried. I screamed. I didn’t leave the house for days at a time. I withered in pain and Nate and I stared endlessly at each other as we realized our dreams and the future as we had always imagined was over. I grieved the daughter Nate and I named years ago even though she never really existed. The son I dreamed would look just like my husband, I tried to lay to rest in my mind. And then I realized I couldn’t pack it all away in a box in a few weeks time because a month went by and I was still not okay and one month became two and two became five and our story just seemed like it left us farther and farther alone.
At first we didn’t know how to share our new normal or even if to share or who to share it with. I remember begging Nate to not tell his family, afraid that they might not want me as his wife if I couldn’t give them any little babies. As we researched further and met more with our doctors we researched we did have the option to try IVF and that they encouraged it. But it was likely to take three rounds and with our circumstances one round would cost between $30-35,000. But, it was this one bit of hope.
As we began to tell close family and friends we began to notice a separation begin to develop between them and us. At first everyone suggested adoption or foster care right off the bat. We had researched and are proponents of both but feel like right now our hearts couldn’t handle the uncertainty of foster to adopt and while I have an adopted brother and nephew and that is not completely off our plates but we struggle with the financial aspect of that and the emotional impact of that in our lives right now as we are so freshly grieving infertility. A blog that explains this well, from a mother who actually did adopt can be found at: (http://hannahbunker.com/formysistersstillwaitingformotherhood/). Also, those that we told said they’d start a fundraiser on our behalf for IVF. Something we’d never heard of but we were thankful for based on my medical circumstances but also something we never saw come to fruition. It was hard to talk about with anyone because unless you’ve truly been there you can’t understand and that’s totally okay but at the same time you so deeply yearn to be understood. Many of my relationships have suffered because of this awful disease, including my closest ones with my mom, sister, and siblings. While on the flip side, your friends, are all at a thriving place in their lives, pregnant or raising families, feeling almost guilty for having something they’ve worked hard for but you can’t have. It’s this invisible barrier between the two of you and if you’re on the infertile side you realize that as life progresses that bridge only grows wider because family is what we want all our lives to be about and Nate and I are scratching our heads right now trying to figure out what the future is like if we aren’t raising a family and spending time with our friends and their families. How do we not covet? How do we not get jealous? How are we not frustrated or angry at our circumstances? How come having a family for us will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars that we do not have access to when they just got to intimately love their husband or wife?
On Good Friday, at the end of the service the pastor got up and said in summary, “What’s great about Friday for us is that we know Sunday is coming. We can go through tonight and tomorrow and come Sunday morning we can rejoice and know that there is Victory and Death no more. However, what breaks my heart is that there are so many of us in this room that are living in a Friday world. Where you are depressed. Where things are constantly broken. Where you are broken and hopeless and filled with pain. Or you are living in a Saturday world. Where you are brooding, wondering what the future holds, or if it holds anything in store for you. Again, it just seems so desperate or hopeless. You are living in a world without Sundays.” Without looking at my husband, I knew this hit his heart like it had mine. Currently, we are living in a world without Sundays. I don’t know if I will miraculously one day carry a child or if we will one day be in a financial position where we can afford to adopt a family, but I know God wants victory in our pain, in our brokenness, and in our defeat. I can tell you right now it hurts more than I thought possible and to see my husband’s pain through this will never be something I can bring to justice but this isn’t about benchmarks. It’s about the raw sanctity of life and how it’s never how we planned and how if people are looking and they get a glimpse of mine, oh well. Take a good hard look. It’s not anything like I planned. And I’m guessing if we were in the lunch yard in elementary school you wouldn’t be trying to trade me a darn thing. But, here I am- I cry in the car when I’m driving alone and sometimes when I catch my husband staring at a baby or child while we are running errands on the weekend. I know I’ll recognize it when I see it, I’m hoping it’s soon and whether it’s wrapped and swaddled with sweet red hair or a deep breath of air, a warmth, or a peace, I’ll see her when she’s coming and she shall be called Sunday.