Wednesday, November 30, 2016

We Probably Won't Have Another Baby

Where to begin? Even thinking about this topic causes my emotions to bubble over until hot tears rush down my cheeks. While my son enthusiastically (and loudly) plays Madden 17 in the other room on his Xbox, I am a blubbering hot mess in my bed. I am the same blubbering hot mess that I was at the end of Marley and Me and the same blubbering hot mess that I was when I watched P.S. I Love You. I'm talking the snotty, salty ugly cries. It's so ugly it's scary. Literally. It is literally scary. My husband is the only one who has ever seen me cry like this, and I see horror and distress looking back at me in his eyes. It's shaky and I sometimes hyperventilate when I cry like this. It's the kind of ugly that is the rawest of raw. And I'm about to get really raw so buckle your seat belt.

People read my blog for encouragement with dashes of humor thrown in. Although I do have pain in my life, but I usually spin that pain around and share what I'm learning so people won't feel alone. I want them to be encouraged and uplifted. I want my readers to walk away from my blog happier than they came. That's always my main focus because that's what I want my friends to walk away feeling IRL. I have no encouragement today. I have no sunshine. I have no digital hugs to give. I'm sorry about this. I truly am. My heart is again shattered after yet another month has passed… and I'm still not pregnant. 

Every month I think I'll be better prepared to handle the disappointment... and every month I am more emotionally leveled than the month before it. More money down the drain spent on negative pregnancy tests and unsuccessful doctors visits. More wasted time and energy. By my estimation, we've probably bought about 67 zillion pregnancy tests in the 7 years we've been waiting. 7 years is equal to 84 attempts. 84 failures. Now, this may not sound like a huge number. But anyone who has ever tried to have a child will tell you, the 12 it takes to be considered "infertile" feels like an eternity. 

Gosh, infertile. I even hate the word. It implies brokenness. My system is a defective model. It lacks the ability to perform its only function. And even though it's not my fault, stage 4 endometriosis makes me feel like such a failure. This disease not only kills my ability to have more kids, it rocks my body with such unbearable pain that I occasionally cease to function as a human. The pain can sometimes be so severe that I am frozen mid-step, unable to move.

I turned 30 this year, which obviously still isn't too terribly concerning when it comes to my biological clock. But I started a family early. I was 19 when I had my son, which makes him 11. Thank you, math. NOT! My biological clock isn't ticking so loud it's keeping me awake at night, but my kiddo gets another month older every time my reproductive system fails me. I don't want to have a high schooler while we're starting completely over. My husband feels the same. I'm dangerously close to time running out for my husband and I to have another child. I think that's why this gets harder as time goes on. I know the time to give up is coming. And I'm terrified.

I'm terrified because I don't know who I am without being a mom with a kid at home. I never really got to figure out who I was before I became a mom, and I found an identity I loved when my son was born. It's one of the only things I feel proud of myself for. So who am I without it? I know my son will obviously be in my life after he grows up, but if I don't have someone to pack a lunch for, or someone to play Plants vs. Zombies with, or someone to take to football practice, or someone who needs help with their homework, or a child to feed every night at dinnertime, then who am I? Who will I be, then? I haven't the slightest clue.

I already feel him slipping through my fingers. He's not leaving for college or anything, but every day I feel him getting closer to that finish line. I feel him making the transition from boy to man, and as excited as I am about his future, I know that I won't know what to do with myself. The mom lane is the only lane I've been in as an adult, and I know I'll struggle greatly with the empty nest lane. I want to stay in this lane. I like this lane. I'm comfortable here.

I always planned on having a lot of kids. I'VE. ALWAYS. LOVED. KIDS. No one ever had to make me play with my sister that is 10 years younger than me. I fell in instant love and we were stuck together like glue whenever I came to her house. I grew up in a different state than she did, and I would count down the 12 days I would have to wait to see her again. Leaving her every other Sunday was absolutely devastating. I gravitated to serving in middle school ministry for a very long time. MIDDLE. SCHOOL. GIRLS. This is an age known for tweenagers with sassypants and mean girl drama, but I loved every minute of it. I adored my church girls. I still do as they grow up and go away to college. All of this to say that I am gravitate to kids. And they gravitate to me. Strangers' babies have always grinned so big at me and wanted to be held by me. This may sound ridiculous, but it's true. Every time I see a baby in public, it will lock eyes with me and smile. My husband comments on it "these babies are drawn to you." And I'm likewise drawn to them. I always imagined a life with at least 4 of them. 

I have been shamed that I'm struggling with this because at least I have one. Not everyone does. This is true. I get it. I totally do. I can't imagine the pain of never being able to be a mom. If I was in their shoes I would be thinking exactly the same things. But I promise I can feel overwhelming joy and pride for the one I do have while grieving for the ones I don't. I promise that it is possible to feel both emotions at 100%. Simultaneously. Secondary infertility is a lonely road. You are don't quite fit with people facing primary infertility and you don't quite fit with the people who have more than one kid.

Having an older child means that you're around people that have more kids than you do. And while they were all getting pregnant the second and third time, I was CONSTANTLY getting asked when I would "get around" to having more. I was getting told that having an only child meant he would be spoiled. I was told having only one was a selfish decision when it was never a decision at all. I was being told that my life was SO MUCH easier because I had "just one". Those words "just one" pierced my heart like shards of hot glass. People tell me it's not in God's plan. Ouch. That one had me paralyzed in a shame spiral for years thinking that God must think I'm a terrible mother. Or maybe he was punishing me for getting pregnant the first time before we got married. People tell me that my 40's will be awesome. I can travel and "live free". I don't want to. I'm dreading it. It doesn't feel free to me. 

I know most people mean well when they say things to me. But 98% of the things people have said have been unintentionally hurtful. I think we're just uneducated as a society on how to support couples going through infertility. We just are. So if you're wondering what to say to someone struggling through this, and feel like you don't have anything to say… I get it. Because nothing you can say will fix it. But there's a whole laundry list of things I feel like you shouldn't say.

Don't tell these people to just wait on God's timing. Don't tell them at least they don't have to deal with the expense or hassle (IMO, this is tantamount to telling someone who just lost their father that at least now they don't have to buy gifts for his birthday.) Don't tell them this could be a blessing in disguise. Don't tell these people to stop stressing so much. Don't tell them it will happen when they least expect it. Don't tell them to take a cruise. Don't tell them "so and so got pregnant with this home remedy of herbs and fairy dust." Don't tell them to cheer up. Don't tell them everything will be OK. Don't tell them that praying hard enough or having enough faith will give them the child they so desperately want. Don't tell them that at least their miscarriage was early, as if that would soothe the pain in any way. Don't tell these people to pursue more treatments than they are comfortable with. Don't tell them that pursuing treatment is wrong. 

AND FOR THE LOVE OF GOD DON'T ASK THEM "WHY DON'T YOU JUST ADOPT?" In our case, my husband wasn't a US Citizen for a long time so we were ineligible. Now, I have gone public with my diagnoses of chronic depression and complex PTSD so our application ain't exactly at the top of the heap. Adoption is far too expensive for some couples. Adoption doesn't always fix the grief of being unable to experience pregnancy anymore than getting a new dog heals your heart after your longtime pet got sick and passed away. A lot of people need time to process letting go of the idea of having a child with daddy's eyes and mama's smile. Adoption is beautiful, and I'm not slamming it, I'm just saying that this doesn't automatically heal the deep wounds of infertility. For some it does, but it doesn't for everyone. 

What should you say to someone struggling with this heartbreak? Say "I am so sorry you're going through this. I wish you weren't. How can I help you?" That's it. Don't give advice. People in this predicament have had ENOUGH advice. Believe me. They have heard it all. And they have been hurt by it all. All they want is a friend to listen. Not to talk. Not to teach. Not to find the silver lining. But to listen. And to make it safe to unleash the salt and snot of the ugly cry. 

I probably won't have another child. I couldn't say that out loud for years. And it was hard just to type it out. Right now I don't feel like keeping my chin up about it. Right now I feel like crying. Alone.

Because letting go of this completely will be hard enough work without working at faking being OK. And today I'm telling myself it's OK to not be OK. It has to be. Because it's not OK to let go of the images I've had in my head of a new baby to snuggle. It's not OK that I spent thousands of hours crying out to God for a child that probably won't come. It's not OK that I have near constant dreams of being pregnant or holding a newborn and wake up in a puddle of tears when I {again} realize it wasn't real. It's not OK that I've had so many days of locking myself in my room to secretly cry so the child that I do have doesn't see it. It's not OK that while I'm crying I'm feeling guilty for laughing and playing with him. It's not OK that every prayer my son prays he says "and please help us have a baby." It's not OK that he has prayed this thousands of times over the years. It's not OK that any first milestone I have with my son is also likely my last I will experience as a mother. It's not OK to feel so defective. It's not OK to face the reality that we probably won't have another baby. But it is OK to not be OK. At least for today.

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