All my life, since I was a little girl, I wanted to be a mother. Oh, sure, I would tell people I wanted to be a veterinarian or an astronaut, because that's what you were supposed to say. But when I imagined myself "all grown up," I imagined myself as a mother.
Fast forward twenty some-odd years. My husband and I had been married a year and were living an adventure (courtesy of the military) in a foreign country, when we suddenly felt very strongly we needed to stop trying to prevent pregnancy. That is a story in itself for another time, but we both agreed that, even though we weren't "ready" to start having kids, we felt strongly that we were being led to stop preventing pregnancy. It's interesting how much we think we actually control.
Each month we were relieved to discover that we had not yet conceived. But by month number 6 of not preventing pregnancy, I began to wonder what was wrong with us. You may be thinking, "If she was on the pill then it could take up to a year to get pregnant after getting off the pill." I wasn't on the pill. Had never been.
We didn't really become too concerned because we weren't actually trying to become pregnant. But I had begun to notice that we were among two camps of people in that country. There were friends of ours who had many children, and there were friends of ours who were unable to have children. It's been my experience in life that God introduces us to people for a purpose. I was beginning to get a little unsettled about the fact that some of the people he had introduced us to did not have, and could not have, children.
After a year, we talked to a physician friend of ours who told us not to be worried and encouraged us to keep trying. My husband encouraged me to quit my extremely stressful job (which I did gleefully and with abandon), thinking perhaps the stress was interfering with things. After the second year of not preventing passed, when our siblings were expanding their families, we were made painfully aware that we had a problem.
I don't know how many infertile couples actually go through a period of denial, but I'm guessing it's most people caught off guard by their infertility. I was caught off guard. Even with the head's up of having a couple of friends who were infertile, with the prompting to stop preventing pregnancy, and with the recollection of my husband asking many times while we were dating what I would do if we were infertile, I was still caught off guard. (By the way, my response to his question was, "Do you have something to tell me?" He did not. We still don't know why he felt compelled to ask me that question a dozen times while we were dating.) Looking back from where I am now, I can see the divine preparation of my heart and mind for the news. But at the time, I was in denial.
We moved back to the United States (to Texas) and began to settle in. I think, in my state of denial, I had hope that if we just waited long enough (like another year?) that we would just naturally get pregnant.
One morning, well into our time in Texas, I awoke with major cramps. When I say "major," I mean debilitating, nausea-inducing, passing-out-from-pain-down-to-the-ankles, cramps. I was well acquainted with those kinds of cramps. I had been enduring that kind of pain (and passing out from it) since junior high. But it had been a couple of years since I had had an episode, and I was hoping that I had just outgrown them. (I don't know, our bodies are always changing. It made sense to me.) Keenly aware of the fact that I had not outgrown those types of cramps, I called my physician who told me to come in after my period was over. When I went in, tests were run, sonograms were done, and I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Disease. I was told the birth control pill would take care of it and make my periods more bearable, but then I told them we wanted to become pregnant.
With that news, they offered a second course of action. See a fertility specialist.
I don't know what I expected from seeing a fertility specialist. I think I was hoping they could just get rid of my PCOD so I could have normal periods and that maybe I wouldn't have to see them to get pregnant after that. Whatever the case may be, the fact that we wanted to become pregnant significantly narrowed my options, so I went to a specialist.
Three moves, and two specialists later we are farther down this road than we ever thought we'd be. And before you get too sad for me, I would like to tell you that I wouldn't trade a minute of it. Sounds crazy, I know. Would I have ever asked for the pain, the uncertainty, the grief, the unfulfilled longing for children? No. Would I have ever looked forward to walking down this road? No. Has it been easy for us? Not in the least! But I would not be the woman I am today, and our marriage wouldn't be what it is today, if we had not travelled down this road together. There have been countless opportunities for me to help someone carry their own burden of infertility, for us to encourage couples at various stages on this journey. I have learned more about myself, my faith, my husband, and my God, all because of this difficult path.
Few people go around looking for a difficulty to weave into life. Most of us would like to have things be easy and pain free. But I believe that God uses trials and hardship in our lives for our good. And my husband and I are choosing to view this road that we're on as a learning opportunity, an opportunity for growth, an opportunity to be strengthened. Life is too short for us to waste it wishing things were different. We are living this life that we have been given, the way it has been given to us, and we are excited to see where, and who, we will be when it's done.
So, yes, my womb may be barren and seemingly dead at the moment, but my heart is alive.