It was the summer of 2003, and Tom and I were anxiously planning when we would have our first baby. I wanted to get pregnant in the fall, so that morning sickness and fatigue wouldn't interfere with my “field season” since I was working as a wildlife biologist at the time. We talked about how we would manage child care, what the names would be (our first girl was going to be Rachel in honor of Rachel Carson and we liked Samuel Thomas for the boy, after the grandfathers) and all the things we were going to do with our little ones. We were excited, anxious, a little scared, and extremely optimistic.
Summer gave way to fall and we couldn't wait for that first cycle. Thanks to NFP, we knew how to take advantage of my most fertile days, and so we did. And then we waited anxiously for what we just knew would be our first BFP (big fat positive). We were on our way to being parents, or so we thought.
But it didn't happen. And the month after that, it didn’t happen. And every month after that, for the next two years. We didn't know why we couldn't get pregnant. Now 36 years old, I knew age could be a factor. I also suspected endometriosis but my OB/GYN at the time, based upon my description of symptoms, wasn't convinced that I had endometriosis. Of course, she did no diagnostic tests to determine this. She suggested I consider IVF (in-vitro fertilization) if I was “serious about getting pregnant” and I explained why that was not an option for us. And that was it. I was left with no other options other than to just hope it would happen naturally. I went home, and another year passed.
During those three years of trying, with each cycle, we felt greater and greater disappointment. And this disappointment soon turned into envy and anger as I watched others have the babies that I couldn't seem to have. Gradually, my anger began to affect my closest relationships. Whereas previously, all the conversations with my mother-in-law had usually included the phrase “when we have kids”, over the years, as it became more apparent that the kids weren't coming, we found that we had very little to talk about. The conversations with my sister, who gave birth to two babies during this time, one of whom she decided to name Rachel, became painful. The visits with my parents became strained as Tom and I listened to story after story about their grandchildren (my sister’s children). Everyone had stopped asking us "so, when are you going to have kids?" and were starting to assume we never would. Gradually, Tom and I found ourselves feeling more and more isolated as we suffered alone and in silence.
It was only a matter of time before this started to take a terrible toll on our marriage. Feeling abandoned by our family and God, we turned on each other. I couldn't rationalize a marriage without children. Tom couldn't understand the anger I was directing towards him. The roller coaster of hope followed by disappointment that cycled month after month, year after year, put us both in dark places. Feeling desperate, we attended Retrouvaille and for a while, that gave us a better way to communicate what each of us was feeling. However, everything positive in our life seemed to be overshadowed by the ever-growing despair that came back month after month. What we had been so complacent about in the first years of our marriage had now become our greatest desire. We wanted to be parents. We wanted to hold our baby. We wanted it more than anything.
And then came Francis.