Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Lent of My Life - My Infertility Story (Chapter 7)

Tom and I have been through a lot of ups and downs in our marriage but probably nothing has challenged our relationship with each other, with our families, and with God more than our struggle with infertility and miscarriages.   So, I wanted to share our story with others who may be facing this same struggle.   I have been posting a chapter each Wednesday during Lent and will post the conclusion on Good Friday. Maybe it can give someone a little hope.   If you missed Chapters 1 through 6, you can read them hereherehereherehere and here.

It was October again, our 8th wedding anniversary and the third anniversary of our loss of Francis, and I sat next to his grave.   I didn't visit it often and the summer months had covered it with honeysuckle. To anyone else, the grave would've been invisible but I knew it was there and I felt ashamed for letting it go unattended for so long.

I had spent the past several months trying to suppress the heavy sadness that was consuming me inside.   I was 40 years old now, and at the age where most people just assumed that Tom and I would never have children.  We had been seriously trying to have a baby for 6 years and waiting to adopt for almost a year.   I had given up on having a biological child and now all indications were that we would not be chosen to adopt due to the lack of babies being placed and our age.   The last remaining hope that I had, which had been that we’d get to be parents through adoption, was nearly gone, and no emotional wall that I tried to built could protect me from the despair I was feeling.  

The most painful part now was knowing that most people assumed we would not have children.  Even I was beginning to have trouble picturing myself with a child.   I didn't dare tell anyone that “we’re trying to start a family” or “I’m trying to get pregnant” because I couldn't handle the “are you crazy?” looks and raised eyebrows that I thought I’d get due to my age.  It was easier to just let them assume I had chosen not to have children and avoid the comments and questions.   It was easy for me to hide the truth, because on the outside, Tom and I were both career-oriented and we were living what appeared to be a great life as a “child-free couple” with all the amenities.  

Even within our family, it seemed that everyone had given up on us becoming parents.  There was no more talk of “when you have kids” and our dog had long ago become the “grand-dog.” They didn't ask for adoption updates and seldom spoke of the fact that we were waiting to adopt.   Our short-lived pregnancy with Francis was never mentioned again after the miscarriage.   Pregnancy and birth announcements of other family members were not always shared with us.  All of this was meant to “protect our feelings” but of course, did just the opposite.  Instead, it made us feel more isolated and put distance between our extended family and us.   We now avoided family reunions and many family holidays were spent “just the two of us”, which was always bittersweet, but less painful than the alternative.  

But as I sat there next to Francis’ grave, I realized that all the walls I was putting around myself, with my family, with my friends, and with my co-workers, were doing nothing more than making me feel less loved and making me less able to love.   I had tried to stop the pain but instead, now I was carrying even more pain.   I was merely existing, and not really living.  My thoughts were completely inward now and I had little compassion and empathy for any suffering of others because I was convinced that my suffering trumped anyone else's.  I filled my head with hopeless thoughts.  I told myself that nobody would pick us for an adoption and that there was no point in pursuing more medical interventions.   I was rejecting all hope but I found myself incapable of replacing that hope with acceptance.  Instead, I was replacing it with feelings of doubt and self-pity. By doing so, I had become a self-absorbed, bitter, angry and envious person.  As I stared at the little grave site that I had neglected for so long, I knew that Francis deserved better.  

I knew then that if I wasn't ready to accept not having children, then I needed to regain the hope I had once had.   Even if it was a long-shot.  Even if I thought I knew what the end result would probably be (i.e., still no baby), I had to have some hope to hang onto.  So, I walked away from Francis’ grave, went inside the house, opened the file drawer and pulled out the letter regarding low-dose naltrexone that my doctor had sent a few months back.    I read it and made an appointment.   I was going to try again.

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