I’ve been thinking of this post, off and on, for a long time. Since my daughter was born really.
What happened was this. When my daughter was born I felt an amazing peace. Not just the peace that I expect most mothers feel, but something much deeper. Something at the very core of my being. I felt a weight being lifted, a weight that I had unknowingly been shouldering for most of my life. While motherhood is difficult and anxiety inducing, I noticed that a deeper anxiety had dissipated and I suddenly felt light, buoyant even.
It took me a little while to realize what this ever present, shoulder hunching, weight was but when I did, it answered a lot of questions for me. It brought me a little closer to myself and shed much needed light on the more shadowy aspects of my being.
I feel like I’m talking in circles and I can’t figure out where to set down and start. I guess I’ll start with my own journey to my daughter. But where exactly did that journey begin?
Did it begin when I was in my teens and twenties, thinking about my own future family while watching the children of others? Did my journey begin when I was 24 and still had never been in a long term relationship and was sure I’d never have a chance to start a family? Or when my period would stop for years at a time and never start again without medical intervention? Did my journey begin when I met my partner and immediately wondered if he’d be the father of my children? Did it begin when I started asking him to have kids sooner than maybe he felt ready for? Or did it begin when we went to couples counseling to make sure we’d be on the same page about having kids before it was too late? Did my journey begin when I started acupuncture months before we officially started TTC, in an attempt to convince my body to menstruate? Or a year earlier, when I visited my OB, asking her how I might keep my amenorrhea (“lack of menses”) from returning? Did my journey start when I began devouring Taking Charge of Your Fertility or the morning I took my first BBT? Did it start the first time we had timed intercourse? My first recorded ovulation? When I wrote my first post on a TTC message board? Did my journey to my daughter start when I got my first BFN? My second? My third? My sixth? Did it start when I got my first BFP? When the spotting started? When I was admitted to the ER? Did it start when I got an MVA and my first pregnancy was deemed ectopic? When they administered the methotrexate shots? Did the journey to my daughter begin when we started trying again? When we got more BFNs? Was it when we got the BFP? THE positive that would become our daughter? Was it when we saw that the second pregnancy wasn’t ectopic? When we saw the heartbeat? When we heard it? Did the journey to my daughter start when I first felt her kick? When I found out she was a daughter and not a son? When I felt the first contraction? When I heard her first cry?
Or did the journey start much earlier than that? Did the journey to my daughter start with my mothers journey to me?
Many women who struggle with IF or pregnancy loss don’t see it coming. They are caught off guard. If it’s infertility, the months of trying turn into years and they start to worry. Test results give a name to their affliction, or they don’t. Either way treatments ensue along with heartache and longing and all the complex emotions that fill in the cracks IF leaves in the foundation of everyone it touches. If they suffer pregnancy loss, it’s usually a surprise, unexpected. They never knew so many people had miscarriages until they’d had one themselves. They feel intense loss, they feel grief. Usually, after a period of mourning, they dust themselves off and try again. Most of them assume that, eventually, it will happen for them.
Not me. I never thought my family would come easily to me. I expected longing. I anticipated loss. I always wanted to start early to give myself enough time, in case something went wrong, in case everything went wrong. I wanted to give myself a fighting chance, in case my story echoed my mother’s. My mothers story was so hard, so full of pain and anguish. I knew it well, I internalized it. My mother’s story could be my own. We shared a common thread – unexplained amenorrhea. Would other threads of her story weave their way into mine? Would my tapestry be that of unexplained infertility and infant loss and recurrent late-term miscarriages, like my mother’s?
From as far back as I can remember I envied complete families. I lamented the fact that some people could have their children easily while others struggled. I’ve never looked innocently at mothers walking with their babies, at women rubbing their blossoming bellies. My entire adult life I’ve walked around in the shoes of the possibly infertile. My whole adult life I’ve gingerly prepared myself to wear that label, to make it my own.
After my ectopic I suffered greatly. Not only was I mourning the loss of my would-have-been baby, but I was bemoaning the mimicking of my mother’s tapestry. Finally I knew that I would share her story of longing and loss. I had not expected an ectopic but now that I’d had one it seemed to fit. My body was broken, in more ways that I even knew to fear. Mine would also be a difficult journey.
In my suffering I desperately longed for some kind of community of women who understood my pain. I poured myself into TTC After Loss boards and eventually found a place for myself on my own blog, a little piece of the internet where I could chronicle my story. Mine was a pregnancy loss blog, but I always felt the infertility label, etched invisibly across my soul, also applied, despite the fact that I hadn’t struggled to conceive nearly long enough. I read others stories and knew mine was not nearly as harrowing. So why did I feel like I understood them and that my story belonged alongside their own? Despite my relatively short time actually trying to conceive, I wore the weight of all the years I’d spent fearing what might be. I’d assumed things would be difficult and, with my ectopic, I was now sure my journey would be an unbearable one.
But then it wasn’t. After only a few months of trying again, we were blessed with a second set of double lines. We waited anxiously to be told if our would-be-baby was wedged somewhere it ought not be, or if this time it had found it’s way to a place where it could be nourished and grow. And, miraculously, it had found it’s way. And it was nourished and it did grow. And it wasn’t afflicted by any defects or other devastations. Our second pregnancy, was in fact, the pregnancy. Our second pregnancy brought us our daughter.
In the hours after my daughter was born I was sure it was a dream. I kept waiting to wake up. I was SURE that she couldn’t possibly be here with us. I couldn’t fathom that she had arrived. I asked almost every person I encountered whether it were real or imagined. They laughed enthusiastically, what a cute thing for a new mother to say, but I was being quite serious. For many days after my daughter birth I waited anxiously… to wake up.
But I didn’t. After a week I started to believe that it was really happening, that my daughter was really here. I chalked the dream-feeling to her early arrival and put it behind me. Looking back, I’m sure my waiting to wake up was rooted in a much deeper fear, a fear that had become, in the space of a day, obsolete.
This fear that had taken hold of me without me realizing – it had dictated my feelings towards families, children, pregnancy and my future for as long as I’ve conducted myself as an adult. This fear, that I would be infertile, that I would follow in my mother’s footsteps, that my legacy would be only the worst of what she experienced, the fear that I’d never be a mother, had taken hold of me, and now that I had my daughter, it was finally letting go.
I still have fears. I know that I might still experience incredible loss trying to complete my family. My mother experienced all of her loss in the seven years between me and my living sister. I know that horrible things can happen, and possibly will. I even know that the unthinkable could take my daughter from me. I am acutely aware of all that I have, and all that I could lose. But some things can never be stolen from me. I am a mother now, no matter how many birthdays my daughter celebrates. No one can take my pregnancy away from me, nor my daughter’s birth. No one can take away these first five months we’ve spent together. No one can take away every moment I’ve already reveled in the miracle that is my baby girl.
And knowing that, knowing that those experiences are safe, takes strength away from my fear. It lightens my load. It lifts a great weight from my soul and fills me with happiness and love and peace and light. It fills me with hope for a future, a contented, fulfilled future – a future that isn’t dictated by my being, or not being, infertile. A future that is unknown to me, despite my mother’s story. A future that I’m eager to live, not scared to confront.
A future with a family. A future with my family, one I can call my own.