It’s safe to say I have parented in reverse…
I was in my early twenties, when I began the journey of unofficially adopting my teenage cousin from a bad home situation when we she was only 10 years old – she is now a 21 year old college student living in Denver, Colorado. I was in my late twenties, when I adopted my beautiful three-year-old son from Ethiopia, who has since grown into a gregarious and precocious 12-year-old boy whose life is much like that of any American teenager, revolving around sports, pizza, and video games.
And finally, now as I am entering into my mid-thirties, I am announcing my pregnancy for the very first time after what has been an epic battle with infertility.
And while I have written extensively about Adoption (and you can find much of it here on this blog) infertility is really what this post is all about.
My four children (that’s right I’m expecting twins) will all be 11 years apart, and with such different back stories of how we came together to share this incredible love and family and life, it’s quite incredible, really.
I guess the place to begin when discussing my infertile journey really begins by looking back (and cringing) when I recall the way in which I would smugly and gregariously share with people that “I did not adopt due to infertility” as if it was kind of badge of honor because they were actually “my first choice.”
Ugh. It’s so shameful to even admit that.
But through my 20 year old lens on life, I did sit in judgment at the time of those who would subject themselves to needles, injections, costly procedures and sci-fi god playing tactics as some desperate attempt to remained biologically tied to the ones they called family. I didn’t need that.
No biological kids? No problem. Love was all that mattered.
In some ways I judged those that would choose to get pregnant at all when there were so many children suffering on this planet that were in such desperate need of families they could call their own. I couldn’t understand why everyone didn’t feel the same kind of love and connection to these children that I did. Who wouldn’t want to build a family in this manor? Adoption was magic. It was such a sacred journey and honestly remains the greatest choice I’ve ever made in my life. It’s remained the one thing in my life I am sure of, and I truly remain the world’s largest adoption activist.
But one day the strangest thing happened.
I turned 30. I married my husband. I watched as my best friends grew life from inside their bodies. I visited them in hospitals only moments after they had birthed that life and held the fruits of their labor inside of my hands in awe – it was truly such a miracle. As my darling teenager left for college, and that little three-year-old boy grew to a fast talking, free wheeling teenager himself, everyone around me seemed to be pregnant or basking in the precious intimacies of raising a baby. I missed my children being young, and more than that I had this deep longing inside that I was also somehow missing out on this experience that seemed to be so full magic too.
There was this longing … this new and unfamiliar yearning which then grew rather quickly into an aching to create life. It wasn’t just about being a mother or about loving someone more than I love myself…I knew those things all too well. It was something innate, biological, and spiritual, that almost overnight seemed to consume my entire being. I had to have a baby.
But like they say, we make plans and God laughs.
And so it went…. Just like so many before me that I had sat in secret judgment less than a decade before. It’s a common story these days. Charts turn to ovulation tests that turn to pills, surgeries, than injections, than more surgeries, more injections. I’m not exaggerating when I say I ended up taking thousands of injections.
It no surprise that my husband and I fit the statistic on conflict between spouses that are enduring fertility treatments– I mean the pressure and anger and disappointment can do a real number on marriage.
Then comes the waiting. There is so much damn waiting; I swear the cumulative patience of sitting in the unknown is enough to kill someone. The 2 week waits. The waiting for results. Waiting for phone calls. Waiting for the doctor to come into the room. When I look back its really more or less just a series of days spent in the wait. It’s truly incomprehensible how we find the patience within ourselves to fight another day.
There are hundreds of doctor’s bills, bruises, scars and tears. Month’s turn into years that turn into some wins that for us turned into losses that became so heavy I finally stopped talking about pregnancies and babies all together. You avoid the mom’s outings. You try desperately to hide the pain every time someone else you know announces that they too just “magically got pregnant the first time they tried.” Then finally, in the darkness of all of the failure you somewhere along the line convince yourself to simply stop wanting it.
And just like that I was right back to “who wants a stupid baby anyway. Babies look miserable”
But I did. As ashamed as I was of it, I so deeply and desperately wanted to be pregnant. It took me a long time to realize that desire didn’t somehow make me an adoption club traitor…and it did not in any way take away the love I felt for my son of my cousin, or discounted the ways in which they were 10000 percent “my own” in every way….it just made me human.
Shame is really the foundation of infertility and man; it can really make you feel like the worlds largest failure. It can make you feel like you are on the outside looking in on what seems to be such a “normal” and “natural” part of life.
And so on it goes, and goes, and goes….
And there I was; bent over in the airport bathroom, injecting myself for the zillionth time, covered in bruises and cellulite from all the hormones, sobbing all over myself because I couldn’t regulate my emotions, and crawling out of my skin from all of the anxiety of the “what if’s this doesn’t work and can I let it go’s and do I have it in me to do this again’s?”
And that is the pain of infertility.
You start and stop dreams and life and desires and hope. You go up and down and the scars are so deep and some of the losses are so heavy you are not sure if you will ever fully recover.
And so while today I announce my pregnancy publicly it is important to me to acknowledge all of my fellow soldiers in war. It’s important for me to say we are in this together.
There are no two words in the human language more powerful than I understand.
And so to all of those out there who are still on the roller coaster of the journey, let me just say I am here to say…. I understand.
To my fellow infertile army: To the ones who were forced to let it all go. The ones who said goodbye, sometimes over and over and over again to the life growing within them. To the ones who adopted out of choice, and to the ones who adopted out of infertility – because we all learn it doesn’t matter how we got there – because once you’ve been there than you know the “magic” of it all. To those are too ashamed to admit it. To those who are just at the beginning and wondering if they have it within themselves to keep going. To the hopeless, the ones who feel like they are on the outside of the mom club, and those who are entering the club for the first time as adoptive parents.
I honor you. I cherish you. I understand you.
And if I’ve learned anything throughout this entire journey it is all summed up in this quote:
“Face your fear, empty yourself, trust your own voice, let go of control, have faith in outcomes, connect with a larger purpose, derive meaning from the struggle.” –Kano Jigoro