Throughout our 11 and a half years of marriage I have only ever thought I might actually have a chance of being pregnant twice. The first time was probably 8 years ago. And then the second was this past month.
For one thing I wasn’t experiencing my usual PMS symptoms. And then for two weeks I had several early warning signs. Within that time I took two pregnancy tests (both negative). Something inside felt different though. So we waited for evidence that could not be ignored.
Shockingly it seems more likely that I’ve experienced what is called perimenopausal symptoms. This isn’t confirmed at this point. However, my mother went through this around my age as well. Coming to grips with this possibility has been difficult; Another painful layer of letting go of the storyline I had in my mind.
I am 37 years old. My husband and I have lived with unexplained infertility for 10 years. In that time we have waited and grieved too many times to count. We became parents through adoption 5 years ago. (Read Our Adoption Story.) Our love for our son has overflowed since we first touched the pregnant belly that held him. There’s never any sense that we’ve missed out on the best or most realistic parts of parenthood because we’ve adopted. Our bond of love is strong and so are the day to day challenges.
And yet even after all this time hope for a pregnancy remains. I love the blossoming round bellies of pregnant women. For many years I have dreamt of wearing maternity clothes and being photographed in the setting sun a month or two before delivery. I love what birth and the womb represent physically as well metaphorically. For many years I have longed to feel these truths in a deeply experiential way. Even with all the pain and discomfort I hear about.
These days though it rarely brings me to tears. I can handle pregnancy announcements and for the most part I’m able to joyfully attend baby showers. But this month with the surprising hope of being pregnant I cried in the bathroom.
Many would say this hope is a good thing. I suppose it can be. But I’ve learned that hope can quickly become the most painful part of living with/surviving infertility.
Hope is difficult because over time it can make the heart sick with unfulfilled longing. When a couple says to each other, “Better luck next month”; This is a sign of hope. Or when they decide to enter the world of fertility treatments; This is a sign of hope. But along with this continual hope month after month there is an inevitable and unbearable sense of grief and loss that refuses to be silenced. A perpetual death. For me this death was only ever the death of a dream. But nevertheless it was a dream with a very real beating heart.
When someone is in this stage of their reproductive story they may find it hard to allow room for their grief. Because hope and grief have a hard time occupying the same space; In the same way that life and death do. Being in between doesn’t really work for us. It’s either one or the other. Otherwise there is a sense of disequilibrium.
But when we’re allowed to let grief or death or loss in then we are left with the potential or hope for something beautifully unexpected. A life re-visioned. A life reborn.
These days I prefer to visualize hope lingering patiently in the background while surrendered trust is allowed to take center stage. Surrendered trust doesn’t hold to outcomes. It allows for uncertainty and chaos. It believes that God has a better story for me than I have for myself.
October 9-15 is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness week. Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day is a day of remembrance for pregnancy loss and infant death, which includes but is not limited to miscarriage, stillbirth, or SIDS, or the death of a newborn. It is observed annually in the United States and Canada and, in recent years, in the United Kingdom and in the Australian States of Western Australia, New South Wales and in Italy.
Today (October 15,2015) at 7:00pm candles will be lit in memory of precious lives. I have dear family and friends that have endured this devastating loss. My heart and prayers are with you.
May 19-28, 2015 was Canadian Infertility Awareness Week (CIAW). This important week is a time for those who have experienced infertility, their doctors, friends and family to come together and show support for others who are struggling with fertility through conversation and open dialogue. It also provides an opportunity to educate the general public on matters of fertility health and the prevalence of infertility in our society (quote from genesis-fertility.com.)
I value this time of creating awareness and offering support to those struggling with infertility. However, many of these individuals may need a day of remembrance for the dream of the baby that has been lost to them. Especially if they are no longer pursuing that hope through treatments. Or if they wake up one morning and realize that change is coming sooner than they thought.
I’m blessed to be reminded that in my emptiness I have in fact felt and lived a deeply experiential birth story. It’s a story worth sharing because it’s one of hope and powerful hospitality. I encourage you to share your own.
So today in remembrance of the loss of my dream I will light a candle.
“Suffering and death bring with them a certain attentiveness that an endless string of days does not. They sharpen our focus on life and deepen our curiosity about its hidden drawers and corners. Facing our own death or experiencing the loss of someone we love is an awful, terrible ache…but an ache infused with the beauty of multifaceted memory and seasoned with the hope of a future, joyful reconciliation that will make this life’s best moments pale in comparison.” – The Beautiful Ache by Leigh Mc L’eroy