i am continually blown away by the amazing women i've met in my life due to my struggles with infertility. it seems an all knowing creator is bent on reminding me that i'm not alone, and while i usually shrug it off, i am indebted to these women for keeping me afloat. one such lady is amanda. she came at a time in my life when i needed a calm voice of reason. she has offered her love and support, undauntedly, which isn't easy to do. i have had the honor of watching her miracle unfold through multiple disappointments and setbacks. she has taught me a whole new way of loving my fellow sisters in infertility. i have no doubt that she will teach you the same truths with her guest post.
Like many little girls, I developed a fixation with fairytales at a young age. I loved everything about the Disney princess films—the music, the dresses, the diversion of fantasy—but most important of all was the prince. I dreamed of the day I would meet my tall, dark, and handsome prince and carry out my happily ever after. I was sure that if I was a good girl, things would go off without a hitch. I would marry my prince and all would be well forever. I didn’t realize then the unnatural quality of fairytales—that they cut off at the marital moment of bliss.
Earlier than happens for most, I met my Prince—Shaye . When I married him a year after I graduated from high school, I knew this was the beginning of my fairytale. Things were going relatively perfectly. Sure, my life hadn’t been perfect. I’d made plenty of mistakes and had a few considerable disappointments in my pint-sized teenage world, but I felt in perfect control of my destiny. On our wedding day in June 2006, I remember the assurance that everything was going to be wonderful now. I had the man of my dreams beside me to slay my dragons (am I taking the fairytale metaphor to its trite limits?:)). Of course, I was right on that end. There has been nothing from this point on that he hasn’t support me in, but I couldn’t have known then that there would be a challenge right around the corner that no one could help me through—no one but myself and my relationship with my Heavenly Father.
Like many young brides of my faith having children was one of my dreams, and I considered it my greatest calling. I knew that it would be a crucial part of my fairytale and that wonderful life I had always imagined for myself. Within a few months of getting married, I was already wanting a baby. Finally, after 6 months, my husband agreed that we could try, but I distinctly remember him saying, “We can starting trying, but don’t freak out if you don’t get pregnant right away.” I waved away his worry. Pssh, of course I wouldn’t freak out! Besides, this was my fairytale. Everything was going to be great!
After a few months it was a nagging annoyance. Why am I not getting pregnant? I was not deeply concerned enough to feel shock or pain, as much as curiosity. I was sure that there was something I was doing wrong. My body can’t possibly be defective, I told myself. It must have been something with the timing or maybe I’m just too stressed out. I tried all the old wives tales. I hiked pillows under my hips or stood on my head to aid gravity. I hearkened the age-old baloney of well-meaning friends and family who told me I just needed to relax, stop thinking about it, or go on vacation. I ate healthier, prayed harder, and did more service. If it wasn’t my body or the timing, maybe I wasn’t worthy enough to be a mother yet.
As the weeks turned to years, the numbing reality sunk in. I am an infertile woman. Suddenly my life seemed to disconnect from the person I had previously understood myself to be. I not only began to disconnect from that trite fairytale of a life I had planned for myself, the happily ever after, but I began to disconnect from womankind as a whole, which was much worse. Am I really still a true woman if I’m not fertile? As we pursued various treatments, the reality became harder for me to bear. I felt like my body was a silent enemy, totally irresponsive to any of the treatments we underwent. My doctors diagnosed me with Stage I (and later Stage II) endometriosis, and they tried to treat me with Clomid, Intra-Uterine Insemination, and 2 laparoscopy surgeries.
I definitely went through a period of bitterness. I felt like there were an army of pregnant women at the grocery store, each anonymous woman looking more ungrateful for her blessing than the next. When women complained about pregnancy on my Facebook feed I would seethe with anger and jealousy. One day, however, a close friend approached me and told me she was expecting her first baby and admitted that she was afraid to tell me. It was then that my attitude dramatically changed.
After my friend had admitted her fear—we had been trying about 2 years then—I entered a more positive stage of my trial. In a wonderful book on infertility, I read advice that rather than being resentful or jealous of others being blessed with pregnancy, to pray for them and pray to be blessed with knowledge and experience from watching their journey. I made a conscious effort to do this, and practically overnight I didn’t have to pretend to be happy for my friends. I recognized that their sharing in my misery was completely futile and would hardly bring me hope. Even when my close friends who had experienced infertility began to become mothers, one by one, I felt strong, though a bit lonely.
Strange as it may sound, however, there were some negative by-products of my positive attitude. I felt myself develop emotional calluses. Initially an incredibly sensitive and vulnerable person, I now felt more light and cynical about my situation, and I approached my fears and sadness with a more stoic disposition. Something that, as 4 and 5 years of infertility passed, was probably necessary, but very disorienting and unlike myself. I no longer prayed for pregnancy, but for the ability to accept God’s will for my family. I found significant healing and comfort in so many ways, through a friend’s kind encouragement, from the comfort of a hymn, or just the beauty of my desert home, but the most significant part of my healing was to give myself permission to rewrite my fairytale—that story in my mind of how it was all “supposed to be”.
Once I freed myself of that old fairytale burden and the allusions of a happily ever after life, I realized that I was not a damaged woman. I realized that there were countless other women—my true sisters in every spiritual sense—who were traveling this road with me. Rewriting my ideals didn’t take the fear and pain away, but it helped me to process infertility in continuity with the person I already knew myself to be.
Just this past February, a miracle happened. Five years into our journey, we pursued IVF, a process that proved to be extremely painful and stressful for me, but one that paid off big. After the implantation of two healthy embryos, we were blessed with the conception of a beautiful singleton, who, if all goes well, will join our family in early November! My revised fairytale is still very much in the making, but I know it is my story. It is not one that I can find in any storybook or on any screen. I know that I will have challenges ahead, challenges that may even make me feel like a person I don’t recognize, but I know that as I continue to rewrite my life and give myself the permission for unforeseen detours that I will continue to evolve into who I am meant to be.
I feel the sweetness of my blessing every day, and I know that my challenge with infertility has prepared me for motherhood and the rest of my life in many important ways. I know that success stories can be isolating for those still suffering, but it is the most important part for you to hear—that there is hope for you! The fulfillment of our hopes looks different for each of us, but we can all recognize the miracles in our lives if we are open to them. For me it was the unfathomable blessing of pregnancy, for you it may be this same blessing, or it may be parenthood through surrogacy or adoption, or just the peace in your heart to keep trying or to accept what is.
Whatever life brings you, I know that one thing is certain. You are no accident. You are not defective. We are blessed to be part of a heritage that allows us to examine more closely than perhaps anyone else what it means to be a mother and a woman. Above all else, I know this for sure—that your challenge is no accident. God has a plan for you and your family. Your revised fairytale is not by some cruel twist of fate or the result of some personal shortcoming; rather, it is guided by an all-knowing Father who loves you.
My dear sister in infertility, be strong. I know a miracle is waiting for you in your revised fairytale.