Sometimes I’m struck by just how much we humans can endure, without anyone else ever guessing a thing. Once the initial wound has turned to scar, we put on a brave face and go about the business of being humans. Getting up and getting our families fed, going to work, walking the aisles of the grocery store, filling in plans on our calendars, all while carrying what once was, or still may be, an incredible gaping wound.
I have lots of internal scars – the loss of an extremely important person, pain inflicted by a trusted friend, disappointments that lingered. We all do. They are the proof of being human. The fault lines of love and loss and the messiness that comes with life on Earth.
For many women, myself included, infertility is one of those experiences that left its mark.
It sliced and diced heart and soul, and left me changed in many ways. To put a positive face on it – more empathetic, more appreciative of what I now have, stronger. But don’t you ever get tired of that saying – What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger? I know I do. I am strong enough as is. Sometimes I just want a break.
My story is similar to some, different than others. Infertility comes in so many flavors that I truly believe no two people share the same exact experience. Mine started when I came off of the pill to try to conceive. What seemed to be regular periods turned out to be anything but. And so, it began.
The first doctor tried me on many different pills and told me to relax – that it was probably stress that was causing the problem. “Get a book on how not to sweat the small stuff,” she actually said. Fantastic. So then it became my fault. If I could only channel a beach vacation then poof! I would be pregnant. If I couldn’t, well, that’s what I got for sweating the small stuff.
I swallowed pills and hoped and waited and shed tears each month when it didn’t work. I gained weight on purpose, lost weight on purpose, swallowed straight oil to increase my fat intake and shed tears each month when it didn’t work. I griped at my husband – agitation was a side effect of my pills, super great for channeling the beach, by the way – and one morning woke up from a faint on the bathroom floor. They had prescribed me the wrong dosage and it knocked me out cold. And still more tears were shed.
And then I stopped crying and decided to try something else. We would adopt.
We would adopt a precious baby girl and we would love her with our whole selves turned inside out. I was done with wanting my body to do more than it could, and I was ready for the weight of that small person in my arms. Finally.
So we filled out paperwork and did home studies. We created a photo album to sell ourselves. We readied a nursery and dreamed. And one day we got a phone call. There was a little girl named Anastasia on the other side of the world and would we come to meet her? More tears were shed. Tears of joy and also tears for this small person that had already gone through so much in order to be in a place where she could become ours.
We flew across the world and waited with our hearts in our throats in the stairwell of an orphanage until the translator said that we could climb up. Climb up the stairs to meet our daughter. Meet. Our. Daughter.
She was precious and hungry and so very on her own and we had to leave her and wait again until a judge said that we could come back to take her home. And we shed tears. We shed tears to leave her without her parents who were now miraculously us.
But three months of waiting, a 22-day stay and two courtroom visits later, she was ours. My arms ached because she didn’t want to be put down. She clung like a spider monkey and made us hers and she became ours.
Four years later when our little spider monkey was well-fed, tall, oh so chatty, strong and vivacious, a little soul found its way to my womb. The womb that doctors said would never carry a baby. Some little person did not believe what the doctors said and so he started to grow. And his heart started to beat. And so many thankful tears were shed. For this experience. For a brother to our girl. For the miracle of surprises.
But then his heart slowed, then stopped its beat.
The nurse looked at me with such a pitying look that I couldn’t leave the room fast enough. The others in the hall cast their eyes at the floor and I walked out feeling as though there was something shameful in my loss. That it was so horrible that others couldn’t even raise their eyes to meet mine. This time the tears barely stopped.
It was women that bore me up. Women that had gone through similar experiences – never the same. Women that said, “Me too. It happened to me too. You are not alone. It is nothing you did. I love you and I will hold space for your grief.” It was women that pieced my heart back together. That helped the wound begin to close, to scab and then to scar.
And that little soul showed me something. That there was still room in my heart for another. Someone was missing in our family. Two someones as it turned out. An incredible doctor told me that he believed all the other doctors had been wrong – that it would be easy for me to become pregnant. So, I put my faith in him, and I put needles into the pinched skin of my stomach and one try later there were two heartbeats. Tears were shed – of gratefulness, of relief and of so much fear. Fear that these two would leave me like my boy before had done.
But they stayed and they grew and they were born perfect and miraculously healthy and then we were five.
My road to my children broke me open in so many ways. You can’t see it on my skin. You can’t see it on my face. You might see it in my eyes, if you catch a moment just right, but most can’t tell how wounded I have been. How wounded many people dealing with infertility are. Our wounds can be beautiful, though. They show our strength. They mark us as warriors. They remind us to be gentle with others who may be hurting, even though their outsides don’t show it. They remind us that we all belong to each other and it is each other who can shoulder the pain. Bear each other up until the wounds close, and we scar.