Back in 2000 when we adopted our oldest child, Brenley, I wasn't thinking about what life will be like when we finally have all our children in our family. I was just 1. Loving every second of being a Mom. 2. In the process of grieving my infertility. 3.Growing to understand how the whole Birth Family relationship works and 4. I knew when Brenley turned one year old we would put our papers in again to adopt. After each placement I knew there was one more. Then came Spencer...our 4th and youngest child. After much pondering and praying I came to realize he would be our last. By this time I had grieved deeply, sought help with my grief because I became “stuck” in it and found great peace and healing. It took many years but the healing was complete by the time Spencer came. I was and am today very thankful for the healing!
What I didn't realize was I hadn't been through everything yet. I hadn't experienced being infertile after family building. I didn't realize there were new feelings to experience and new things to grieve.
One day I was sitting in my church congregation and in front of me sat a beautiful mom and her sweet little baby girl. A sudden feeling of loss came over me. Tears sprang to my eyes and I knew I had to get out of that room quick! I did and tears came streaming down my face. This didn't have anything to do with the fact I couldn't get pregnant ...this had everything to do with the realization I was done taking care of my own babies. I think because family building had been so difficult the idea of “being done” was difficult to adjust to. My youngest at this point was now 4 and he was in his own church class while I was in mine. I was alone in a church class for the first time in 13 years. I missed that sweet time when they are little and have chubby hands that hold cute little toys. I missed the bottle feedings and the cheerios and crackers. I missed having my dress a mess with sticky finger goo. Watching the mom in front of me gave me a big smack of what life is now. No more babies. I cried for a while that day but then I accepted my life, remembered my own joy and moved forward. Thanks to all the healing that had taken place before, this new reality could be dealt with in a healthy way.
Another surprise came to me when I realized, for whatever reason, the idea of going to a baby shower was and is worse than going to the dentist. I just don’t want to do it. It isn't that I feel so sad….it is just a new reality that - hey, I don’t have to go through all that anymore. I don’t have to put on a happy face while I watch and listen to things I never got to do. I love that people have babies….I love their babies! I love when my extended family has new babies! They are so cute and sweet and I am beyond happy for them. I have just found this is an area I don’t want to deal with anymore. And you know what….it’s ok! I do love to attend baby blessings and find great joy in seeing those cute little booties and sweet flowing dresses. It is a special time and I am thankful I get to be part of it.
I think the hardest thing I have had to face since we finished family building was a greater understanding that this challenge in life will be for my whole life. My bubble of “ok I am done family building, no need to worry about all of the things that go along with the reason I am infertile” (You know the health part of infertility...it is a disease actually). My infertility issue has a name. It is called PCOS or Polycystic Ovarian Disease. It comes with weight gain, facial hair, skin tags, pearl like cysts that cover the ovary and super fun (not!) large ovarian cysts that I have had to have removed or have the whole ovary removed. It also comes with increased risk of cancers, heart disease, diabetes and stroke. I am not sure why I subconsciously thought this issue would all go away when my family building was over. Maybe it was wishful thinking. :)
In September of 2012 this little bubble of wishful thinking completely popped and WOW did it pop! Here is what I wrote on one of my personal blogs about the day my bubble popped.
“This past week I have been dealing with yet ANOTHER cyst on my only ovary. At first the pain wasn't so bad so I decided to just start my meds to start my period in hopes the period would help resolve the cyst. By Thursday night I was in incredible pain and drove myself (in the wee hours of the morning) into the ER. They felt the pain I was feeling was due to a rupture. I feel optimistic and have faith that it will heal and be ok. But I have realized in a deeper way"dealing with" infertility is more than just struggling to get pregnant. And "living with" being infertile is more than just not being able to bear children. It is a disease and while everyone who is infertile has a different story, women like me who suffer with PCOS have to live with the disease and all of it's complications.
I have thought I don't want to lose my last ovary because I hold on to this tiny itty bitty crumb of hope that maybe someday out of the blue pregnancy will occur. I have friends who feel this "hope" is what sets infertility apart from sterility. But what I am learning at least in my own case is this crumb of hope is a misguided hope... not true hope. This misguided hope puts me in harms way in many ways. I may have eggs but I don't have the right amount of hormones to allow the egg to ripen and release. When I used fertility meds to help with this I end up in the ER and the last time I ended up with a life threatening condition. Here I am 7 years after our last go with fertility meds/treatment and I am still struggling with my ovaries. With one removed and the other trying to heal from surgery, not even 6 months ago, I am still ending up in the ER and my children have to deal with Mommy being in bed. It's not fair to them, it's not fair to Brad and it's no longer going to be part of my story if I can help it at all. “
It was only a short time after I wrote this I started taking birth control pills to prevent cysts from forming. It is the day hope died. But hope needed to die...in this case anyway.
On this day I wrote the following on Facebook:
“I know it is good to stay positive in life and I realize Facebook is a weird place to write feelings but I feel like I have to say this out loud to kind of mark the day and lay it to rest finally. Today the hope, tiny and misguided as it was, died.
I will never see a positive pregnancy test.
I will never grow a child inside of my womb.
I will never create a body that will be given a Spirit.
I will never feel life grow or move inside of me.
I will never give birth or be the first to hold my baby.
I will never see my blue eyes or curly hair on another human being.
I will leave this earthly existence leaving nothing physical behind to go on for generations.
I hope my children will carry my passion for family and love for them onto their children and I hope in some way I will be remembered for something good.
I know I am a daughter of God and I know Jesus Christ is my Savior. It has been a long long road to get to today. Even before we were married I carried the burden of "what if". While today is a difficult day for me I know I have many things to live for and rejoice in. Tomorrow is a new day and it will be filled with a new kind of hope....one that is sure and true because I know my Savior heals broken things. I am not broken but laying this tiny misguided hope to rest hurts... but I know once His healing is applied I will be stronger and hopefully a better Brenda.
Thanks for listening.”
While my heart had healed from the pain of infertility up to this point, I had to grieve this new reality. It was painful. But one thing I know for sure...It would have been even harder had I not dealt with the grief up to that point. I am so thankful I sought help when I did…..many years before this difficult experience.
I realize I have many more experiences to come that will sometimes hurt or cause me to remember the hurt of yesterday. I am sharing this with you in hopes it helps you know when you go through your own “new experiences” you are not alone. You are normal and you will become stronger with each new experience!
The best part of all of these experiences is the wonderful reality of family! I have a family. They are my greatest joys and I wouldn't trade them or any of my experiences for fertility or anything else!