Sunday, January 18, 2015

I Didn't Know What I Was Missing - But I Knew It

Pregnancy after 8 years of infertility... it's funny how it's not as strange of a transition as I always envisioned it would be.  For whatever reason, to me, this just feels so natural, like once egg and sperm met and implanted in the uterus, my body just said, "YESSSSSSS!!!  THAT'S what we're talking about!!  We got it from here, ovaries, testicles.  Carry on."

Motherhood, similar in some ways, and completely different in others.  It may have given the impression to other mothers that I have been downplaying, or minimizing the sacrifices and sufferings of motherhood.  It also is not lost on me that there is a TON I haven't yet experienced, and I cannot possibly understand until I live through it, when it comes to motherhood.  However, I find that my history of childlessness despite all efforts at fertility, adoption, and foster care gives me a unique vantage point on this front. 

I'm not an expert at pregnancy.  Nor at motherhood.  And, I never will be!  But, I am constantly reminded of how little I know of motherhood suffering, how little I understand of other mothers' struggles... which is just so different than was my experience through infertility and childlessness.  Amongst others who knew exactly what infertility felt like, many at the early stages, many at the "veteran" stages, I found that there existed a common ground of encouragement.  Some of us knew the heartache of miscarriage (myself not included), while others the heartache of never having conceived.  Some of us knew the pain of marital distress, loss of financial stability, health issues that seemed to never get better, only worse, all because of infertility - while others who may have been earlier in their journey only knew the relentless hope that came each month, only to come crashing down into a despair that would make you want to quit your job and move far, far away (somewhere with palm trees, and lots of alcohol).  And yet, despite our different stages, our different sufferings, throughout my infertility journey I only saw support, and a willingness to allow each woman to feel her own feelings, despite how different they may have been from another's. 

Infertility is incredibly, incredibly personal, as a life experience.  Even within the couple, the husband and the wife will often go through very different journeys.  That fact seemed so readily recognized, and honored by all of us in the trenches.  So far, my experience with motherhood has not been the same.

It's almost an unwritten oath, to "one up" any mother with younger children.  "Oh, you're only 2 months pregnant and feel nauseous, now?  Just wait until you're 8 or 9, you'll be so much more uncomfortable!!"  "You think you're sleep-deprived, now with your 4 month old?  Ha!  My 3 year old STILL doesn't sleep through the night, and comes and pees in my bed routinely!"  "Potty training, eh?  Ahhh, I miss those days.  That was EASY compared to raising a pre-teen!"  And so on, and so forth.  Rather than become offended by comments like these (truly, I'm not!) I tend to look at it inquisitively, wondering about our society and why these incredibly normal everyday interactions are so incredibly normal.  Obviously I speak from experience when I say that through a cross like infertility, you NEED support, helpful advice, encouragement, and understanding from those who are there and have been there.  But is it not the same in motherhood?  Sure, there are all kinds of Support Groups for Moms out there, throw a stone and you're bound to hit one.  But there seems to be an underlying sentiment of justification, comparison, and insecurity in motherhood, which does make complete sense to me.  If infertility is a personal experience, of course motherhood is, too!  But just as with infertility, there are common feelings that all those in the group have, and I think those 3 may be among the top.

As women, we all want to know that we're doing the best we can.  That is something we share across the board.  And, for those of us who desire children so strongly, and for those who have them already, we know we would do just about anything for their well-being.

Crossing over, for me, wasn't the out of body, Twilight Zone experience I thought it would be.  Instead, I find that my thoughts, desires, and personal experiences with my own pregnancy and (very early) motherhood are so full of hope and promise, it overwhelms me.  I've also discovered that infertility has made me so much less sensitive to those who cannot understand my personal experience with motherhood, thus far.  Infertility, in essence, has made me the mother I am today, and the mother I will continue to be in the future.

Perhaps something only those who have carried the cross of infertility/childlessness can appreciate, but that should be understood by all, is that the immense, uncontrollable, heart-bleeding desire for children is not all about the child.  It is, rather, a yearning for a new, unimaginable suffering.  We desire the unknown, that which we cannot possibly understand, yet.  We crave a way in which to serve God, daily, through the thankless, tiring, unending job of being a mother - sacrificing ourselves in ways we cannot fathom.  Sleepless nights with screaming babies, biting until our nipples bleed, running fevers at 2am, never, ever getting a break... we're SURE that's just the beginning of it - and we want more!  We have no earthly idea what we're missing.  But we know it.

We have no earthly idea what we're missing. 

But we know it.

And that, my friends, is where the sting penetrates the most, piercing the heart of all mothers-in-waiting.  We don't wear rose-colored glasses.  We don't envision a perfect life, void of all problems and worries, with angelic, never-pooping always-sleeping children.  We envision a life unknown.  A life unrealized.  A life we only hope one day to be lucky enough to experience.

And once we do - or, more fittingly, once I did?  I knew that my experience through pregnancy and motherhood would not be the same as anyone else's.  Just as my experience through infertility was not the same as anyone else's.  I recognize, and honor other mothers in their daily sufferings, and I recognize and honor my own (yes, I have them!!), but mostly, I recognize and honor the fact that I will continue to experience all of this in an incredibly personal way.  And that way will always, always be guided by the lessons I learned through my 8 years of infertility and childlessness.  Sleepless nights?  They suck!  I've had many, already, and I can't even hear my kid, yet!  But the fact that I had no idea I'd be losing sleep and having insomnia since early first Trimester?  That is the realization of my desire - my desire to live the unknown, to offer myself as a mother in sacrifices I didn't even know about.  It doesn't make the sleep deprivation better.  It makes it part of my answered prayer.

There will, I am certain of it, be more and more and more of these moments every single day as I move forward through my journey in motherhood.  And I'll be surprised, likely by all of them.

When I was childless, I didn't know what I was missing.

But I knew it.

And now, I just wait in wonder for the next big sacrifice, the next opportunity to give more of myself - the next way in which my prayer is being answered.


Sew said...

I love your ghetto booty self. Why can't you text me beautiful stuff like this....I don't get this TCIE! hahahaha

alison said...

Part of me thinks that sometimes its an "experienced" vs. "newbie" thing. I did feel like I got the "oh, you're just starting off on this infertility journey, long term grieving is something totally different. wait until you do x and x tests" a lot. It seems like now all those "experienced" in pregnancy and motherhood have a lot to say on the matter, so it must be strange to be in the "newbie" category again! Either way, I wish women were more supportive and less competitive with each other in general. Though I have found a lot of support in the infertility community, I see these people in both camps.

Praying for Hope said...

I may have said This before, but infertility offers a different perspective on parenthood and tends to make the difficulties of pregnancy and parenthood easier to handle. It certainly helps with the meltdowns and button pushing easier, anyhow. It's a big learning experience too. Things you thought you KNEW - Well, I will never coddle my child. Just look at how that baby screams the moment you put her down, and she's only a month old! - you you eventually learn that you knew less than you realized. It keeps happening that way, probably throughout the rest of your lifetime.

Sarah said...

I saw an old professor of mine recently. She has three biological children and two adopted children. As soon as I told her about my year-old twins, she said something like, "Well, thank goodness they'll be going to pre-school before you know it!"

Um, excuse me? Why would I be counting days until their infancy is over (actually, it's already over; they are toddlers now!). We will never adopt again; barring a miracle pregnancy, we will never have babies again. I'm looking forward to first days of school, and fishing trips, and building snowmen, and all the things they have in front of them, but I also grieve that they will never again be 3 months old, or 8 months, or 1 year old.

We worked so hard to have them; I can't imagine being excited about having them be away from us. But obviously, my prof felt the same way; why else would she have had five children?

I just think all of the complaining is just boilerplate, things that people say to new mothers because what words can capture the miracle of parenthood? So we trivialize it by saying things like, "Just you wait!" They don't know how at best bizarre and at worst insensitive such comments are to the infertile.

Sarah said...

Our NaPro journey was very different from those who have spent years longing for a child (I know this!). And yet, yes... yes, this resonates so much!! I am glad you aren't bothered by the comments... I was, admittedly. I wanted to yell, "YES, I KNOW IT ISN'T ALL RAINBOWS.I AM NOT STUPID." But this is a great perspective. And I have to say, the last 3 years of motherhood has been one awesome, joyful sacrifice. It doesn't always feel good, no, but it's the kind of sacrificing I had wanted all along. It is possible to have joy - even plain old happiness - amid the exhaustion and the craziness of parenting.

Being Refined said...

This is so beautifully said! ! That desire (of the infertile couple/woman) for the all consuming sacrifice of parenthood. We may not know the nitty gritty details of the sacrifice, but we realize the broad strokes of it from the outside and want in.