it’s more than just baby

Today, I stumbled on something I read and commented on last summer. I was so struck by it, and saved it because the sentiment was exactly what I wanted when speaking to certain people. I share it with you, in case you hadn’t seen it already. I hope that the author doesn’t mind.

See, this thing called infertility isn’t just about the baby. It’s not just the cycle of cycle after hope and disappointment; it is more than the scent of newborn head or the long nights of rocking and pacing. Of the 3-5% of couples who do not go on to resolve their childlessness through birth or adoption, infertility is really a lifetime of hearing the word ‘No.’ 

‘No’ to: pregnancy, delivery, first booties, knit baby blankets, hospital visits, christening gowns, sleepless nights, first teeth, blow outs and stained sheets and vomit-duty and Cheerio-crusted curls. 

‘No’ to: first steps, toddler tantrums, first words, open-mouthed kisses, grocery-store meltdowns, first trips to the beach, dentist, swimming pool, first broken bone, defiance and self-feeding and big-kid beds and endless days of potty training. 

‘No’ to: first days of school, new teachers, good friends, mean kids, first sleep-overs and shoes that last barely a season; fussy eaters, homework fights, sports teams, graduations, discussions about drugs, sex, and rock & roll; questionable fashion trends, bad haircuts, experiments with vegetarianism, never leaving their room, learning to drive, enforcing curfew, first boyfriends/girlfriends and first break ups. 

‘No’ to: first jobs and college and moving out and praying we taught them enough to let them stand on their own two feet; engagements and wedding plans and walking down the aisle and first homes and co-signing mortgages and figuring out the empty nest, wishing them home and to fly in the same breath. 

‘No’ to: pregnancy announcements, grand babies, knitting blankets and booties and shopping and late night calls from exhausted, panicked mothers and babysitting and brag books and the fierce, quiet joy at the seemingly natural cycle of life. 

This is reality. This is grief. This is the lifetime we live in the quiet moments after you announce a pregnancy, post pictures of first days of school, Easter outfits, Christmas morning, swimming lessons, mismatched outfits, or just the bright spots and moments of an everyday life. 

Don’t stop posting. There is joy in watching your life unfold as ours will not. There will be days we will respond from a place of deep gratitude that we are part of your life… that you allow us to live vicariously in a way, years ago, we would not have thought possible. And there are days when we will sit quietly on the sidelines because that lifetime of ‘No’ is pressing hard against a permanent bruise. 

Please understand this isn’t about guilt. Embrace the joy you’re given. God has lavished blessings on us both… blessings markedly different but beautiful in their own way. And each of our lives is sprinkled with hardship and struggle… perhaps I don’t know yours, but I’m not so naive as to believe that because you have the children I longed for your life is perfect. 

Back a few weeks ago, in the middle of another insomnia fueled fugue, I wrote out this letter to my sister, several pages on the legal pad. About our relationship, and the one I want with her child, and some explanations for why I am the way I am. Just a rush of feelings to paper, I cried on the page, desperate to convey all the things I’m feeling right now.

Next month, I’m heading home to throw her a baby shower, and I’m debating sharing it with her. I suppose the fall out is that we talk less, but the reality is, with a new baby, I won’t hear from her much anyway. I could be optimistic, and think that perhaps this would finally be the thing to change our relationship for the better. I wish I knew for sure what I wanted to do, how it would be received.