I can't blame her, really. We started trying for kids in the middle of the economic meltdown. That would make anybody think twice about, you know, being born.
It took us, in fact, almost exactly 4 years and 3 months to get pregnant with Mary.
That's a number, just a number. I put it out there for perspective, not comparison. Some infertile couples wait much, much longer, some shorter. It is usually hard, regardless of the number.
The doctors never found anything wrong. Our diagnosis: Unexplained Infertility.
Some people hear this and say with derision: "Doctors! What do they know?"
In defense of the wonderful specialists we saw, it turns out that the process of becoming pregnant is incredibly complicated. There are hundreds of things that can go wrong and doctors can only test for a few of them. Human beings are, in fact, one of the least fertile animals on earth.
It's really no surprise, then, that about 1 in 4 couples will struggle with conceiving at some point in their lives.
These couples may not believe that when they see unwed teenagers effortlessly pump out unwanted babies. One reason for this is that infertility is age-related. Teenagers have an infertility rate of around 2-4%. 40-year-olds are around 40-50%.
For us, not having a diagnosis led to a maddening mix of hope and hopelessness. Every month I got my hopes up that this would be the month. Unexplained infertility meant endless waiting and uncertain guessing at which treatments to try. A part of us wished for a final, crushing diagnosis of Sterility. At least then we could mourn and move on.
When people found out how long we'd been married and that we were still childless, we generally got one of two reactions:
1) That's smart of you to wait to have kids. They are stressful and expensive.
2) You know, you really shouldn't wait so long to have kids. It only gets harder the longer you wait.
It didn't seem to occur to anyone that there was a third possibility:
We are not in control here.
I may take my temperature every morning and use ovulation strips and take Clomid and go through embarrassing tests and procedures, but we are not in control. We cannot force my body to get pregnant. No one's in control, really. I know lots of people that have gotten pregnant on birth control. It goes both ways.
The treatments were hard in other ways, too. I was grumpy on the hormones. I had days when I did not want to be around a single person. I've always valued being kind and easy to get along with, but everyone seemed to do such irritating things during that time. Like stand in the same room as me. Breathing my air.
I had some sad days and some really sad days, but you should also know that 4 years and 3 months of trying does not mean 4 years and 3 months of suffering. We had some really happy, fun times. We went to Hawaii. We went to the beach. We went on weekend trips to our favorite bed & breakfast. We both worked and that allowed us to save money. We hung out with friends. We enjoyed being together. I love being with Isaac a lot, and I was daily conscious that although we wanted kids, I was incredibly blessed to be married to a great guy.
Ketchup and Mustard for Halloween. Zion National Park.
Rather, it was the experience of infertility that has made me a better mother.
This brings me around to God. Some question how a loving God could withhold children from a couple like us, yet seemingly send them in droves to unwed teenagers and abusive homes.
While I cannot explain everything that God does, our experience made me more convinced, not less, that He exists, hears prayers, and cares about what is happening in my life.
We prayed every. single. day. for a baby. Those prayers were not answered right away, but they were eventually answered. And in the meantime other miracles happened in my life.
I prayed every day not only that we'd be able to have children, but also that God would take bitterness and jealousy out of my heart. He did that. I was able to be genuinely happy for other people that were having babies.
Other miracles include being guided to move to a state and job with insurance that would cover fertility treatments (a rarity), frequently meeting others with infertility (giving me hope, or at least, community), and finding purpose and meaning in my work, marriage, and friendships.
I am certain I would not be the mother I am today without infertility.
Today I watch Mary with that sense of awe you feel when watching something miraculous.
Without infertility, on hard days I wouldn't get to remember a time when I really thought I would never get to carry and give birth to a child.
Without infertility I might not be filled with profound gratitude every time I hold that girl in my arms.
And without infertility, I wouldn't whisper with quite so much sincerity, "Thank you, God, thank you."
We have no idea about if or when baby #2 will come. For now, I am convinced I will never get tired of looking at this face: