Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Musings on Fertility and Motherhood

Not too long ago a friend wrote to me in an e-mail, "Being around all of my friends who have children has simply underlined my decision not to have kids. Most of their personalities change for the worst." That made me wonder whether I have changed for the worst. It also made me think about the process of becoming a parent.
The idea of starting a family seems simple enough – decide to have a baby, do what is necessary to become pregnant (hubba-hubba), wait nine months and you’re in the club. I think that’s the schedule that most newly married couples have in their minds. It’s certainly what I had in mine. And, to be perfectly honest, that’s pretty much what happened.
For so many others, however, it’s a much different story. There are months, even years, of staring at that home test waiting for the second line to appear. There are appointments with fertility experts, tests, procedures, prayer, hopes, more tests, anger, bills, more tests and fatigue. We watched one couple we know struggle through five miscarriages – three of which happened during my first pregnancy. We prayed with a couple through infertility treatments and IVF procedures. Another couple tried for 10 years before finally deciding on adoption.
I found myself feeling guilty for having such a successful pregnancy. We had friends who tried and failed for months and months while we got pregnant on our second try. I had a friend on complete bed rest while I walked the mall. I had a friend who had to take medication to help her keep down crackers and I visited Taco Bell every other day. I don’t know why God chose to give me such an uncomplicated time, but I am thankful.
Two years after my daughter was born, though, I got my first taste of what it feels like to have my own schedule vetoed by God. We tried for another pregnancy, hit on the first try, and lost the baby 9 weeks later. It was a surreal time. It felt as if I were watching a movie rather than experiencing it in person. I saw myself go through the office procedure to rid my body of the tissue. I observed the healing process – both in body and mind. But I didn’t feel anything. It still doesn’t feel like it happened to me.
Six weeks after getting the green light to try again, we hit a bulls-eye. I came back into my body the instant that I saw the positive test. The next summer we became a family of four.
The story of my fertility doesn’t stop there, though. It stops sixteen months after the birth of my second child.
I went to the doctor for a check-up. He explained at that time that I needed a hysterectomy. That one word – just five syllables – brought me to my knees. I had always wanted three kids. I didn’t feel like I was done having babies. That wasn’t in my plan!!!! The idea that the organ in my body that nurtured and kept my two precious children healthy during their gestation had to be taken out was devastating to me. Isn’t a uterus what makes me uniquely a woman? If I lost it, what would I be? How could I be complete? I wept. I mourned. I fought. I spent hours on the internet seeking advice and alternatives. And, most importantly, I prayed. In the end, God gave me His peace. June 7, 2005 – the day that our close friends gave birth to twins conceived in a test tube – I lost the ability to have another child come from my body.
At times I still grieve the loss of that ability. I am sad that I will never again thrill to the sight of a fetal heartbeat in a monitor. I mourn the fact that I will never again feel a tiny body hiccup in my belly. But God’s strength, His peace, and His healing are stronger than my worldly desire to produce another child. And the fact that I can’t have another child does nothing to take away from my enjoyment and revelry in the experience of being a parent.

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