Breathe. Smile. Congratulate.

My next guest have taught me to watch my words… How many times have I told moms “You should have another!”, ” When will you try again?” I have said these things all in good faith but for some women these things said cause pain and hurt more than we will ever know.

Natalie’s Story

Breathe. Smile. Congratulate. Try to be as genuine as possible, as strong as possible, as excited as possible and then when alone, cry. For those that don’t struggle with fertility, where they can “accidentally” get pregnant, or get pregnant every time they plan it, it’s hard for them to understand the anguish of wanting a child, but not being able to make one, no matter how hard one tries. Infertility is different than being jealous of someone’s job promotion, or their beautiful house. It’s something that no matter how hard I work, no matter how well I try, it just won’t happen. That thought, that reality is crushing. I’ve been told numerous times to “keep trying”, “don’t give up”, and “keep hoping”. I know these are well wishes, said in an awkward situation as I stare with envy and tears lining my eyes at their pregnant figure, or their squishy newborn nursing at the breast. And I, for a moment, for a heartbeat, do continue to hope, to wish, to desire for a child. And that’s the worst part. Where logic, science and the past 2 years of trying tell me, it’s not going to happen, the quiet, resilient part of me is still hoping it will. Month after month, when I fail to bleed, I let myself think, well, maybe this is finally it. Oh yes, that headache I had, or that unexplained food craving. I must be pregnant. And I’ll test. And it will be negative. But for those 3 minutes of waiting, I feel so hopeful, that this time, this time my body will finally grace me with what I desire most…another child.
Wait. I have a child. So why am I complaining? Because infertility isn’t just about those that can’t have any biloigcal children. Infertility is not being able to give my son a sibling. Not being able to fill the void in my heart that only babies can fill. I love my son, without limits. He is my everything. I’m not one of those parents who ever complains about him being difficult or how I just need a “break”. In fact, I’ve never left him other than when I have to work. I haven’t been on a date with my husband since before my son was born. I don’t feel the need to. I’m too busy memorizing the way the silk of his curly long hair feels on my face when he snuggles with me. I’m busy photographing every messy face and art project. I’m busy looking at him at 2 and 29 and 86 and 41 and 17. I see his whole life, who he will be and who he will love and how he will change the world. In every moment I look at him, because I love him beyond description. But that doesn’t take away the heart ache, the emptiness, the longing, the hurt of wanting another baby. And actually, I want more than another. I want 3 or 4 more babies. That’s my desire. A large family that borders on crazy because 6 people under one roof is a lot of work and a lot of fun, and a lot of love. People will say I should be happy with what I have. And I am. But it doesn’t take away the pain of a dying dream. It doesn’t lessen the sting of wanting what I can’t have…while I watch others around me having their 3rd, 4thor 5th child. It makes me want to scream out “WHY CAN’T THAT BE MY LIFE?” And then in the middle of feeling like I’m breaking, my son will come up and wrap his delicious chubby toddler arms around me and breathe his milky breath on my face and say “Oh Mama” and I’m brought back to the present.

People say shitty things. When faced with a tough situation, what can one offer but the standard fare of, “If it’s meant to be, it will happen”. “The timing isn’t right, but it will be soon”. “You should just be grateful for what you do have”. And the ones that make me the most upset are the words spoken with religious authority, such as “God only gives you what you can handle”, “It must not be in God’s plans for you” and “God doesn’t make mistakes”. I don’t believe in any of those things. I see babies that are born to mothers and fathers that don’t want them, that are burdened by the idea of another child. I see children born to drug users and children that are abused. So why can’t I, on my terms, have a child when I desire one? Why was my first child born at an inopportune time? Because these are the things divined by a God that lets children be born into hate filled homes, or in poverty where running water doesn’t exist, but I can’t have more easily(or maybe even ever) and I’m supposed to find comfort in this “plan”? I do not mean to dismiss those that find comfort in statements like that, or who are religious. I just feel that instead of using your God, or your blanket cover statements, just tell the person who is struggling with infertility, with great sincerity, “I’m sorry, this must be really hard for you. I can’t imagine how that must make you feel.” But I think one of the worst parts of being infertile, is watching people try to hide their fertility from me. I have friends who wait until they can no longer physically hide their new life growing inside them. With remorse and tears, they explain that they know how much I want a baby and they didn’t want to hurt my feelings. It’s a very bittersweet when this happens. I understand the desire to protect my tender heart, but fearing telling me, makes me feel horrible.
Infertility makes it so I can’t look at my son’s baby pictures with joy. It’s bittersweet. I may never have another baby again. I don’t look forward to his “milestones” because to me, it’s a marking of time gone of his childhood, just a reminder that his time being small is fleeting and that I may never again enjoy those things with another child. I think about the fun I had, the frustrations I had, the love I had growing up with a brother. I want that for my son. For him to be challenged and mad and best friends and worst enemies with his brother(s) or sisters(s). I ache for that for him, for me, for my husband. I want to go to bed at night, tired but with a full house of family. I don’t feel complete. I don’t get to choose when I get pregnant again. I don’t get to choose when I’m done. I’m at the mercy of my body or fate or God or whatever label you apply. I don’t get to choose and I’m not okay with it. I try to ground myself in what good I do have. In the way my son’s curly hair blows in the wind, the sound of his laughter, the way the split in his front teeth look just like my dad’s…all the things that just make him timeless and precious to me. But it’s somehow not enough. And I feel horrible for saying that. I have so much love and I ache to feel a baby inside me, growing and evolving into a spirit, an essence, a life force. To birth that baby and hold him or her to my breast and looking at them for the first time, to fall in endless love with the person I grew.

But these thoughts and more are all the things I’m not allowed to talk about. People ask me all the time “Is it time for another one?” and “Are you trying for another baby” or “You should really give that boy a sibling”. I could cry, I could scream, I could fake a smile, or I can tell the truth. None of the options are appealing, but when I tell the truth, “We’ve been trying for a long time, it’s not working”, it makes people uncomfortable. They will ask or think about what’s wrong with you, or your husband. They’ll offer advice like, “Maybe if you lose some weight” or “My girlfriend went through the EXACT same thing” and you have to endure their well-meaning but ill-gotten words. Then you get the label of “having trouble” and people will start to not want to tell you about their pregnancies or hesitate to tell you to try and make it easier. There isn’t anything easy about this. But talking about it openly, it the first step to making it at least tolerable.

So I’m going to go “snug” my baby, as he likes to call snuggling. I’m going to memorize the curve of his nose and marvel over his sweet smile, as I daydream about the man I’m raising. He is more wonderful that sunshine, and it’s my hope that he grows up knowing how very loved and very wanted he is and how I couldn’t have dreamed a better son. And I will tell my body to accept the love I have for her, that she was fertile once before and we can do it again. And maybe with some luck and some baby dust, we will have another love or loves growing someday.


Learn more about Infertility here


2 thoughts on “Breathe. Smile. Congratulate.

  1. If it helps at all, I’m the daughter of infertile parents. My parents tried for 5 years and gave up on hoping for any children and then were blessed with me. They wanted a bigger family as well, but couldn’t. It was sad, and I always wondered what it would be like to have a brother or sister, but I was never sad being the only one. But I think for my parents, the fact that I have 2 beautiful granddaughters I gave them helps ease the hurt some. You may have a bigger family some day, it may just be grandchildren instead of children. I hope that someday you will get to have another baby though. Hugs mama.

  2. You took the words right out of my mouth! I have tried to explain it to my friends but it never comes out nearly so eloquently or put together!

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