It didn’t take long after our wedding for us to start trying to get pregnant. David’s age (nearly 40!), not withstanding, we were ready. We were expectant and eager and hopeful and giddy at the prospect. We tried to be realistic with ourselves when just thinking about getting pregnant did not, in fact, give us that result. We laughed to ourselves as we entered the phase after a few months where I readily and often informed Davey what my flow was looking like for the month (something I never did before, and still hate now, frankly). By month nine – a full-term pregnancy, ironically – the excitement had worn off, the expectancy and anxious flutter as I hopefully took test after test waned to something resembling chagrin. And by the one year mark we were ready for answers. But not really ready for answers. As much as you want that sore throat to bounce back a positive strep test so you can prove you’re “really sick” and start treatments, you also really hope it’s nothing more than allergies. Maybe for us our timing was just off, or maybe, you know, the all too cliche and painfully trite “God’s timing” thing was at work again.
So when we received decisive results that explained exactly why we weren’t pregnant, I crumbled. I had known. I just knew that there was something wrong. Not just because I wanted a pregnancy so badly, but because something in me knew there was a problem. Sadly, in this area, there’s no joy or relief from being right. So. We took a step to remedy the situation. David underwent surgery in September (the 16 month mark of trying). Ever faithful and steadfast, he was excited. He was excited that NOW we would have a baby. That NOW would be our turn. Something inside me had lost the optimism, though. I spent countless hours reading articles about the next steps, the what ifs, the success rates. And none of it really matters in the end, does it? And I grew angry at myself that still, each month, each test, I would momentarily convince myself that I’d see a positive. I would spend those three minutes dreaming up ways to tell David. To tell our family. I’d calculate due dates. Then I’d see the negative. I’d stoically and casually wrap up the test, throw it away, and more often than not, not even mention that I’d taken one. I’d put on my game face and move on. Then I would sob uncontrollably on my drive in to work. Christmas night I wept bitterly. I couldn’t seem to be okay with the fact that we were closing 2013 without a child. Without the hint of a child. And doing the math, I realized that it was highly possibly that we wouldn’t hold that baby in our arms in 2014 either. Finally we called in the big guns in February. And we made a program. We made a plan. We’re on our way to the next steps. I’ve had to grieve my way through the idea that conception at this point will be clinical, scheduled, procedural… I’ve had to manually force myself to take hold of gratitude for the options that we have and gnaw on it until I taste it. Until I feel that appreciation and let it ever so slowly take away the pain.
We’re infertile. Such a bleak, desolate word. But that doesn’t mean that our marriage is infertile, or that David is, or that I am. Quite the opposite. It means that while we wait for the growth, we can do the tending. The gardening. The landscaping. We can make our marriage – the lifeblood of the family that I believe we’ll have – beautiful. For me, that’s been weeding out selfishness and control. I’ve never felt so hopeless or out of control than I have these last 22 months trying to make something happen just by sheer force of thought and desire.
Last year we “gardened” at our house. I was overwhelmingly excited at the bounty I knew our “garden,” planted in buckets and containers, would yield. I read each seed pack and memorized the latency for germination before we’d see growth. I’d monitor our fledgling vegetables daily searching for progress. Finally, I saw them. The faintest whispers of green peeking through the soil. I ran upstairs, woke up David and dragged him on to the porch to evaluate what we’d grown. I talked about our garden as though we were farming hundreds of acres rather than a few square feet of deck that received no more than 4 hours of sunlight a day. We picked a few green beans that we never cooked, a few tomatoes that I don’t even like anyway, a handful of herbs, and the rest either didn’t grow or got eaten by wildlife (probably our own dogs). Sadie also adopted one of the containers as her litter box (she’s a dog. But she’s very dumb, so I guess she thought a garden litter box could be cool. Or she was trying to fertilize it for us). Even when it was obvious that our garden was finished, and ultimately, a failure, I was still proud of it. I was still proud that I’d watered it, that I’d seen something grow.
And I guess we’re sort of like that right now. We’re growing SOMETHING. I may not be growing a baby right now, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t work being done beneath the soil. And from the very, very little suburban garden experience I’ve had, I do know that before something can grow wild and strong and bright and lovely, the soil has to be broken. It has to be tilled and pulled apart. I am that broken soil right now. I’m freshly torn open and so broken, but I’m ready to be used.
I bristle in these months as people that have been privy to what our last year or so have looked like, but don’t know us well enough to speak candidly, say that God has “big plans for us.” Simply by His nature of being God every plan He has is big. We don’t fancy ourselves more deserving or in a more strenuous training boot camp in preparation for categorically bigger or more profound things than anyone. Our trial isn’t harder. Our struggle isn’t more painful or draining or exhausting. It’s just… ours. Our infertility, and His bounty,
When I was a Gardener last year (I do believe that the depth and breadth of my experience earned me a capital “g”), I would drive by verdant, lush gardens and be so jealous. I’d come home and look at mine, which I’d been so proud of just that morning and look at it with despair. “GROW YOU STUPID THING!” I’d drag the containers from one tiny sun spot to another that might be slightly bigger. I’d switch their places, thinking that one tiny sprout may be crowding another. As I’ve watched friend and acquaintance and random stranger get pregnant, seemingly with ease (I’m not sure I’ll ever fully wrap my head around how you can take a pregnancy test and just have it be positive), some telling me apologetically that they weren’t even trying (not comforting, as a note… nor is complaining about pregnancy or new motherhood or post baby bodies…. because, as it were, I would take all of that. All at once. For one day as a mother.), I would look at my own garden. Disparagingly I would feel myself resign to the thought that this is just my plight. But no. I’m not a victim. Just as I refuse to wear a crown labeling myself part of some club of honor for enduring heartache, I refuse to wrap myself in the clothes of martyrdom. My most passionate prayer has been that my joy and excitement over another woman’s pregnancy would not be found to be hollow or forced or diluted. I will choose instead to celebrate and take heart and take hope. Our infertility, His bounty.
“For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations.” – Isaiah 61:11