I sit in the middle of the empty room sobbing, holding a tiny and perfectly new cotton Onesie to my chest. Rocking back and forth, I let out all the pent up grief I have stored up over the past four years. Not that I haven’t cried before, mind you, but this is different. My whole life comes down to this one moment when nothing else matters except for what I clearly do not have – a baby. Four years of putting on a happy face and thinking positively that everything will work out if I just try hard enough have brought me back to this reality. At this moment, I know that I have come to the end of myself. There is nothing more to be done. All the diligent research on infertility interventions and the grueling treatments themselves have returned me, once again, to this place that I have come to know so well – childlessness.
Being childless among so many “childful” people was like living in a different world for me. Before my experience with infertility, life had always plugged along just as I had planned. High school graduation? Check. Undergraduate and graduate college degrees? Check. Successful career? Check. Marriage to soul mate? Check. It was only after experiencing the earthquake of infertility that I began to question my naiveté that I had ever had any control over my life’s course. It started to dawn on me, as the darkness of my chronic heartache descended, that the ease at which my previous goals were achieved was not due to sheer determination and hard work, but most likely a large amount of dumb luck. Not that I believe in luck, per se, except to say that I was lucky that my plans for myself happened to align with God’s plans for me up until about the age of 26. After that, there was a five year period where I wrestled with God to the point of utter exhaustion.
In short, infertility rocked my world. It forced me to think of my life in terms of very separate chapters: Before Infertility and Now. The “Now” chapter was written one day, and sometimes one moment, at a time with the excruciating tick of the clock drawing me ever closer to a future that I was certain I would never recover from. My dreams of having a family went so far back that I could not successfully separate my yearning for children from the rest of me, which made me believe that if the one did not happen, the other would cease to exist. The biggest realization of my life came down to one very small, very terrifying, and, in the end, utterly freeing idea: I am not in control. This is my story.
My husband, Mark, and I started trying to conceive on a celebratory Valentine’s weekend getaway. We were getting ahead of our initial plans for starting a family, but only by a few months and we decidedly agreed that making a baby on the holiday honoring love and lovers would be a perfect story to tell to everyone when we announced that we were expecting in a few months. Looking back on our conversation that weekend, I am incredulous at our unbridled optimism. Though I know many couples have successfully achieved a family based on similar planning, it still seems unfair to me that pregnancy can be achieved on the very small budget required for the pre-copulation dinner and a movie. When sharing this observation with other couples undergoing infertility treatment, some have sardonically pointed out that many have gotten pregnant on a far smaller budget.
It is August. Our first meeting with Nena and Ted, possibly the birth parents of the baby we have been waiting five years for – if they pick us. We’d like to wait for our caseworker, but it seems she is a no show and we’ve already made obvious eye contact with the birth couple. We can’t exactly ignore them while we wait for a chaperone. We nervously walk up to formally introduce ourselves and are surprised by hugs instead of handshakes. We sit down and talk, nervously at first, but the conversation flows surprisingly smoothly after just a minute or two. Ted is very talkative. Nena more reserved. My first impression of her is that she is a natural beauty. She has honey blond hair pulled back into a bun and wears a shirt that makes me think she is truly a free spirit. She is radiant in her pregnancy and certain that she is making the right decision about placing the baby for adoption. Abortion was never an option for them, she says, but they also couldn’t just drop off the baby at some kind of orphanage. As an infertile woman, I realize that in the U.S., typical orphanages don’t even exist anymore. If they had, I would have had a baby a long time ago, even if I had to wait in the bushes and grab the baby in the basket in the dead of night. I am now thankful that I didn’t take matters into my own hands because I realize — somewhere between the introductory hugs and this moment — that the baby in Nena’s belly is meant to be ours. I only hope that she has had the same realization. It seems we are about to find out as conversation turns to the reason we are here today, in this restaurant; strangers until just minutes ago and now making a decision together that will change all of our destinies – theirs, ours, and this precious little one — forever.
Ted tells us that our profile caught their eye because we looked young, about their age. Nena’s initial impression of our profile — our life story in three pages — is a bit harder for her to articulate. She says that something about the pages — pictures and text chosen so carefully by us months before — glowed. She couldn’t walk away from the table full of profiles at the agency without taking ours and putting it at the top of her pile. I am almost dizzy with anticipation. Does this mean what I think it does? I am not sure I am ready to give hope a place in my heart yet. Doing all of the adoption paperwork is much different than execting an actual baby — a son or daughter — to come into our lives. All of a sudden I regret having put myself in this position. So much could go wrong in a long line of things that already has in our journey to parenthood. I don’t think I can live through another disappointment. Then I remember the lesson that God has tried to get through my stubborn head over the past five years: You are not in control. You are not alone. I love you. I have good plans for you. Do not be afraid. I take a deep breath and smile across the table at this beautiful woman who holds my hopes in her hands at this very moment. She is smiling back at me. It seems she has something she wants to tell me. “We had an ultrasound,” she says. “Do you want to know what this little bun in the oven is?” she asks. “Yes,” I reply, waiting for her to say the words that will allow me to breathe once again. She is beaming now, her face glowing with the good news. “You’re having a girl.”
I lost my song once up a time. When I was knee-deep in hormone injections and doctor appointments and heaps of questions about when we were going to start a family. It was odd to be without a song, since I had been singing for what felt like my whole life and always carried a note of praise and gratitude for my great God and this happy life. I remember trying to push a tune out, or to pull it from somewhere deep within, but it was too strangled by grief and anger to find its way into the world. I remember thinking…so this is what it really feels like to be without hope. To believe that there is no reason to put one foot in front of the other or to open closed eyes after a night’s rest.
I thought it was never coming back. And then…the phone call, the meeting, the couple whose hope for a bright future for their unborn baby rested on me, my husband. Just a few months later, another phone call, a rushed and anxious trip to the hospital, a holding of hands — birth mother and mother-to-be. A delivery of a blue baby girl and the joyous sound of her cry once properly attended to by doctors, nurses. A different song altogether…helping me find my way back to joy.
I was inspired by Lauren over at I am THAT lady to attempt 21 Aldi freezer cooking meals in a day. I am so pleased with the results! From start to finish, my 24 (yes, not sure how that happened, but…24!) freezer meals took about 7 hours. My advice for you, if you try it, is to do some prepping the night before by thawing and cutting meat and chopping veggies. This will make your “recipe day” go much faster and split up the labor a bit.
Needless to say, after this marathon cooking session, I only had the energy to crash on the couch in the evening for a family movie night of Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days with the kids. I have to say, I enjoyed the movie so much! Why can’t Hollywood make more movies that are just plain fun and don’t have any crass language or unnecessary adult humor thrown in?
My exhaustion by 4:00 in the afternoon gave Lainey, my tween, the opportunity to prepare her very first homemade pizza (with a ready-made pizza crust) for dinner. Apart from my husband rescuing the melting plastic bag — that was included in the pizza package — from the oven in the nick of time, the attempt was a success!