For months I’ve planned on writing a post about my infertility journey. Now that I’m “on the other side” so to say, I knew I had a lot to say and a lot of feelings about it. I’ve already written so much on it though, and I think a part of me was holding back from diving back into those scary waters, emotions and difficult times.
The past seven months for me being pregnant has been glorious. And I’ve had, at least what I think, is probably a more grateful and unique lens to see and experience pregnancy through. Every pregnancy is different and I do think I’ve had a fairly easy one thus far, but for every bout of morning sickness, fatigue and muscle ache, I’ve always had this to fall back on: I’ve been wanting this — even the not-so-fun parts — for three years. Three years.
The holidays were always particularly difficult for me. Christmas is great for a number of reasons, but, let’s face it, Christmas is best when either you’re a child or when you have a child to share it with. And each year, despite the holiday being filled with so much abundance, love and gifts for me and my loved ones, it still felt hollow and empty. Like something, someone, was missing. Every year I’d imagine the next year either being pregnant or already having a child.
And this year, it’s finally come true.
I know that my husband and I have done a lot of things to boost our fertility — acupuncture, herbs, soul-searching, stress-reducing and traditional fertility treatments. But, really, a big part of me knows that we just got lucky. And received a miracle that so many others are in search of and have a much, much harder time getting, if at all.
Last week, I went to acupuncture (I still go monthly to benefit both myself and the baby), and my two worlds — the glorious pregnant one and the infertile one — collided. Despite me knowing that I had all of these feelings on my infertility journey ending and my motherhood journey beginning, I just didn’t want to go there. I’d waited so long to be pregnant that I just wanted every bit of it to feel grateful, good and — in a way — to just exist in a happy bubble. And to leave all of those unpleasant memories, failures and doctor appointments behind.
But, if I’ve learned anything in my 50 or so acupuncture sessions, it’s that sometimes when something is ready to come out, it just comes out. And during this session it did.
As I was waiting for my appointment, a woman came out, got her herbs (“I take these until I ovulate and these other ones if/when I start my period, right?”), paid and left. She looked fit, was at the ready with her calendar to book her next appointment, and had a look of both determination and hurt on her face. When she saw me waiting, she avoided eye contact and looked away.
Basically, it was like looking at myself from the past.
So many times I’d see other pregnant women and felt jealous — or worse, vengeful and ashamed. How could it be so easy for some and not for others? And what was it like to be on the other side? Did they know how good they had it? Did they realize how much others cried, prayed and tried for that one simple thing, to start a family? This was usually immediately followed with a few thoughts of shame: “Hey, you don’t know her story. You don’t know what’s she been through or going through.”
And here I was, on the other side of those eyes. Sitting there and wanting to help her, to let her know that I understood and to let her know that everything was going to be okay.
But, let’s be honest, I don’t know that. No one knows that. Sure, she was in — at least in my opinion — the best place to get help. But even with that, sometimes it just doesn’t work out. And there’s nothing you can say or no look you can give that will make that painful reality go away — or change.
Once I got into my appointment and my acupuncturist left the room, leaving me with only my thoughts, soft light, needles strategically stuck in me and calming music, did it really, really hit me: We were lucky. Damn lucky.
I spent the remainder of my session, on a table and slightly propped up with pillows, with tears streaming down my face. A tear of gratitude. A tear for every terrible doctor’s appointment and test I’d endured. A tear for every empty Christmas. A tear for the woman I’d just seen in the waiting room. A tear of joy for what’s to come. A tear for the thousands who have been through the same thing — and worse. A tear for sheer dumb luck. And a tear (or 12) for my daughter, who somehow — out of all of the people in the world — chose us to be her parents.
I’m sure I’m not entirely done processing the last three years, but that hour of acupuncture left me feeling as though my two worlds hadn’t collided. They’d combined. I was no longer in denial of what had been nor was I ashamed or using it as fuel to only focus on the good. It just was what it was — no guilt, just a beautiful mix of emotion. A whole crazy ride that I didn’t have to fight or be scared of anymore.
It wasn’t just the tears of joy, gratitude and dumb luck that lead to me getting pregnant. For better or for worse, it was the entire journey — even the bad stuff — that was a part of our experience. And experience is the stuff that makes up life. In this case, perhaps quite literally.
So as I go into my final couple months of pregnancy, I hope to take all of those tears and put them to good use, becoming a better and more empathetic and understanding friend, family member and member of the world at large. And as I step into my new role as a mother, I want to remember that life isn’t just lived during the good times. But that there’s also beauty in the tears. All of them.
What difficult experiences have made you a better mother? —Jenn