The views and opinions expressed by the author are theirs alone and may not reflect those of CooperGenomics.
Last Sunday in church, I sat beside a man whose wife has been battling infertility for the past year. I was distracted throughout the service, attempting to keep my 21-month-old daughter quietly entertained with stickers, crayons, food… whatever it took. As she innocently tugged on the man’s pant leg, I pulled her away and apologized. He smiled kindly at me and that was that.
It was only when we were leaving the service that I realized who that man was. I thought of the emotions his wife must have experienced as she’d heard and watched my daughter, and it brought on a feeling I haven’t faced in many months: guilt.
I knew she wasn’t sitting in church thinking about what a miracle my daughter was, or how amazing it was that she was conceived after years of infertility and unsuccessful fertility treatments. Instead, I knew that she was probably wishing we’d chosen a different seat, or maybe even wishing she’d skipped church altogether that morning. She was probably fighting tears and wondering why I get to be a mom, and not her. I suddenly found myself guiltily wondering the same thing.
Pregnancy after infertility is its own kind of weird and wonderful experience. You worry about every little thing that does or does not happen, especially during the first several months. You Google anything and everything pregnancy-related. You also Google things that aren’t related to pregnancy at all, because you think they might be.
You experience separation anxiety from your fertility clinic and mistrust the regular OB-GYN, whose office you sit in monthly, and then bi-monthly, and then weekly. You mistrust the regular OB-GYN because a regular OB-GYN is the one who told you, years ago, that a couple rounds of Clomid would do the trick, or just to be patient, or that you were young and had plenty of time to conceive. Not only do you mistrust him, but you feel completely out of place sitting in his waiting room with all the “regular” pregnant women… the ones who did not exhaust their savings accounts or go into debt in order to conceive a child; the ones who did not go to bed in tears at the end of every unsuccessful two week wait; the ones who did not avoid baby showers for fear of having a public breakdown.
So you don’t feel like you belong at the regular ol’ OB’s office, but you don’t really belong at your fertility clinic either. In fact, they kind of kicked you out after you passed the 8-week mark. They called it a graduation, and acted really excited for you, and you felt thrilled to be moving on, but now, several weeks down the road, you’re having withdrawals, and wondering why in the world your fantastic RE cannot just deliver your baby for you. You even consider popping in for a visit, because you’re comfortable there, and because those every-other-day blood draws had actually become a security blanket for you. But then you re-consider, because you know you no longer belong there either.
Then, on your way home from your regular ol’ OB-GYN appointment, instead of popping in for a visit with your RE, you decide to swing by Target. While browsing through the home decor aisles, looking for nothing in particular, you happen to notice about half a dozen pregnant women. Your first instinct is one of sadness, self-pity and jealousy: why can’t that be me?
And then you realize, it is you. Because you’re pregnant. It’s still a bit early. You are still taking those darned progesterone shots, and you are still more used to wishing you are pregnant than actually being pregnant. You have the same epiphany over and over and over again, and finally, you’re walking around at nine months pregnant, still having to remind yourself that you are kind of like all those other pregnant women walking around Target.
But then, the nine months pass. You give birth, which is one of the most incredible experiences of your life. And you are suddenly a mother.
You eventually realize being a mother is hard. The sleepless nights, the midnight nursing sessions, the midday naps and cuddles… pure bliss. It is hard, but truly amazing.
And then your newborn grows, and grows, and keeps growing, and your heart keeps growing with her, until you feel like it is going to burst out of your chest. All. The. Time. Your baby sleeps through the night, but you don’t, because you can’t help but wake up every two hours just to check on her (even though you keep a video monitor by your bed as proof that she’s okay.) Your baby only wants to cuddle when she’s nursing, and even then sometimes, she’d rather be playing on the floor (or anywhere but your lap.) It sometimes takes you an hour to get out the door for what turns out to be a disastrous attempt at grocery shopping, cut short by an explosive dirty diaper, or an over-tired baby. Your baby fights all of her naps for weeks straight before you finally realize it’s time to undergo some drastic version of sleep training, which eventually translates into “no more letting your baby nap peacefully on your chest multiple times each day.” Talk about heart-wrenching.
And then there’s the messiness of it all: dirty diapers, baby-led weaning (which is totally fun and worth the mess), spit up, throw up. Have you ever smelled bad breast milk? It’s really not pleasant. Especially when it’s all over the shirt you’ve been wearing for the past three days.
You realize motherhood is only going to get harder and messier as your child grows. You will look back one day on sleep training and realize that it was no big deal compared to other lessons and disciplines you will have to teach your child. You will have days when you long for messy diapers and high chairs smeared with mashed green beans. You will continue to fall into bed exhausted after hard days of hard lessons. But even on those days, you will go to bed knowing that it is so worth it. Every second is worth it.
Being a mom is hard. It’s messy. But you still idealize it in the same ways you did when you were just wishing to be a mom. It’s just as incredible in real life as it was in your daydreams.
Suddenly, you aren’t as tempted to compare the details of how you became a mom to the details of how fellow Target shoppers became moms. You are able to smile at them, and only fleetingly wonder about the details of how their children came to be. You remember what you went through to become a mother, but you don’t remember with bitterness or anger or jealousy. The pain has already begun to fade. You rub your backside, to see if you can still feel a tender hint of swelling from all those months of shots. Even that has faded. You remember with utter gratitude. You remember, and then you look at the little wiggle worm sitting in your shopping cart, and you realize, not only was it worth it, but it was really quite perfect.
All of it.
Because at the end of the day, you’re a mom. The details of how you became a mom don’t matter quite so much these days. You’re a mom. And in all its hardness, messiness, and tiredness, you still continue to idealize motherhood, because it is a gift from God… the gift you begged of Him for so long.
It is an integral part of what you were created for.