Some days it frustrates me to no end that the general population is still quite uneducated and uninformed about infertility and miscarriage. Now that most people I know have heard about my pregnancy and now that it's far more obvious when I go out in public, I'm never quite sure what I'm going to get.
Most of the time a stranger will simply ask when I'm due or whether it's a boy or a girl. No problem; those questions are easy enough to just give a simple reply and move on. And it's not that I mind sharing my story anymore, but I am not going to launch into it during a passing encounter with just anybody. On occasion, though, the time seems right or the question is one where it seems appropriate to go into a more detailed response.
Just this week I had to have some lab work done to check my thyroid, which I've done once a trimester. Unfortunately my doctor's office can't draw it so I have to have the blood work done at a separate lab nearby. There, in one of the private rooms, the lady asked me about my pregnancy. I answered that yes, I am pregnant (surprised that she wasn't sure at 8 months, but I understand people don't want to guess at these things), and she asked if I was excited about the baby coming. Oh yes, I said. We've been waiting a very long time for this. She inquired further about my history and I told her about the miscarriages and the struggles. So far, the conversation had gone as I expected. But then came the part that I always dread: "Well, I guess you finally quit 'trying' and your body figured out what to do. You know, a lot of women adopt a baby and then get pregnant."
I guess I'm not offended by these statements, but it still just frustrates me that this is where we end up. I don't know why it has to be about having a magic solution that fixed the problem. No, in fact we hadn't "given up" or "quit trying" and we were not on the verge of adopting a baby. People just don't seem satisfied with the fact that I can't pinpoint exactly what worked for us or fixed my messed up reproductive system. And really I guess it's just a minor annoyance; I just wish that more people understood. It's interesting how these are almost the very same things that used to bug me when I was trying to get pregnant. It's just another form of "just relax" and "why don't you adopt?"
Other times when I share my story, I will have someone say that everything we went through was all worth it to get to this point. I have mixed feelings about that. Was it worth all the years we spent waiting and wondering, seeing doctors and having surgeries, and spending money? I'd say a resounding YES. Not that all of that was easy by any means. And I know that many endure so much more of that than I ever did, and it absolutely can reach a point where it becomes too much to handle. I've certainly learned that not all paths of IF treatment are the same. For me, though, in my own personal experience and because our fertility treatment phase wasn't really very invasive or complex in the long run, what I went through was totally worth it to achieve a successful pregnancy.
The part that I have a problem with, however, is the part of my story where our babies died. I'll just never be comfortable with saying that was "worth it." Don't get me wrong -- I would give up life and limb for this baby I'm carrying. She is worth every tear that I've cried and every hope and dream that I thought had died. And I would walk this same road again if I could know that she was waiting for me at the finish line. I'm just not okay with the terminology that losing six babies could ever feel worth it. Those lives were incredibly precious to me as well. As hard as the waiting part was, the beauty is that there came a point where that part was over and done. Or, I guess more accurately, that point will come next month when this baby is born. I know that she will definitely have been worth the wait! It's not that I'll never have to wait for anything again, but finally that 9-year struggle with never knowing if or when or how will be over in an instant. While there has been healing in my heart from losing my babies, though, I don't think that part will ever really be gone. I don't doubt in any way that the Lord can continue to heal that hurt for me. I pray that He does! But my heart will never forget those babies that I carried and wished for and prayed for.
I hate the misconception that seems to be out there (outside of the IF community, of course) that miscarriage is not a big deal. Anyone who has experienced it or had someone close to them experience it knows otherwise. Anyone who has wished and prayed for a baby and then hoped with everything inside of them that their baby would survive knows otherwise. Even after I had been through it multiple times, I still had people in my life who were confused about why I was so upset. It still boggles my mind that sometimes even the most passionate pro-lifers can be so casual about the loss of a baby. People told me that it was so common. It happens to a lot of people. I needed to forget it and move on with my life. I was still young. I could always have another baby. But I knew in my mind and in my heart that there was no guarantee of that. The odds were definitely stacking up against me. Besides that, the events of the past several years had taken their toll on my body and I sure didn't feel very young anymore. I needed time to grieve, while people outside of my immediate circle didn't seem to understand.
On a related note, I got an e-mail the other day from an acquaintance of mine who had heard we were expecting a baby. I don't know this person very well at all, and it was a very simple, brief message that I'm sure meant well. It was only about three sentences long, including a quick hello, followed by "I heard you were pregnant and I'm excited for you," and then the part that got under my skin: "Things always have a way of working themselves out." I still haven't responded to the message because I don't know what to say. I suppose that a simple thank-you will have to do. I guess it's just a matter of opinion, but I don't personally believe that things always work out the way we want them to. If things really did "work themselves out," wouldn't my body have gotten on board a long time ago and before I lost so many unborn babies? I frankly don't consider what I've lived through for the past decade things working themselves out.
Who would think so? Who would have wished for this? Oh, I wished for a healthy pregnancy. I wished for that when I was a young, innocent bride of 21. I wished for it the first time I got that positive test at the age of 24. Of course I kept wishing for it during our years of loss, but I didn't just sit around the house wishing! It took a great deal of courage and facing our fears to keep going. We had to find the strength to pick ourselves up and try again. We had to seek out the right medical help. We had to grow up very quickly and realize that this wasn't going to be easy. We had to get through some hard times in our marriage, teeter on the edge of depression, and battle anxiety and worry and grief. If I were going to covet or be jealous of something, it would be the easy road! I would have wished for that first baby to have lived, followed by subsequent healthy pregnancies back when we were young and naive! I wouldn't have wished for or been envious of this road we've had to walk.
(Maybe you think I'm being too hard on the sender of that e-mail, but take my word for it. If you knew this person you'd know that it was his way of telling me that I did all that worrying and wondering for nothing. It's pretty frustrating to be made to feel like you were silly for ever feeling that way.)
As the saying goes, though, hindsight is 20/20. I have reached a point where I can be thankful for the difficult times. I can appreciate how that experience grew and changed us even though (and because) it was so hard. I'm simply saying that it would have been my natural tendency, of course, to hope for the easier and less painful way. I guess what I'm trying to say is that when I look back I don' think, "Wow, things really worked themselves out." No. Instead I think, "Thank the Lord that He brought us through." I know in my heart that there were times when I didn't think I would make it. That's when the lesson finally came through that His strength is perfect when mine is gone. I will always give God the glory for where we are now.
Remember those lessons in mercy that I wrote about last time? They are still being learned! I have to remind myself often to respond to people and comments with love and with mercy. And although most of the time, thankfully, it's not an issue, I'm learning to be prepared.