I just put her down and I hear her soft, sweet, zombie-like coos over the monitor as she babbles herself to sleep. It is otherwise silent in the house. The clock was moved back last night and the world is collectively sleepier than we should be at this hour. It is dark and cozy and there is something about tonight that feels sacred.
I’ve found myself staring at her lately, even more so than usual, and today I ruined (and thus completely underutilized) a precious, rare, ever short-lived nap. Almost down to one a day now that she is about to be one year old. That birthday is why I stare at her. I stare at her and take her all in, her tiny nose, her wiggly hands, her round belly and disappearing luscious thigh rolls. I pray, “Lord, help me to remember. Help me to etch this moment into my brain, the feel of her in my arms and on my breast into my memory, her smell always on me, her soft hair as I kiss her for the thousandth time today forever on my lips.” What I really mean is, “Lord, don’t let this moment ever end. It’s all passing too quickly.” Deep down I fear I can’t handle it.
This past year has been full of those prayers. The “Lord, don’t let this moment pass” and “Lord, help me to remember, cause me to cherish every second” prayers. The “Lord, she is going off to college soon!” prayers. I prayed that one in the hospital last Thanksgiving, her first full day of life.
Like there are a thousand kisses a day to be given to my baby, there are a thousand ways I am changed by being infertile. I have written scores of blog posts in my mind over the past year and a half since becoming pregnant describing them. There is of course the hyper-vigilance and -paranoia in pregnancy. The foreign experience of being just another OB patient at the normal pregnant people doctor. What do you mean you don’t remember me from last month? The squeamishness of sharing your pregnancy with others, not wanting to hurt anyone else who may be going through infertility. And do you post delivery news or pumpkin patch photos on facebook? What if I’m contributing to the depressing news feed of an unbeknownst infertile friend? The cleaning out of hospital bills and seeing that your doctor had written in the medical record on your baby’s birth day “This was a very desired baby; she is welcomed by her parents with immense joy and they will be a great mother and father.” The laughing at your doctor’s insistence that you use contraception with a newborn. The struggle over whether you have the right to complain about the avocado stains on your pants because you wanted her so badly and moved heaven and earth to get her here. The wondering about her semi-twin, the frozen embryo and your other baby you pray and ache for from 15 miles down the road. Will he (she?) actually become a baby in my arms? The how do you answer too-soon questions about when you’ll have more children. Truly, the list goes on and those may have been helpful blogs to actually write. For me, the emotions were too overwhelming and at times confusing to share on a public blog. I have struggled with guilt over dropping off of the blogosphere and potentially hurting “friends in the computer” I had made. It just felt like too much to sort through and that work has had to be done behind closed doors with the Lord. The “I know you were there but where were you?” prayers that I don’t like to admit to but that He is answering because He is good and gracious and patient with me.
Had I really given it thought beforehand (but who has time for that amidst appointments, injections, worrying, and endless neurotic internet searching), I may have suspected some of these ways your infertility follows you even after you have a baby. What I did not anticipate is that, although she has been in my arms now for almost 365 days, I am still infertile and in some ways I can now count that as a gift (not one I ever would have chosen, mind you, or likely would choose again). Because of being infertile I am keenly aware – daily – that my daughter is a miracle and the greatest gift to have been given to me aside from Jesus and my husband. Like those gifts, I did not earn her or deserve her. The Lord did not owe her to me. I could even still be baby-less. But He did. He brought her to us and took that darkness away, and here she lies with those long eyelashes and chubby cheeks, having fallen asleep in my arms. I should go do some laundry or shower, but instead, I am washed over with gratitude and awe and stuck staring. I’m sure every mom ruins nap times and gets nothing done just watching her baby – I realize I am nothing special. As an infertile mom maybe you let yourself do that more or maybe you just understand a bit deeper why that feeling overtakes you like it does.
I am perhaps a tad more patient, a tad more accepting of the sleeplessness, a tad more grateful for my daughter than my 26-year-old with a baby self would have been. Grateful for and swept up in those quiet, sweet sacred moments and also for the – the cloth diapers stink, poop up the back, here she goes again pulling every single book off the shelf – mundane kind of sacred moments. No, I don’t enjoy discovering there is still carrot in my hair at my husband’s fancy work event, and to be a good mom (infertile or not) I don’t have to. But I am glad that I can thank God for it. I am grateful to be grateful and, dare I say, if suffering had a role in getting me here, I also will thank God for that.
There is so much you lose being infertile and going through any kind of suffering. I still don’t understand exactly what God is up to as He allows it for a time on this earth. And I am beginning to see a tiny glimpse of what can be gained. Gratitude. Freeing yourself to waste some time and to be present and to let go of all that doesn’t matter. Finding the sacred in the mundane. Worship.
As I mentioned in at least one previous post, a song that guided me throughout infertility is called “10,000 Reasons” and it meant so much to me because it basically is a prayer that we would be grateful and praise God at the end of the day no matter what. At the end of that darkness for me was a baby, but I still pray to the Lord that I would praise Him no matter how dark it might be again in the future. That I would have praised Him had a baby never come. That I will praise Him in the sadness that likely will plague me when she actually does leave and go to college (Lord willing). I pray that I will praise and trust Him should she ever be hurt or, God forbid I speak my and every mother’s deepest fear, that I lose her. I wish I would have trusted Him more in my infertility suffering but know there is grace for that, and pray that I will trust him more deeply now.
I fear this most definitely will come across as trite, but I pray for other infertile women out there waiting, trying desperately, crying out to God, doubting, maybe reading this blog, and I implore Him that out of His goodness we all might experience and trust His love for us and that we all would be grateful to Him not for what He does for us now but for who He is and for what He ultimately has done for us. That whether He brought me a baby or not, whether He spares her and me from all future suffering or not, He has a plan to put an end to all suffering and to redeem us and our broken bodies and this needy earth. He cares that we are suffering and wants it gone and is taking care of that. I am so thankful for that promise that I know with my mind and pray to know more deeply in my heart, and hope that I might one day value that and Him above all else, even this precious baby.
I fear I cannot handle my baby growing up – we prayed and fought so very hard for her – just like I feared I could not handle each successive step of infertility. The truth I’m beginning to see is that I can’t, and I couldn’t. Infertility has given me the gift of seeing my utter need for the Lord to breathe and have life, to physically get through each day, to have any amount of a kind heart, to be grateful. Just as He breathed life into my baby, I need Him breathing Himself into me so that I can trust Him and praise Him no matter what. These are the sacred gifts gained as He’s redeeming the ugly suffering. Let me be singing when the evening comes.