This post was originally run in April, 2019 in honor of National Infertility Awareness Week.
I am blessed. I have people in my life that call me Mommy. I have known the surge of amazement and gratitude when a child was placed in my arms as a gift to care for and raise. I have had the experience of feeling a baby move inside of me. I will always remember the sound of her heartbeat on the Doppler and the day I first saw her on the ultrasound.
I will also remember the many years that came before that, the years when my hands were empty and my heart was broken. The years of silence. The years filled with doctors, and tests, and needles, and unanswered prayers.
In the beginning, I was hopeful. I married young, just after my 21st birthday. I spent my days dreaming of a perfect baby. I saw myself walking down the streets with my carriage, smiling at my neighbors, proudly showing off my little bundle of joy. I bought a pregnancy test and put it in my closet. I was so sure that very soon I would need it. But I never did. It sat there for years doing nothing but collecting dust and mocking me.
I once heard someone speak to a group of women experiencing infertility. He said that we don’t count in years. Infertility is counted by months because that is how it affects us. Each month we hope anew that this time it will work. We pray that this time there will be no period. Every cramp we feel, every strange twinge, becomes a sign. We feel the slightest bit queasy or dizzy, and we are sure that finally, we are pregnant. Our hearts expand, the excitement mounts, the dreaming begins— and then the blood appears. In one wipe of toilet paper, dreams are dashed, hearts are broken, tears are shed.
We wonder why. We question what we have done to deserve this. We watch our friends and our siblings have one baby and then another. We see children everywhere we go. We start to avoid family gatherings and social functions. Our lives become rigid and scheduled. We take medicine at exact times on exact days. We have written plans that tell us daily when we can be with our spouses and when we can’t. The medicines make us tired, and cranky, and hot, and cold, and emotional, and fat. Treatments cost thousands of dollars with no guarantee that they will work. On the darkest days, when the doctor calls to say that he is sorry, it did not work this month, we cry a few tears and then take out our calendars and figure out when we will start again.
We do this because even though we say we have given up, that is never really true. We know that we will try again, and again, and again, we will try every crazy thing we hear because we want it that much. We allow ourselves to dream in the midst of our nightmares because we know that we are women and our bodies were made to create life. There is an empty space inside of us that can only be filled by the love of a child. It is more than a wish— it is an actual, physical need.
I can’t say that I am grateful for my struggles. I won’t say that I am so much stronger because of the pain. I will not look at another woman going through infertility and tell her to relax, not to worry. But, I will happily show you the pictures of my son that I adopted at age two and my daughter that came a year later. I will talk your ear off about my miracle baby that came after 204 months of trying, the one that the doctors said would never be.
Her name is Emuna. It means faith, to believe. Because through it all, I never gave up. I never thought for even a second that I would not be a mother. I believed even when I was told there was nothing to believe in.