Infertility is such a difficult journey and there is long periods of waiting during infertility. Infertility involves so much waiting. Waiting for a positive pregnancy test, waiting for a cycle to begin, waiting for blood test results, waiting for doctors appointments, waiting for scans, waiting for a diagnosis, waiting for your turn. Waiting, waiting, waiting.
Waiting patiently for children or contemplating a possibility of no children sometimes feels like an impossible chore. Except it’s not a chore, it’s an existence. Living with infertility is an existence where everything is hopeless and every feeling you have is limited to your feeling of loss. Thoughts are constantly about the baby who is not in your arms.
I can remember there was an evening during my journey of infertility when I changed my perspective of waiting and started to concentrate more on living.
It happened as I watched a grieving husband kneeling by a graveside, weeping for his dead wife, lamenting his loss and contemplating raising 2 daughters on his own. Unseen by him, I could see his wife’s ghost. She was begging him to cease his grieving. She implored him to not waste a moment while alive but to value and cherish life, recognizing that even the small mundane things in life are “important enough” and that he should value “every, every minute.”
This mourning husband grieved on a stage during a scene of the famous American play “Our Town”. the poignant image of the dead watching us live our lives and willing us to respect the enormous privilege we have to be alive affected me enormously.
As I watched, it occurred to me that perhaps I needed to ensure that the fleeting minutes that belong to me as I live on earth are not wasted.
At the time, my husband and I had been married for 4 years. We married relatively young and during our marriage, we were already on the way to paying off our modest little white farmhouse that we lived in, I had finished my degree, a Bachelor of Education and in the evenings Alex was studying externally working on his degree, a Bachelor of Accounting. We were working during the day which had developed a passion for travelling and funded overseas European adventures and had a great social life with a variety of friends.
But, for almost 2 years at that point, we had been trying to have a child.
It is not that the quest to have children was crippling me and leaving me unable to live a meaningful life. I was very happily employed as a lower primary teacher at Christian Outreach College. I adored the children in my classes and I enjoyed teaching. In many ways I was able to redirect my instinct to mother towards those children. I would make sure they ate their lunch, ensure they felt loved and accepted, govern the squabbles and conflicts they had with their friendships. I would spend hours preparing games and designing lessons so that the learning was as fun as possible while the content that I taught was solid and my students had strong academic foundations in those early years.
But even though I loved my job, there was still a level of discontent that one feel when you are experiencing infertility. The yearning to have your own biological children can be deep and painful.
I am a Christian. I talk to God and he talks to me. I believe God talks to me in a variety of ways. Sometimes I feel dirction by God when I read His words in the Bible. Sometimes as I pray, I can feel a presence and deep down inside my Spirit. I hear a voice that is wiser than my own. After I have prayed, ideas and answers that become guidance come to me, more often and more quickly then if I do not pray. So for me, this is proof that God talks to me. When I am at church, often I hear from God when I sing a song or listen to the Pastor preach.
Then there are the times that God speaks to me in a more unconditional way. For instance, a walk in the bush contemplating nature, and suddenly God drops a metaphor into my mind that applies to a situation in my life.
On this particular occasion God used some words written by Thornton Wilder and a group of student actors to get my attention.
Later that evening as I contemplated the message of the play, I heard God speaking to me. I felt a clear directive that I was not to waste my life worrying that I would never get pregnant or speculatively obsessing about my future.
Would I be a mother?
Childless? Was I going to be always without my own children? How would I cope, would there always be a part of me that would feel empty and unfulfilled?
That night I realized that while it was natural to feel emotional about this topic, I was spending so far too much of my thought life contemplating scenarios of what may or may not be. At the end of the day, the obsessing was not getting me anywhere. There were two scenarios. I would have children, or I wouldn’t. Either way, if I wanted my life to be meaningful, I would need to work out a way proceed and find my purpose in each moment.
And so I stopped dreaming about the “what ifs” and living more in the moment and planning for the future that I knew. I was living, seeking to fulfill my days with meaning and gratitude. Of course I still dreamed about being a mother, but when I did so, it was with the confidence that whatever my future was, it was secure and it was good.
And it has been good! After five years of trying to conceive, I discovered I was pregnant with our first child. I was living in London at the time. Ringing my parents and my sister and telling them the news was one of the happiest moments of my life.
In my wildest dreams I would have never imagined that after my first little boy was born, I would have four more children and that my youngest three would be triplets.
Parenting is hard work. Really hard work. I am blessed that I am able to stay at home with my children and raise them during these early years. Each day is precious and I treasure so many moments with my children. It’s not all happiness. There are the stormy waters of childish tantrums, stubbornness and jealousy to negotiate. When the tempests brought on by angry little humans surround me, I often remember the days when I yearned for these children. Suddenly my perspective is restored, and somehow I navigate our ship into safer harbours and enjoy the sunshine when peace is restored.
I remember the words spoken in the play, “Our Town”, that I watched back in 2002. Emily, the young wife who had died asked, “Does anyone ever realize life while they live it … every, every minute?” The response from the Stage Manager who narrated the play was, “No. Saints and poets maybe…they do some.”
I am not a poet, and my family would testify that I am indeed no saint. I am determined to live my life in such a way that it is meaningful. While I am here on earth, I don’t want to just value every moment, I want to make a difference in the lives of others. I want to make the God that I pray to proud of the life I lived and I want my life to reflect the goodness that he is to me.
Because, to once again quote Thornton Wilder’s words in “Our Town”,
“We all know that something is eternal. And it ain’t houses and it ain’t names, and it ain’t earth, and it ain’t even the stars … everybody knows in their bones that something is eternal, and that something has to do with human beings. All the greatest people ever lived have been telling us that for five thousand years and yet you’d be surprised how people are always losing hold of it it. There’s something way down deep that’s eternal about every human being.”