For those of you that know me personally, you already know that I have spent most of my 29 years filling the role of "the sick kid". I missed family functions and friends' parties. I never had perfect school attendance, and I learned early how to avoid sharing an uncomfortable amount of details during polite conversation. The easiest way to live the life of "the sick kid" is to draw as little attention to yourself as possible.
So, as any sick kid might, I repeatedly insisted that I was "fine" when you inquired about my health, and I stopped offering the gruesome details of my life thus far. I even got pretty good at deflecting and turning the conversation back onto you when I got uncomfortable with someone caring a little too much. After all, as a kid I had learned that caring people usually turn out to be just as flaky as the uncaring ones when they figure out that your sick isn't going away anytime soon.
Not that I blame any of these people. Who can blame anyone for losing interest when the channel never changes? I would have lost interest too if I wasn't unavoidably attached to the situation. Even family gets tired of hearing you talk about not feeling well. Who wants to hear an endless story from someone who is characteristically depressed via. illness?
But the thing is, chronic illness isn't just about the obvious signs or the more honest details that I might share when caught off guard. Sometimes, it is the invisible symptoms and the things I intentionally hide that cause the most damage, and it goes beyond mental illness. For instance, my now husband and I spent a large part of our new relationship visiting doctors, some of those concerning fertility.
First off, no couple should have to go through the stress of testing fertility and being forced into drastic decisions when they should be in the honeymoon phase of getting to know one another. My heart goes out to those who find strength in forming a solid team when life pulls at the seams in every direction. My husband and I made it through the worst of the storm, but it wasn't easy.
We chose each other no matter what our fertility results revealed. We held each other, determined to fight whatever might come. We talked about what we were willing to try and what we would do if we couldn't stick to the plan. Then, we waited. We waited, we learned, and we started over when we got new information.
But what hit the hardest is that even if you don't have a medical condition that directly or indirectly affects fertility, sometimes one part of our body having issues can make growing another body quite complicated, regardless of getting pregnant. We got pregnant. But we lost it...
I will never forget a conversation I had years ago with a man who I was talking to (my generation's term for getting to know someone before deciding to make it official). At the time, I was being diagnosed with gastroparesis and he voiced his concerns quite loudly by bluntly asking, "Can you even carry a baby? Like, can your body even nourish a baby when it can't feed itself?"
Well, good question! Those words made me hold my breath in thought then and have affected me, unknowingly, for years since. I'm not sure I knew just how much until I fell in love with a man who makes me the happiest I have ever been in my entire life. You see, the more I fall in love with Joel, the more I want the possibilities that he shows me. Certainly, this includes the idea that one day I hope to successfully carry, deliver, and raise his adorable little babies.
The problem is, my biological clock likes to annoyingly tick in my ear and remind me that I should get a move on if I want to be a mom. Because I may have a fighting chance to have a baby, but the odds tell me that it might not be so easy or fast for us. So, am I ready to have a kid? Probably not. I'm still enjoying getting to know the love of my life and spending time with our new family of fur-balls and plant-babies.
But just the same, every month that I spot early or feel a little more emotional than my normal pms, a little seed in the back of my mind asks if maybe just maybe we have another happy little surprise on the way. And no matter how improbable I know that likelihood to be, and regardless of whether or not I truly feel ready to be a parent, especially after a bio-chemical pregnancy loss, a deeply buried and densely hidden part of me jumps out to scream, "Look, my body can carry a baby!"
So yeah, I should be elated to get the glorious monthly sign that I still have the possibility of getting pregnant. I should be thankful that we aren't having a baby before we are ready. I should be utterly grateful that we still have time to be a couple and enjoy each other before we have to steal away moments in the midst of chaos.
But there is a little part of me that cries and feels devastated every time the test turns up negative. Because no matter how happy I am with our life together as is, it can be pure torture to wonder if it will ever happen. To wonder if that little seed of doubt planted so long ago will loom forever. Joel likes to tell me that "we have all the time in the world" and "our time will come" but sometimes it is hard to be patient. Sometimes it is hard to hope. Sometimes I just need to let myself feel sad that I don't know yet.
I don't know if I can get pregnant again, if I can carry a baby to term, or if I can be a good mom when my body has rebelled at every turn. I don't earn a paycheck, I barely function as an adult, I don't drive anymore, and sometimes I just wonder if it is irresponsible to even want to be a parent in this situation. So until I know, proven by experience, I will allow myself to be sad at times and pick myself up afterward. I will allow myself to lose it and find myself in the love around me. I will keep hoping no matter the statistics or scary doctor warnings and, one day, when we are ready, our family will continue to grow. One hope at a time.
Hugs to the other hopeful future mamas,