Here I was again. Sitting across from a friend over coffee and dreading the inevitable question. If only skirting around talking about the issue was as easy as skirting around dealing with it. Distraction was one of my closest friends the last few months, but when sitting across from an actual friend, diversion was no longer an option. There was no hindrance to prevent her from seeing what I was hiding. Two days ago I would have had nothing to hide, as per usual. But. This was fresh pain, and without having truly faced it, it was hard to face her. I did my best to look engaged, to look her in the eyes. Then, her intuition shifted the conversation and before the question was entirely out of her mouth, I flinched. Like the prick that deflated my balloon of hope the day before, her insight released a gush of grief neither of us were prepared for.
The stress had been mounting with every month of heartbreak. The more I reached out for help the more isolated I felt. My husband withdrew and chose stoic over supportive. Didn’t he know this was supposed to bring us closer together? Friends grew in distance as their families grew in number. Didn’t they know I needed people to lean on more than ever? Loved ones tried to offer hope in the form of painfully ignorant guidance. Didn’t they know I’d had enough ‘fixing’ and clearly needed empathy? God was silent and not providing any miracles. Didn’t He know motherhood was the only purpose and identity I had ever felt?
It wasn’t only the negative pregnancy test that broke me that day. It was also the negativity I saw in my reflection, in my fertility functions, in my attitude, in my life. My self-worth was at an all-time low and my anxiety was at an all-time high. My grief was the spark that eventually ignited a battle with depression. I felt a cold chasm expanding within my marriage, and within almost every relationship, including with God. My identity was facing a terrifyingly big, blank slate. I was losing my grip on all I held dear. There was no hiding from it anymore.
I was so tired of hiding it.
I was tired of tiptoeing around it so as not to make everyone else feel uncomfortable. Tired of the platitudes. Tired of people telling me I deserve to be a mother. Tired of people telling me I should be more desperate to be a mother. Tired of people telling me not to be desperate, I had plenty of time. I was tired of all the advice. I resented all the advice. I resented people with ‘normal’ fertility who had no clue. I resented my abnormal fertility. I resented my body, my age, my choices, my limitations, my doctors, my husband, my God. Everything.
And I was tired of resenting everything.
I was so tired of it all.
I wanted to let go.
Only four years in and I was done. I had been through all the tests, with all the results coming up negative, just like my pregnancy tests. What started as a journey towards a bundle of joy ended up the most heartbreaking road I’d ever walked. What started as the ultimate union between husband and wife ended up creating the widest rift we’d ever encountered. The future I hoped for was decomposing before my eyes, and the decay was now eating away at the present. It made me feel like my whole life was rotten. I could see it, like gangrene’s voracious appetite for healthy, living tissue, this negativity wanted to devour everything that was still vibrant and valuable about my life. I knew I needed to stop the spread before it consumed my life. Before it consumed me.
I wanted to let it go.
I had to let it go.
But how? The only dream I’d ever had was being dismantled, how could I find another? Why me? What now? How do I get back to that joy-filled, hopeful, positive person I used to be? Where do I even begin?
And so those are the questions I spent the next several years trying to figure out. I needed to figure out how to let go so I could receive something new.
And so I did.
And that’s why I am sharing my story with you, for those who are unsure of their own story in the pause.
Thirteen years in and my story isn’t the typical miracle or happy ending. My story isn’t going through whatever treatments it takes to get the family we want. My story isn’t growing a family through adoption or fostering. My family of two still feels unfinished and we weren’t satisfied choosing a child-free life. My story is about what it’s like to live with no answers, no next steps, no idea what is in store for my family. And it could have been about having no hope.
But it isn’t.
I am here to let you know, if you find yourself drowning in negativity, there is a path to positivity through it all. There is a joy‑filled life still awaiting you. I would love it if you would join me on this journey. My journey to becoming positive, when all the results are negative.
~ ~ ~
"It is not a slight thing when those so fresh from God love us."
~ Charles Dickens
For me, holding a baby erases all doubt that there is a God. If there was ever proof of the miraculous, a tiny little life is it. To be able to have in my arms something so recently in His presence, it is a slice of Heaven.
Since a very young age I have considered myself a baby whisperer, from a family full of baby whisperers. We were the ones sure to be found holding any baby in the vicinity, so I was a baby‑sitter from the earliest age possible and at every opportunity. Where a baby was crying inconsolably, I would swoop in to sooth, un‑phased by the demanding decibels. I loved the challenge of entertaining a testy or timid toddler, and savoured the squeals of laughter I inevitably induced. I could watch them for hours; sleeping, playing, learning, every part of their little lives brought me joy.
The moment I was holding a baby or playing with a child, my heart felt something incredibly special. I would be flooded with warmth and affection, even if I barely knew the child or its family. My heart opened wide and love simultaneously poured in and out at the same time. I have often wondered if they can tell how much I love them because they always seem to love me back. As long as I can remember, I have considered babies the world’s greatest miracles.
In the family I grew up in, this affinity for caregiving and nurturing wasn’t anything noteworthy, it was the norm. I saw it in my mom, my cousins, my sisters, it was all around me. It wasn’t my special skills that made motherhood my calling, to me it was the children that were special. I wanted to feel that bond always. It wasn’t until much later in life that I felt it was my one true calling.
Early on, my calling to motherhood was part of the plan, but as a child I was full of dreams. These changed about as frequently as the next new creative endeavor I was introduced to. Hair dresser, painter, author, journalist, photographer, fashion designer, architect, interior designer, advertising, and the list goes on. As a teenager, I wiled away the hours sketching, painting, colouring, crafting, and playing with pretty much any art medium I could get my hands on. I hadn’t decided on a career yet, all I knew was that I wanted to do something creative.
If you had asked me then what I thought about my identity, I likely would have assumed I knew myself. Considering how fast my interests would change, it is no wonder that I in fact didn’t. I know now, in hindsight, what a late bloomer I actually was. I was so unsure of myself. I knew what I liked to do but I didn’t feel I was talented enough at those things. Besides, some of my best giftings had not even begun to grow yet.
Even while I was on the cusp of making what I thought were lifelong adult decisions, I didn’t have a hot clue about my purpose. Besides that, encouragement was sparse while competition was fierce in high school. And that was only in my little town of 10,000. Every time I explored a passion I became daunted at how much rivalry would be out there in the ‘real world’. This was what our grade 12 teachers were frequently reminding us of, in attempts to prepare us for the inevitable. Soon my dreams were just another thing to fear.
~ | | ~
Fear and I were old friends by the time I reached eighteen. I say friends because it was a relationship not unlike many of my others over the course of my youth, where I buried my needs and went along with whatever others wanted. My fear and my friends dominated most of my decisions, since I mistook my need for extroversion for a need to be liked by everyone. My personal value greatly depended on the validation I received when others liked me. I did whatever it took not to rock the boat, to keep their appreciation for me as status quo, and to keep myself within the social circle that I craved. In my mid-30’s I learned that this is called co‑dependence. There were many reasons I had grown to be co-dependent, some of them nature, some of them nurture. But the ‘why’ didn’t matter at the time because fixing it wasn’t even on the radar. The only thing that was? Being loved.
Now that did have a lot to do with my nature. Again, because I was a late bloomer, these are all revelations I had when I was much closer to middle-aged than to middle school. I can see now that I was a child obsessed with feeling loved, because I was a child who felt deeply. And if you feel things deeply, it would be nice if they were predominately good feelings. Not only did I yearn to feel that love directed toward me, but I also longed to pour out the love I felt on others.
During my teen years I heard a saying which I adopted as my own personal motto, it was, “Love and be loved.” I thought my existence began and ended with love. I wasn’t wholly wrong, but I wasn’t exactly right either. When I loved, I loved whole-heartedly, frequently with very little reason to, and therefore giving much more than I ever received. And my default of feeling things deeply made every word someone spoke to me that much more personal, positively or negatively. This made for some very deep heartache, as I was often crushed by crushes who didn’t like me as much as their words had implied, or who let me down harshly. Friendships didn’t fare much better.
Because this was my nature from a very early age, I had quite the collection of wounds by the time I graduated high school, none of them sufficiently healed. I gradually began to try less and with less people, my way of connecting to people was not sustainable. Of course, this led to being actually alone, instead of just feeling lonely. In my loneliness, I turned to an internal, invented world, where I could imagine the perfect existence. It offered me something that real world relationships couldn’t seem to be able to offer me. For a variety of reasons, I identified that as a romantic relationship. That would hold the key to true acceptance, I thought. So I began to build a fantasy life with the guy who would love me as I am. I envisioned that he would know exactly who that was, even if I didn’t. I played out all the ways I would be able to love on him. And, of course, our children. I lived in this fictional fairy‑tale, hoping that somehow, one day, ‘my prince would come.’ He would come and he would make it all come true.
~ | | ~
I was 22 when I finally met my prince, and as the saying goes, ‘but I kissed a lot of frogs first’. Well, not exactly. I only got to the kissing stage with two, and by the time I met him I no longer believed in princes anyway, however that is a different story for another time. In the four years of adulting that it took to meet him, I had become even more convinced my aspirations of being in any creative industry were delusional dreams of grandeur. Dreams I needed to pack away with the rest of my childhood things.
At age 19 I left for the city, determined not to end up in the small town jobs that trapped the uneducated. I may not have known what I wanted to do as a career anymore, but I knew the city had to have better options. Over the next several years, the women I worked with unintentionally gave the unified impression I had a lot of time to wait for children, so I continued to try to figure out my ‘for now’ career. And like I said, three years later, I had come to the conclusion I was simply going to work at something where my skills at being average and ordinary could pay the bills. That was until I met Mr. Right and I could be the stay at home mom I had now made my number one dream.
As much as I was determined to become a mother, I was correspondingly resolved to have a solid marriage before children. As much as I wanted children, to me they were only a product of love, I would not be settling for one without the other. I was convinced, and stayed convinced, for the next six years, that my plan for timing was just fine. Considering my family history with fertility, I could have been more concerned, but somehow I wasn’t. I grew increasingly convinced that children were my one path to true fulfillment, and because of my certainty I was willing to defer it, to do it right.
During that time I still enjoyed many creative hobbies, but that is all they were. They were something on the side to keep me occupied until they could fit into the future I was waiting for. In fact, many of them I began seeing as fulfilling when I combined them with motherhood. When I had a creative inspiration, the kind I previously tried to translate into making a living, I adapted it into a hobby. It was even better if it was something I could one day do during the naps of little ones, or as a homeschooling project. I had devised the perfect plan, I thought. It was the best of both worlds. Being a stay at home mom would bring the freedom for whatever creative outlets I wanted to pursue. All without the pressure of having to make a living with my creations.
To a degree, this helped with my patience as I waited. Of course, only for a time, because I didn’t yet realize how much of my personality was purpose driven. I yearned to have a purpose. Over the years I began to feel empty and hopeless when I didn’t have that thing that told me my life had meaning. Yet, for all my searching, nothing dissuaded me from my belief that I only had the one purpose. It may have started out that I wanted motherhood because of my love for children, but ultimately it formed into my life’s meaning. I realized so many of my strengths lay in being a nurturer, and not only was this one of my greatest passions, but for once I found an area of life that I didn’t fear competition. I had found my confidence.
~ | | ~
So back to prince charming. He was no prince, more of a knight in shining armor type, but he certainly was charming. If he could have, my cowboy wanna-be would have rode in on his trusty steed and swept me off my feet, rescuing me. He was a rescuer and I was a girl who needed rescuing. From herself.
The road to falling in love was paved with… no, scratch that, that implies it was smooth. It was anything but smooth. It was the kind of roads we drive on here where we live, in Winnipeg, Manitoba. They are full of potholes and uneven surfaces that leave you jostled and frustrated, even with the best of shocks. But while the road was not easy, we were. We had something instant, and I wouldn’t call it chemistry, it was deeper and more meaningful than that. We shared so much, from our core values to our specific brand of humor, and so falling in love was easy. This was the first relationship in my life, the first anything in my life, that truly felt ‘meant to be.’
We were easy, but we were also young. He even younger than I, by three years. So I was very patient with timelines, I didn’t push him to get married. And once we did, I agreed to his request to wait five years to have children, when I would be 30 and he would be 27. This all seemed very reasonable and smart, in the moment. It’s likely that’s because I was convinced now that I had found love, my life was unfolding perfectly, exactly the way I’d hoped. To me that meant I could finally relax, the desperation for love and purpose was finished. But the unfolding was merely the beginning of the unraveling.