It is a funny thing, feeling broken. It is a surreal state of existing, not being able to do something I was designed to do. I do not even feel like myself in this place. This place where I once laughed and dreamed has been replaced by a cyclic loop of disappointment. It is a pain I didn’t know could exist. The gut wrenching ache of hope deferred. It is the most repellent of foes, yet I’m forced to know it’s toxicity intimately.
It was on a summer morning some years ago in our little apartment in Echo Park, Los Angeles that Mouse (I call my husband Mouse, he calls me Bear – roll with it) while sitting at the kitchen table stoically turned to me and softly said, “Bear, it’s time.” We had never really talked about children before, so his statement should have been a confusing one to me; yet, I knew precisely what he meant and I shook my head yes with a smile.
Years later, the hope kindled in that moment now has become home to a dull and at times two-year-old kind of tantrum-throwing ache that never seems to go away. It feels like a spectre or phantom that hovers, ever-present in my waking (and occasionally sleeping) thoughts; a reminder of a groan I can never quite let out. You see, most of the time I’m too afraid to cry or tap into how I really feel. I’m afraid that if I cry and begin to fully process the pain of not being able to conceive then I might never stop crying. I might never stop pounding my fists and hating this body that has not done what it was designed to do. Those are the darkest days for me. The days when the swell feels too big for my raw heart to navigate.
You see, most of the time I’m too afraid to cry or tap into how I really feel. I’m afraid that if I cry and begin to fully process the pain of not being able to conceive then I might never stop crying.
It has been an arduous journey through this mine field of emotions and volatility. There are good days and bad days, and then days where I just want to disengage my heart to numb the pain. But it is on the good days that I am re-introduced to the neglected path of hope. It is there that I’m learning to see again, to feel again and to believe in the impossible again. In that place something mysterious happens, a belief takes root debunking fear and agony – a belief that I WILL be a Mother. I’m not sure how or when it will come about, but when I choose to embrace hope I see and feel its truth. I will be a Mother.
You see, hope is always at the ready should we choose to call it into action. Should we be brave enough to do so. We as a generation have forgotten the power of hope to alter, transfix and elevate the human soul. Instead we are too afraid of being let down that we fail to press in; to dream and grasp of it’s limitless worth. I have been that person these last years. Too often I have let hope deferred bully me from picking up that which I need most, hope. No more. Hope is too sweet of a friend to this hurting heart, to continue that way. So no matter what comes, I will hope because the view from up here has changed everything.
… I know that when we become a people that forget the power of hope, then we become a lesser people.
If you’re in the midst of your own journey with infertility, here is what I say to you: You are not alone. So few understand the myriad of emotions you are battered by each day. I do and I say you are not alone. I do not know your story or your future, but I know your path well. I am with you in saying I do not understand, I am pissed off and I am scared; but I know that when we become a people that forget the power of hope, then we become a lesser people. One day we will each be Mothers; whether through natural means, IVF, adoption, mentorship or any other way such a gift can come. It is to that truth that I ask you to choose bravely by remembering that being a Mother starts here and now, in the choosing of hope so that our children will never have to know a world where its potency is lacking.
Image via Emily Blake
Thank you for your article – it articulated my journey – my anger and my frustration – my husband was so understanding – while I was a basket case at times. I can write this now – it was a very long journey- with no results. But I have found my peace about things. Even though I don’t understand why – I have my hope in God. This would be a great article for those who consider it a right to have a baby – versus those who have struggled and continue to struggle.
Thank you again.
I found your words/article to be raw and authentic. I too, can remember the day the infertility specialist told my fiancé and me that there was less than 3% chance of conceiving. It was the end of a dream, and the start of an ugly spiral of cruel words and actions that ended the relationship.
The interesting thing about that day, is that I also found light and laughter. I’m adopted, and happen to be very close to my Father. Unfortunately, he and his brother had contracted mumps in their teens and both were unable to sire children. I remember calling my Dad, sobbing that the doctor just told us that I was not going to conceive. My Dad, responded “Thank God, finally something that runs in the family”. It put a few things into perspective and was also true to my Father’s parenting style. In his own was he was giving me hope. I could choose to be a happy person, even with news like this and I had the choice to embrace being a mother and parent in the way he did.
I know that you are NOT broken. You are aware that you are not defined by your uterus, and that being a mother, is an option or adoption way.
So proud of you for writing this and I don’t even know you. We are sisters in this.unfortunate circumstance. I wish you all the best on your journey to motherhood.
Thank you for sharing this. I learned last week that I may be in the same sort of spot of not just getting pregnant but even being able to carry through the first term. I enrolled in nursing school to become a midwife but now I don’t know if I’ll be able to do that work or if it will leave me feelings of loss. I too try not to cry about it or even talk about it. The one time I did, I started to cry at work, so I keep my struggle to myself. My husband and I weren’t planning on having children for another 6 years or so, so maybe I’ll deal with it then. Especially when we talk about our future children which may not happen naturally for us. Alas…I’m heartbroken nonetheless.
Profound loss is not something that most of us are prepared for; not taught coping methods to deal with it. We do eventually pass through it, but for the longest time we live in a world of despair. We wonder if the world will ever be as bright as it once was.
Katherine, your words have great power. Thank you for your rawness, authenticity, vulnerability and truth. Time and time again you encourage and uplift my heart. Your hope has a rippling affect. It catches every where you go.
You write so beautifully and vulnerably… this piece is a raw call to hope. Thank you for sharing!
As a fellow fertility-challenged warrior, I applaud you for coming out and speaking honestly about the pain and fear that this journey can dislodge. I’ve always been a happy, well-adjusted person and this is by far the hardest thing I have ever battled. It’s changed me. Sometimes for the better (making me more empathetic and less entitled) and sometimes for the worse (making me prone to crying at deeply inappropriate times, experiencing random triggers around every bend). It’s not easy. None of it. But you are so right…we are NOT alone. The friends I have made through this heartbreaking, slow-as-hell journey are some of the BEST, most supportive friends I have. Like I said; warriors. Hang in there, my friend. We are in this together.
This is heartbreaking, but your belief in the power of hope is inspiring. I am reading a book called “Hope Heals” right now and it deals with similar themes of finding hope when life doesn’t turn out the way we expected. As someone who has faced a miscarriage and is scared at what may lie ahead, this seems to be what I need to hear right now. Thank you.
I can’t imagine the pain you must have experienced all these years. It’s beautiful that you’re turning to hope now and I know it will bring you toward a beautiful motherhood. <3
I honestly don’t remember if I felt THAT terrible when I realized I couldn’t get pregnant. Perhaps because it was in the 60’s. I don’t know why I even think that. However, your article makes me ask what are you waiting for? I think we started the adoption process by the time we were married about 5 years. We would have started sooner but my husband ‘s career caused us to move across country and upon returning to MI I saw a fertility specialist for a while. He died suddenly which I thought was unfair, but….
We decided to adopt but ended up taking a foster child first, whom we adopted along with his younger sister. He was almost 3 and a year later when we got his sister she was 17 months. Years later we adopted another boy who was 13 years younger than our older son. Tho we never had an infant in our family, I never felt any different toward our children then my siblings felt toward theirs they gave birth too. If anything I was more protective of them because adoption was a bit ‘different’ back then and people could be unkind without meaning to.
So please, don’t punish yourselves. You have so much love to give and I’m sure there are children out there waiting for the opportunity to return it in full measure 🙂
Katherine, you put my feelings into words exactly. Broken, that is the word I carry around with me constantly. I am trying to replace it with hope but it is a hard thing to do. Thank you for the encouragement to try.