“I’m going to be a mother” was something I avoided saying out loud. Sometimes I dared to think it, but struggling with infertility left me not wanting to jinx anything. Subconsciously my mind took hold of my thoughts since somehow, my body rendered me infertile.
Thirteen years I focused on getting pregnant, and when the test was finally positive the goal shifted to staying pregnant. Yet, my body betrayed me again and didn’t do its job three times in a row, and I miscarried my long-awaited children. I was devastated and convinced I was surely being punished for something I’d done.
Because I’ve had to wait so long to be a mom, I didn’t allow myself to think about what would happen when I was finally the one who became and stayed pregnant with a big belly, let alone when the baby was there.
By God’s grace, the day finally arrived and I allowed myself to feel cautiously optimistic.
The first trimester was horrible. Not only was I required to continue hormone therapy, but I also needed Heparin shots every day. I was already tired to begin with, but with blood thinners running through my veins I had no drive whatsoever. Brushing my teeth with toothpaste was impossible because it made me puke first thing in the morning. Smelling peanut butter or bacon sent me over the edge wherever it crossed my path.
When I finally made it to the second trimester, I relaxed a little and allowed myself to have one good cry. Just one.
So many had prayed for this baby. My husband and I had done everything in our power, sold all of our precious belongings to pay for the treatments, spent thousands of dollars . . . and I didn’t enjoy being pregnant.
Not one bit. And yet, I dared to admit it, for my mind was telling me that I do not get to complain because that would make me ungrateful.
My mind continued to paralyze me when it came to parenting this miracle baby. Some of the thoughts crossing my mind each day were:
Am I grateful enough? Hardly!
You forgot to pray today! Shame on you. You didn’t thank God often enough.
Am I appreciative enough? Did I thank people who prayed enough?
Did I kiss the baby often enough? Is there such a thing as too many kisses?
You scolded him today. Why did you do that? Does this little boy know how thankful I am? Not like that he doesn’t.
Does my husband know I won’t ever forget he kept his promise?
And on and on.
My thinking led to what I now call parenting paralysis.
Before I knew it, I doubted each day I was fit to be his or anyone else’s mother. I was sure I had manipulated the universe with all of the infertility treatments and now its revenge was that I sucked at motherhood. Why else would God have rendered me infertile in the first place?
I started wondering if there were other moms who struggled with infertility out there paralyzed in their parenting. Through writing, I “met” a few online and realized that I was not alone. It was a relief to know I was not completely “crazy” and today I know it was a mental mess caused by postpartum depression.
Infertility is a disease (as is depression). One in eight American couples is affected, and I doubt I am the only one plagued by self-doubt, anxiety, and postpartum depression. Those ruminating thoughts can wreak havoc and send a woman down a path of self-destruction unlike anything I’ve seen before. Some pay the ultimate price and I am just glad because of a kind friend’s counseling many years ago, I have slowly regained my Mama-mojo.
Something she said to me was, “Nina, I know you’ve had a hard time having children, but he’s a normal little boy who does normal little boy stuff. Although he is very special—indeed a miracle—he is a child just like any other. He needs you! You were chosen to be his mama. He needs you to be a strong leader and loving mom at the same time and sometimes that means parenting with tough love. All those thoughts in your head are lies. They are not true. You are not a bad mother. You are fit to be your child’s mom. You deserve to be a mom even if you forget to say thanks during prayer. It doesn’t make you ungrateful if you ask for help. You are allowed to say you’re tired after you had sleepless nights. It is OK hating being pregnant. You’re allowed to have feelings. You are a good person. You are a loving mom despite it all. Also, it is not God’s fault either. God is love and wanted you to have this baby just as much as you wanted it. Nature and genetics are to blame (just if you’re looking to blame anyone).”
A lightbulb went on and I realized sometimes all it takes is an honest conversation with someone you trust, and other times counseling and/or medication are necessary.
Whatever it is, please know you’re not alone and there is help available. Don’t let lies infertility and depression tell you ruin your motherhood experience like it did mine in the beginning.
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