My husband worries when I start to drink a glass of wine. Not at all because I have a problem. But because one glass often leads to a partial glass more, and when I get to 1+ any amount more of alcohol, you can bet I will get on what we’ve affectionately termed my “baby loop”.
Perhaps you’re familiar with this. It’s when my guard is down just enough to believe that we could—and should definitely, without question—have another baby. It starts lovingly. “Don’t you want another baby? It would be SO cute. The kids would LOVE it. Ginger would LOVE it. PLEASE.” He resists gently, tries to joke it away and change the subject. But I’m not backing down. (I mean if even the dog would love it, isn’t that reason enough?) My resolve is strong. “Why not? You always change the subject.” Etc. Etc. Etc. For quite some time. We do eventually talk about it. Often.
Usually, it ends in tears (mine) and hurt feelings (his).
There are multiple challenging realities in play. The first is the unique obstacle of being in a family that’s started somewhere in the middle. Our three kids are between ages 6-8, and prior to meeting me, my husband believed that he was done. Super duper done having kids. He feels like he gave up time and opportunities to travel and experience life in favor of having kids right away. This is fair, but frustrating. Especially since I wasn’t a part of those original decisions.
I am in my early-thirties (please note the emphasis on EARLY) and he is not. Early. Or in his thirties.
Another reality is that while we technically, according to science, could attempt to have another baby, the odds are not good. And it would likely cost us the price of a small island to pay for all it would take to make a baby. (This is again “not fair” because isn’t conception supposed to be easy, and cost only the price of a nice dinner or flowers?) And all of this is part of his very good argument. An argument that I believe is made with the best intentions of protecting me from myself, and a very painful heartbreaking path I may not be able to walk again.
It’s not easy for me to talk about this, and for a long time, I kept it completely quiet and hidden from my story.
The ugly truth is that infertility is heartbreaking, emotional, hormone altering, and hard. And many women go through this. One in eight. Many silently and ashamed. It is the saddest and loneliest I have ever felt.
It is a miracle that my son is here. At the time I thought it was hard with him, but I didn’t know the half of it until I tried again, unsuccessfully, for many, many years. A second baby just wasn’t going to happen. I was diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and secondary infertility, which in short means that my body doesn’t work the way it is supposed to, and after having one baby decided without me that it was also super duper done.
I mourned this. Hard. For many years. I cried and did a lot of therapy on the topic. And I had thought I had gotten over baby fever for good. I didn’t even sob anymore when I went to a baby shower or held a fresh new baby that a friend had at work. I could walk down the baby aisle at Target and not have a panic attack. I used to break down every time I drove by the Women’s Hospital, but that stopped, too. I was OK. The grief was over.
And then I met Eric. A man I love. So much. Someone who, if circumstances were different, would have absolutely been a person I would have had children with. He is someone I still want children with.
Yes, I do know how to count. We have three healthy, well-adjusted, funny, resilient kiddos. Together-ish. But we never got to go through pregnancy, birth, diapers, or late nights together. We didn’t get to share in first words, first steps, and see our children experience a new sibling together. He is an incredible dad. Someone I want to experience all the firsts with. And all of this breaks my heart into a million pieces.
What I’ve struggled with the most beyond the challenges of whether or not a baby is possible, is the question of what is the “thing” we build together in this life and marriage if it’s not a baby? Babies often bring couples and families together and permanently link two people in ways that are unmatched by anything else in this life.
His answer to this hard question has always been, “We build our lives together.”
I know it should be as simple as this, but there are days it doesn’t feel that way. It often feels like a baby would link us together as nothing else will. Like we won’t have the same level of a shared dream if we “just travel”. There are days it kills me that having children together is something we share with ex-people, and can’t have ourselves. It’s painful. And that pain is something I’m still actively working through.
Recently, after a particularly hard “baby loop”, Eric and I had a good discussion about our future and what we could build together. What we realized is that we hadn’t been sharing our dreams with one another. We weren’t actively sharing in the hopefulness of our future.
In the beginning, we did this often as we went through the glowing courtship days and were curious about what made each person tick, what the other wanted in life, and where we each might fit. But we hadn’t really done this since. Even in the first “glowing” year of being married, we allowed ourselves to become complacent about building a picture of our lives together.
Then we had a really strong conversation that provided healing and hopefulness for us both. Out of this important discussion came a quote that will forever make me laugh, smile, and remember that our dreams can be as big as we allow them to be.
“Squeeze the oranges you have.”
Eric said this to me in reference to all the things I frequently try to add to our lives in order to create “more” and “better” and create a distraction when I’m feeling pain. Including the dream of a baby. By reminding me to “squeeze the oranges I have” opposed to “buying more oranges” he reminded me that we both have an opportunity to be present and soak up the moments we have with one another and with our children as we build a wonderful life together.
For me, this has led to more intentionality, more perspective, more gratitude. And slowly it’s calming the anxiety and pain of not being able to have another baby. I wish I could say that over the course of the last year my “baby loops” have subsided, but they haven’t. I may have scars of this pain the rest of my life, and that’s real for many women. And it is OK.
But as I continue to heal, I will be reminded by one who loves me deeply that we have three beautiful oranges. And I will choose to “squeeze” them as much as I can.
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