Fighting infertility: Blessings in the struggle

There’s not a lot I’ve been able to do this past week. I’ve been dozing in and out most days, at the whim of painkillers, heat packs, and Netflix. All three of those *equally* a Godsend. But between naps and monitored walks around my apartment I’ve had lots of time to think about everything that brought me here. And I mean everything. I wanted to write a blog about perseverance or faith. Something inspiring that would reach out to all those women–and even men–who have faced infertility and who needs someone to write them a love letter of encouragement. I’ve been wanting to write something beautiful that would detail my journey thus far and how I made it here at least. But the words wouldn’t come. They won’t come because that isn’t altogether the true story.

I wrote this blog post here one year ago. You’ll notice it reads “Part 1” and weeks and months went by and there was never a part two. It stopped right there at the exam table and I left all of you there with me in that too-white exam room, holding your breath as I froze in time and never got my shoes on to face the reality.

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I left everyone at the diagnosis of endometriosis and failed to tell the story that unfolded even when I was too rigid–too uptight–to write it down. You see, I’ve read a lot about infertility. But I’ve yet to read the bold truth of it all–the ugly, gray, horrible day to day of dealing with it. Feeling it. Dreading it. Even when no one else does.

It took this last surgery to wake me up and remind me that people need to know that side of it all so all of us–all of us who face the trials of temporary or permanent infertility–can somehow latch hands and understand what’s within the circle that only we see. I’m reminded that people won’t survive simply reading about enduring to the end, sucking in the tears with faith, or looking ahead with hope. You survive when someone bleeds with you and shows you you’re not alone. You survive when you face the ugliness and you share the night, regardless of how vulnerable or naked you become. Your eyes must adjust to the darkness before you can take a step forward and find the light.

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My diagnosis, like I said, was a year ago. But I had secretly known something was wrong for longer than that. My last blog about it explains it better. But the diagnosis was the point where “trying for a baby” became a nightmare. It’s the kind of thing we don’t talk about when we say to others with a smile, “We’ve been trying to start a family. We’re excited for when that day comes”. My husband and I rehearsed our lines. We prepared for gatherings. We knew what to say in almost every situation and how to not cry when someone with good intentions would pry. We had the script for being out in the world.

But at home–when no one is around to see–there is no script.

When you’re a woman struggling with infertility, you can never brace yourself enough for the blood that comes each month. The blood that reminds you–again–that there is something wrong. That once again, there’s no baby.

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There’s no rehearsed lines when the pain is so bad that you find yourself in the hospital for a fourth time tied up to IV’s and answering “No, it’s just my endometriosis” when a nurse asks you if you might be pregnant.
And no one ever tells you about the fights–the terrible, deadly fights that break out between you and your spouse when the heartache becomes too much and the weight of it all decays passion or even friendship.

You rarely read about those things. That’s because it makes us humans uncomfortable, even if we’re honest with ourselves and realize that yes, we understand because we’ve been there too.

But lying here today–I’m surprised I haven’t drifted off quite yet–I want you to know the most important part of it all. And that is that it’s a gift.

Strange, I know. And probably not something you’d expect after I threw the curtain off of the journey and exposed the ugliness. But it’s something that this past year of struggling has taught me. I’ve been prodded with needles more times than I can count and I’ve spent paychecks on tests and consultations, hospital stays, and at last–this surgery. And all along I was hiding the misery of it all thinking it was misfortune. That for some random reason OUR lives were the ones chosen to deal with something bigger than our understanding. I was selfish in my thinking, I realize, but that’s how it feels at the time.

But my life–your life–is just as great a gift as the life of one who struggles differently. The gift of struggle has allowed me to never take a single breath for granted. It’s allowed me to feel the unparalleled joy and renewed optimism of hearing my masked surgeon FINALLY say four days ago, “We’ve got it all, Kayla. There’s nothing stopping you from having children now that I can see.”

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The gift of struggle has chiseled my arms, my body, my mind, my heart–into a mother that I will be in due time. Just as the gift of struggle has formed athletes, writers, farmers, doctors, and people who refuse to quit along the way. The journey is never glamorous. It’s not Hollywood. It’s not anything easy to tell. But it’s a gift all the same.

It doesn’t become anything until we tell it like it is to help others who walk the same path and who wonder if anyone else out there gets it. Infertility, I’m here to say, hurts so much deeper than the wounds it took to heal me of it. It corrodes marriages and jobs and the fragile minds of those who feel broken. It blinds us of our faith and tells us that we’ll never be normal. It makes us cold and sometimes it stops us in our tracks. And for those who will never be healed from it, it can altogether steal life from you if you don’t adjust your eyes to the dark and keep walking anyway.

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I’m only 24. I’m only going on three years of hearing the word no and seeing the negative tests on the counter. But I stand with those who have had to adjust to the dark. The journey is not just about feeling the hope and the faith and the inspiring messages of courage. It’s about feeling the anger, the frustrations, the inadequacy and marching forward anyway without any source of light. That is the true gift. That’s what makes us human.

That is what will make us mothers. Mothers of our own children–or mothers of those who find themselves in the dark beside us.

And I’m here to remind you that both are needed.

 

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I can do without: Lessons from a one-legged crow

Mother nature can be a funny thing.

I don’t think it means to be smart or inspiring, even though it often is.

I mean, think about it.

The sun doesn’t set out each day to look absolutely breathtaking and I don’t think the mountains realize they’re being painted and hung in living rooms. Rivers don’t mean to be calming and the clouds don’t mean to form shapes. They simply obey the commands of time and of motion and of the hand of God, not pausing for a second or considering what it means.

And it’s inspiring somehow.

Today it wasn’t anything very beautiful that got me thinking–actually, it could be considered anything but. It was a one-legged crow.

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I was sitting at a traffic light on my way to work this morning with my window rolled down, thankful that the mornings are beginning to grow warmer. My thoughts were wandering when I spotted a crow, smaller than the rest of the pack on the other side of the street, who hopped across two lanes of traffic toward where my car sat. From a distance I noticed he was slower, and one of his wings worked unusually hard to somehow give him the balance he needed to make the short little jaunt. It wasn’t until he was an arm’s length away from my arm that was draped out my window that I realized he only had one leg.

So, something to know about me: I’m an animal lover. Sometimes to a fault. I make my husband brake for packs of pigeons that are a little slow to fly out of the way and if I had the space to house them all, I’d probably become a puppy hoarder or keep adorable rodents in my cupboards, each with personalized little beds. But alas, I am realistic–even when it comes to simply watching a one-legged crow struggle to eat his half-eaten carton of fries in the median and restraining myself from scooping him up and making him a crutch. I watched him, saddened a little, until I saw another crow *with both legs, might I add* swoop down beside him to share the treat. But the one-legged crow wouldn’t have it. He snatched up the box and hobbled away, finally breaking into flight after a few failed and clumsy attempts.

I can do without, I almost heard him whisper to me.

Touche, little crow, I almost said back.

We can all do without.

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How many times do we sit back and feel sorry for ourselves when our car breaks down and public transit is the only option for a few weeks? How many times do we complain when our friends always seem to have the bigger house, the better job, the more picture-perfect life? How often do we struggle with being the “less-attractive” one, the one with the speech impediment, the one without the college education, the one without the leg? And to each of us, there’s a whispered lesson from the spirit simply saying: You can do without.

I’m often inspired by stories of triumph by those who have lost a limb in a war and then go on to compete in the Olympics or by those who are entirely burned and stripped of their physical beauty, only to find love again and go on to be a motivational speaker and inspiration. But then, when it comes to the little, unfair disadvantages we sometimes freeze in place.

You have a learning disability. You’re diabetic. You grew up with just one parent. You’re twice divorced. You’re living paycheck to paycheck. There’s that one something that threatens to make you hobble and complain and slow down.

We’re all a one-legged crow.

Moses–one of the greatest prophets of all time–complained to God about a speech problem he had.

“O Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue” Moses said in Exodus 4:10. But Heavenly Father assured Moses, and he’s assuring us every day, that despite a speech problem–despite any problem or hindrance or setback– “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

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I’m grateful for little reminders in nature and in life that testify to God’s law. I’m grateful for one-legged crows whose wings grow stronger and whose one remaining leg takes compensates for the lack of the other, lifting off in flight, proving that it simply takes determination.

And it only takes His strength.

I’m grateful that his grace is sufficient–and because of that, I can do without a lot.