Thursday, May 17, 2012

A Letter to New Moms from Erika (on Infertility)

This post is different from the first few letters you've seen here this week.  In fact, Erika isn't a mom yet - at least not in the physical sense... When I first decided to do this series, I knew I wanted to be multi-dimensional about it.  I wanted to reflect all the different sides to the motherhood story.  That includes, for some, the journey of infertility and years of waiting for an answered prayer.  I think too many moms (myself included) don't think about or choose to ignore that version of the story because, well, it isn't all snips & snails and sugar & spice; and, truth be told, we just don't know what to say...

That's why I asked one of my blog-friends Erika to write a letter this week... I will warn you that it is hard to read... It isn't exactly "feel good;" BUT, it is real life.
  For those of you in the midst of the infertility journey, my prayer is that you will experience some bit of comfort and know that you are not alone.  And, for those of you with children right now, I hope you will take/make the time to read this glimpse into sweet Erika's heart; and, like me, have just a little more compassion, a little more understanding, and a little more gratitude.  Alright, I'll let her take it from here....


Dear New Moms:
            For some reason, when I first started thinking about writing this “letter,” here’s how I kept wanting to start it: Dear New Moms of the Class of 2012. I don’t know why. But it made me laugh. And every time I mentally started this letter, that’s how it started. Dear New Moms of the Class of 2012. I felt like I was starting some kind of graduation speech or something, ready to impart my words of inspiration and wisdom upon each one of you as you embark on your magical journey of motherhood, joyfully commemorating your first Mother’s Days. But each time I started my speech, it lost momentum pretty quickly. Dear New Moms of the Class of 2012: I don’t know what to tell you, except that I wish I could be one of you. I was supposed to be one of you. Um, yikes. Depressing. No one wants to hear that speech.

So let’s ease into this thing by going back to my graduation metaphor. Sometimes metaphors are easier for me to speak in, because the layer of humor and degree of removal-from-reality helps me to deal with the topic a little better. And at this point in my infertility journey, humor and escaping reality are oftentimes all I have left as coping mechanisms. So let’s start with a metaphor, shall we?

Imagine you’re in high school. You’re an excellent student, and you have big plans for college and getting the heck out of your parents’ house. You and all of your friends are super excited about graduation and college—it’s all you can think and talk about. As graduation day approaches, your emotions are sky high—this is really happening! Graduation! College! My life is about to start! And then the day of graduation arrives. As you get to the arena, cute new dress underneath your cap and gown, your graduation advisor suddenly pulls you aside. “I’m so sorry, honey, but there’s been a mix-up. Some paperwork was misplaced…You aren’t graduating today. You need to give me back your cap and gown. You can go sit in the audience with your parents and cheer for your friends, though.” Umm…whaaa? You quickly protest—but my GPA is a 4.0! I didn’t miss a single day of school this year! I’m the president of the Student Council! but it is all to no avail. You are not graduating today. No one can really explain why, but you’re not. So you trudge up and sit with your parents, watching as your friends celebrate and toss their caps. After the ceremony, you explain to your friends what happened. Don’t worry, they assure you. It will all get figured out soon. You’ll get your diploma and be off to school with us in the fall!

But the weeks and months pass and it doesn’t get figured out. You get pushed from department to department, and no one really knows what happened, but you’re definitely not getting a diploma—looks like you’ll be back in high school come August. Your friends are sad, but depart for college as scheduled. You keep in touch with them frequently, but it’s tough hearing their stories about dorm life and sorority rush while you’re stuck re-taking classes you already aced and fighting with your parents about curfew. You resign yourself to the fact that you’re not going to be going to college this year, but hold out hope that the paperwork will get figured out and you will get to graduate next spring. You go through the motions of another senior year, jealously watching your friends adjust to college life. You take notes on their lives, confident that this information will come in handy next year when you start your freshman year of college.

But graduation comes, and once again, you are denied your diploma. Are you KIDDING ME? you think. Again, there are no good explanations—only that it’s not your time. One teacher even tries to encourage you by reminding you of how grateful you will be when your time DOES come. Are you serious? “My time” was over a YEAR ago! And once again you find yourself embarking on your senior year. Your friends feign interest in your senior year exploits, but are mostly busy planning the parties they host in their cool off-campus apartments, and complaining about how their other roommate never cleans up her bathroom. Well at least you HAVE a roommate and an apartment, you find yourself thinking. I still live with MY PARENTS!!!!! But that sounds petty, so you try to sound concerned. You leave nice comments on their Facebook photos of fun college events, fully aware that you yourself have long since quit making albums—who really cares about your 5th prom?

And this metaphor is getting really long, but here’s the thing: Pretend this scenario NEVER ENDS. It goes on and on, you keep not graduating and having to repeat your senior year, and your friends keep moving on in life. Even as they’re graduating from college, they occasionally try to encourage you that surely this will be your year. But those well-intentioned words fall empty now—really? You think this is my year? Easy for you to say—your graduation and life went exactly as planned..

This, dear New Mom Class of 2012, is a taste of what it’s like to live with infertility. In case you were wondering, I was supposed to be a member of the New Mom Class of 2009. And 2010. And 2011. And 2012. And yet here I am, still childless and waiting. Stuck. For God knows how much longer.

So what kind of wise and timely advice could I possibly have for you—you who embody my every hope and dream of the past four years? I could easily give you a list of Things Not to Say to Infertile Women...but you can find those lists anywhere on the internet (like on my own blog. Every day. Ha). I could wax poetic on the Top 10 Reasons I Want to Be a Mom...but really, this blog is quite long enough already. And that would make me cry. So I guess what I really want to say is this:

Be so, so, so, so thankful for what you have. ALL OF IT. The good AND the bad. Know that there are millions of women like me out here, watching you through teary eyes, our broken hearts longing for a chance to experience the sleepless nights, the difficult feedings, and the precious sweet smell of a freshly bathed baby. We would give anything-- and oftentimes, it feels like we already have. We've given all of our money and then some. We've subjected ourselves to the scrutiny of doctors and specialists and social workers, trying to earn the right to become mothers. We've hosted your baby showers and visited you in the hospital, despite feeling like we may crumple up and die from the longing in our hearts. We've prayed countless prayers that seem to have gone unnoticed, while people who have no idea what it feels like to mourn the loss of their dreams try to offer advice about how we should be feeling. So please don't take one single moment for granted. Rejoice in even the annoying parts of motherhood, knowing that the inconveniences are a small price to pay for the priceless gift you have been given. And when you're up all night, feeding that fussy baby, take a minute to drop down on your knees and thank God that you were chosen for this job. Be thankful. Be thankful.

And while you're busy basking in your thankfulness, try not to be offended by our rapidly changing emotions and behaviors. Deep in our hearts, we are happy for you. We love that our friends get to be mothers (often several times over). We're also insanely jealous of you, and sometimes finding the balance of those emotions can be tricky, but we're doing the best we can! Don't hesitate to invite us into your fun little baby-centric world, because sometimes, depending on the balance of hormones and the phase of the moon, we just may be all about it. We may be able to engage in hours of happy new-mom talk, analyzing sleep cycles and debating the merits of different brands of diapers. And we probably would love to hold your baby (and there's about a 95% chance we won't try to kidnap him). But try not to be offended on the days when we can't. Because sometimes we can't. And it doesn't mean we don't love you or your baby, it just means we can't do it. Love us anyway. And think of something non-baby to change the topic to (suggestions: make up! Hunger Games! ridiculous things you saw online!) real quick-like. 

Happy Mother's Day, New Mom Class of 2012. I hope that on Sunday you felt loved and appreciated...but even more than that, I pray that your heart is overwhelmed with thankfulness for the gift you have been given. Every day.

And while we're on the topic of thankfulness-- thanks for putting up with me (and my fellow fertility-challenged friends). I know we're a crazy lot, but with a little luck, one day we'll break out of this awful season of life and be sitting right alongside you, comparing stretch marks and teething gels. For our sake and yours-- pray that the day comes quickly.

Love,
Erika
Erika blogs at Something Beautiful about her life in Georgia, her awesome hubby Matt, and her hopeful road to parenthood.  I've been following her blog longer than any other blog in my reader (we actually have the same wedding anniversary - which, somehow, connected us very early on in this gig). I like to think we have genuinely become friends over the last two and a half years - in large part because we share a sense of self-deprecating humor, a love for Mexican food, and a commitment to keeping it real.  I am SO honored to post this letter today, truly.  She is a brave woman... And will make one HECK of a mom one day. 

 

21 comments:

  1. Erika, thank you, as always, for helping me put my thoughts into words without even knowing it. And Elizabeth, thanks for helping to give us wannabe moms a voice :)

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  2. What an excellent, heart-felt, spot on, REAL letter! I will be checking out this new-to-me blog!

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  3. E... tears in my eyes...beautiful testimony!!

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  4. Thank you for "getting it"!

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  5. Thank you so much for writing this. I love the analogy with graduation. So very spot on. I feel like sending this to all my fertile & not-so-fertile friends alike! Haha. Thank you for understanding what this is like!

    And E, thank you for including this in your series. It means so, so much.

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  6. <3 <3 Bravo, Erika! Your analogy is perfect...

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  7. Great, wonderful, perfect post.

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  8. This is an awesome letter! I don't know Erika, but I'll check her out. Sometimes it's hard when in the trenches of motherhood to remember all this--but I appreciate her honest thoughts & heartfelt words!

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  9. Erika, you have made me a more grateful mother for 3 years now. I always try to carefully watch the line between discussing issues of kids/motherhood and complaining. Just remember that the rest of us can't tell by looking at you whether it's the kind of day where you can stand to hear the mommy talk or when you can't. So a friendly heads up is just fine. :) On harder parenting days I remind myself that I am still so grateful to have the opportunity to mother at all. Thanks for helping me remember that. As always, this was beautifully written. Love you, friend!

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  10. So beautifully and eloquently written! The graduation metaphor captures exactly what this place feels like. I love the part about the "95% chance we won't try to kidnap your baby"... Reminds of the movie Raising Arizona :) Thank you Erika and Elizabeth for this sweet series!

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  11. Such beautiful words Erika. THANK YOU for writing this!

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  12. Very well said, Erika. Beautiful testimony.

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  13. Erika, your letter really hit home with me. It is so easy in these early months of motherhood to overlook the blessing of a baby and instead focus on how tired you feel or how your life has changed. I REALLY appreciate your honesty in this letter. Thank you! :)

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  14. Beautifully written. What a great analogy. Blessings to you.

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  15. Thank you for sharing this! While reading your blog during this 2 a.m. feeding, through tear-filled eyes, I'm reminded that this grumpy, demanding little man is the greatest blessing I've ever been given. Thank you for reminding me not to take him for granted!

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  16. This is very touching and well written. And you look so much like your mom in that picture!

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  17. This brought tears to my eyes. I am so very grateful that I am a mom, and it deeply saddens me that people like Erika have to go through such hardship in their journey to motherhood. I pray that this is her year to "graduate".

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  18. Perfectly explained! I'm right there with Erika, and I could relate to everything she said. Thank you so much for sharing!

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  19. This hit very close to home for me. July will mark 3 years of trying for me. I feel very much left behind by everyone I know. I will add Erika to my list of prayers.

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  20. A friend of mine posted this on her facebook page today and even though it looks like this was posted a while ago, I just had to comment. I hope by today that Erika (and Anna in the comment above!) has joined the new mom club but just in case she hasn't, a word of encouragement from someone who can relate.
    I spent the last 2 years of my life in a fertility specialist office with a monthly routine of blood work, medication, blood work and then a little more bloodwork if you were lucky enough to have the "chance" at it taking that month. It is an awful cycle of disappointment and even though you know better, you can't help but be hopeful that THIS month will be THE month.
    The encouragement to anyone who comes across this is to have faith. I would say patience, but that would seem hypocritical so we'll stick with the first. More people than I can count prayed for my husband and I to be blessed with a child and as I'm typing this I am 12 weeks along. It wasn't "medically" supposed to happen when it did and that has only increased my belief that God has His own perfect timing and even when doctors think it impossible... keep the faith.
    Erika - I pray that you have your child by now but if not, know that you are in my prayers as my heart still aches for those still fighting this battle.

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Your comments are what makes this thing fun! I LOVE to hear from you and do my best to respond to everyone! THANK YOU!


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