More than a year ago, my husband and I decided to have a child. We had decided to get married and decided where to live and where to work, and this was another decision that would need input from God, but like the other major decisions we made at the dawn of our thirties, it was ours to make, ours to control.
I grew up believing that pregnancy was a condition that could flare up at the worst point in a young woman’s life, especially pretty girls like me who weren’t careful and didn’t use protection – and that fate was to be avoided at all costs. Good, pretty girls with bright futures do not get pregnant before they are married – this was the naive, ignorant me talking who hadn’t yet met women who did exactly that and blew me away. I believed that the smart ones knew how to cross Virginity Road and still stay childless through their roaring twenties. I mastered the ‘pull and pray’ method in long-term relationships where there was enough trust to negate condoms, but no ring or promise to care for the child we might share. I can remember being twenty-three and high-fiving the mirror when my period came, literally wiping my brow in a sigh of relief and promising the angels it wouldn’t happen again. (Then doing the same damn thing all over again.)
People always tell us we’ll have beautiful children. They say they can’t wait to see what the child will look like because we are the most beautiful couple they know. Sometimes (but not always) I go quiet when they say things like this, using simple mathematical equations to block out what is only meant to be kind and encouraging. My teacher said two negatives make a positive, but what would two positives make? If you multiply a positive by thirty-something negative years, would it produce a positive or a negative? Can a negative be an integer and if so, is it a whole number? And finally, When will this conversation be over?
You begin the ‘let’s have a baby’ journey so casually, so fucking nonchalant about the when and if it happens because you know it’s going to happen, it’s a just a matter of when. You aren’t phased by their gentle reminders that you’re getting older because you’re wearing a strapless bra and a new blouse that falls off the shoulders, making you feel young. You shrug, brush the dust off and go home to roll around in bed with a man that loves you, loves every inch of you, and loves practicing. He isn’t in a rush, neither of you are. “We trust God,” we say back to them, almost offended that they’d rush us into doubt when we have been taught our entire lives that God is good and everything comes in His perfect timing.
In the sixth month of trying you get serious about it, and I mean serious. You pee on a stick every single morning and monitor your health like never before. When you pack for trips, you pack your basal thermometer first, then your toothbrush. You feel determined with every app you download, and suddenly life becomes all about the green squares, showing you when you are most fertile. You feel confident until you tell Diane that you’re not drinking because you’re trying to have a baby and she shoots back with, “Drink ‘till it’s pink” (meaning the pregnancy test). So you swallow down your $12 glass and tell yourself to relax. It’ll happen, and these champagne bubbles are mama’s helpers.
By the tenth month you have become one of them, one of the women you swore you’d never be: the infertile blog-reader. You never make an account because making an account and commenting on the blogs would mean it’s true, that you’re struggling to conceive. No, not me, I’m just here visiting, ladies. I’m just here to see what’s worked for you and then I plan to get the hell of out this baby-less Dodge.
At first you can’t believe how much detail about their bodies they voluntarily share, but you learn to be deeply grateful that they’re willing to publish their hope, and then their pain. You ever want to know what resilience looks like, visit one of those message boards. These women are fucking soldiers, returning to war for seven, eight, nine years in a row in some cases; emptying their life’s savings for one more shot. I can’t even imagine how hard that must be. At first it’s challenging to understand them, but you eventually learn the language:
TTC – Trying To Conceive
TWW – Two Week Wait
BFP – Big Fat Positive
BFN – Big Fat Negative
CM – Cervical Mucus
DD – Dear Daughter
DS – Dear Son
TWINS – Twins (At least, I think it’s twins.)
BD – Baby Dance a.k.a. sex
AF – Aunt Flow
DPO – Days Past Ovulation
KMFX – Keeping My Fingers Crossed
And most importantly, Sticky Beans – fertilized eggs you hope will turn into a baby. (I would like to speak to the person who decided on this term and make a super judg-y face at them.)
They write paragraphs filled with acronyms like the ones above. Faithfully, they return each day to ask their fellow barren sisters how it’s going, and to offer their best wishes. “Hey SmittenKitten, KMFX for your DD or DS since you’re 6 DPO and officially in your TWW! You might have Sticky Beans soon!”
You used to pity them, but now you can fully relate. They are the only ones who understand the panic you feel, the supreme disappointment at each month that passes, the frustration at getting tested and being told you are healthy and able to carry a child. Only they know how crazy Clomid makes you, that you aren’t gaining weight because of shrimp burritos, but because you are willing to let anything that will give you a child dissolve on your tongue. That you’re starting to doubt that God is good.
Because let’s be honest: it’s been a year and you’ve seen God answer the congregation’s prayers. You stand in the back after Church service praying with Her and Him, asking God to intervene in their lives, and He answers them. He gives them new jobs, He gives them clarity on whether moving to California is the right thing to do or not. He binds up marriages and He sends M. a new girlfriend, but He doesn’t send you a child. You have read every scripture on believing for a child, and nothing.
Santrice and Bethany and Hannah and Brittany and Claudine and Salley and Ruth and Danielle and Sonya and Sarah and Catherine and Kim and Jane and Kellen and Cecelia and Najwa and Sonequa have children that are getting older by the day. You want, almost more than anything, for your children to play with theirs; for them to run around in someone’s backyard while their mamas sip wine, shouting at them to be careful. You delight in their joy, you really do. No jealously, only a silent plea for them to slow down and wait for me.
Painful emotions subside. You somehow, someway pull it together for another month of trying. This time feels different because we are armed with medicine, calendars, lubricant and the faithful prayers of our family and friends. We aren’t depressed, in fact, we’re defiantly casual again! There is a light, joyful mood permeating our household and we can joke about it again.
“Are we at a point where you’d be willing to feel my cervix?” I ask Brandon.
“No, no we are not. And we never will be,” is his answer.
“Yeah, but you—“
“Doesn’t matter. I’m drawing the line at touching your cervix. I didn’t sign up for that. I don’t even know what that is.”
“Stop talking. Don’t say another word,” he says. Then he laughs, pulls me down into the couch, clamps his hand over my mouth and points to the television. “Watch LeBron dunk on these boys.”
The truth is that I fell apart at the last negative result. I rose really early in the morning to take a pregnancy test and hoped that a positive result would be my anniversary gift for Brandon. I’m embarrassed to say I didn’t buy him anything, not even a card, so this was my one shot. When it was clear that was not to be, I knew exactly who to blame.
In the dark, on my couch in a robe, I sat with a hot rage running up and down my sides. I kicked my small, red Bible off of the coffee table and onto the floor. I hardened my fist, pounded it onto the wooden surface and dared God to retaliate for such blasphemy. Bring it. Bring your worst, you false phony. You cruel, cruel God. Bring it.
Silence. Always silent when I need You to speak up.
I waited for God to explain Himself, to give me a good reason for denying us again. Finally, I sobbed until it turned into guttural wailing. “Why?” I asked, looking up to the ceiling. “WHY?” And that continued for at least ten minutes, hiccupping between each one. Brandon came out and wrapped himself around my body, using his weight to keep me in place as he cried and pleaded for God to help us. I will confess that I told him to stop calling a God who didn’t want to hear from us; one who answers those whom we pray for, but never just us. He shrank away from me, muttering to God that I didn’t mean it, that I was only sad.
So why am I telling you this?
Because another month has passed, and that’s behind us. The devil is a liar; he would like nothing more than to convince me that God is not real and does not care. And I hate being lied to. I hate being tricked. And I hate how life feels when the source of my strength is gone. It takes a week or so (and text messages from trusted inner circle friends), but slowly, I get my strength back and I begin to believe again. I study His Word and I examine my own heart for sin that blocks my blessings. I remember – oh, if only we could always remember! – that He has never left me nor forsaken me. Lord, who have I but You? Forgive me for being so weak and so broken.
Each month we build a fire. We flame it with our prayers and I am always embarrassed at having it go out. I felt sorrow and hopelessness for too long, but now I believe once again that He will:
“provide for those who grieve in Zion—
bestowing on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor.”
I believe it. I believe You are good.
I believe it. I believe I can pass this test.
I believe it. I believe we’ll be better because of this; more attuned to Your will.
I believe it. I believe You have a great, awesome purpose and need this story told.
I believe it. I believe it is possible to keep my joy.
I believe it. And to God be all the glory, both now and forever.