When the wheels first started turning in my mind a few months ago about hosting this motherhood oriented blog-o-thon, I had some ideas about the different topics I wanted to feature. For a few of the topics, I even knew I wanted a specific guest blogger. It wasn't long until I heard a little voice urging to shed some light on things that weren't as "happy" or "perfect." Because sometimes the path to motherhood is gut-wrenchingly painful.
I would've never guessed back in high school band class that my flute-playing friend Erika would one day spend years aching for a child. She's graciously joined us today to talk about living with infertility.
I'll admit it-- when Hollie asked me to guest-blog for her, my reaction was slightly...bipolar. On the one hand I was like Yes! Of course! Yay! Guest blogging is fun!, and that's the side that immediately replied to her email with an affirmative. Three seconds later I was singing a different tune. Oh CRAP. Blogging on someone ELSE's blog??! It's scary! What will I say? What if they don't like me? What if they think I'm too whiney? And oh dear Jesus, what am I going to say? "I want you to talk about infertility," Hollie tells me. "Just whatever you want. I've seen you get raw and vulnerable. Don't be scared."
It sounds easy enough. Infertility. Well, I've got that. Rather than being just a part of my life, sometimes I feel like it is my life. I'm not proud of that, but it's true. But when something is that big, that permeating, that all-encompassing in your life-- where do you even begin? How do you break down the biggest thing in your life into something smaller, more manageable, and palatable for strangers to read? It wasn't that I was scared...it's just that I felt like I needed a plan.
And so while I was busy trying to make a mental plan, organizing my thoughts about What Infertility Thing To Blog About, it hit me. A plan, Erika. That's it.
You see, I'm a planner. A great one. You should see some of my plans. They're awesome. So naturally, I had a plan for my life. Nothing too out of the ordinary, you know...plenty of wiggle-room with the timeframes and milestones, but a plan nonetheless. Maybe my plan looked something like yours.
- Graduate from college: 2005. CHECK!
- Get a job: 2005. CHECK!
- Get married: 2007. CHECK!
- Adopt a dog: 2008. CHECK!
- Begin starting a 'family' (because apparently my husband I don't count as a family?): 2008. CHECK!
- Baby #1: ??
- Baby #2 (2 years post Baby #1): ???
- Baby #3 (2 years post Baby #2): ????
- Baby #4 (2 years post Baby #3): WTF, dude?
As you can see, somewhere around 2009 my plan started becoming derailed. By 2011, the plan (and I) was a total trainwreck. It still is. And so I've spent a lot of years wandering around in this plan-less fog, mostly wondering what was so wrong with my plan that it got firmly shot down by God, whereas most other people's identical plans seem to more or less get the divine Rubber Stamp of Approval. Is it me, God? Is it something I said? Are you mad at me? Am I less fit to be a mother than that 15 year old over there, or that lady who stabbed her baby a few minutes after it was born? Really? THEY got a chance, but not me? Seriously? And while I'm busy having some serious sit-downs with God about these important issues, well-meaning people have the nerve to tell me that it's just not my time yet and that God has a better plan.
Well, thank you, Captain Obvious. Therein lies the problem. This plan may be 'better', but it isn't mine. Yet. I don't know what this plan involves. I don't know what the steps are, or what the ending looks like. Instead of following a logically-laid plan (ANY logically laid plan), I'm fretting and floundering, trying to discern which way to turn next, which road to travel. And from where I'm sitting...sorry, but it really, really doesn't look 'better.' Crying my eyes out for years on end? Trying not to hate everyone I've ever known who manages to get pregnant (which is basically everyone)? Being repeatedly lapped by friends who started trying to get pregnant after I did and are now on their THIRD BABY? Wandering through life aimlessly, trying to figure out what I'm doing while I wait for what I really want? Listening to friends confess that they hope to be done having kids by the time they're thirty...as I, a childless thirty-year-old, grit my teeth and hope to have a kid EVER? Tell me which part of that sounds better to you.
It probably sounds like I spend my life being bitter and hateful towards everyone who has what I want. I'll admit-- I do have my moments. But for the most part, at least for the last year or so, I've managed to turn my thinking towards more productive thoughts. The first thing I've done is reject the idea that infertility is part of God's "plan" for my life. I don't think God intentionally inflicts misery on people. I can't see Him planning for your sister to have cancer, or your student to be a victim of child abuse, or a country to be wiped out by genocide, or a twelve-year-old to be sold into the sex trade. That's not the God I serve. Do these things happen? Yes, every day. But it doesn't mean it's part of God's "better plan." I'm tired of people taking something that's patently horrible and pinning it on God's "better plan." So I'm going to stop. But what I'm not going to stop doing is believing that God can redeem any situation. No matter how horrible-- and there are much more horrible things than infertility, don't get me wrong--God can redeem it. It doesn't mean that He wanted you to go through it. But it means that He never wastes a life.
And that's some good news, because me? I'm prone to wasting my life. Deep in my heart, I'm a brat. When I don't get what I want, I cross my arms across my chest and sit down in a huff with a wounded look on my face until God caves in and gives me what I want. You won't give me a baby? Fine. That's just fine. Then I'll just sit here until...just, well, until. Passive-aggressivism is one of my gifts, actually. But I've digressed.
When Plan A didn't work out, I was lost. There was no Plan B. I didn't want a Plan B. I wanted Plan A, and I just knew God wanted Plan A for me, too, and so until Plan A got all worked out, I was pretty content to just...float. Not really doing too much. Keeping enough faith and optimism to keep my head above the water, but pretty much I just did nothing except beg and wait for God to deliver us from our misery. Then, I told myself, THEN our lives will have meaning. THEN we will have such a story to tell. THEN we will be a 'real' family and God can use us and it will all make sense. I had every confidence that someday our lives would have meaning and purpose. That our infertility struggle could finally be just a footnote in our real story, our real plan.
But the years start coming (and they don't stop coming) (bonus points if you know what song that's from!) and going and after three or four of them pass by, I start thinking about how much time I've wasted. These are supposed to be the best years of my life, aren't they? And I'm just wishing them away, waiting for my real life to start. I don't have a choice about when or how we will add children to our family...but it is my choice what to do with my life in the meantime.
God can redeem any life. And not just 'someday.' Not just later, or in 10 years, or when you figure out _____, or when you let go of the bitterness that your life didn't go the way you thought it would.I think He can do it now. While you're waiting. While you're in the trenches. While you're pitching a fit and sitting down in a huff, or crying in the bathroom at another baby shower. He can redeem you NOW. He can redeem me now. He isn't sitting up there thinking well, I can't do anything with THAT mess...I'll check back in in a few years, see if she's gotten things together a bit more. I wish I had something really inspirational to tell you about all this redemption He's doing in my life right now, but I don't know that there's much external to show for it. My circumstances haven't really changed. But I know that my heart has. I finally feel like there's more to my life than just passing time between doctor's visits and surgeries, or waiting for the phone to ring with news of a mother that chose us. My life can have purpose even now. It blows my mind. God doesn't need me to get my plan on track first. To get my ducks in a row. He can redeem my story now.
I still don't have a Plan B. I'm holding out hope that Plan A still just might work out, despite the extreeeemely long gap between Steps 5 and 6. But while I'm waiting on Plan A to pick up speed, I'm done floating. I'm starting to have this fear that some day, when I'm 80, someone will ask me about my younger years. Granny Erika, so what did you do when you were in your twenties? And the honest answer would be I cried a lot and pitched fits. And they'll say no, Granny, not when you were TWO...when you were in your TWENTIES! And I'll have to admit that there wasn't a whole lot of difference between me as a two-year-old and me as a twenty-nine-year-old. And that's pretty terrible. But I'm 30 now. Older and wiser. So when they ask about my thirties, I'm going to have a better story. I have to. This life is too precious just to waste. There are far too many good things to lose all perspective over the one thing I lack. I know that God can redeem my life now, but it probably helps if I'm a willing participant in the story.
So that's where I am today. Infertility is no less a part of my life now than it has been the last four years, but it's amazing what a fresh perspective will do for your heart. God can redeem your life now. Maybe your circumstances will change. Maybe they won't. Maybe your Big Plan will all work out. Maybe it won't. Maybe my family will grow to the party of six that I always wanted. Maybe it won't.
Maybe God will use my life anyway.
And maybe plans are overrated, anyway.