I’ve only ever wanted to be a mother. My earliest memory is playing with dolls and planning for babies. After all, isn’t that what we do? Grow up, get married, and have babies. I grew. I got married. Then nothing. Silence. Pure and utter emptiness.
The first year was hard, the second year harder, and the third year I don’t remember. After that, numbness set in. I grew bitter, I grew angry. I just stopped feeling. My husband and I grew apart, and for a few years, things got really bad. We put on brave faces. We struggled to keep it together in public and didn’t keep it together at home. We fought. Spent our time elsewhere because being together was just too painful. We wanted one thing. And we couldn’t have it. No matter how hard we tried.
Eventually, we just stopped. Trying to get pregnant was too expensive, too hard, too pointless. I shut down further and poured my time and thoughts into anything and everything that didn’t have anything to do with babies. The years passed quickly.
After we decided to adopt, the pain lessened. Excitement and good old-fashioned busyness took over. Paperwork, classes, prepping for our home study. Reading book after book. Eventually, the sadness lifted, and the tension left. In this process, my husband and I moved over 3000 miles, and so building relationships, finding jobs, exploring our area took our mind off the mind-numbing sadness.
In hindsight, I didn’t handle it well, the grief. What I wish I had done more of is taking care of myself. Truly caring for myself. Caring for my marriage. Caring for my husband. We are blessed that, eventually, we made our way back to each other, but we still have work to do.
Take time to travel together instead of pouring all your money into infertility treatments. Read together, be together, share your fears, your heartache, the pain. Read the Bible together. Get counseling. Even if there isn’t a physical loss (pregnancy, child, etc), the loss is real. It’s as real as any mother losing a child. You don’t just “get over it.”
I am now a mother of three. I am blessed beyond measure. And to this day, the grief of infertility still affects me. It sneaks up on me in the dead of the night. It shames me in the middle of a conversation. Right when I feel like I might fit in, the conversation turns to pregnancy and birth stories. This is the moment I generally sneak away to refill my drink, use the restroom, or check the weather.
Most days, I’m fine. I’m ok that I haven’t had to endure morning sickness, hemorrhoids, and stitches “down there.” Other days, I am still saddened that I didn’t have the option. I missed the right of passage of many other mothers out there. No hospital stays with family and friends pouring in with gifts, balloons, and flowers. No jockeying to be the first to hold the baby. Instead, it was us and our baby.
Mama, that’s who you are. Your arms are empty now, but they won’t be forever. Take care of yourself. Be the best version of you possible. When that little one arrives, you will give up everything just to hold your baby, and you will do that. Believe. Believe in yourself. Believe that it is possible. And find a way to make it happen.
Don’t do what I did. Don’t almost lose your life, your happiness, your marriage. Nurture your husband, he’s hurting too. Take care of you. Whatever self-care nurtures you, do it. Do it daily. Do it monthly. Do it. Grief doesn’t have to wreck you. Let it motivate you instead.
Karla King is a passionate open adoption advocate, adoptive mom, foster mom, wife, reader, avid creator of food, a stay-at-home mom, and Christian. She loves taking care of her family, supporting others on the adoption journey, and watching the world through her children’s eyes.