Some Thoughts and My Birthday

I’ve been thinking a lot since my post last week. Many of you gave me a lot to think about, a lot to chew on, both in the comments and in private emails exchanged. I appreciate it so much. I did want to clarify a couple of things though, that might have seemed unclear in the post.

1). I don’t hate spiritual motherhood. I really don’t. It’s a truly beatiful thing to behold. Look at Mother Teresa, and all of the other amazing women saints. No, I have a lot of respect for spiritual motherhood. I do not think women who never bear children have lives with no purpose or meaning, or their existence is somehow second best.  What I was talking about was *my* singular and deeply personal experience with physical and spiritual motherhood. For me, as a woman who has had the gift of physical motherhood, the invitation to spiritual motherhood seems less like a gift, and more like a consolation prize. It feels second best to me, because of my experience. If I implied it was second best, period, across the board, I am truly sorry. Not my intention.

I needed to work this out, to figure out why it made me so upset. I resent being told by fertile women that I should just be grateful for spiritual motherhood. I think it rubs me the wrong way because it’s like those comments, “Well, you’re infertile. You can always adopt.” Well, yes. But so can you. Adoption is not a consolation prize for infertile people; it’s a calling from God. Spiritual motherhood is the same. I resent the implication that since I’m subfertile, “I can always be a spiritual mother” said in much the same way the adoption comment is made. Well, so can you. Every woman is called to be a spiritual mother in some way, and I really don’t like to think that because one’s ovaries work properly, they are exempt from seeking opportuities to be a spiritual mother. That’s what makes me feel like it’s second best, a consolation prize.

I don’t like that it’s what God seems to want right for me right now. We all know how much it sucks when what we want and what God wants don’t match up. A wrestling match usually ensues, and we all know who the winner will be. That’s where I am right now.

2). Some of you mentioned concern that I’m getting angry. You better believe I am. I would challenge anyone to exprience miscarriage, primary infertility, secondary infertility, being an orphan, and having a chronic medical condition, all by age 29, to NOT be angry, at least some of the time.

If you can do all that and not be angry, then you are a far better woman than I. I never claimed to be perfect; I am a work in a progress and a pretty miserable sinner most of the time. I’m working on it, and this page is where I work on it. It’s where I rage and roar so I don’t rage and roar at the family I love.

3). Why I’m freaking out about only having one child. Yes, she just turned 2. Yes, we’ve been trying just less than a year (will be one year in April). Some of you might be thinking, what is she freaking out about? Is it just envy? Well, I’d be lying if there wasn’t a tiny bit of envy at play. Of the mothers I know in real life and through blogs, I know of TWO others who have one child Maggie’s age and no others yet. Out of close to 30 people, I know TWO who have a toddler and no others on the way. Is it a big mystery as to why I feel left behind?

But no, that’s not the main motivation. The main motivators are fear and love. I am 29 years old, and in the 3 years since I was pregnant with Maggie, despite getting significantly healthier, my reproductive system has taken a dive into the toilet. It took us 14 months to conceive Maggie, but only 8 cycles, because they were so long. No injections, no clomid, just metformin. This time, 10 months, 10 cycles. On clomid cycle #2, need hcg because progesterone alone has failed. Everything is worse, and sooner. What will it be like when I’m 35? I’m terrified that if I don’t have another baby soon, it’s just going to keep getting harder, and will be even less likely to happen. That’s biology. Even for normal fertility people.

That’s the rational fear. Then there’s the irrational fear. Hold on to your hats, because the crazy train is rolling into the station. All aboard.

I had Maggie at the same age that my mother had me. She only had one child, and then she died when she was 32. I have this irrational fear that if I don’t have another baby soon, I am going to live her life and die young like she did. Crazy, I know. But there it is.

Then there was the pretty miserable childhood I had as an only child. My grandparents loved me well, and did the best they could. It was in a lot of ways, normal (ballet, girl scouts, summer camp, etc). But of course it wasn’t normal. I watched my mother die slowly over more than a year. I had a drug addict father in and out of my life until I was 12 and he finally left for good. I was consistently the fattest, smartest, and most awkward girl in my class every single year until high school. My grandparents loved me, but they were older and tired. I had to entertain myself all the time. It made me a lifelong reader, but it also made me spend a lot of time living in my head, talking to myself, and feeling so very alone. I remember I finally had a friend in 3rd grade, and another girl told me, “You know so-and-so is only friends with you because her mother made her be, because your mom died and she feels sorry for you.” The first 18 years of my life were probably the most miserable, and it’s hard to seperate all that baggage from the fact that I was an only child.

Would everything be different if I had a sibling? The question hangs in the air. There is no answer of course, because things are what they are. All I know is that I am going to do everything in my power, move heaven and earth, to make sure Maggie has a childhood that is, in every way that matters, the opposite of mine. She will have an intact family. She will have stability. Her first memory will not be of flushing her father’s drugs down the toilet, like mine was. I will lay my body down so that she will never the know the pain I have known. I love her so much that I want to give her a sibling. I want her to have that gift I never did. I want someone to share the burden of caring for Atticus and I when we are old. I don’t want her to have to do it all alone. I don’t want her to be alone in this world. Someone asked me how many children will it take for me to be content, and the answer is: 2. I’m not looking for my own basketball team. I have no interest in a 12 passenger van. I just don’t want my baby to be alone.

So if I seem angry and a little bit nuts; I am. I’m trying very hard not to be, but it’s a battle. Infertility is hard enough when someone doesn’t have all the extra baggage I have. With that baggage, as my Atticus often reminds me, it’s a miracle I’m a functioning member of society, and not living at the bottom of a bottle somewhere. When I stop and think about it, it really is.

SO. Now that I’ve gotten that out, I hope no one thinks I hate spiritual motherhood, women without children, or that I’m so filled with envy that I won’t be happy until I have enough children for a family band.

I’m just a sort of sad, sort of angry, subfertile woman using my blog to work out my shit.

Oh, and yesterday was my 29th birthday. I’m going to write about it soon. Thanks for hanging around, even with the crazy.

  • leilaatlittlecatholicbubble

    Oh, friend. I am doubling down on prayers. I had no idea about a lot of this. You are amazing, and have redeemed so much for so many already. Hugs!

  • http://www.freetotalfaithfulfruitfullove.blogspot.com Katie Jo

    Thank you for your candidness, and for being so open when this is so so hard. For all the criticism you may receive, keep in mind that you sharing your story really helps some of us out here.

  • http://joyinthemorning-joy.blogspot.com joymhb

    Not at all to say you can’t work out the crazy here just an important reminder from someone else with a tough childhood who is afraid of repeating it. Maggie is already off the a great start based on who you chose to be her father ~ from everything you’ve written about him, Maggie’s first memory of her dad is almost sure to be a good one.

  • http://godandchocolate.wordpress.com godandchocolate

    I’m wayyyyy behind on my reader, so I just read this post and the previous one. Can I just say YES (but I think I’m one of the two people with a toddler but no other on the way, so maybe I just get you…)? Angry & nuts…yep.

    I think that you’re right about the spiritual motherhood thing, and didn’t find it offensive. Marriage exists as a vocation for women to become physical mothers, and for men to become physical fathers. Consolation prize…pretty much. It’s our own little (ok, BIG) suffering, to live in a world broken by sin and have to experience that brokenness at the core of our own vocations, which as callings by God we had hoped would be free of such intense, central brokenness.

    Maybe I need to read more actual Edith Stein, but I’d never actually heard spiritual motherhood referred to with regard to married infertile women–always I have seen it go along with consecrated religious life/virginity for the kingdom.

  • http://michelle-endlessstrength.blogspot.com Michelle

    Continuing to pray for you, dear friend. My heart hurts for you. (((HUGS)))

  • http://www.lifehappenswhen.com/ Leanne@ Life Happens When

    Sarah,

    I get angry when I stub my toe on the corner of the island in my kitchen. I get angry when I order something from the fast food drive thru and they mess it up. I get angry when my kids dump their toys out in the playroom 5 minutes after I cleaned it up. I get angry when it’s so windy outside that my ridiculous hair gets tossed around and looks worse than ever.

    Seriously. I get angry over the teeniest tiniest details of the day.

    The fact that you carry the burdens and sorrow and suffering you’ve been dealt in your life with such grace so much of the time is astonishing to me. You’ve every right to be angry. I can’t imagine going through everything you’ve been through and just being angry SOME of the time. I’d be a walking time bomb.

    Writing is a most excellent way to work through your emotions, and I hope that as you write your journey you begin to experience some peace.

    You are a woman of great faith. You’ve been a role model for me as I make my reversion back to our faith. But you have every right to be angry, even at God. He can take it! I have no earthly clue what He is up to, but I’m pretty angry with Him myself FOR YOU. I tell Him so nightly in my prayers.

    I pray for you often and carry you in my heart. I’m so sorry I missed your birthday! I hope you enjoyed your time with Maggie and Atticus and that they treated you to something special.

  • http://gravatar.com/dalanknight Dana Alan Knight

    Happy Birthday Sarah!

  • Opal

    I had trouble conceiving our first child and then had secondary infertility like you, with low progesterone at the root. I finally conceived after 19 months, but your feelings were so close to my own. In fact, the pain was worse on the second round, oddly, because I felt it for my daughter. (I know I was immeasurably blessed to have one child, and I don’t want to be accused of being ungrateful. I was spared the cross of lifelong infertility, and I pray for those who must bear it.) But I must say that, for me, the pain of not giving my daughter a sibling was worse than waiting for her in the first place. I felt guilty. I felt responsible. I felt she would be lonely, poorly socialized, selfish, unaware of others. I will never forget the words of a friend, “She is so well-behaved for an only child!” Knife in my heart. I grew up as the middle of seven children, and I couldn’t bear the fact that she had no one to play with, no one to grow with, no one, as you said, to share the burden of old parents with… I am so grateful that God answered our prayers, and the child in my womb, if a girl, will be named for St. Anne, our intercessor. I feel that the end of my pleading is here, for I do not need a van-full of children. I just needed a friend for my daughter.

    Sorry for the long comment, but I think your feelings are perfectly valid, and anger needs to be expressed to be released. You are carrying a cross, and the Lord is a mystery. Sometimes when I was angry, it helped just to praise him, to focus on his glory, his power, his creation, etc., and to stop trying to express my plight to him when I felt he was not answering me. It was exhausting to try to unite myself to his suffering all the time, exhausting to beg him, so I just tried to focus on his Godliness, with no regard to my situation. It somehow helped to feel small and almost disconnected in that way. You are in my prayers. Feel free to email me if you are interested.

  • http://joybeyondthecross.blogspot.com Marie

    ((((Hugs)))) from over here as well. Prayers too. I am sorry if anything I said compounded your anger and hurt.

  • http://www.jkcrowsnest.blogspot.com Kat

    oh, Sarah I understand where you are coming from. I have a simliar upbringing to yours and one of my friends who is an MFT told me it is a miracle I am functioning in soceity and a practicing Catholic! Know that you are in my prayers!

  • sayin’ i love you

    I read your last post and now this one. Thank you for being so sincere and sharing your feelings with us. I don´t think God is calling you to be a spiritual mother now, just because you may only have one child. As you said, spiritual motherhood is a vocation, as well as marriage and physical motherhood. God has chosen you to be your little girl´s mother and if you don´t have any more children, that will always be your vocation, to be your daughter´s mom, always and forever, you´ll be her mommy, the best mommy she can have, the one who will make sure her life is filled with wonderful, happy memories.

    I can relate to your story because my childhood wasn´t very happy either. My dad left when I was four, then ugly divorce, bad finances, migrating to a diferent country, feeling lonely (even though I had a mother and a sister with whom I fought all the time). Now I am a mother and as you are, I am trying to do everything better, way better than my parents did, trying to make my children´s lives a happy place of many I love you´s.

    The other way I can relate is because my husband is an only child. Sadly, he had an older sister who he never met (she died at 6 months due to a rare genetic disorder), then a younger sister who died at age 5 (due to the same disorder), he was around nine. Then his parents decided no more children, I don´t think anyone can blame them after losing two daughters. Some times people comment on the fact that he´s an only child, they tell me that he must be a mama´s boy or really spoiled. But I tell you that he is not any of those things or I wouldn´t have married him. He had a great, happy childhood feeling more loved than I ever did because he has the best set of parents in the world. (sorry for being too long)

  • http://gravatar.com/maggiefromtheheart maggiefromtheheart

    I don’t have a lot of time to write… but there’s so much I’d like to write! First of all, you are entitled to feel and think whatever you want. A fertile woman has no place telling you what to be thankful for. Granted, they probably just don’t know what to say or how to word things, but still, there are better things to say. As far as being angry, I don’t blame you one bit. I get angry and envious of others quite often for reasons of finance.

    I’m praying for you so very hard, dear friend.

  • Beth

    Sarah, M asked if we could pray a family rosary every night for lent. We will pray for Maggie to have a sibling every night this lent.

  • http://gravatar.com/slisano alison

    I am really sorry if anything I said made anything worse. Truly, not my intention, only to say that from an outside perspective, your life has incredible value and importance regardless of how many other children you are able to birth. Sometimes its easier seen from the outside, so I just wanted to be here to tell you that.

    And I think its sometimes better to think about spiritual motherhood as the thing that ALL of us are called to while physical motherhood being the thing only some of us are called to. I think that’s what’s upsetting about the things “fertiles” say….”well YOU get spiritual motherhood” and you’re like, “well so do you!” because we’re ALL called to love orphans and widows and the poor, not just the people who can’t have kids! Honestly, so much of this cross would make us less bitter if there was just a better understanding and sensitivity of what its like to NOT be pregnant. I was saying the other night, we all commiserate with new moms and say “Oh yeah, that’s hard to not get any sleep with a new little one!” We don’t respond with, “Oh, don’t worry, you’ll sleep eventually.” Why do the same to a woman experiencing sub-fertility? Sigh. People mean well, but man. Its tough sometimes when people don’t get it.

  • Pat

    Thank you for writing and sharing. Please keep doing both. Your family loves you.

  • Jennifer

    Oh my, it’s like you’re writing my life. Sarah, I had a such a similiar upbringing and am struggling with the same issues. Are you sure we’re not related? Haha…

    On a more serious note, first of all, I want to say – AMEN! If I had a dime for every woman with child bearing hips who wanted to share with me that my contribution to “spiritual motherhood” was soooo valuable and I should focus on that instead of my complete inability to participate in the miracle of conception, then I would be a very rich woman. I am angry at God and even though I do my best to hide it, pretty much angry at any woman who has a functioning reproductive system, especially the ones that have children. Like you said, it seems ridiculous, but it is what it is.

    Secondly, I feel your pain about your childhood in such a tangible way. Your pain is obviously more than mine since your mother died and mine did not but I had some similar trauma and was raised by my grandparents. My mother has an untreated mental illness and as a result, she wasn’t capable of raising my brother and I. Prior to my grandparents stepping in I have some pretty horrific memories of my early childhood. My father and my brother’s father (and pretty much every man my mother has ever been with) were incredibly dysfunctional. Substance abuse, mental illness, domestic violence… All were “normal” in the households I lived in during my early childhood. I too was a very smart but sort of shy, awkward girl. Overweight… teased… not a lot of “real” friends, only usually people who wanted something from me like to copy my homework or take advantage of my generous nature. It sucked. And, I am terrified that if I ever do become a mother that I will be as horrible as my own mother was.

    As a social worker working in the mental health field, I realize that I have more issues than a magazine warehouse. However, my deepest longing is to have a child. And, I have been told many times by many people that “You can always adopt” or “You’re such a good auntie to so many children and you really make a difference in other children’s lives at church.” I want to look at those people and ask them, really ask them, if you desired something with all your heart then how would you respond to people who instead of just coming right out and saying how much it sucked that you couldn’t have it, they shrugged off your pain and thrust a consolation prize in your hands – like you should be grateful for it?

    You don’t have to qualify how you feel, Sarah, by saying “there’s nothing wrong with (insert various alternative option for infertility here)”. I get it. I sooooo get it. Feelings just are. They aren’t right or wrong. They exist. And you have a right to feel what you need to feel so that you can deal with whatever underlying issues are at the heart of those feelings. Do NOT let people make you feel guilty or less than because they are uncomfortable with what you are feeling or what you have to say. THANK YOU for your blog! A friend of mine turned me on to it and it has been extremely inspirational to me.

    I will pray for you too. Not because I think that you need some sort of extra spiritual guidance so that you’re not angry anymore, but because I feel this crazy connection to you now that I’ve read your life experiences and they are so similar to my own. I’m praying that God hears you and me. And, that He (despite our many faults as sinners) feels compassion for our plight and decides to keep one of His many promises to give us the desires of our hearts. Sorry for the super long post, but I had so much to say. Please feel free to email me. I would love to talk more to you, one on one. Again, thank you for sharing your life with us. I am appreciative.

  • Angela

    First…happy birthday.

    Second…hugs. And thank you. You once again have so eloquently written my near exact thoughts and feelings, and have explained it in such a way that I haven’t been able to quite put my own finger on. I too, have PCOS. We conceived our daughter (also 2) with clomid, and will most likely have to do the same again, on top of other concerns (both medically and financially, but I digress). It is incredibly frustrating, and I can completely relate to the feelings of anger, frustration, and even despair. When we were TTC, I frequently prayed that if we weren’t meant to have children to take the desire for having them out of my heart. I think that was something that hurt so much, and still does to an extent as we talk about going down the TTC road in the future.

    If I continue to write, I’ll probably start babbling, but I wanted to say that I understand, and that I thank you for your writing, and this blog. It has been truly inspirational.

  • Marie

    At my ripe old age of 48, I can honestly say life and God has taught me (through much error) to live the life I have been granted- day to day – and not compare, compete, or expect (especially family size). This is difficult, and I would not have understood it at age 29, but you must live in the present, not a preconceived future. Despite all suffering (this includes all of our fertility and grief issues!), God is present and wants to draw you to Him. Your goal is to live up to your responsibilities, love all, judge none, and unite your heart to Christ daily. Everything else will fall into place, and you will have peace that only God can give. Also, it is hard to imagine suffering more painful than one’s own, and I always hated to hear someone say that so-and-so had it harder than me. Don’t compare suffering, or lack of it. I think our comfortable lives and abundance of leisure time adds to this suffering, time would be better spent in prayer than in analyzing. Pray: thank you God for not abandoning me, help me to persevere and make me truly worthy of the promises of Christ.