The first few months after we adopted our first daughter Eden Renee, infertility didn’t even cross my mind. My body was numb with exhaustion and I fought to get through each day taking care of my precious newborn. She was perfect but she was needy, and I had a difficult time adjusting.
What shocked me more than newborn life though, was the night my infertility rose up to meet me in the darkness, shaking my body with sadness and grief. Through my tears, I couldn’t catch my breath and my husband thought I was having a panic attack. It took me a few minutes to calm down and slowly release my grip on our gray bed sheets trapped between my fingers.
It was the next day in the clarity of the morning light that I realized my friend’s birth announcement was the trigger that sent my body quivering. Though my beautiful daughter was mine to raise, I remained an infertile woman. I was in the mama’s club, but I never experienced pregnancy and I was shocked that this lack crept up on me fast and furious.
As we were waiting to adopt, all I could think about was the coming child. I knew becoming a mother was such a strong desire that I was willing to let go of anything else in order to start my mothering journey. I assumed when we adopted, infertility would sneak out the back door and I was happy to believe that.
Except, it didn’t. Infertility might have hidden its face for a little while but it certainly did not leave.
After that episode of panic and sadness, I realized there were unanswered questions haunting me. Did I have endometriosis? Should I go to the doctor? Why can’t I get pregnant? We had chosen adoption so I was surprised to feel curious why I couldn’t get pregnant. Hadn’t we made a final decision? Because we had stopped pursuing medical treatments after our unexplained infertility diagnosis, I never received an answer as to why we struggled with infertility after four years of trying. Apparently, that was enough to leave me unsettled.
I thought about my nagging questions and pushed them to the side temporarily. I had a baby to take care of and no time to think about my infertility. In quiet moments, I turned to my faith and did my best to grieve my infertility and let the rest of my emotions go. But I still didn’t feel peace, and as my daughter turned one year old, I decided to get some answers.
The problem was, we were now expecting our second adoption in 16 months from the same birthmother. It was a little girl, due in four months. We were supporting the birthmother financially and prepping the house and our family for another baby. I was very excited to welcome a little sister into our home, and so grateful that both of the girls would have a biological sibling. We knew how rare of an opportunity this was, so my husband and I both welcomed it with gratitude.
But I couldn’t ignore the nagging feeling about my empty womb so I went to the doctor. Sure enough, she was surprised that our previous infertility specialist hadn’t requested a transvaginal ultrasound to examine my reproductive organs. It was an easy, affordable, quick and very-telling test that should have been done years ago but wasn’t for whatever reason. We may have overlooked it or even denied it because we were tight on finances back then and couldn’t afford infertility tests or treatments. I was happy to schedule the test for the next week.
The day came and I cried through it. It was frustrating to see the screen next to me on which babies are announced and genders discovered. The fuzzy gray and white movement was enough to make the tears well up.
The image on the screen reminded me of all the things I expected to have one day. An ultrasound with the technician spreading cool gel across my swollen belly. My husband holding my hand. A secret to announce to our family. A baby who might look like the chubby-cheeked boy my husband once was, or a little girl with a starlight in her blue eyes.
Going through that test was therapeutic as it showed me how tender my heart still was to my sterile womb and the life I expected. My husband wondered why I would put myself through that torture, and I knew that was a valid question. But the truth was, infertility would be something I would deal with the rest of my life. And I didn't have enough ammo to fight off the demons it brought. So, an afternoon of discomfort was worth it to me if I could have a chance to know why my body wasn't able to grow a child.
I was thrilled when the doctor encouraged me with news from the report.
The test revealed a misshapen uterus called “bicornuate uterus.” It is uncommon, but not proven to affect conception. While this news did not give me a foolproof reason as to why we could not conceive, it did provide a wave of relief. My body no longer felt like a mystery. The doctor helped me unlock a reason as to why we had infertility issues, and the more I dug into the details behind this condition, the more consolation I felt. Women with this abnormality who carry babies don’t always make it full-term, and thus a pregnancy could have been very challenging for me. I may have suffered from miscarriages and/or premature births if I had gotten pregnant.
Even with these answers, infertility still sneaks up on me occasionally. Like before children; baby showers, birth announcements, and Mother’s Day can still feel emotional. If I am sitting around a table with a group of women and they are talking about their labor and delivery stories, I feel out of the loop. Jealousy does still sting and some comments about pregnancy or motherhood can make my face flush red.
What has helped is talking about adoption and talking about motherhood.
Many people are curious about adoption and because we have two beautiful girls that look like each other and not like us, there are plenty of opportunities to share our story. Motherhood is a beautiful community and I love connecting with other moms about their stories as well. It’s easy to throw a pity party occasionally, but I have learned that it is better to simply focus on who I am now and what I do have. God has given me a peace that comes from knowing I fought hard to find a reason behind our struggles, and He was gracious to give that to me. I realize that is not always the case.
I am a mother. You don’t have to give birth to be a mother. You don’t have to have a perfectly shaped uterus.
And you certainly don’t have to forget your past. I am not defined by my infertility, but I am defined by the strength it takes to overcome obstacles to fulfill a greater purpose. Even though I still have to interact with the pain of infertility, the courage to raise my daughters is something more important to focus on, and the beauty of adoption gives me that very opportunity.