June 3, 2011

Living with Infertility

I never thought it would happen to me. Even when I was a little girl and boys had cooties, I knew that someday I’d grow up, get married, and have children. After all, didn’t everyone? As I entered adulthood, everything seemed to be going along fine. I met a wonderful man, got married, and on our honeymoon we had fun discussing what we might name our future children and how we’d bring them up the best we could to know and love God.

But the years passed, and no children came. No morning sickness, no rounding belly, no baby showers filled with cute little booties and boxes of diapers. Soon, hope turned to fear and trips to the mall changed to travels to the doctor’s office. Tests and more tests, fertility drugs and ovulation sticks became a part of my everyday life.

Intimacy became a means to conceive and date nights with my husband were only another time to rehash the results of the latest treatment. I turned down opportunities for vacations with my husband, fun classes, ministries, and mission trips because maybe I would be pregnant, maybe that month would be the magic month when we’d finally find success.

That was no way to live. Soon, I discovered that if I let it, the monster of infertility would consume my life little by little, day by day, month by month, until all my joy was devoured. But it didn’t have to be that way. God didn’t mean me to live that way. Instead, I had to stop living for the “maybes” of tomorrow and live life to the fullest in all my “todays.” I had to start saying “yes” to the opportunities that came my way.

For my husband and me, and for the couples we now help through the journey of infertility, part of taming that monster meant finding interests that we could enjoy together and pursuing them. One couple took a painting class together. My husband and I got horses and learned to ride Australian style. Others signed up for mission trips. Still others took on ministries in the community. What we all found was that for life to have meaning and purpose, we had to choose to ignore the “what ifs” and instead focus on making the right decisions in the now. We had to value times spent together, make intimacy about each other and not about having a baby, and look for ways to enrich our lives beyond the doctor’s door.

So, for myself and for the other one in six couples who have difficulty conceiving, we must remember that life is more than babies, meaning more than conceiving. And God has a rich and wondrous vision for us all whether or not that life includes our much-hoped-for children.
Marlo Schalesky is the author of Empty Womb, Aching Heart, (nonfiction, infertility) as well as novels such as Shades of Morning (just named a RITA finalist!), If Tomorrow Never Comes (about infertility), and the Christy Award winning Beyond the Night. Despite 20 years of infertility and 6 miscarriages, she’s now the mother of 6. Find her at http://www.vividgod.com/ or www.facebook.com/MarloSchalesky.