I’m taking a few deep breaths as I sit here with the cursor blinking in front of me. You see, this post has been a long time coming. I’ve written it and rewritten it probably 1 million times in my head… while in the shower, when I can’t sleep, while driving to sessions, while editing weddings, while watching the sunset at Turning Tides Retreat… this post has flowed in and out of me – existing only in my brain for a long time.
But now the time has come (I’ve realized & James has agreed) to share.
Because this place in my head I’ve been living in and what we’ve been going through can be really lonely. And I don’t want anyone else out there going through this to feel that way. I want them to know they are not alone, and that this isn’t something you have to keep to yourself. There are other people out there going through it too.
And so… where do I start… ??
Shoes. These shoes… I suppose I should start with these silly, silly shoes… and we can work back from there.
I bought these shoes this past winter because I convinced myself that THIS YEAR was finally OUR YEAR. I imagined finding out I was pregnant but not telling James that moment. I was going to wrap up these teeny tiny little baby Nike high-tops for my Nike
obsessed loving husband with a positive pregnancy test. I was going to have him sit down on the couch and secretly video tape the entire thing. He’d wonder why I was giving him a gift, open the box, take a moment to recognize what was going on, and then we’d hug and cry happy tears together. We were finally pregnant. We’d send the video to family and friends, and I’d post it on the blog when we announced it to the world. It would be perfect.
Instead, these shoes sat hidden in my office closet for the past 8 months. Part of me wanted to throw them out the window with each month that passed, part of me wanted to give them away to one of my many friends currently having babies, and part of me wanted to keep them, just in case.
After trying to have a baby every February/March thru June/July (because of the seasonal nature of wedding photography) since we got married 4 years ago, for some reason I felt like this spring/summer was finally our time. (We’ve known since probably a few months into dating that we wanted to get married and have kids together. The one thing in my life I always knew was that I wanted to be a mom. I was obsessed with the idea as a kid… always playing house, and toting around kids littler than me. This all became an intense need when I met James. I pictured little boys that looked like him running around our house. We even included a promise to be parents together in our wedding vows… but anyway – I digress.)
Since we got married I always tried to brush off the fact that we couldn’t get pregnant and made up various reasons why it didn’t happen…
2009 – I told myself we didn’t get pregnant because we weren’t really trying. It was more of an “if it happens it happens” kind of thing for us right after we got married. (Although when it wasn’t happening I did have moments of worry & sadness, I’m not going to lie. I remember thinking it would just “accidentally” happen and would be a happy surprise for us now that we were married… and quickly realized that may not be the case. So I started taking pre-natal vitamins every day, and bought the book “Taking Charge of Your Fertility” so I could figure out what exactly was happening with my body in order to be prepared for our next season of ‘trying’.)
2010 – I convinced myself it just wasn’t meant to be. God knew better than we did. This was a big year of growth for our business and I realized afterward that if we had gotten pregnant this year I might have never quit the law firm job and went full-time in 2011 with our photography business. Also, I thought maybe it was best after all that we just be married for a bit and enjoy life as a two-some.
2011 – This was a year of change and uncertainty. We went full-time with the business in September of 2011 so I ended up (eventually) being okay with not getting pregnant that spring/summer because that would have meant a newborn baby in our first official off-season working for ourselves, which we most likely wouldn’t have been able to really afford. (Not to mention the lapse in insurance because of the job change.) I figured once again God had a better plan for us than I did.
2012 – When we were going through this year I was certain this was it. I was 30 years old (turning 31 that September) and I felt like we were where we needed to be in our life. I was tracking my cycles (still) and was convinced we’d have a baby on the way in no time. We had a shortened amount of time to ‘try’ that spring/summer because of an earlier start to wedding season in 2013, so when I was late in June of 2012 I was convinced I was pregnant (I felt different & I’m never late), even though the pregnancy tests were coming back negative. I ended up eventually getting my period (and it was incredibly painful), so I went to my doctor to see if everything was okay since things were really odd that month, and I was told that I’d had a chemical pregnancy. The good news was (she said) that we were able to get pregnant, the bad news was that the longer cycle left us no more months to try without having to cancel a wedding that spring (which we couldn’t afford to do). And so we waited until the next spring.
2013 – That brings us to this past spring/summer. Because of the chemical pregnancy I had some renewed hope and really believed this was it and we’d be pregnant in the first or second cycle…. hence, the tiny, adorable, baby shoe purchase. Silly me. I think the first couple months of not getting pregnant were the hardest this year. I had convinced myself SO much that this was it for us that it was a bit of a shock to my system when it wasn’t. James was 35 and I’ll be 32 in just under a month, so I felt like our time was ticking away. The start of each new cycle brought lots of tears and loneliness (on my side). James didn’t like that I was sad and hated to see me cry. He felt like my tears meant that I wasn’t happy with what we had… with just us, together.
Of course none of that was true – but the combination of feeling like I couldn’t/shouldn’t be this upset, mixed with whatever James was going through and not telling me about put tension in our marriage that made the entire situation even harder. I found myself waiting to cry until I was alone… in the shower, in the car, or turned away from James in bed while he slept in the morning. I felt like I couldn’t talk to any of my friends about it because they all either had kids already or had babies on the way.
In the same way it seems like everyone is getting engaged around you when you’re waiting for a proposal, everyone around me was now pregnant. Every new day was another ultrasound scan posted on Facebook, email message, or text – celebrating a new “accidental” pregnancy of someone close to me.
I was afraid to tell anyone what I was going through because I didn’t want them to avoid talking to me about their joy and upcoming addition to their family. I didn’t want to tell them how I felt like my body was failing me, and how confusing and lonely this time was. I didn’t want to be the last one they told about their pregnancy because they were afraid of hurting me. When in truth, because of what we were going through – I was even happier for them, because I realized through the past 4 years what a true MIRACLE having a baby really is.
Through all of this stuff started to come the questions from seemingly everywhere. (Apparently the 4-year married mark is when you’re supposed to start having kids & people go from just letting you be married to pestering you about your future off-spring.) Every post I shared of us with our niece/nephews warranted comments about how “You guys need to have kids!” … “When are you guys going to finally have kids?!” … “James will make such an amazing father – when are you going to give him a baby??” Trust me, I’m aware that James will make an AMAZING father. You don’t need to tell me constantly. It is one of the many (and major) reasons why I fell in love with the man and wanted to have a family with him ASAP. If I posted about my love for pickles on Facebook or Instagram (I’ve always loved pickles people – it’s not a pregnancy thing), people would comment… “Maybe you’re pregnant?!” Or with photos of James and I together, “When are you two going to make some beautiful babies together?!”
(Let me just say quickly that one thing this has all taught me is that I will never, ever ask those questions of other couples. We have no idea what people are going through behind closed doors, and those kind of comments can be so hurtful and bring about so much frustration and sorrow that I will never put that on anyone ever again.)
So here we are now. Things are much, much, much better between James and I. I think (sadly) partly because I stopped getting my hopes up. I realized a few months into ‘trying’ this year that I needed to stop convincing myself I was pregnant every month. It was the same vicious cycle. Each month would start with excitement and hope. I’d convince myself this was going to be the month for any crazy reason I could come up with… It’s Mother’s Day this month! We’ll go home to visit and I’ll tell my parents we’re expecting that weekend and it’ll be the best! … OR … It’s Father’s Day this month! I’ll surprise James on Father’s Day with the little shoes wrapped up and we’ll celebrate our first soon-to-be Father’s Day, and it will be perfect. … OR … We’re not supposed to be trying because we have weddings next spring booked, so we won’t really try, and just like everybody says “when you stop trying so hard it’ll happen” and then we’ll be “surprise! pregnant!” this month! It won’t be ideal, but we’ll work it out because it is meant to be and God is challenging us. We’d try and it would be fun, and I’d think maybe this is the day it happens! And then after I knew I ovulated I’d start to live in my head. I’d worry about what I was eating, or drinking, or how I was exercising. I’d overanalyze every feeling in my body. Maybe this means I’m pregnant? Maybe this means I’m not pregnant. Then I’d get my period and the tears would come like rain. I’d give myself the morning to be sad, but try not to let James see it. (He knew though.) I’d withdraw from him, or try to put on a happy face. I’d pray and I’d ask God to help me stop feeling like I needed to control all of this… to let go and just believe.
But with each month that passed, I stopped convincing myself more and more. By the time the end of July rolled around (our last month of trying this year because of our weddings booked for spring 2014) – I got my period and didn’t shed a tear. That was a big deal. I even stopped obsessively thinking about it, and when I finally did share with friends – I didn’t ALWAYS cry when I talked about what we were going through. I think a giant part of this is because James and I sat down and had a long conversation about it all… about what to do from here, about how happy and blessed we are with just what we have now, and about how we know someday we will be parents – biological or not. (Clearly adoption is an option in our family and we had actually planned to do so even before all this started.)
Obviously after 4 years of trying something is up. I’ve had this (giant stack of) papers printed out from the Fertility Centers of Illinois for months now, but haven’t had the courage to complete them.
She talked about excuses and obstacles, and things we put in our way to tell us we can’t reach our dreams. She asked us to write down what our biggest dream was and then to write down what was stopping us from reaching it. I knew immediately that my biggest dream was to have a baby… so I wrote that down (along with some other things that came flowing into my brain at the moment). Then I had to stop and think about what obstacles were stopping me from having a baby. At first I thought… my body, fertility issues, God doesn’t want me to be a mom (yes, I’ve actually thought that… just, don’t ask), and other reasons I was using to blame myself for not being pregnant yet… and then I realized the real obstacle I was putting in front of myself was going to the doctor. I was afraid of how much time it would take, what we might find out, and more importantly – how much money it would cost.
I remember looking down at these excuses and immediately realized that I needed to stop putting it off and make an appointment with James when I got home. As I was coming to this realization the others were going around the room sharing their biggest dreams and obstacles. I contemplated whether I was going to be honest or not when they got to me. My heart was pounding out of my chest and kind of wanted to puke, if I’m being honest. At this point only a few select friends, my sister, and my mom were aware of what we were going through. I hadn’t shared it publicly, and I hadn’t blogged about it.
I was staring down at the words in my notebook, and heard Lauren say, “Christy? What’s your biggest dream?”
I felt the tears pressing at the back of my eyes, the lump in my throat, and my heart pounding. I contemplated making something photography-related up. I said something to fill the silence and space in the room. (I can’t remember what.) And then I realized if I wasn’t going to be 100% honest with these women and put myself out there and be open & vulnerable, then there is no way I could expect the same of them.
And so through tears I told 11 other women in the room, most of whom I’d only just met, that my biggest dream was to be a mom, and to have a baby. I told them we’d been trying for 4 years and it wasn’t working and that I just wanted to have a baby as soon as possible. That was it. No photo dreams. No business dreams. Just this. I was so embarrassed about crying in front of all of them that I hadn’t looked up when I said it until the end. I was shocked to meet eyes with the other women in the room and see that almost every one of them was crying as well.
I was confused because I wasn’t sure if they just cried when they saw others cry, or if something about my story struck a cord with them. Either way – I realized that I was not alone. I realized that other people were sympathizing with me, and possibly emotional because of their own story they hadn’t shared with anyone either. It was in that moment that I realized I needed to share my story when I got home, and I needed to finally make a doctor’s appointment.
And so here I am. Sharing our story. Because this isn’t something to be ashamed or embarrassed of. This isn’t something everybody should have to go through alone, and it is time people started talking more openly about their fertility struggles. (I’m so thankful for Jimmy Fallon coming forward about their struggles and opening up the dialogue around infertility recently – as if I didn’t already love him enough. If you haven’t watched the interview – you should. I may or may not have cried watching it. It gave me hope and it was beautiful to see him so happy.)
And on top of sharing our story – this past weekend I filled out the paper work for the doctor. And today, before my sister & brother-in-law come down to visit for a few days with our favorite kiddos, I’m going to call the fertility center and make an appointment.
Because, like I told everyone in my own talk at Turning Tides, reaching your dreams isn’t about leaping… it’s about taking one small step at a time.
So here we go… together.