It’s been five years, about four of those spent pursuing fertility treatments. Five years is a while to spend waiting for a child whom you want. Plenty of people get pregnant when they “plan” on it. Some people get pregnant, even when they do not plan on it. And yes, there are people who have waited far longer than we have, who have paid a higher price and said more desperate prayers. So we are far from the most long-suffering couples.
In just a few weeks, our infertility memoir, Plus or Minus will be released by Moody Publishers. You might think that with a child in our arms, infertility is forever destined to be in our rear view mirror, a distant memory that we probably will not think about much anymore.
However, when something sticks with you for five years, it tends to leave a pretty indelible mark on your marriage and your faith. The fact is that infertility has been with us so long, I just cannot imagine our marriage without it.
Yes, we have a child in our arms. But here are a few ways that all of that waiting has fundamentally shaped how we see our own child (and all of yours).
Babies Are Miracles
Of course, everyone says that babies are miracles. But I have to tell you, five years ago, I did not know what that even meant.
I think usually we talk about miracles because we look into a child’s eyes and we see a little bit of ourselves, and we know deep down that it is amazing that this little thing came from our bodies.
What infertility and in vitro treatment gave us was an intimate look at just what it takes to make a miracle happen. We saw life at its most precarious, most vulnerable, long before there would have ever been a heartbeat to record or an ultrasound photo. We saw just how stacked the odds are against any of us ever being here. We did not truly understand what it took to create new life until we saw all of the things that could go wrong along the way.
Yes, your kids are miracles. If you got pregnant easily, I’m sorry to say, you missed out on some of the sheer, unimaginable miraculousness of the whole thing.
Babies Expire Quickly
All things are very temporary. It’s easy to say that when your baby is not screaming for some completely baffling reason. But it’s true. All things are very fleeting.
That’s why it never really struck us that we needed to have a baby. Like, we never had the baby itch. We wanted a child, and a baby was just a phase along the way. The baby phase is not the one I looked forward to most when we were trying to have one. And it’s still not. Sure, I enjoy holding my son, and I already love him. But this is not the end all, be all of parenting.
And that’s a good thing, because babies do not stay babies for very long. In six months, when I have summer break, he’s going to be an entirely different person.
And so, I’m trying to not wish away any phase of my child’s life. Not the screaming phase or the poopy phase. Because babies have an expiration date, and it’s always sooner than we think.
I Can Be Okay, Whatever Happens
Look, a lot of bad stuff can happen to people on the way to building their family. There is a lot of heartbreak and loss that goes with the territory. There were plenty of nights that I feared I would one day be an old man, alone, with no family.
But despite all of these fears, we just had to come to accept that we might, or might not have a kid. And things would be okay, whichever outcome became reality. We were determined to not get desperate, to not pin our entire hopes, our whole futures on making this work. Because that just seems like a lot of pressure for a child. Make your parents’ dreams come true, kid. There’s a lot riding on this.
I just see so much of modern parenting culture that puts the responsibility for everything on parents, and I wonder how much self-doubt they are filled with, how much guilt they feel, and I just want to tell them it’s going to be okay. It’s not all up to you.
I Can Still Love Your Kids, Even If I Don’t Have One Myself
I think some people were not sure why I would be a teacher, without kids of my own. Maybe some people wondered if I could be a teacher without my own kids. After all, what do I know about children since I do not live with them? (Note: gaining a teacher’s education pretty much ensures that we are at least as knowledgeable about children as any parents.)
But mostly, I was able to see something in myself. I realized that I could go to work, surrounded by other people’s children, and that was okay. I could show compassion toward them. I could be a good steward of them. I could be a role model for them and not fall apart because I went home to a quiet house. I can still love all of your children as their teacher, and that’s a good feeling.
I can’t think of anything that has reshaped my outlook more than five years of waiting for my son. What have you learned along the way?