April 24, 2016 · Personal
I came across expired baby lotions this past week. Baby shampoos. Diaper creams. All the containers of baby necessities we had ready for Owen’s arrival. While most of our unopened baby items were returned and the amounts put on gift cards after he passed, these were among the few items that remained. Already opened and rendered “unreturnable.” Items that were placed on his changing table, anxiously awaiting a child we never brought home from the hospital.
I kept these, because before having Owen we never had issues getting pregnant. With my first pregnancy ending in a miscarriage and Owen passing away as a result of a heart condition outside of the womb, the whole “getting pregnant” part was the least of our worries as parents. With an expiration date 3 whole YEARS ahead of where we were at the time I packed up those baby items into totes and shoved them in a closet, it never occurred to me that those items would reach their shelf life and remain untouched all this time.
So here we are. Three, almost four years after the loss of my son. The end of April means we are approaching our little McSweet’s “should-have-been” first birthday…the next month being the month we lost our first baby…and we are still waiting for our family here on this earth.
I have a lot to say about that. Where I am in all this. What I have worked through and what it looks like to struggle with fertility after 2 failed pregnancies and the death of a son. Believe me. I’ve got words for all of that. A lot has been stirring in my heart lately. Those words will be coming for you all to read in future posts, but not this one.
Before I dig in to what I want to share today, I want to be real with you about something. I think it is unfair that I struggle with infertility. Not because of the struggle itself, but because it is one of the most private topics a couple can face.
In a world where I have a voice on this blog and a desire to be transparent to help those like me, I constantly battle what to share. And how much. Sooooo oftentimes I don’t write and go months without sharing something personal on here. Why does my current struggle have to be SUCH a private one?!
I never understood infertility until now. I watched it. I saw those around me struggle for YEARS getting pregnant. I just never knew what it felt like for myself.
Some things in this life you have to live out. Feel out. Cry out. Until you “get it.” Once you do, you are never the same. You now have a heart that understands.
While I am going to honor and respect our decision as a family of two to keep our infertility cards close to the vest and not share specifics, what I do want to do is give you a glimpse into this life. If for no other reason than to have someone else on this same road say, “Amen. That was right on.”
Perhaps this post is for a friend or family member watching infertility from the sidelines who can say, “Thank you for sharing this. I hope I can be a better support system for ______ now that I read this.” Maybe I am writing this for you.
All the areas I want to address in this post revolve around marriage and our relationship as a couple. From finances to friendships, the common thread that runs throughout and affects it all…is US as a married couple. Our marriage HAS to come first on this journey. The stress of it all has made that so blatantly clear and I can see how this whole process can ruin marriages.
If you let it.
Every decision Johnny and I make. Every medication that slides down my throat or pierces my body. Every ultrasound. Every appointment (Can we just pause to talk about the sheer NUMBER of appointments every month?!) EVERY decision…is one we make together. If one of us is not on the same page, we pause. Check ourselves. Pray for direction and then proceed.
When we were up at the Cleveland Clinic, Johnny and I had a defining moment in our marriage where I looked him in the eye and said, “Babe, WE have to come first. Our marriage, regardless of how sick our son is, has to be the focus above all else. Even here. Even now. If WE are ok, we can handle anything else that comes our way in this. TOGETHER.”
Making your marriage a priority means you have to forget about everyone else. You have to drop your “people pleasing” ways and be selfish. Selfish in marriage for the SAKE of your marriage.
Lately, I have been saying “no” to activities with friends. Not all, but those that require more money than say a walk in the park or getting some ice cream. Like concerts. Trips. Big to-dos. I kindly decline and hope that the friends I choose to share life with will understand.
The amount of money wrapped up in trying to conceive *might* blow your mind if you add up how many months most couples try. Easily…EASILY…couples could spend $1,000-$2,000 a month. That price goes up and requires more up front depending on how far you choose to take this infertility train.
Any money that we have that is NOT going toward prenatal vitamins, shots, medications, ultrasounds or treatments is going toward bettering our marriage. The money I choose not to spend on things with MY friends for ME, goes toward US. It goes toward a last-minute Priceline hotel where we sneak away…just for the sake of getting away. Without telling anyone we are even leaving town.
Anytime money comes in from an unexpected tax return, a babysitting gig, or selling clothes to consignment, that money goes into our “Ski Fund” (otherwise known as our “Make-Our-Marriage-A-Priority Fund.”) We have been stashing away a little at a time. Looking ahead and planning an escape.
If I am not pregnant when the gloom of next winter arrives, we are flying out west on a ski trip. We are outta here! A dream we are working toward (both financially and physically) and where we are choosing to put what little “fun money” we come across these days.
This trip will be for US. Time away to better our marriage. Intentional time to reconnect.
You need that weekly, consistent space to reconnect, too. Weeks where fatigue, hormone surges or countless doctors appointments are affecting my energy and state of mind, we carve out space for US. Whether it is using a gift card and going out to eat, or ordering a pizza and staying home, we say “no” to other things in order to say “yes” to each other.
That is SO IMPORTANT I cannot stress that enough.
Say “NO” to other things…even other people…if it means you can now say “YES” to each other.
If you know someone walking the road of infertility right now, be kind. Be understanding. Be low-stress and keep the demands on them light. They may not be able to plan activities ahead of time because their whole lives are at the mercy of the wife’s “cycle.” Allow them the space to say “no” to you so they can say “yes” to each other.
Help them protect their marriage.
Give them an opportunity to do something FUN without the burden of finances. Gift cards are an excellent way to MAKE THEM spend the money at the movie theater or restaurant where the gift card is for. Give them the freedom to have fun together without feeling guilty about it.
For those out there like me, make your marriage a priority during a time where you are tempted to make that journey to having a family the priority. Carve out space to reconnect…and space to just be. Protect your marriage. Fight for it. What is the point in making it to the end of all this if you lose each other along the way?