Almost eight weeks ago I gave birth to a baby I thought I would never have.
Now that we’ve settled into our new normal I’ve finally had some time to reflect on the emotional blur of this last year.
A positive pregnancy test that Bill practically had to force me to take. The precious moment we told our five-year-old, Gemma. A entire summer of throwing up while trying to keep mom-ing it. The ever present sense of soul-deep gratitude and white-knuckling my anxiety. HORMONES. Then our unexpected and somewhat eventful delivery at 37 weeks.
The newborn phase. Becoming a family of four. Sleep deprivation and snuggling. Working on that damn latch. Giving up and pumping myself like a dairy cow. The miracle that is falling in love with another child. A miracle I thought wasn’t meant for us.
My head and my heart have been spinning for such a long time that I am only now beginning to process our infertility experience. Our unexplained secondary infertility.
Seriously just typing the word infertility, even now, I can feel the muscles in my neck tensing up. My whole body still wants to resist that label. Part of me still seethes at the very word. I don’t want it to apply to us. But it does. And it nearly broke me. Tore me down, bloody and bruised, and rebuilt me into something new. And that something new is what brings me to this space. A space where I can write, sifting through it in the only way that has ever worked for me.
Have you ever heard of kairos? It’s an Ancient Greek word denoting the concept of the right and opportune time as opposed to chronos, chronological time. From a Christian perspective, which is my background, kairos refers to transformative moments when God’s eternal time is breaking through and intersecting with the world. In my experience it’s those moments when time feels irrelevant or even suspended. When you feel tapped into God and the universe and something significant is pouring into your consciousness. They might be big moments. Maybe something like the birth of your child or watching a loved one pass away. Most of the time though, in my experience, they are small. Unexpected. Like sitting on the couch with the right book.
About a year ago that’s what I was doing. Reading. And it just so happened to dramatically shake the course of not just our infertility experience but every part of my life. The truth is that at that point, after almost three years, I had decided to accept what I considered to be our reality. I was ready to call it. I wasn’t going to fight it anymore and I was ruthlessly working to kill off a last persistent flicker of hope. Because that little bastard had to die. It hurt too much. Our original vision, that dream for our family, was dead. It had to be.
I thought I was doing the right thing. I mean, I was accepting what was so obviously God’s will. Right? And I was even beginning to see purpose in our infertility. I really was. There was so much that I knew that I couldn’t have possibly have learned if we had never gone through this experience. I thought this was survival. Obedience. All I had to do was accept that I would live the rest of my life pretending I wasn’t broken and I could move our family beyond this. Easy right? It didn’t matter that I felt like an abandoned child. Tainted and defective. It didn’t matter that my heart was shattered. I loved my husband. I loved my daughter. I could fake this for them. I had to.
So last year, just like now, it was the season of Lent. Rather than give up coffee for the fifty-millionth time, I had picked up something to read instead, Jesus: A Pilgrimage, by Fr. James Martin. Somehow (kairos), I had managed to pace my reading so that I was reading a chapter entitled Risen during the last few days of Holy Week. Fr. Martin was describing Jesus’s disciples after his death and how they were cowering behind locked doors. Here’s what he said…
“Perhaps they can be forgiven- Jesus was dead after all. And who could have predicted the Resurrection?…Often we find ourselves incapable of believing that God might have new life in store for us. ‘Nothing can change’ we say. ‘There is no hope.’ This is when we end up mired in despair, which can sometimes be a reflection of pride. That is, we think we know better than God. It is a way of saying ‘God does not have the power to change this situation.’ What a dark and dangerous path is despair, far darker than death.
How many of us believe parts of our lives are dead? …How many of us feel bereft of the hope of change?
This is when I turn to the Resurrection. Often I return to the image of the terrified disciples cowering behind closed doors. We are not called to live in that room. We are called to emerge from our hiding places and to accompany Mary, weeping sometimes, searching always, and ultimately blinded by the dawn of Jesus’s new life-surprised-delighted and moved to joy. We are called to believe what she has seen: he is risen.“
We are not called to live in that room.
I nearly had to scan back to make sure he hadn’t started the passage with “So, Caiti…” Because that was me. All of it. Despairing. Defeated. Broken. Bowing my head before the certainty of death. And what’s more irrefutable than death? Right? But divine insights were sparking. Little lightning bugs lighting up one by one but together making everything seem to glow. Just like that I saw just how much of me had died in the last three years. I saw how heartsick I’d become. How numb to joy I had become. Far beyond our infertility, I saw how much my true voice I’d been silencing. For YEARS. I could see the way I’d retreated from life. How I had been hiding.
But Resurrection. The word was reverberating through me. I felt it in my cells and in my soul.
Did I really believe in resurrection? And if I did then what did that mean? What does it mean to be a person of The Resurrection? I knew one thing. I didn’t want to live in the shadows anymore. I wanted out of that room. I could see the abundant life that was there waiting for me, and had never really left me. What right had I to say God couldn’t change our lives? That I was doomed to sadness? More than that even, I didn’t have time to wallow in my despair. Because we’re all called to live in service of others. This was the core of my entire belief system. Caiti, get up. Roll the stone away, come out. It was a seismic change, tectonic plates shifting, groaning and locking into a new position. It was so clear to me. Whether or not we ever had another baby, I was ready to be happy again. I was ready to do the work to be happy again. We deserved it. I deserved it.
A year ago Jesus gave me a shake I started to wake up.
We’re all meant to be alive. But there is no life without suffering. And to suffer, like being melted down inside a crucible, can forge you into something new if you only let it. Something stronger. Fortified. And isn’t that the basis of hope? That from the deepest, darkest, seemingly permanent places, we can rise back up. To believe in resurrection is to believe in hope in all circumstances. And not in hope that God will give you what you want but rather that God will grant you the strength to survive and thrive regardless of what happens to you. That’s everything. I don’t think a person needs to be religious to grab onto to this kind of hope. Hope and rebirth is a universally human and terrestrial concept. We can all feel it. We can see resurrection and life playing out in nature as again and again LIFE rises up out of ashes. And I wanted that. Hope. Joy. I wanted to rise from the dead.
Almost a year ago I asked Bill to create this blogging space so that I could begin to unpack my transformation. We decided to stop waiting. Life happens in the present. We decided to focus on the many blessings we had. Including everything that was positive about being a single-child family. It wasn’t going to be easy. There would probably always be hard days sometimes and maybe it would always hurt just a little. Or maybe, when we were ready, we would talk about adoption. But I was done being miserable and I started making plans again. We were thinking about a vacation. Maybe a cruise. We thought about taking Gemma to Disney World…
The next month I got pregnant.
I want to be very clear. The moral of this story is not that if you just let go and learn the hard lessons then you will finally get what you want. That’s crap. Life doesn’t work like that. And infertility definitely doesn’t work like that. Maria is a gift that will humble me for the rest of my life. I think the takeaway from our story is that life is meant to be lived abundantly. That we are meant to survive, thrive and find joy no matter where we are. To take our pain and make something beautiful. Life is there waiting for you. It may not feel like it, but it is. It is, it is, it is. No matter how far down the rabbit hole you have slipped you can climb back out again. You can rise again.
Here I am. That was my first post. There’s so much more I have to say and so much more to work out in my own head. That’s what I’m doing here with this space. And it only took four years to get here.