A lot of parents say that they can’t remember life before children. I am not one of those parents. I remember my pre-baby days very well.
I like to think it’s because I am an older parent and not because I spent so many years battling infertility. I had my first child at 34 years and Michael was 41. We had many years to travel, pursue our interests, come and go as we pleased, and become set in our ways. I can still taste the freedom of my life before children. There are moments when I miss it, even long for it…but I wouldn’t trade it. I would take the loss of freedom over the longing ache for a child any day of the week.
So, after many years of battling infertility, what does it feel like to be on the other side?
This has been a difficult post to write, not in the emotionally difficult sense, but difficult in that it is hard to describe the feelings that follow the birth of a baby after so many years of disappointment.
In many ways, the sting of infertility still remains. It’s not something that magically disappears after a baby is born. I think it will always be a part of me. Along with that comes a certain amount of “survivor’s guilt”, knowing that there are still so many out there who are struggling and who might never have a child.
I had a lot of misconceptions about mothers when I was TTC. I can remember thinking that people like present-day me just didn’t get it. I read a lot of inspirational books and articles and whenever I found out that the story teller had gone on to have children, I dismissed her as someone who just didn’t understand what it was really like to be so tormented by the inability to have children.
I can remember thinking that I would NEVER complain about pregnancy or nursing or a crying newborn because I would be so happy just to have that little person in my arms. I was full of judgement for women who easily got pregnant or complained about motherhood.
Didn’t they know how very blessed they were?!
How can she have 3, 4 or 5 children and I can’t even have one?
She doesn’t appreciate the children she has and she’s pregnant again? It’s so unfair.
I was even jealous of women who miscarried, because at least they knew what it was like to get a positive pregnancy test. Terrible, right? I was full of jealousy and bitterness and not very lovely at all. These days, pregnancy announcements still hit me like a ton of bricks sometimes. It’s not because I am jealous anymore. I have chalked it up to so many years of actually feeling jealous and angry and bitter, it’s just a gut reaction at this point. But thankfully, that feeling usually disappears as quickly as it came. Maybe it’s just a painful reminder of where I’ve been and I don’t want to go back to that place.
The truth is, pregnancy was hard. I tried to enjoy every fleeting moment, but sometimes those moments felt so looong. I whined. I complained. I probably made my poor husband crazy. I panicked when my daughter cried the entire first night home from the hospital. What had I gotten myself into? I felt guilty. Mommy guilt magnified 1000 times. I had waited so long for this. Shouldn’t I be ecstatic about every ache and pain, every lost hour of sleep, every moment of attention that my little one demanded? If I couldn’t be ecstatic, shouldn’t I at least suffer in silence and reflect on the beauty of sore boobs and Braxton Hicks?
I was not always ecstatic and Michael will tell you that I definitely did not suffer in silence. You know why? Because I’m human. There were moments when I questioned myself for even bringing a child into this world. It’s such a scary, evil place at times. My body no longer belonged to me. Everything I did had to be modified to accommodate this little person. After Evelyn was born, I actually spent a lot of time feeling like the whole thing wasn’t real. Like she wasn’t really mine and someone was going to come and get her and I would go back to living life as I knew it. There were foggy moments like that. But one thing was for sure, life would never be the same.
I’ve come to realize that I can’t beat myself up for having those feelings. I may have complained and questioned my decision to have a child, but I spent just as much time marveling in the miracle. I fell in love with my growing belly. I watched it bump and shift as she grew bigger and more active. I soaked up every compliment and congratulations from every loved one and stranger. I talked about it incessantly…sometimes I think the complaining was just an excuse to talk about my growing baby.
Part of me doesn’t want to write about the wonder of having a child. I don’t want to add to the pain of someone who might be suffering and reading this. But, if I’m being truthful and candid, I have to say that having a child has filled a little empty spot inside of me that I don’t think could have been filled by anything else in this earthly realm. Does that mean I couldn’t have a fulfilling life if I never became a mom? Of course not.
Becoming a mom has changed me in many ways. I am more patient, more forgiving. I’m happier overall….it’s hard not to be when you’re seeing the world through a child’s eyes. My life is messier, more complicated. I worry more. I struggle to find balance. I have moments where I want to pull out my hair, but I wouldn’t trade it. I am a mom, but a little part of me will always be infertile.
I can remember life before Evelyn, but I wouldn’t go back.