For the first time in three years, I attended the monthly meeting of my local infertility support group that I have been a member of for several years now. I am an “active” member, meaning I am very involved with the online support portion and attend social gatherings from time to time but I don’t attend the monthly meetings. I do peer-lead our loss subgroup with meetings and online support. However, that last part comes naturally for me. For I am a bereaved mother. My identity has shifted since my son was stillborn. For the past year, I no longer looked at myself in the mirror with the shame of infertility. Afterall, I had a baby, right? I was (am) a Mom, right? I think I tried to bury the “infertility” title because truthfully, infertile and bereaved mixed together are beyond comprehensible, even to me. So I tucked it away and assumed the role that I felt more connected to.
Now that I am trying to conceive again, my identity has taken another shift and the image in my mirror has transformed yet again. While I took some time away from trying to make room for my grief, I prayed that when we were ready God would bless this journey quickly and easily. I begged and cried on many car rides to work, “Please Lord, no more procedures, no more exhausting appointments, no more drained bank accounts. Lord, if you make it easy for me to get pregnant, I promise I’ll do my best to be brave and honor you during the pregnancy!” I pleaded. I hoped (and still hope) that the ride to getting pregnant won’t have to be as daunting as actually being pregnant again.
We are still at the beginning of this new yet very familiar journey and it’s all coming back to me. As I sat there last night and witnessed the tears in the room and heard other women’s stories, my heart ached. I wanted to take away all of their pain and place a (breathing) baby in each of their arms. As I began to share the very short version of my story, the tears began and I instantly felt it all again. I felt infertile. And bereaved. I felt the stabbing of both and I fumbled over my words. I felt paralyzed in my biggest fears having come true. Again.
I fell asleep re-playing everything I could remember about Jake. His blonde hair forming, his sweet shaped lips, his perfect little ears, his little fingers that wrapped perfectly around mine and those perfect little toes. I tried to remember every word I said to him. I needed to feel close to him because last night, I felt very far away. Far away from my dreams.
I awoke this morning and looked into the mirror like I do each day. Except this time, I realized that both of my titles are so significant to why I am who I am. They co-exist and I can’t nor do I want to change that. Instead of seeing the defeat and shame that I have seen for so long, I decided to look a little bit deeper. And this is what I saw…
I saw a woman who shows nothing short of perseverance. This comes from the many weeks, months and years of bad news and less than encouraged doctors. I saw a woman of immense strength who has found it in her to try again and again after each failure, no matter how deep the pain seared through her. I saw eyes filled with a wisdom that couldn’t be learned by text-book or explained with words. I saw a smile that she fought very hard to find again, time and time again. I saw a warrior who fights for her family despite the risks and reasons not to. I saw the boldness of a mountain gained from lost relationships that couldn’t sustain her darkest days. I saw the deep love etched through the fine lines of her eyes-a new kind of love for people, a love for precious moments and simple things. I saw a woman full of empathy for those in suffering. I saw a wife-a loyal, madly in love one. I saw a Mother-one who aches deeply, yet loves boldly.
I saw me.
Infertile. Bereaved. Persistent. Strong. Wise. Smiling. Warrior. Fighter. Bold. Empathetic. Loving. Aching. Me.
This is a very different reflection than I saw a year ago. The only word I have for that is unrecognizable. I am saying goodbye to the titles. I am a woman of many things. I am continuously growing into another version of myself based on whatever life throws at me. A lifetime of transformation looking back at me in the mirror.
What does the reflection of your story look like at this point in your journey?