Waiting? For a dream to come true? Waiting a long time? No answer? The wrong answer? A reoccurring heartache in my younger life came up last week: waiting to get pregnant. After reading a Bible study program on waiting, back I went forty years ago.
I married my first husband in September 1973, and in December I stopped taking my birth control pills, hoping to get pregnant, and it happened easily. Around three months pregnant, I walked into see my gynecologist’s office pregnant, thinking I would hear the heart beat for the first time and walked out not pregnant. I had had something he called a “mis-abort.”
In Googling it, I found “A missed abortion is a miscarriage in which your fetus didn’t form or has died, but the placenta and embryonic tissues are still in your uterus. It’s known more commonly as a missed miscarriage. It’s also sometimes called a silent miscarriage.”
After that life-changing experience, I have no memory of how I drove home to southwest Denver from downtown. At 20 years old, I had my heart set on having a baby. My brother and his wife had a baby; my friends had children. I had been raised to get married and have children, so it was in my DNA.
Monthly, waiting for my period became torture. When my period came, I sobbed and spent the rest of the month longing for it to happen. It had happened so effortlessly once. Why not now?
After a few more unsuccessful years and frustration, we decided to seek out the help of a fertility specialist, and we found the best—Dr. Bradley who started the Bradley Method of childbirth. “The Bradley method of natural childbirth (also known as “husband-coached childbirth”) is a method of natural childbirth developed in 1947 by Robert A. Bradley, M.D. (1917–1998) and popularized by his book Husband-Coached Childbirth, first published in 1965. The Bradley method emphasizes that birth is a natural process: mothers are encouraged to trust their body and focus on diet and exercise throughout pregnancy; and it teaches couples to manage labor through deep breathing and the support of a partner or labor coach.”
At this time, I felt encouraged after our first appointment with Dr. Bradley, and he invited us to his house that evening where women who had just given birth to their children through the Bradley Method showed them off. I reveled in the possibility.
Then he started fertility testing on my ex-husband first, simply because a man’s test is much easier than a woman—a sperm sample. After this test, we received the bad news. He had a disorder called aspermia, “inability to produce or ejaculate semen.”
When Dr. Bradley relayed this information to us, he also told my ex-husband that the miscarriage I had earlier was caused by weak sperm—hard news for a man to hear! He offered alternatives: artificial insemination or adoption.
Broken hearted, we isolated individually and grieved over this major loss. I toyed with the idea of artificial insemination until I found out it would be from a donor and not my ex-husband. He basically refused.
During a Christmas holiday during this heart wrenching time, my larger family unit met together to have the holiday with my grandmother on my dad’s side. Toddlers and babies abounded, and one proud cousin strutted around the house and repeated often throughout the evening, “Aren’t we a fertile bunch!” He had no idea what we were going through, but I cringed every time he professed our family’s fertility.
Being in our twenties, we continued to be surrounded by friends and family members pregnant with families growing. I ached to join the ranks.
After much thought and prayer, our only alternative became adoption. We decided on the Lutheran Social Services as the adoption agency to use. They handled the process differently than other adoption agencies. Instead of doing the deep investigation into our backgrounds immediately, they waited until it was closer to our adoption date. They felt if you waited three years or more, you had nothing to hide.
From then on, we attended meetings and learned about the process. We saw other couples see their dreams come true, so we waited, feeling positive about our chances.
After waiting three years, we finally received notification that we would receive our baby in six months. Excitedly, I started knitting booties and baby afghans. My Mom and I bought baby clothes and blankets. So did my mother-in-law. Everyone joined in our excitement. I just couldn’t believe it.
But with the notification of the baby coming, the adoption agency would start the background checks, and my ex-husband knew that. I knew my husband had a drinking problem and had been unfaithful to me, but I loved him and looked away. What I didn’t know was he had much more to hide than I thought, so he left me.
At the same time, we divorced and had to cancel the adoption, and that ended my hopes of having a child.
Over the years, I have grieved repeatedly the barren state of my life. In 1995, I turned to poetry to express the pain:
Childless The pain of being without child! Eternally alone! No child has burst forth from my womb nor sucked at my breast. Empty cavity deep inside waiting to be filled with life. Waiting, waiting, waiting! I have no child to pass my stories on to, my history, our history, how Grandad created our ranch, how special Branson Christmas trees are because we cut them down from our ranch, our land, how to do the Jessie polka and waltz, how I was almost named Jessie. My name, Larada, that should be passed on to my granddaughter, like my grandmother passed it on to me, every other generation for 7 generations. Cheated, robbed, failed! Not woman, not mom, nothing! Does a child define a woman? Does the lack of them define me? Names and faces dance in circles in my mind-- Lael Marie Patrick Lawrence Curly blond hair, blue inquisitive eyes. Bright red hair, changeable hazel eyes. A mixture of him and me. I have no daughter that has my smile nor a son with my Dad’s red hair. No one to call me, “Mommy.” The empty cavity waiting to be filled has grown larger no longer just my womb, but now my whole being, my every thought, ME! Aching, lonely, pulsating to the beat of life missing what never was!
In a way, it’s strange that this came up now; I’m 67 years old. God gave me lots of children in my classroom over the years. My brother and his wife shared their three children with me, and now they have shared their children, too. My cousin shared her three daughters, so God filled the void.
I ultimately believe my childless life speaks of God’s mercy and love. For many years after my first marriage, I had an unsettled life which would have been hard on a child. As I waited for the answer I wanted, God in his infinite mercy gave me different response to my prayer for a child and said, “No!” and I understand why today.
So, don’t take having children for granted. Many women’s hearts break every day for the lack of a baby suckling at their breast. If you have children, be grateful!
Did you have trouble getting pregnant? If, not, why are your children a blessing to you today?
Last week’s blog post:
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