My daughter Zoey is rapidly approaching her 5th birthday, which means she’s at that stage when she asks a lot of questions. No, really … a lot of questions.
The line of questioning changes direction as quickly as the crayon strokes across her paper, but one thing has been consistent for the last three years: she wants a sibling. More specifically, she wants a sister.
Note that I said three years. Since 2011, my husband and I have been trying to grow our family of three to a family of four. But the battle didn’t begin then – my journey with infertility first started in 2008. It was then, after a year of infertility testing, that I was diagnosed with PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome), and realized that my dream of having a family might stay just that – a dream.
Luckily, we conceived Zoey. And I’m so grateful every day for the gift of motherhood. I cherish my daughter, treasure our time together, and delight in her presence daily. Every bit of motherhood, from the zoo trips to the timeouts, is a blessing to me. It may not always be glamorous or fun, but it’s motherhood and I get to experience it.
But this doesn’t change the fact that our family still feels incomplete.
Sometimes it seems that there is a perception that if you already have a child, you shouldn’t mourn that you don’t have others. You should be thankful for what you have and move on. But this is unfair and unrealistic. When your heart feels like someone is missing from your family pictures, when your breasts ache to nurse once again, when your uterus throbs as each cycle starts over again, when your ovaries fail you … you feel broken.
It doesn’t matter if you have no children, one child, or four, but long for a fifth, infertility – both primary and secondary – is real and it’s painful.
So, how do I deal? What do I do when my daughter asks me why I don’t have a baby in my belly yet, when she tells teachers at school that I’m pregnant anyway, when she asks if God is done making her sister?
There’s no perfect course of action, but here are some things that have helped me in the past three years:
1. I don’t let her see me cry.
This isn’t her burden to carry, and while it does impact her, I don’t feel like it’s fair to let her see me cry over this. Not when she’s so young. She saw me cry once, and I can’t explain how terrible I felt afterwards. I could tell it was making her upset, and I never want her to feel guilty for innocently asking questions.
2. I ask her to pray.
We are a household that prays – it’s a normal part of our life. When she asks why we don’t have a baby yet, I explain to her that it’s not up to me, that Mommy and Daddy are doing all we know how to bring a baby into our lives, and that it’s ultimately God who has to send the baby to us.
3. I make her feel important.
I try to remind her how important she is to us, and that right now, she doesn’t have to share us with anyone. I tell her that this alone time may not last forever, so we should be thankful for it now and enjoy as much as we can before a baby enters my belly. Once that happens, the countdown to losing “only child” status is on.
4. I connect with other women who understand.
I can’t emphasize enough how important this is. Infertility can quickly feel like a very dark and lonely place. Reaching out to other women who are experiencing the same thing is extremely therapeutic. You can lift each other up in ways that others simply may not be able to because they don’t understand.
As a barren mother to one child, this is how I cope as she asks, pleads, and begs nearly every single day for a sibling. If you have a child (or children) and are still suffering with infertility, how do you deal?