I found out when I was 15 years old.
It was pretty uneventful honestly- no eggs= no pregnancy= no baby. I’m not sure you CAN really comprehend what that means at 15, but my #1 passion in life was babies and babysitting and I had a kind boyfriend (you know the high school one you are absolutely certain is your soul mate and you’ll be married to forever?) who said “I don’t care”, so I immediately thought “No big deal, I’ll just adopt- that seems less painful anyway”.
And honestly, it really wasn’t a “big deal” for the next 17 years. I continued babysitting-funding much of my high school activities by changing diapers and rocking sweethearts to sleep (JULIE! How are you MARRIED??). In college and medical school I was busy working and studying and living and while I was ABSOLUTELY OVERJOYED as my sisters and friends started having kids, I can say with all honestly I wasn’t upset by my own lack of childbearing potential. Then came marriage to a sweet guy who adored me and didn’t blink at forced adoption, followed by residency in Hawaii where we were too busy working (pre 80-hour work week! Sorry I couldn’t resist) and “sunning” and surfing and hiking and playing and living to feel any sense of anything missing in our lives.
Then came DC. Fellowship for me and deployment #1 for the hubs who was gone for a full 18 months by the time it was all over. A few weeks after he left, a full-on attack of the most intensive kind began that convinced me there was absolutely no way I could continue and live a full and happy life unless I had a baby- or at least a plan for one- ASAP. There was much playing into this of course- my age, a large group of amazing friends with A LOT of kiddos, being “alone”, finally having a TEENSY bit of free time that you could imagine having another person to take care of without it sending you into a panic attack, and the new nearness to my sisters and hence 4 of (their eventually to be 7 kids and) my nieces and nephews (as well as double that many “honorary” ones- it’s a Hawaiian thing, being an “auntie”). Then, in a two week period- SEVENTEEN friends and family announced that they were pregnant. SEVENTEEN. (That is one busy week of sending out birthday cards/gifts every year!) I thought I might actually die from the fighting emotions: pain, jealousy, anger, bitterness, joy, shame. The ones that caused me to sincerely celebrate with them, planning showers and talking names and room colors and all things baby, and to then run home to crawl under the blankets and cry for hours about how intensely unfair life was and how ashamed this all made me feel. There was certainly no way to share this with Deployed Pete as he was dealing with more pressing issues. In addition, being a dual military couple in the setting of the insane deployment tempo present then did not give me any hope that we would be in the same place for the amount of time needed to even BEGIN addressing adoption. Those were some tough years.
Then deployed Pete became returned Pete and Fellowship Dawn became deployed Dawn- we sort of passed in the night- and another year went by. On my return came an immediate move cross country (yeah Gig Harbor! We do love you so!), a new job, board exams, post-deployment depression (probably not quite strong enough a word but that’s another topic for another day) and then- Yep- ANOTHER deployment. This time together, for which I was thankful but let’s just say a tiny trailer in Iraq is not the same as a big house in the US for two people who had lived apart more than together in the last 4 years. There was not enough room in that trailer for the both of us and all our accumulated demons and it was a tough few months. Follow that with medical issues and marriage struggles on the return stateside and you are left with two worn-out people and even I could see at that point that “and baby makes 3” would NOT be a happy ending to our particular story.
I remember vividly the day I was standing in the kitchen of our cabin house, talking to my sweet, funny and wise friend Sara (do you remember this Sara?) and came to the conclusion that I truly had a choice. I could keep fanning the flames of bitterness and anger and injustice and self-pity and shame and deep sadness, or I could just walk away and let them die out. Don’t get me wrong, that is not INaction- to let them die out….because walking away from that fire is quite possibly the hardest thing I’ve ever done. BUT….
IT WORKED. Really it did. I don’t mean to say that from that time on a baby’s cry made me shudder or that suddenly a sloppy two-year-old kiss WASN’T the GREATEST thing ever (because truly for all time it IS- right??) or that there weren’t times I had to send a gift to the shower and trust my friend knew my heart was celebrating when my mouth couldn’t. But suddenly (Renee’ is always telling me to watch for those “and suddenly” moments) the pain wasn’t so INTENSE, so pervading, so stop-what-you-are-doing-and-run inducing. It was just a little part of me, sort of like my big feet, or the way my ears aren’t pierced exactly in the same place- a part of who I am that doesn’t have to define me but has shaped me, and I like to think- finally- for the better.
(An aside: please don’t feel sorry for me. Please don’t feel the need to make me or yourself feel better by sending me all the miracle stories and “don’t give up” pleas because it will make me feel like you didn’t understand what I was saying above. For me, in this life right now, I am truly, honestly at peace with the fact that we don’t have children. If tomorrow, God decides to change that- I’ll write a post about it after I’ve had time to digest).
Embracing (or at least learning to live with) unintentional childlessness has actually made the last few years, while some of the hardest of my life for many reasons, also some of the best. Laid-back Pete and I have always loved to travel, and we’ve been able to embrace that in a whole new way! We’re able to make last minute plans to go last-minute places, or full-on detailed plans to go amazing places, that just truly aren’t possible (emotionally, logistically or financially) when you have diapers, bottles, teething, tantrums and naptimes to think about. Almost weekly, someone tells me in some form of communication “I love your life! I wish I had your life!” and I try to remember to say “Me too!”. Also, because of my life’s path, I am often able to listen and understand when others are going through their own infertility struggles with an ear that you just can’t have if you haven’t “been there”. I don’t know if it’s helped anyone that much, but I do know that sometimes just being allowed to share our story- with no worries about judgment or unhelpful “helpful” advice is priceless.
I was thinking about all of these things last week and what the “point” of sharing them would be while spending some relaxing, un-scheduled time at “home” in MS (b/c MS will ALWAYS be home) with my sweet sister and her three (CRAZY) precious boys. Preston (the typical oldest) INSISTS on setting his alarm to get up SUPER early so he won’t miss the bus (I SOOO get it!) and drinking coffee with him and Aiden (me coffee, they milk) as they ate breakfast and brushed teeth were some memories you just can’t ever take away from me. And then this:
Ya’ll. Tears- streaming tears. I sat there thinking “THIS”- “This is what I am missing by not having kids”. All these precious moments that are nothing moments until you look and see that they are EVERYTHING moments. I was tempted to think “I love your life; I want your life” (and the old me would have gone down that path) but the new me said “Oh what a sweet life you have sister of mine and Oh how blessed I am to be a part of it”.
So as I’m thinking about all these things, I’m thinking what if we all learn to “Love the Life You’re With”? (Can you read that without singing it?). What if, when tempted to think “Why me” or “Why her” or “Why them” or any number of other thoughts based on why what you have isn’t good enough or how you’d do things differently if only you had the chance, what if we thought “I’m so happy for them” and “I am so grateful for what I DO have even in spite of (or sometimes BECAUSE of) what I DON’T have? What if we did that? What if when they (you) tell me “I love your life!” in that wistful way you do, I said “Me too!” and “Don’t you just love yours too though?! You get to clean up baby milk-puke! I mean seriously! How precious is that? Just ask your grandmother how you’ll be LONGING to do that in about 10 years from now!”
What if we did that? What if we loved OUR life AND celebrated the lives of those around us as well. What if we give each other eyes to see our lives in a different way when we can’t see anything worth celebrating with our own blurred retinas? What if we help each other read back over the stories of our lives and see how AMAZING they are? What would that “look” like? Wanna give it a try? I would simply LOVE to hear your thoughts on this, or stories of how you are doing this??
OK- that’s all for now! I’ve gotta go pack for a cruise- NO children allowed!