Sunday, February 11, 2018

When Life Isn't What You Expected, It Can Still Be Beautiful

Guest Post by Christine Knapp

I'm super excited to have Christine Knapp, blogger at Our Beautiful Hope, contribute a guest post for the blog. Enjoy!


My husband and I tried for over two years to conceive naturally. It was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do - to stare at one line on the pregnancy test month after month, and to feel the hurt and disappointment at the arrival of yet, another, cycle.

And this was not even the hardest part. I lost myself. I lost who I was, and what made me happy. My life revolved around what was wrong, why this wasn’t working, and what I could do to fix it. Being Type A and someone who likes to be in control, infertility is something that truly humbles you. It makes you realize that there are some things in life that are really outside of your control. It doesn’t matter if you eat better or exercise more frequently or take the very best vitamins (which, of course, I did all of these things and more).  It rips at your self-confidence, leaving you asking “What did I do wrong?” It challenges your religious beliefs and your marriage. Most of all, you learn that the process you go through is actually grief.

I had to have a counselor first explain this to me.  I remember asking "How can you grieve for a child you never had?" But, over time, I began to understand that it was grief that left me torn apart inside, yearning for the days of carrying around a little baby bump and watching my child grow. Gone were the days of reading bedtime stories and tucking in my child and kissing them goodnight. I had never pictured myself without children. And I always knew my husband would be the best father in the world just by the way I saw him interact with our own nieces and nephews.

I'm sure many of you have felt this way at some point on your infertility path. But the grief washed over me, sometimes in big waves (as the counselor explained) as I passed the beaming pregnant woman, or sometimes in smaller waves, when I heard about the news of another friend who was pregnant. Sometimes the wave hit so hard I felt like I was drowning, unable to breathe.

I remember the day about six months months into us wanting a baby where I felt completely defeated. I was trying to put away laundry in our room and thought “Will I ever do this for my baby? For my child?” The results from the latest pregnancy test had proved that we were, yet again, not pregnant. And that day was the first day I recognized the grief. I cried. I cried until I remember my husband coming in and finding me in a heaping ball on the floor.

At first, it was hard for him to relate. He felt confident it was going to happen if we were just patient. So my positive husband kept pushing me forward. I tried to remain optimistic, even though deep down I started to realize that something was probably wrong.  After a year of trying to conceive naturally, I went to my first doctor’s appointment to discuss the issue.

I don’t remember the context in which the word was used, but I remember I heard the word “infertile” and instantly denied it. I wasn’t infertile. I was going to have a baby! What was this nonsense?

But there it was, this crazy, messed up, awful label next to my name on my chart.  It had only been a year! Surely, there were other options. I was furious at the nurse for being so insensitive, but that word quickly became common in my vocabulary along with sperm, surgery, embryos and in-vitro fertilization.

I've come a long way since that doctor's office. We did try in-vitro, and we were successful. But grief lingered for a while. Grief that we couldn't make a baby the "natural" way. Grief when I saw women with multiple children, wondering if our frozen embryos will even make it out of cryo-preservation one day or if we'll have enough courage to try again. Grief that we still have decisions to make about the future of our embies and grief that these decisions aren't decisions I ever wanted to face in this life.

If you're anything like me, perhaps grief has enveloped you. Maybe you're a little lost, wondering if you can remember life before infertility. What it was like to enjoy time with your husband and not be so focused on the end result. What it was like to have money in the bank. What it was like before everyone but you started having baby showers..
We can't let the grief take over. We can't let it win.
We can't take past experiences and bring them into today, because they're in the past. They aren't the present. I realized that many times, plans don't turn out the way we "expect" them to turn out.  And as miserable and heartbreaking as that can be, there can be beautiful things about this process, too.

Your grief journey may take you somewhere unexpected, somewhere you never thought possible. Yes, it's scary. Yes, it's terrifying. Yes, you have to push back and be assertive and advocate for yourself and your family building goals. And you'll be out of your comfort zone most of the time.

But, I bet you've learned some pretty amazing things during your grief journey.

I bet you're more confident than you were before.

I bet you're smarter, and you appreciate more.

I bet you're more empathetic to friends and give back to others.

I bet you've met some other pretty awesome women on this journey with you.

I bet at one point, you felt alone, but now you have a whole community of support.

I bet people have gone out of their way to make your day brighter, and they've rallied around you during cycles and appointments, successes and failures.

I bet you've realized your true, honest friendships in your life.

I bet your faith is stronger.

I bet you've opened up your guarded heart to those that love you, and you've surprised yourself at your openness to educate and share your story.

I bet that even though you're scared for the future, you know you've got this, because look at all you've done.

And I bet you have enough courage to continue to power through the grief, the sadness, and the roller coaster of ups and downs, because there may be something really beautiful on the other side of the ride.

Maybe not what you expected, but still, something quite beautiful.


About the Author:
Infertility advocate, mama of a perinatal stroke survivor, and passionate joy seeker! Our son, Alex, was our first BFP after IVF and years of struggling to conceive. While our life is anything but easy, he reminds me to push forward, work hard, go after your dreams, and never take no for an answer. He is the inspiration for this blog and our beautiful hope. You can read more about our story here.

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