Infertility and Love Stories and Pitiful Birthday Cakes

by Jen on February 19, 2013

My George  turned 38 last month.  I uncharacteristically ordered gifts at the last minute, wrapped them the morning of, and failed to write him the long birthday letter I usually tuck inside of his card each year.   Pregnancy has taken a toll on my ability to get things done, to prioritize, and make special the things I used to take such pride in, and I would imagine once Henry is born, it won’t improve- at least not for a while.

But George, years after meeting him, is still more than I could have ever dreamt of, more than I probably deserve, and certainly warrants more than the sprinkles I lazily applied to his half-assed birthday cake.  So, as a do-over for the day I “under celebrated”, I want to tell you about the new George- the one who makes the dream of having a family more beautiful and exciting than I ever imagined.

Infertility is such a challenge.  It’s a personal struggle, a financial drain, and a massive hurdle for relationships.  There were days I turned inside of myself, feeling hopeless and heartbroken.  Sometimes, George could lift my spirits and tell me we were gonna be okay, no matter. And most of the time, I believed him.  But sometimes, his optimism felt belittling and left me feeling invalidated.  I knew this was never his intention, but when I was at my lowest, I wondered how he could hold on to such positivity.  I was the positive one in our relationship, and I found myself crumbling toward rock bottom with each failed attempt to have a child.  The fact that he was positive made me think he didn’t want a family as badly as I did.  I experienced fleeting moments of wondering how two people who did such due diligence prior to getting married could have failed to want the same things with the same exact passion.  My doubts in having a baby would sometimes turn into doubts in our marriage’s ability to survive ten to fifteen years down the road.  I worried I’d forever feel incomplete, and feared I’d struggle with bitterness that would only deplete my value as his wife.  He couldn’t love me if I was bitter and stuck in the past.  He fell in love with me because I was happy and lively and positive about most everything.  He couldn’t love me if I felt something was missing.  After all, he assured me a million times that he was complete with me and me alone.

The doubts about our marriage were always minor, and had nothing to do with him and more to do with the person I knew I wanted to be for him.  Could I be that person without ever knowing the joy of being the mother to our genetic creation?  Would he grow to resent me for allowing myself to be broken by infertility?

And then we found ourselves pregnant in an RE’s office.  The news was so unexpected and so surreal that we floated for weeks.  I knew in that moment the years of infertility weren’t wasted, and that if anything, they’d strengthened our marriage.  I was abundantly reassured that George had wanted a baby as badly as I did, only he’d found the strength to keep his head up while I fell victim to our monthly failures.  He didn’t keep his head up because it was easy.  He kept his head up because he knew I needed him to.

When we miscarried our first baby, I felt heartbreak unlike any I’d ever experienced.  I wore crusty eyes and sweat pants for weeks.  I cried loud, trembling tears in his arms and sobbed about fairness and the bullshit of “reason”.  We shared our sadness, only he did a better job of masking his when I was having a “good” day.

A few weeks after our loss, we stood in our bedroom putting clean sheets on our bed when he shared something with me I never expected.

“You know what scares me?” he began.  “I’m terrified that if we never have a baby, I won’t be enough for you.”

I held my breath.  I felt immeasurable shame and disgusting guilt.

How could I have made him feel that way?!?!

George had saved me.  He’d figuratively picked me up off the floor month after month.  He’d distracted me with sight seeing strolls through the city and sporting events and Broadway shows and deep conversations that kept us up hours into the night.  He’d built a life for me far better than I ever imagined I’d live, and he made me laugh, gave me strength, supported me, and never failed to put his hand on the small of my back at exactly the right moments.
And I’d left him feeling there was a chance he would someday not be enough for me.

Baby or no baby.  Adoption or no adoption.  Surrogacy or no surrogacy.  George was enough.  He’d always been enough.  And I’d been a fool to ever think he wouldn’t be enough for a lifetime.

Today, we are 34 weeks and 2 days pregnant.  In the early weeks, I lost scary amounts of blood.  George took over every chore.  I planted firmly on the couch, getting up for work, for showers, and to pee, and focused solely on carrying our baby.  Just as I began to settle into pregnancy, we received results indicating our son’s elevated likelihood of having a spinal defect.  We clung to optimism we didn’t know we had, and George held my hand while we awaited results of our amniocentesis.  (The results were a complete relief, by the way.)  Again, George took on the load of our lives, while I rested to let my uterus heal.

Because of certain complications throughout the pregnancy, we’ve averaged a doctor’s appointment a week for all three trimesters.  George has rearranged his work schedule to attend nearly every one.  And although I doubt he’d ever admit it, I believe he’s done this because if I ever received bad news, he didn’t want me to be alone.  Sure he’s enjoyed hearing heartbeats and seeing ultrasounds, but I believe he is present for me- just in case.

When I was in high school, I read this story in a “Chicken Soup for the Soul” book.  It was about a man whose wife lost her eyesight.  I don’t remember the specifics (and will probably mangle the story a bit), but basically, when the wife decided to get back to her “normal” life after the tragedy, the husband walked with her to the bus stop each morning.  He helped her count steps, developed a relationship with the driver, and guided her onto the bus.  He helped familiarize her with a routine she would one day be able to tackle alone.  After many weeks (or months?), the wife felt confident, and the husband began to taper his assistance- first walking her most of the way, then half of the way, and then finally, giving her total independence.
Months later, a new driver took over the route.  The wife boarded the bus each day with confidence, and one day, the driver asked her if she knew the man who followed her to the stop each day.  He told her the man watched until she was safely on the bus, and then walked away.  Although her husband had given her the gift of independence, he’d kept a silent eye on her from afar the entire time.

That story, of all the mushy love stories in that book, stuck out to me.

I feel, in so many ways, I live that story.

George is there even when I’m too blind to see.

We’ve discussed our “plans” in the tragic (and nearly unspeakable) event that something happens to us while our son is young.  I know it is a necessary conversation, but one of the most difficult ones I’ve ever had.  I cry each time, knowing that WE are supposed to raise our son and thinking of any other scenario is unfathomable.  I want to be Henry’s mother until I’m so old I nearly disintegrate, but almost more than that, I want- no I NEED George to be there.  The image of our son inheriting the kind and gentle behaviors of his father inspires me.  A little boy could have no greater example.  And the world shall smile in hopes of a duplicate.

We’ve nearly completed Henry’s nursery.  We finished our childbirth classes.  We’ve read the books.  And we’ve never felt more excited.

Now we wait the supposed six weeks until our son arrives.  Until then, we suck the life out of our final moments alone while we anticipate the arrival of the day our lives will never be the same.

George, your birthday cake next year will be out of this world.  Promise.

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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

1 XLMIC February 19, 2013 at 2:12 pm

I am really happy for you! You look ecstatic…both of you!

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2 Nadine Ochs February 19, 2013 at 2:58 pm

Thrilled for you both… and Henry too. March 31 st will be here before you know it. I will be a Nana again in August, my baby (daughter) is having a baby boy. I am so thrilled that I decided to close my business to be able to get to Atlanta quickly. Enjoy these last few weeks as a couple and know that very shortly you will be a family of 3. Hugs from Tallahassee.

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3 Jennifer Smith February 19, 2013 at 3:40 pm

I do not know you personally, but here I am all teared up trying to hide it from my boss. You are amazing and your husband is wonderful. What a man. Congrats to you.

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4 MIL February 19, 2013 at 6:23 pm

Beautiful…………you have me crying. Love you three!

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5 dreamsnmoonbeams February 19, 2013 at 7:08 pm
6 Rach DonutsMama February 19, 2013 at 8:39 pm

Oh my word, Jen. You and George are SO lucky & blessed to have each other. You two are going to be amazing parents. Ah-ma-zing. This was such a beautiful post. Gah! Trying not to cry, trying not to cry…

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7 Tammy February 19, 2013 at 10:36 pm

Okay you……I've cried over many of your blogs. But THIS one has me crying big time. What a wonderful "ode to George." I am so glad that you recognize his worth in your life, that you treasure his love, that you appreciate his presence in your life and anticipate his being a wonderful father to your child. Hats off to the two of you. Larry never went to ONE doctor's appointment with me out of 6 pregnancies and 4 children. When I was told that a miscarriage had happened, I had a girlfriend with me. As much as I love her, it should have been my husband there. But, he was working so that we could have health insurance to help pay for all of those appointments and deliveries. Back then, it wasn't so common for the daddy to go to the appointments, too. RARE. Now it's so commonplace. Congrats, Jen. I couldn't be happier for you and your George!! Love you! And I'm not even TRYING not to cry!! ha ha

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8 Amanda February 20, 2013 at 10:19 am

Oh my goodness, Jen!! You are so good at telling a story!!!!! I love you guys and am so excited for you!!!!!

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9 Rose February 22, 2013 at 2:02 am

Henry shall be a godsend, the icing on the cake but "Jen and Gorgeous George" would have always been 'enough' for each other. Not a lot of people find their true soul-mate in life, but the two of you are exactly that to each other and it will be nurtured and prized above all else. Henry will watch this as he grows into a man. What a gift you two are going to give him.

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10 ace1028 February 22, 2013 at 11:09 am

Bawling. my. eyes. out.

Does George know I love him? Is that too much? Too soon?

This was beautiful. I feel like i've been an awful friend in the virtual world these days but think of you and your family often and am sending loads of love always. xo

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11 euregirlsandboys February 25, 2013 at 12:41 pm

Geez, you more than made up for the hurried birthday gifts with this post! This is such a wonderful post – full of love.

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12 toko busana February 28, 2013 at 12:33 pm

What a great idea! I love it. Simple and lovely article.

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13 Themarxfamilyrocks March 1, 2013 at 1:32 pm

Thank you so much for trusting in us and sharing your story from the start. It has been heartbreaking to feel just an inch of your pain. But I am so grateful that you have shared it. I count the weeks to when you are due. It's such and exciting time and I am so happy for you three.

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