Where Are Your Stories?

**Please join us in welcoming Stéphanie to Mama Might**

Where are you, you women longing to pour out your hearts, express your anger, your desperation, and your grief?  You women longing to bring forth a life, but to whom nature has been unkind.  You, who have been told by your doctor that you suffer from a hormonal imbalance, anxiety, or from some other gynecological issue.  You, who have been told by society that your problem isn’t real, and that it must be all in your head.  (After all, you just need to relax, right?)

After eight years of struggling with infertility, I am still searching for these women.  Thank God, some have chosen to reveal themselves to me.  It is thanks to them that I am able to understand my own struggles more fully.  It would seem, however, that most of us choose to remain hidden, cloaked in desperation and shame.   Unfortunately, many of us feel abnormal, misunderstood, and worst of all, alone.  Instead of shaking free from our prison of misery, we choose to stay closed off, wrapped in our grief, plagued by emptiness. It is rare to find someone willing to share their story of infertility with the world.  However, I believe that the world needs to see and hear us, and more importantly, that we need to see and hear each other so that our burden of isolation may be lifted. This is why I have chosen to put my experience into words; not only to lend my voice to those who need to be heard, but also to help those close to them more fully understand their struggle. This is my story.
I would describe my infertility as a state of exile.  My spirit searched obsessively, not only for a way to escape my despair, but also for a way to be included in the miracle of pregnancy.  During this time I began to question and lose faith in every detail and aspect of my being.  I was suspicious of the food I ate, the vitamins I swallowed, and the drugs I was prescribed.  Worst of all I began to distrust my own body which seemed to betray me month after month.  Why, it couldn’t even do something that should have been as natural as breathing!  In the same way that I lost faith in my body, I also began to lose respect for it.  I embarked on a journey of painful fertility treatments that came with a broad spectrum of horrible side-effects.
In addition to the physical toll of infertility, my exile also greatly affected my social life and my relationships with others. Since it was difficult to watch other women easily achieve my most elusive dream, it was painful to act normal around them and be sympathetic as they described their pregnancy woes.  Little did they know I would have given anything for leg cramps and heart-burn! Their beautiful, round bellies became demons that haunted me, whispering to me what a failure I was. I began to avoid places where pregnant women might be, or where families with multiple children were present.  As a result, it is not surprising to me that my infertility destroyed some friendships.  I lost friends by avoiding them during their pregnancies or, even worse, by poorly expressing the way I was feeling about their pregnancies.  It became a vicious cycle of heartbreak that began once I learned that yet another friend was expecting, and ended with the greater pain of eventually losing that friend altogether. I dearly miss those friends, every day.
Just like a lonely prisoner who dreams of being rescued, each of my monthly cycles would begin with a small glimmer of hope.  But as the cycle progressed, that small, bright bit of hope would gradually fade until the tiny spark was extinguished in a flood of disappointment.  “Making Love” became “Making a Baby”.  This beautiful act became a means to an end, and a source of deep anxiety.  Once the period of ovulation had passed, my anxiety would become nearly unbearable.  Sleep, my only reprieve from the stress, would vanish during those two weeks of hellish waiting.  When my cycle began again each month without fail, I would again be forced to accept that the dream of motherhood had evaded me once more, and I would feel like an imbecile for having the audacity to even hope that it might have been different this time. I would tell myself that enough was enough, and that I was through hoping, through trying.  But each time I told myself I had given up I would quickly forget my resolve to stop trying, roll up my sleeves, put my faith back in God, and  pick up the fight at the beginning of each new cycle.  Thanks be to God for the gift of this beautiful faith!  I believe with all my heart that one day a second child will come as a gift from my Lord, just as my first child was.
Despite the years of suffering and the loss of several pregnancies, my deepest happiness was the delivery of a little gift which miraculously arrived from the Lord five years ago.  My husband and I waited for this miracle for three long years.  And we have now been waiting for four years for a little brother or sister to join our sweet angel.  Only God knows when this second miracle will arrive, and I remind myself everyday to have patience.
I am deeply thankful for our first little blessing, and filled with sympathy for those who wait for one of their own.  With the help of God, and other women like you, I eventually made peace with my cross.  Beautiful round bellies and all the other wonderful gifts of pregnancy no longer haunt me.  All I can say to those of you who are waiting for your first, second, or third child is please don’t lose hope.  Know that you are not alone.  And above all, don’t be afraid to share your story so we can know, pray for, and support one another.

*This post has been translated from its original French by Amanda Winsor.*

stephanie

My name is Stephanie and I am a wife, a mom, a teacher and an owner of a (very small) tutoring/educational products business. I have three passions in life: my husband, my son and teaching. My life is filled with blessings and I do my very best to live it according to my faith.  Here is my post in its original French.
Ou sont passées toutes ces femmes qui voudrait raconter, crier leur rage, leur desespoir leur chagrin. Ces femmes qui veulent mettre quelqun au monde, mais qui ne sont pas choyées par la nature. Qui se font dire par les médecins qu’elles ont un problème d’hormones, d’anxiété ou d’autres problèmes gynécologiques. Qui se font dire par la société que leur problème ce n’est pas un vrai problème parce que ça se passe sûrement dans leur tête. Après tout, elle n’ont seulement qu’à relaxer!
Suite à 8 ans de bataille avec mes propres problèmes d’infertilité je cherche toujours la plupart de ces femmes. Dieu merci, certaines ce sont dévoilées et c’est grace à elles que je peux me comprendre un peu mieux. Il me semble que la plupart semblent rester cachées dans leur désespoir. Malheureusement, la plupart d’entre nous se sentent anormales, incomprises et seules. Au lieu de sortir de nos chaînes de misères nous restons emmitouflées dans nos couvertures qui empestent la faillite. Rares sont celles qui partagent leur combat avec le monde entier. Le monde a besoin de nous entendre, mais plus important encore, nous avons besoin de nous entendre pour que notre sentiment de solitude puisse au moins être effacé. J’ai choisi de penser sur papier pour aider à celles qui ont besoin d’entrendre et pour aider à leur proche à les comprendre. Voici ce qui se passe en moi:

Je décrirais mon infertilité comme un état d’exile. Un exile ou mon esprit obsède sur un moyen de s’en sortir ou plûtot d’y entrer….entrer dans le miracle de la grossesse. Mon être entier perd confiance et doute tout ce qui l’entoure: la nourriture que j’ingère, les suppléments que j’avale, les médicaments qu’on me donne et pire encore mon propre corps qui me déçoit cycle après cycle. Mon corps ne peut même pas accomplir un acte naturel comme l’est ma respiration, ma digestion ou mes battements de coeur. Comme la confiance est minimisée, j’ai l’impression que le respect que j’apporte à mon corps est conformément perdu et je m’embarque dans des traitements qui sont douloureux et qui viennent avec un baggage d’effets secondaires.
Mon exile attaque également ma vie sociale et mes relations. Parce que c’est très difficile de voir plusieurs femmes atteindre facilement mon plus grand rêve il est pénible pour moi de vivre impédueusement autour d’elles. De mon côté je prie pour les douleurs et les maux de coeurs. Les belles bedaines rondes deviennent des démons qui me hantent et qui murmurent à mon âme que je suis une faillite. J’essaie donc souvent d’éviter les endroits ou plusieurs femmes enceintes peuvent s’y retrouver ou plusieurs familles nombreuses sont présentes. Ce n’est donc pas surprenant que mon infertilité a détruite des amitiés. Ces amies ont été perdues car je les ai évitées pendant leur grossesse ou parce que je n’ai pas exprimer mes sentiments de façon appropriée lorsque je me sentais au bas-fond en leur compagnie. Je les manques beaucoup. C’est un cycle vicieux qui commence avec des pincements au coeur de voir ces amies enceintes et qui se termine par de plus grands pincements au coeur de les avoir perdues.
Tout comme une exilée qui voit un mirage, chaque cycle commence avec une lueur d’espoir. Au fur et à mesure que le cycle avance, l’atteinte du mirage devient de plus en plus obsédante. “Faire l’amour” devient “faire un bébé “. Le geste devient un outil et devient angoissant. Une fois l’ovulation complétée l’anxiété devient pratiquement insoutenable et je me touve à rêver à pouvoir dormir pendant ces deux semaines d’enfer pour ne pas avoir à faire face au stress qu’apporte l’attente. Finalement, au bout du cycle je realise que ce n’était encore qu’un mirage et je me sens idiote d’avoir espéré au rêve. Je m’y suis fait prendre encore une fois. Je me dis que c’est assez que je ne m’y ferai plus prendre… mais j’oublie rapidement, me remonte les manche, met ma foi en Dieu et je recommence mon manège le cycle suivant. Merci pour cette belle foi. Je sais qu’un jour ce deuxième enfant me viendra du Seigneur comme l’a été le premier.

Même avec ces années de souffrances et la perte de plusieurs grossesses. Mon plus grand bonheur est l’accomplissement d’un petit miracle que le Seigneur m’a envoyé 5 ans passés. Mon mari et moi avons attendu pratiquement 3 ans pour notre amour. Voila maintenant quatre ans que nous attendons pour un petit frère ou une petite soeur pour notre petit ange. Seul Dieu sait quand un deuxième miracle nous sera envoyé. Je l’entend me dire… patience. Je suis reconnaissante pour notre première bénédiction et je suis remplie de sympathie pour celle qui essaie d’atteindre leur première accouchement. Tout ce que je peux avouer à celles qui attendez pour votre premier, deuxième ou troisième enfant ne perdez pas espoir et souvenez-vous que nous ne sommes pas seules. Dévoilez-vous pour que nous puissions nous reconnaître et s’entraider.

A Life of Questions?

Have you ever had a question about parenting?  Not like, “Which diapers should I be using?” or “At what point do you take a feverish child to the ER?”  No, no.  I am talking more along the lines of:  “What ever gave me the idea that I could do this?”

Mama, I.have.been.there.  Depending on the day, I am still there.  There was even a time in my not-so-distant past where nearly every waking thought ran along these lines:  Should I stay home?  Should I work full-time?  Should I work part-time?  Should I home-school?  Should I put them in French immersion? Should we be eating better?  Should we get rid of the TV?  Do I read to them enough?  Do I do enough crafts with them?  Should we be practicing printing more?  Should we be practicing math skills more?  Should I be speaking more French with them?  Do I worry too much?  Do I worry enough?  Should we be reading more Bible stories?  Should we be praying with them more often?  Am I being an example of good behavior?  Am I meeting their needs?  Am I smart enough?  Patient enough?  Firm enough?  Loving enough?  Creative enough?  Entertaining enough?  Tender enough?  Nurturing enough?  Attentive enough?  Funny enough?  Wise enough?

 

Can I do this?

 

Am I enough?

A rare moment where I believe we are reading "enough" for one day! ;)

A rare moment where I believe we are reading “enough” for one day! 😉

The truth is that I am a far-from-perfect mother who struggles on a daily basis to reconcile the mother I am with the mother I feel I “should be.”  I have, and oftentimes still do, wrestle with feelings of inadequacy.  I compare myself to other moms.  I have denied the existence of my own gifts.  I have been lost in the box of what God has called someone else to be, instead of embracing who I am.  And I have failed to live up to my own expectations.  I have constantly questioned the purpose behind the plan, or if there even is a plan.  It is only now, after having failed miserably to succeed as someone I am not, drowning in questions with no answers in sight, that I am able to see that my idea of success was inherently flawed to begin with.  I now realize that many of the things I believed I had to be to qualify as a good mom are actually meaningless, and that there is no one better equipped to raise my children than I am, because I have been chosen as their mother by the One who never makes mistakes and never leaves me without answers.  So I say: I will no longer live in a way that produces questions without answers.  I can do this.  I am enough.  And so are you.

The truth is that when you became a mother it was not an accident, a mistake, a random event, or a coincidence that you ended up with your specific child or children.  They are with you, here and now, for a purpose.  You are their mother because no one else could be.  They are your children because they need to learn something that only you can teach them.  They are calling out for something that only you can offer.  You have a gift, or maybe even many gifts, that God has given you in order to mother them in the exact way that they require. When you accept that, how can you fail?

Worrying about things like which soccer team my kids play on and how many grams of sugar they consume on a daily basis will never get me the answers I am looking for, as a mother.  I have arrived at the point where I now realize that “things” and activities are good, and time spent with my children is always time well-spent.  However, if my focus and motivation for providing things, planning activities, and spending time is to convince myself, and those around me, that I am worthy of the title “Good Mom”, then the reality is that I will fail my children.  No amount of, or even LACK of, primary-readiness worksheets, French immersion registrations, Pinterest crafts, Bible stories, or worry will ever transform me into the mom God calls me to be, or my kids into the human beings He has called them to be.  If my goal is to turn out good kids that will in turn make me look good, I may impress a few human beings along the way, but that’s where it will end and that is not enough.

francis chan

It is so hard to be a mom, no matter how your family has been called to operate.  It is even harder to be a good mom, and entirely impossible to be a perfect one.  In fact I have discovered only one perfect parent in all of history, and He did not concern Himself with what other parents thought of Him, nor did He lie to Himself about what was truly important.  Likewise, I have discovered only one perfect child, and He was not in French immersion, nor did he play hockey 6 days a week (although, He probably did wear cloth diapers).  Instead He watched His Father, and by doing so learned how to live in such a way that His purpose was fully realized.  Who could ask for more than that for their children?  I know that it is not my job to be what other human beings consider to be perfect or to produce perfect kids, and that even if it were possible to accomplish such a thing, it would still not be enough if in the end they never discover their true purpose.  I now know that it is my job to teach my children to watch their Father, and I can only do that by watching Him myself.

“Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love.” -Ephesians 5:1-2

A life of love.  So simple!!  Not a life of things.  Not a life of accolades.  Not a life of human approval.  Not a life spent worrying myself and my kids to death over details that don’t give us what we need.  Not a life spent in hopeless pursuit of an ever-shifting definition of perfection.  Not a life of questions with no answers.

A life of love.  To me this means a life spent watching what is good, doing what is good, teaching my children what is good, keeping company with and learning from God, and then living the rest of my life loving the people God has called me to, trusting that my children will learn to do the same, in whichever way this is meant to look.

A life of questions?  No, thank you.  Mama, I promise that my life will never be perfect.  Neither will yours.  I will never be you, and you will never be me.  But I believe with all my heart when we each strive to live our individual lives with love that points our children to their Father, that our lives of questions will become lives of answers.

If She Only Knew…

Tonight while browsing through some different blogs, I came across a post, written almost exactly three years ago, which had a profound impact on me as I began to read through it.

It was written by a young mom of “two under two” and was called “Breast vs. Bottle”.

Okay…wait, wait, wait.   Before you roll your eyes and say, “Oh brother, here we go again with the whole “Booby Wars” debacle!”, let me tell you why this particular post got to me.

The first thing that struck me about this post was that the young woman writing it was obviously over-stressed, sleep-deprived, scared, and sad.  (I dare you to show me a young mother out there who can’t relate to that!)  Like all of us, she was struggling.  Like most robust, healthy, four month old males, her baby was hungry a lot of the time. The gist of the post was that she desperately wanted to exclusively nurse her son, after having “failed” to do so with her firstborn, but was having supply problems.    She nursed, he cried for hours.  She felt like a failure.  She supplemented, he slept like a log.  She felt like a failure.  She obsessively kept track of how many ounces of formula he required, and she despaired as that number grew higher and higher.

As I read, I could feel my eyes well up with tears of sympathy and sorrow until they eventually spilled over and rolled down my cheeks.  “If you only knew!”,  I whispered.  I wanted to hug her.  I wanted to talk to her, and tell her what a great job she was doing.  I wanted to help her understand that no mother, anywhere, was more perfect for her son than she was.  That she was a gift from God to that boy and that having a body which for unknown, and uncontrollable reasons, was not producing enough breast milk to satisfy a ravenous four month old, did not turn that truth into a lie.  I wanted to tell her to spend her time rocking, snuggling, giggling, singing, smiling, SLEEPING, and enjoying.  For I have learned that crying only blurs our sight, blinding us to the joy that is always there if only we would have eyes clear enough to see it.

I wanted to tell her that in exactly three years her sweet baby boy will the picture of perfect health.

I wanted to tell her that he will be one of the smartest children his age that she has ever met.

I wanted to tell her that when he smiles, which will be all the time, that people will be struck by the pure joy in his eyes.

That strangers will stop her in the supermarket to tell her how beautiful he is.

That he will do a mean Tasmanian Devil impersonation.

That he will love peanut butter sandwiches and cucumber slices for breakfast.

That he will struggle to hold heavy doors open for ladies, just like his daddy taught him.

That he will cover his ears and run away whenever she starts to sing.

That he will tell her approximately 250 times a day that he loves her “to the moon and back!”

And above all I wanted to tell her that when she tucks him into bed every night and asks him what he would like to say to Jesus, that he will sweetly and innocently thank God for his “precious Mommy.”

And that three years from now, she won’t be wasting time counting ounces because she will be far too busy counting blessings.

A Gift for This Year

Every year when our church celebrates Epiphany, the ushers stand at the front of the church holding baskets filled with little slips of paper. On each brightly-coloured paper is a word, a gift that God wants to give each of us that year. Before the words are drawn by the members of the community, they have been prayed over by our pastor, asking that we will be guided to draw that word which will show us what God wants to give us, or a word that shows us how He wants us to grow.

My word for 2013 was happiness. I laughed a little when I read it, then teared up a little, and finally just said, “I’ll take it.”

A little history:
2012 was not a good year for me. (2011 wasn’t exactly sunshine and rainbows either, but let’s just talk about last year for now.) 2012 is going down in history as a year of loss for me. In February, I started to lose my hair, and my the middle of May I’d been forced to shave what was left in hopes of starting over.

Image

In July I lost my maternal grandmother, a woman I’d been extremely close with through my entire life. I was her first grandchild, and my Princess was her first great-grandchild. Baby Belle was given my Nana’s name as her second name, in honour of a woman who taught me so much about loving and leading a family.

Image

Then in December, I miscarried at 11 weeks. We were crushed. Much like the loss of my hair, this loss really struck me as a woman. I felt like an utter failure as a mother, and I mourned the loss of our baby very deeply. We named him Thomas.

So when I pulled happiness from the basket, I was relieved. I thought that was God’s way of letting me know I was in for an easier, happier year.

And now we’re nearing the end of June, and already I’ve begun to lose my hair again, I lost an aunt and wasn’t able to travel to be at home for the funeral, and – by far the worst – my closest friend recently lost her two-year-old in a tragic accident. Once again, it feels like my year is being defined by loss after loss.

So where is my happiness in all of this? When do I get the easy-breezy, carefree happiness I thought I was promised on Epiphany?

Oh, it’s there. The happiness, that is, not the easy-breezy part. The grief and the sadness threaten to swallow it at times, eclipse it at others. Those dark emotions are the proverbial squeaky wheels. They demand attention, they cloud my vision, impair my judgment, and threaten to drag me down.

But the happiness will not be defeated. My happiness comes from above, from Him who created me. I delight in my beautiful children, who teach me daily to have even more trust and reckless abandon in the arms of my God. I am happy with my husband, who serves our family so selflessly, a glimpse of what Mary’s life with St. Joseph must have been like. I am happy to be held up and supported by family and incredible friends who share love and encouragement at every opportunity. I am happy in our home, living out my childhood “dream job”.

I suppose instead of the happiness just coming easily, the gift I’ve been given is instead the ability to find the happiness. To search for and cling to those threads of happiness that wind their way through my days, through the mundane and even tragic. The happiness isn’t as loud or as feisty as the sorrow, but it’s bigger. It’s brighter. I clutch it tightly to my breast. It sustains me and moves me forward. Thank you, Jesus!

~Jaclyn