I made it about 30 seconds into crying in my car outside the hospital before I concluded there was no way I could keep this to myself and be considered a mentally stable person. I decided to get honest with my cousin, Savannah, and my best friend, Olivia (both my age, the three of us actually graduated together). I sent them the incredibly brief version of my journey leading to the infertility information I now had. I sent the information via Snapchat video, which has become the modern-day equivalent to a phone call. They both responded with videos of their own before I’d driven home.
Savannah also got married young, only one month after she stood beside me on my wedding day. She has been blessed in having three beautiful, rotten children throughout her nearly five years of marriage. She had a unique perspective of comfort to offer me. In her response videos, hilariously, her oldest child was running around naked in the background, and her youngest was in her arms screaming. After she gave a thoughtful and uplifting reply, her middle child also started screaming and climbed onto her lap. Barely able to keep her grasp on the phone, Savannah added, “Are you sure you even want to have kids? Maybe if you come visit and observe my life for a couple days you would find comfort in what yours looks like.”
I couldn’t help but laugh and enjoy the fact that she brought humor into this matter. I love that she knew me well enough to know I would find solace in her hardship. In my laughter, I felt the first chain of this burden break from me.
Although Olivia is now engaged to be married, she definitely thought I was insane when Ethan proposed at the beginning of my senior year in high school and I said yes. Nonetheless, she decided to stick by me and was the most gorgeous maid of honor that there ever was. Olivia is studying to become a nurse, and already has a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology. She understood some of the medical jargon that I had deemed gibberish. Her comfort to me was from a scientific standpoint, and I appreciated this because I lack knowledge in that department. She ended her video with, “Anyways, girl, you know I’m going to be the world’s greatest aunt to your babies one day. But for now, how about we just plan a trip to Vegas? And do you want to meet up for coffee tomorrow? We could discuss the possibility of me being your surrogate if that makes you feel better.”
I laughed out loud, quite hard, at how nonchalantly she said that last sentence. I’m sure some women would not have laughed at an offer like that, but I was so thankful that my best friend wasn’t viewing me as fragile or broken for admitting my struggle to her. It was so important to me that she just digest this new fact, then continue with our friendship and coffee dates and day-dreams about a trip to Vegas like I was the same person I’d always been.
I waited until after dinner, on the day of the doctor appointment, to ask Ethan to come sit on the back deck and talk to me. It was easy to talk to him about the matter because, well, he hasn’t been as enormously entangled in this journey as I have been. Yes, I’ve even spared my own husband from the depth of emotions I’ve felt.
As I began talking, he switched from “husband mode” to “doctor mode” before my very eyes. He folded his hands in his lap, made deliberate eye contact, and cocked his head to a precise angle while he listened and nodded, carefully, as if he were following a formula to physically express empathy.
He spoke, “Well, it doesn’t sound like your doctor was stumped by anything you were presenting. It appears that there are tests to be done, which will give conclusive answers, and there are treatment options for whatever the results of the tests show us.”
His words weren’t so much of a comfort as basically repeating back to me what I’d already said, in different phrasing. Oddly enough, that was sort of the exact reaction I needed from him. He was a little surprised in even hearing that I’d had a doctor appointment that day (I promise, I did tell him beforehand, he just has a very full brain due to his career). He was, also, then taken aback when I reminded him how long I’d been off birth control (God bless husbands, they are so along for the ride). This wasn’t a moment in which I wanted to be held or coddled. I wanted him to look at me in the same way he always had. I didn’t want him to view me as less of a woman, less of a nurturer, or less of a wife.
He stood up from his chair on the deck, leaned down to kiss my forehead, and said, “Are you still on board with getting a puppy this summer?”
Some wives might’ve called the last part of his reaction insensitive, but I absolutely needed to hear it. I needed him to show me that I could be honest with him in this process without feeling like I had to protect his emotions anymore and that he was going to continue with our marriage, business as usual.
“Only if it’s a Red Golden Retriever and we name her ‘Ruby’.” I responded.
“We can talk about the name later.” He gave me a hug, and went back inside.
I stayed on the deck for a while to finish watching the sunset. Smiling to myself, I thanked God for giving me Ethan’s science-based, nerd brain to keep my over-emotional, heart-led brain grounded in this life. I thanked Him for giving me Savannah, who took time out of her crazy, mom life to respond to me with such honesty and bluntness. I thanked Him for giving me Olivia, who could see past my weaknesses and still view me wholly.
Beginning to speak about my struggle to some of those who cared deeply for me began to give me a sense of freedom from my feelings that I hadn’t previously imagined possible. Each time I said “infertility” out loud that day, I felt its grip loosen around the control of my mind and heart. God was releasing me from this hurt, that I’d even tried to hide from Him, for all this time. Silly me.
Liv – Authentically