Monday, November 06, 2006

Sunshine and Waterfalls- For All Would-Be Mothers Who Mourn Their Inability to Conceive

I always had this terrible fear that I would discover some day that I was unable to have children. Everyone said I was crazy to think this way.

I was not. It happened.

At the age of thirty-six years old, after the removal of two precancerous cysts from my uterus, I was diagnosed with a severe case of endometriosis. There was hope for the treatment of the disease but one reality that I could not escape- I would be unable to bear children as there was too much damage to my reproductive organs.

I was awash with feelings of guilt and remorse. I sat stone faced as the doctor read off a file what to me constituted a death sentence. My husband sat beside me and squeezed my hand in support but I could not bear to glance in his direction. I was devastated. Beyond devastated. I felt destroyed. This was the most horrific blow I had ever been dealt and I had lived through my share of pain and tragedies.

All I could do was stare at the framed photo behind the desk of the doctor- a photo of a place far removed from where I sat at that moment in time. It was a waterfall, an inviting looking waterfall that looked like it had been taken on a hot summer day. I wanted to jump into that photo, or be swallowed into it, or anything, as long as I was away from that room and away from the truth that my brain had not yet begun to comprehend.

There would be no babies. No babies for me and my husband Gregg. None. No little ones to call our own. I wanted to escape the suffocation I was feeling but I knew that the feeling would find me wherever I went.

Had I waited too long, I wondered? Had I been selfish in wanting to establish my career before starting a family? If I had chosen to have children when I was younger, or when we were first married, before the diagnosis of this disease, we would not be sitting here today, feeling as though the rug had been pulled out from underneath us. The indisputable truth hit me like an eighteen wheeler barreling down a highway. I sucked in my breath and fell forward in my chair. Gregg caught me before I hit the floor.

It was with heavy steps that Gregg and I walked out of the office that day. I was numb all over. With his arm around me he steered me towards our car. If it had not been for the raindrops hitting my face I would have sworn that I was not even really there.

We did not talk about it for almost two weeks. Knowing me as well as he did, my husband kept silent, allowing me time to accept the truth and grieve in my own way. He too needed to do the same. I struggled to come to terms with the blow life had dealt me, but I did not shed a tear. I could not, I just could not, I did not have the energy. So many questions went through my head but there were so few answers to help me understand. I told no one. I was not ready to acknowledge it to the world.

My conversations with Gregg became strained because we both knew that something extremely important lie between us to discuss. We talked about everything but the real issue. I did not know how to even begin to have this type of conversation with my husband of twelve years. I felt like a failure, I felt like less of a woman and I feared that Gregg might feel that way about me as well. I was terrified to find out.

One night I was taking a bath and the dam broke. I could not hold in the tears any longer. One minute I was soaping myself all over and the next I could not see through the tears, they were coming too fast. I heard someone screaming at the top of her lungs and it took me a second to realize it was I.

Gregg came rushing in from the bedroom and narrowly missed being hit by a bar of soap that I was in the process of hurling across the room in anger at the cruelty of the circumstances of our lives. Cradling me in his arms, he was almost as soapy and wet as I was by the time my tears had abated.

Six months later the pain was still there but I was beginning to cope with what had happened. Gregg did not blame me for my inability to conceive and for that I was incredibly grateful. The treatment for endometriosis was progressing very well. My family and friends rallied around me and with each passing day I felt the beginnings of healing taking place in my heart. I joined a support group and heard stories very much like my own, some in fact were even sadder. My heart went out to each and every one of those women and theirs to me. It helped a great deal to know that I was not alone.

My love for my husband grew stronger as I realized that even without children of our own we were still a family. Gregg had a daughter by his former wife, and Stephanie, who was sixteen, had become almost like a daughter to me. She hugged me tight one day and told me that she could not have asked for a better stepmom and that made me smile. I too had another girl in my life who was precious to me, my one and only niece Callie. Callie was eight years old and in some ways had always seemed more like a daughter to me than a niece. I loved her with all my heart. We were very close indeed.

I often thought of that photo in the office of Doctor Petersen and then I remembered with horror how the news I received that day had changed my life forever. Perceptions changed, dreams changed and a new life plan had to be constructed.

Gregg decided three months after the fact that I needed some time away to gain my bearings. He knew exactly where to take me and what I needed. He refused to tell me where we were going. He said it was going to be a secret but I knew, happily I guessed correctly. It was a beautiful place of lush scenery and a world alive with colors; a place where I could relax and rejuvenate. It was a wonderful holiday. And of course it wouldn't have been complete without the sunshine and waterfall, just like in the picture.

I have learned that time does not heal all wounds, but the passage of time takes us further and further away from the pain. My relationship with Gregg was able to withstand and endure the heartache we shared together.

After hours and hours of long discussions into the night we decided that we both wanted to adopt a baby. We are currently on a waiting list of expectant parents and have been told as of late that we have moved up on the list. Our chances of having our baby within the next ten to twelve months are excellent.

I survived a fate that had once threatened to destroy my life and all my hopes. I wonder sometimes how I made it through. What was it exactly that had gotten me to this point of time, where I could feel that I had forgiven myself fully and was ready to move forward into the next stage of my life? What source of inspiration could I be to others? I was thankful to be alive and to be able to take part in the world around me. So many blessings, so much joy and a future that I run ecstatically out to embrace. This is my wish for others who have had to hear the same devastating news as I did.

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