a family (a cat and person at computer)

A Family’s a Family No Matter How Small (or big)

As my husband and I have been trying for almost 2 years to get pregnant with our second child (it’s been 22 months of trying to be exact), there’s been a lot of time to process and think (and rethink!) over my feelings.

Blogging has been an eye-opening way to chronicle my journey of trying to conceive. As I go back and reread old posts, I can remember the times when I felt hopeful, fully anticipating that pregnancy was going to happen for me at any moment. Then came the shock of hitting the 12-month mark with still no baby – of realizing that I had suddenly become a statistic, the 1 out of every 8 couples dealing with infertility.

After about a year and a half of trying, and after being evaluated and realizing we had some fertility challenges, I started coming to terms with the fact that my husband, son, and I might always be a family of three. I grieved, I accepted, I (mostly) made peace.

I love my family and think we’re pretty great! But I hate feeling like others view us as an “only” family. We “only” have one kid. If “only” our family was different, we would be complete.

There’s no one right way for a family to look – I’m always disappointed when I hear people say things like, “when are you going to have kids?” or “when are you going to get married?” 

What do you mean when? Why do you presume that everyone needs to follow some prescribed path like we’re playing the Game of Life, filling up our little plastic car with pink and blue peg people?

I recently came across the following tweet and have found it so validating:

Yes, a couple is a family. A person living alone can be a family. Roommates can be family. Pets can be family. The friends and people you choose to invite into your life are family. 

Having children is not the only way to be a family. 

As I continue to think about my life of being a mother to “only” one, my sweet son Calvin, I prepare myself for the inevitable comments from “concerned” observers:

Don’t you worry about Calvin becoming spoiled if he’s an only child?

Won’t Calvin be lonely without any brothers or sisters?

You should consider fostering or adoption. 

I think for the most part, people who say these types of things are wanting to be helpful. But I have to say I’ve never found these comments helpful in the least – they are invalidating, insensitive, and offensive. Having kids (or more kids) does not automatically solve problems or make raising a child easier. Most of these issues need intentionality and time to be addressed.  

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thank you card

Excessive Peace

In the book of Philippians, it mentions a “peace that surpasses all understanding…” It’s in the context of praying to God as an alternative to worrying about things. This is in the even larger context of being thankful and full of joy in the Lord.

I am often a worrier. In a less negative connotation, I like to plan ahead and be prepared. This is to avoid unnecessary surprises, which can cause me anxiety. I am great at thinking ahead and preparing for the worst.

But all the worrying and planning in the world doesn’t always change things – it simply gives us this false sense that we are in control when we’re not.

In a recent post, I described how my husband and I have been trying unsuccessfully to have a second child for about a year and a half. At the time of writing it, I felt very hopeless, sad, and even somewhat angry. Achieving pregnancy consumed my thoughts a lot of the time.

Since writing it, we got back some test results that were not ideal. Basically what they revealed was that any quick or “easy” fixes (like surgery to correct a problem, for example) were off the table. Our doctor offered us one last option before referring us to try IVF/IUI – but to me, it felt like a last-ditch effort.

After that appointment, I felt like the answer from God as to whether I would ever get pregnant again was a resounding, “no.” And yes, I know logically that there is still a chance, and we’re still trying this last option, but my mind literally began to process it as if it would never happen. I felt myself for the next few days beginning to go through the process of grieving. It was surprising because my husband and I haven’t totally given up yet, but it’s like my mind and body decided it was time to move on. Maybe this was my body’s way of trying to protect myself.

I didn’t fight what my body wanted to do, I just tried to be mindful of my feelings. For a week or two, it was emotional as I processed the fact that I probably wouldn’t have any more children. But what was even more surprising, was the day when it suddenly didn’t feel that hard anymore.

I found myself feeling more and more content with my life. I started paying more attention to Calvin and found myself becoming more appreciative of everything he has added to our lives. I just began to feel really blessed to be a family of 3 – period, full stop.

It felt like the grief was just gone, as was the painful obsession of longing to be pregnant again. (That’s not to say we wouldn’t be thrilled if I did get pregnant, but that intense pain seemed to be gone.)

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our family

Secondary Infertility: Our Story of Unsuccessfully Trying for Baby #2

17 cycles.

My husband and I have been trying to have a baby for 17 consecutive cycles.

Really we have tried for longer than that – back in the summer of 2019, when my son Calvin had just turned 3, we tried a few times to get pregnant, but decided to stop because I ended up needing foot surgery. (Calvin is now 5 years old.)

About 7 months ago (March 3, 2021), I told my doctor at my annual gynecologist appointment that I was concerned about possible fertility issues. Literally yesterday (September 21, 2021 as of writing this) we had an appointment with a men’s fertility specialist, who wants to run more tests, and then possibly refer us to a different fertility specialist (for me) if we end up needing to pursue treatments like IUI or IVF. We were warned that it will most likely take between *6-12 months to get in to see this particular specialist.

At that point, it will be somewhere between 2 and 2.5 years that we will have been trying to have a baby, and we will only just be going to our initial appointment with the last specialist we need to see.

My advice for anyone who thinks they may be having fertility issues: don’t wait any longer than you have to before getting some tests done – you can always cancel the tests/appointments if you end up getting pregnant. I had no idea it could be this long of a process just to actually get the problem narrowed down and get in to the doctors I need to see. I’m not sure if that’s because there is a shortage of fertility specialists (there are none in Abilene) or if fertility problems are becoming more common, but it’s definitely been discouraging to think that we might not even be able to begin to pursue some of these treatments until Fall of 2022 (when I will be close to 36 years old.)

Honestly, I’m not totally sure if I really want to pursue treatments like IUI or IVF. Secondary infertility is a weird position to be in. If we had no children, I think perhaps I would want to try it. But we do have one, and when I think about the costs and (probably low) success rates associated with these kinds of invasive treatments, I’m just not sure it will be the right choice for us.

I feel like a lot of people don’t know how to respond when I tell them we are having trouble having a second child. Sometimes I get answers like, “at least you have one kid!” I don’t recommend saying this to anyone who is trying to get pregnant with their second. I’m very thankful we have Calvin and that we got pregnant so quickly with him. But it’s totally okay and valid for me to want a bigger family. That doesn’t make me a selfish person. I can be thankful and longing for more at the same time.

The most helpful and supportive things people have said to me, I’ve listed below:

  • “We are praying for you every day.”
  • “That is so heartbreaking to go through.”
  • “How did your appointment go? Do you want to talk about it?”
  • “Calvin is a great kid.”
  • “You’re a good mom.”

I put those last two in there because it’s nice to hear those things instead of, “when are you going to give Calvin a sibling?” or “do you guys think you’ll have any more kids?” These questions make me feel like others view my family as incomplete, or not good enough.

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