Disclaimer: I’ve hesitated to publish this very long and most personal story. But in order to represent reality on this platform, which is a record of my family’s life, I strive to document an accurate picture of the sorrow that is amidst all of the happy and lovely in our lives. I hope that this post can be a bit of healing for me and hope to reach others who may be silently struggling. I am very aware of the blessings and beauties around me as well as the intense hardships of others. I am not attempting to complain or pity myself. I am only attempting to share my narrow experiences with hope and heartbreak.
Life is beautiful and also extraordinarily hard.
Back in January, I had a week where I felt really off. I was snapping at everyone in my family for no reason. I couldn’t figure out why I suddenly felt so tired and nauseous.
And then it dawned on me to take a pregnancy test. Sure enough, two pink lines appeared instantly.
I’m pretty sure Troy turned white as a sheet as I spilled out the news. We were both shocked. I mean, we were still soaking up our baby who was only eight months old. And trying to meet the demanding needs of our four and six year old children. We were about as far away as you can get from the ready-for-another-baby stage.
How could we possibly be ready for another one so soon? We were scared. We hadn’t budgeted for the unexpected health care costs and the necessity for a bigger vehicle. Troy was working a gazillion hours and because of his church responsibilities, I was wrestling three active boys by myself on the church bench each Sunday. Adding another baby to that mix seemed unfathomable.
But I instantly also felt comforted that even though the timing was crazy, this meant that our daughter was finally on her way. Ever since our third boy was born, I had a strong feeling that if we were ever going to blessed with a girl, it would have to be in God’s time, not ours. If having babies 17 months apart, enduring endless nausea and throwing up while still breastfeeding another baby, and being primarily in charge of the responsibilities at home and at church was what I had to do to finally meet our daughter, then I thought, Bring it on. Sign me up. If this is how I have to pay the price, I’m willing.
I had a good attitude about our unexpected turn of events from the get go. I found myself so excited to experience the newborn stage again. I never feel more alive than when I have my own newborn nuzzling tightly against me. I felt so blessed that I would get to experience that again. I have a friend that had a difficult time getting and staying pregnant, and, as a result, has children spaced far apart. She always says, “You take them when you can get them.” That’s how I felt about this baby. The timing was just nuts, but it didn’t matter. I’d take her when and how and I could get her.
Plus, I wasn’t sure if Troy would agree to have more children at all. And I didn’t know if physically, I could go through it again. Most of the time we avoided the topic altogether. But it came up in January when we were talking about life plans. Shortly after our conversation, Troy came home from work and announced that he had good news; he thought we should have another baby. Not as in, ‘Let’s have a baby right now,’ but, ‘I’m on board with another baby in the future.’
Within a week, we found out we were pregnant. So, this “surprise” baby was already in the works when Troy came to that realization, which we took comfort in knowing was part of a divine plan.
And then we started getting hit with trials from all directions. Our old porcelain kitchen sink fell during replacement. It missed Troy’s head by an inch and tore out the plumbing pipes from our walls. We had endless bouts of strep passed from family member to family member. Every technology item we owned seemed to be breaking down. Then, of course, it all culminated in Troy breaking his leg three weeks after finding out we were pregnant.
I probably seemed a little melodramatic back when it all started. It would have been a challenge for anyone to take on the extra work of an incapable husband fresh out of surgery plus the demands of three small children.
But I was pregnant.
I could hardly take care of myself, let alone two children who needed to be carted back and forth from their schools three cities over, plus a baby who was very needy at mealtime and always at risk for falling down stairs, plus a husband who needed help with basically everything, plus a growing baby within me. I felt the weight of the world on my shoulders. I was at my worst, and I had so many people within my stewardship who were relying on me.
Usually during the first few months of pregnancy, I rely on Troy to pick up the slack until I feel human again. He makes dinner whenever possible and puts the boys to bed to give me some relief. When I was driving to the only open pharmacy to pick up Troy’s meds late on Valentine’s Day night, after spending all day in the ER and learning that he would be off his leg for close to three months, the tears started flowing. My nausea was at its worst. My hormones were at their peak. I had a little breakdown when I realized that not only was I losing any help I was going to get during those first few difficult months of pregnancy, but I was also gaining an additional person to take care of who couldn’t even dress himself.
We decided early on that we weren’t going to announce the pregnancy until we were certain about the gender. It was just way too hard last time having the pressure of so many people “hoping for a girl,” and then feeling like I was disappointing them when it wasn’t a girl. We told our parents and a few close friends that we couldn’t hide the sickness from and that was it.
I felt guilty asking for much help because no one knew that I was pregnant in addition to Troy being disabled. I figured that everyone probably thought I was completely capable of taking care of my family. And had I felt human, Troy’s post-surgery care would have been an adjustment, but it would have been manageable.
Nevertheless, life pressed forward and we settled into a new routine. It wasn’t easy. Troy hobbled across the house on his crutches in attempt to help me when I was throwing up. I did my best just to survive and meet the basic needs of everyone in my family. I dreaded the dinner and bedtime routines that completely fell on me, at the time of day when I felt the worst. We weren’t much of a parenting duo.
However, once again, I felt the sweet peace that all of these challenges that were flying our way were necessary in order to finally be blessed with our daughter. She would be the silver lining in it all. I did a lot of studying and praying about trials and blessings.
I’ve found that when you begin to pray for something that really matters, many times things get worse, not better…That ought to be a signal to a man or woman of faith: “I’m on the right track. I’m doing something that’s making a difference and I will now double my faith.” Gene R. Cook
There were a myriad of other personal experiences that led me to believe only one thing. After years of feeling so certain of our daughter’s existence, that had only led to confusion each time a boy was declared, she was finally growing within me. And I wasn’t the only one who felt that way.
Out of the blue, about a month after I found out I was pregnant, our six year old started praying for our family to have a baby girl. We didn’t tell the boys about the pregnancy because we didn’t want them to share the news with everyone. But Blake has always been very spiritually in tune. Over the course of several weeks, he came up to me a handful of times, patted my belly, and declared, “Mom, I think there’s a baby in there!” or, “I can feel a baby kicking in there!” Obviously, he couldn’t feel any kicking; I wasn’t even showing. But he was spot on about the baby. And I did not prompt him in any way to start praying for a girl. In every single prayer, mealtime or bedtime, he stated, “We really want one girl baby.” I think it got to the point of annoyance for Troy, because Blake never, ever forgot.
Of course, my biggest fear was setting Blake, and myself, up for disappointment. I went through some of my darkest days after learning that our third baby was a boy. Regardless of how much I absolutely adored him when he was born, I didn’t ever want to experience those difficult months again. But hope is a funny thing. No matter how defeated I felt when I found out I was carrying a third son, I couldn’t accept that I would never have a daughter. I still had a glimmer of hope that our baby girl was on the horizon.
The way that everything was falling into place this time felt so inspired and gave me so much hope. But I was scared. to. death. that my hope was going to turn out to be foolish. I tried the best I could to have faith in the countless experiences I had that led me to believe that we were going to be blessed with a daughter. Yet, the wounds from the last time, when I was “so sure” it was a girl, were still raw, and I feared what was completely out of my control.
The weeks passed until I was far enough along to go in for an early ultrasound. I was so nervous. After scheduling the date, I almost canceled three times. There was so much pressure riding on a result that would only last a moment. On one hand, it was easier not knowing, because I was sparing myself grief if the result didn’t turn out as I was hoping. On the other hand, I had to find out sooner or later, and I needed to rip off the Band-Aid and get it over with. Plus, I wanted to start celebrating!
Two of my best friends came with me on the big day. I went to an elective ultrasound clinic because I just couldn’t wait any longer. I told the ultrasound tech, who claimed to be a retired OB from Europe, to please not tell me the gender unless he was 100% sure.
Within minutes, my biggest fear came true.
The tech hardly glanced my way as he typed, “It’s a boy” on the screen.
There were no sirens or loud screams.
There was no rushing or comforting.
In one instant, my dream was just over.
I was left with a cocky foreign man who was completely insensitive to the fact that he had just destroyed all of my hope. He declared, “I not going to lie to you. I 300% sure. You come back in 10 days, I 500% sure. Four healthy boys, you should be happy.”
I turned my head away from the screen as my heart completely sank. I couldn’t even find any tears at first. The hope and faith I had mustered up through all of our trials was indeed, foolish. It didn’t matter how many miserable pregnancies I had endured, how hard I had tried to be a good person, or how many boys I had born before. I was still not going to be blessed with a daughter. I feared that I would never meet her, though she felt like a real person to me. Now, I would only see her in my recurring dreams.
My whole body felt numb. I didn’t want to move. I wanted a do-over. I had gone through the ultrasound a thousand times in my head, and it never ended in heartbreak. I was geared up to celebrate after a long couple of months full of challenges. Really, a long year and a half. She even had a name. I was not prepared for this. Not again.
After coming to terms with the fact that I had lost the battle, the next several weeks were almost unbearable. I felt every range of emotion. Denial. Heartbreak. Doubt. Hopelessness. Devastation. Entrapment. Anger. Loss. Grief. Pain. So much pain. I felt completely forgotten.
My heart was ripped open because it literally felt like I had lost a child. Even if she didn’t have a body yet, I had to bury her. She was gone.
The English language lacks the words to mourn an absence. For the loss of a parent, grandparent, spouse, child or friend, we have all manner of words and phrases, some helpful, some not. Still, we are conditioned to say something, even if it is only “I’m sorry for your loss.” But for an absence, for someone who was never there at all, we are wordless to capture that particular emptiness. For those who deeply want children and are denied them, those missing babies hover like silent ephemeral shadows over their lives. Who can describe the feel of a tiny hand that is never held?
Laura Bush, Spoken from the Heart
I spent every moment I had to myself sobbing. Not crying, but sobbing. Weeping, blubbering, heaving while standing with buckling knees in the shower. The boys asked me day after day why I was so sad. But I couldn’t let this be their burden too. I didn’t want to tell anyone anymore.
I woke up most mornings with swollen eyes and a heavy harrowing ache in the center of my chest, a weight that took blistering effort to carry myself out of bed. There were occasions where I truly felt I could not stand up because my physical frame could not sustain such crushing pain. Sometimes I went to bed feeling like I made peace and progress throughout the day only to wake up the next morning feeling like I was back at square one.
What made the emotional turmoil worse was that I was still so physically sick. The constant nausea combined with intense headaches from crying so hard were a crippling combination. More reminders of what I would most likely never have.
I was ashamed. My body had failed me in producing a daughter once again. I felt like less of a mother because I would never have certain experiences that to me, defined motherhood. I didn’t know how I could ever feel complete as a person when I would always have a longing for our missing daughter.
I was tempted to feel jealous and envious. Why was it seemingly effortless for everyone else I knew to see those three parallel lines on their ultrasounds, when it was impossible for me? I was pleading for a righteous desire, after all. The envy hit me hard when a week after learning the result, I watched our church’s satellite broadcast intended for women, young and old. Daughters and mothers and grandmothers were gathered together for a single cause. I felt nothing but immense pain as I noticed mothers holding the hands of their daughters. I longed for the love they shared and the special relationship they were nurturing. Bonds that I would probably never experience.
It was one thing for my prayers not to be answered, but to explain that concept to our six year old, who had all the faith in the world, broke my heart. He kept on praying for our girl baby, every single day, until we finally mustered up the courage to tell him the truth. We sat him down and told him how excited this baby brother was to join our family, but his reaction was just as we anticipated. Lots of tears and confusion because he had prayed so many times for a sister. He said, “Maybe I should have prayed for a boy so we would have had a girl.” It was another dagger in my heart to see that trusting boy’s faith shattered.I knew I should be asking questions such as, What am I to learn from this experience? What am I to change? How can I remember my many blessings in times of trial? But I couldn’t help but consider the questions that led me into blind alleys. What have I done to cause this? Why does our family have to suffer this? I know that trials are a part of life, but why does it have to be this? I thought we had suffered enough the last time around. I never fully recovered from the sorrow back then, and that was when I still had a glimmer of hope. Now, my hope was diminished.
My great-great-grandmother had a daughter. My great-grandmother had a daughter. My grandmother had a daughter. My mother had a daughter. I can’t bear the thought of generations of motherhood, going further back than I even know, stopping with me. Not being able to pass on the divine gift of strength that comes from strong, smart, faith-filled women who have a common purpose.The world tells you that it is desirable to have children of both genders. That you are more blessed when you get to experience both. Both strangers and acquaintances alike ask you when you’re going to try for the other gender. And when the more desirable outcome doesn’t come to fruition, you should “just be happy” that you have healthy children.
What a conflicting message.
Let me make this very clear. My disappointment has nothing to do with the baby boy growing within me. A healthy child is the greatest miracle of all. I know that I will love a fourth baby boy with as much vigor as I do our other three. But I feel immeasurable grief for burying the dream of our daughter all over again, when I have always felt her presence.
I have a part of my personality that wants everything to be fair. It’s not fair that some families lose their babies. It’s not fair that I have friends that have a hard time getting pregnant, or can’t get pregnant at all. And it’s not fair that I can get pregnant easily, but I endure miserable pregnancies that never result in a daughter. I’m well aware of those struggling with infertility. It’s an invisible disease that many keep to themselves for years. I’m not in any way saying that our trials are the same, because a newborn is still going to be placed in my arms at the end of all of this. I’m wary of coming off as insensitive. But I, too, silently suffer. I feel a profound sense of loss for what I may never have, even though I am told I should feel grateful my blessings. Pain is pain, regardless if I can find someone who is worse off.
I wish I was one of those women who could be completely happy with a houseful of boys, I really do. It would be much easier. And hopefully someday, I’ll get there. I’ve read countless accounts of women with all boys who are actually offended when they get the inevitable comments from strangers about trying for a “pink one,” as if they are unfulfilled with their lives. But that isn’t me. I have a deep hole in my heart for the daughter I may never meet.
I’ve learned, through study and my own experiences, that the death of a dream can be just as heartbreaking and life changing as the death of a loved one. You have to deal with the death of a dream with the same steps of recovery, and then be ready to move on to your “new” life and accept the change. While I believe that God knows better than me what our family needs, it doesn’t discount the fact that I still need to deal with the dream dying and move through the stages of grief. Especially since I have been fighting for this dream for such a long, long time. I am having a hard time letting go and thinking of a new dream to step into.
I wish I could end this post differently. I wish I could explain the meaning of all of these trials and heartbreak and why this dream was lost after I put so much faith in it. I wish I knew why I was being stretched in ways I never anticipated.I don’t know when I’ll reach a point where I will be able to “give up” and hand my dream of a having a daughter over to God. Oh, how it hurts. I still have that nagging feeling of inadequacy that somehow I failed. But I hope to make peace with succumbing.
Heartbreak is oh so real. It has to be worked through. No amount of hope can kill the emotions that must be processed in a broken heart. Yet, hope is enabling. It is a belief that someday, not today and probably not for many days, but someday, it will be okay.
I hope I’ll eventually lose the sharp pain I feel when I see other mothers and their daughters interacting, or walk past the “off limits” side of the children’s clothing store. I hope I’ll start believing the long list of reasons why a family of all boys can be a blessing. I hope that this heartache, though intense beyond what I could ever imagine, is not final. I hope that help from Above can help me feel whole again. I hope that the greatest pleasures in life have yet to unfold.
I hope, in months or years to come, that there will be a sequel to this post. I hope I will be able to look back and understand why everything happened this way, and appreciate how much it made me grow.
I still hope, even though hope seems lost.
Photographs of the dance art of Martha Graham