I don’t know about anyone else, but the message I got from my rather limited school sex education classes was pretty much like this…
You can get pregnant quicker than you can say ‘contraception’ so make sure you practise ‘safe sex’ at all costs. No one wants to get pregnant these days before they get a career so don’t go making a ‘mistake’. If you do, of course, make a ‘mistake’, you can always take the morning after pill or have an abortion and that is ‘your choice’. Use a condom. The end.
That was it, pretty much. Oh, and the lesson when the tough boy fainted watching the video of a lady giving birth.
No one taught me that it might be difficult to conceive. No one taught me that it’s OK to hope for a family more than wanting a career. No one taught me about how long it might take to get pregnant, or that you cannot actually plan having a baby to fit into a certain window of time. No one taught me how to face the feelings of grief every month when my period comes.
And now, people tell me at least you’re regular. See the funny side of the tests. You’re still young. You’re free to do what you want. Call me a glass half-empty person if you want, but being ‘regular’ simply means I can count on a monthly week of anxiety when all the tell-tale signs that I’m about to get my period are there, but there is still a tiny shred of hope, and then another week following that one of sheer disappointment. Then there’s half a week of feeling a bit more normal again, then a week or so of ovulation tests and trying not to feel the pressure, and then about another half-week of feeling normal before the whole cycle starts again. And call me Mrs Glass-half-empty if you so desire, but there really isn’t a funny side to having to give semen samples. And I do not feel young. I feel tired and sad. And although I am free to do what I want, there is very little I want to do with my life other than motherhood- that’s just how I’m wired.
Fortunately, there is another side to all of this. Struggling with possible infertility has taught me so many things that I never could have learnt at school. It’s taught me that life doesn’t always go smoothly for everyone, and sometimes it’s really hard. So I can empathise better now. It’s taught me that you can’t always plan your future to the letter, and to be OK with that. It’s taught me to practice gratitude for all that I have and all that’s around me – to not take things for granted. It’s taught me that waiting for things is precious. It’s taught me to resist the temptation to envy, and that everyone has their own joys and struggles. It’s taught me acceptance and contentment. It’s taught me that assumptions can be hurtful and honesty is important. It’s taught me that good can come out of sadness. Most of all, it’s taught me that even if I think my prayer has not been answered or I see pain around me, I can still trust that my God is good and loving. I can trust that he keeps track of my sorrows and cares about my pain. And I know that when I lift my head from my own lack I can see evidence of his love and generosity all around me. I know that though I don’t understand why there is suffering in the world or why God appears to allow me to be without when others have, He has a plan to bring goodness out of my life. And that gives me hope and joy which need never run out, because the only thing they are based on having is Him.
On Saturday, Andrew and I went to an adoption information morning run by Families for Children. We are in the very early stages of considering adoption, but one thing the morning really showed me was that maybe our situation could make us perfectly placed to help a child or children who, like us, are longing for family.
Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good. Romans 8: 26-28, The Message Bible