Thursday, July 28, 2011

Don't Judge a Book by Its Cover

Moving to a new place and meeting new people can be really exciting. It can also be really frustrating. We've definitely experienced both in the short time we've been in Milwaukee, mostly with driving and trying to find our way around (please let me know if you have any GPS recommendations). We can make it to church and the airport and Wal-Mart and the mall and that's about it. Granted, we've only been here two and a half weeks, but it would be so nice to not have to consult Google Maps and write the directions on an index card for every trip we take. I find myself actually missing the grid system of Utah, I feel like I'm taking crazy pills!

Part of moving in is meeting new people and going new places and experiencing new things, and tonight I kind of did all of that at once. I was invited to the Relief Society's book club meeting tonight, and I decided it would be fun to go, at least I would meet new people even if I didn't read the book. The selected text was Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, the controversial piece published earlier this year about a Chinese-American's way of mothering her two daughters. There were 15 of us there, and half the time was spent chatting about random stuff, the other half about the book. However, I said about two words the entire time, mostly because I was the only one there who did not have a child. Only one woman actually brought her baby, but everyone else there was a mother. There were discussions about parenting styles and disciplining and doctors and hospitals and ultrasounds and other feelings/acts/things associated with children. I just sat there and sipped my water and ate my brownie. While we were chatting in small groups after the book discussion, a girl starting talking to me...

-So, do you have any kids?
-No, not yet.
-How long have you been married? (As if the answer would somehow excuse me for not having procreated yet)
-Over two years actually. Yeah, two years and a month or so.

Her eyes literally widened when she heard my answer, and I knew she was thinking, What is keeping this woman from having children?! Doesn't she know it's a commandment to multiply and replenish the earth?! Don't get me wrong, this sister is super sweet and great, but she was visibly taken aback when she heard my answer. I left shortly after the conversation, I just couldn't handle it. Let me explain...

Disclaimer: The following text is fairly frank and may be considered TMI. You have been warned.

I have ALWAYS wanted to be a mother. My biggest goal in life is to have children that Daniel and I can raise in the Gospel and love and care about and provide for. We have names picked out and I know what color I want to paint the nursery and what pictures of Christ and the temple I want to hang up and all that jazz. I want to nurture the precious souls that have been entrusted to me and give them everything. Unfortunately, my brain and my body don't match up.

I've never had regular periods. Ever. I've been menstruating for almost 10 years and nothing works right. Each one lasts about the same amount of time, but it may be 3, 4, 5, or even 6 months before the next one. Growing up, it was great. I hardly ever had to worry about Aunt Flo, and I was thin and athletic which also probably contributed. My doctor told me not to worry about it and that it would be dealt with at the appropriate time. I didn't make a big deal about it because it wasn't a big deal to me.

I started birth control the day after I turned 19. It was a miracle drug to me. I knew exactly when things were supposed to happen, and if I wanted to delay my period by a month, all I had to do was skip the sugar pills and move on to the next pack. I welcomed the acne and mood swings and bloating every month because I was thrilled that my body was working, something I had never experienced regularly. I hoped that when I went off the pills that my body would just keep going because I knew that it could.

Daniel and I have tried to get pregnant twice. Considering Daniel's schedule for the next several years, we tried to work out the timing where we'd have late spring/summer/late summer babies to maximize Daniel's time at home between school/research/etc.  Even though it's a small window, we figured six months each time was a good place to start. Both times were (obviously) unsuccessful. Off the pill, my body goes right back to the way it did when I was a teenager. Each time I went to the doctor I expressed my frustrations, and each time she gave me another 3-month prescription for birth control, just in case this time is the one that my body finally realizes what it's supposed to do without drugs.

Daniel and I have talked about the fact that it might take some time before we have children. We've talked about adoption and feel that even if we do have children of our own, it's something we'd still like to pursue. We also know that there is no magical timeline for trying before seeing a doctor about possible fertility issues, but the general guideline is six months to a year.

It breaks my heart not to be able to start a family yet. It breaks my heart that I can't experience the joy and pain of motherhood. It breaks my heart that I can't give Daniel the children he wants. It breaks my heart that I can't give my parents and Daniel's parents the grandchildren they would love to spoil. It breaks my heart that for right now, there is nothing I can do to fix my situation. It breaks my heart that there is so little support for people like me, especially in the Church, and I have such a small net of people I can turn to (or if there is some sort of group or something that it's advertised so poorly). Worst of all, it breaks my heart because it makes me feel broken, like I'm being punished. I'm obviously not righteous enough or charitable enough or compassionate enough or whatever, so I can't be trusted with bringing another life into the world until I get my act together.

So don't judge me (or anyone else for that matter) for not starting a family after two years of marriage. There is definitely more to the story than you think. And please don't rush to tell me that I'm great and awesome and wonderful and that things will work themselves out. I know I am and I know they will, I just get sad about it sometimes in the moment. I cross my heart that I'll be okay and I'll still love you and your baby and not get upset when you ask me to babysit or whatever. I could use the practice anyway.



  1. I hate that look people if it's any of their business.

    best of luck to you and lots of love. I'm sure every thing will work out. :)

  2. Reading your blog reminded me of an email from my oldest brother years ago. He is gay and in the email he was sharing his personal story of the agony he felt, the numerous prayers in which he pleaded with Heavenly Father to "cure" him, and his turmoil of why he was being punished. I think we all have a similar feeling in one way or another when it comes to the personal trials we have been given. Why me? What did I do? Whether it be homosexuality, eating disorders, pornography, or even fertility problems. I'm sorry you have to go through yours and deal with the close-mindedness of others. Much love to you!

  3. Both my sister and sister-in-law have been married almost 6 years and still haven't been able to have kids yet and have had similar experiences. In a class last semester we talk about this and how 10% of couples experience infertility problems (33% due to women having problems, 33% to men, and 33% is unexplained). This is one thing I don't like about the Mormon culture--people just assume you are unrighteous if you are doing this or that, when that's not the case--they don't realize that 1 in 10 couples experience infertility problems. I'm sorry you have to deal with such people.

  4. I know you probably didn't expect a comment from me since we hardly know each other and its been over 2 years since we worked together at the library, but I added your blog to my reader back in the day and still skim it when it updates. This post caught my eye and I've been thinking about it all weekend and just wanted to send some support your way.

    My husband and I also struggle with very similar challenges and I agree, its not easy dealing with misconceptions from others. We've been trying for almost 15 months now and it never gets easy, but I've learned a few things. First, I'd recommend an article that was written in the Ensign a several months ago about infertility. It had great perspective in it. Second, probably the biggest help for me has been to talk to others about our struggles in getting pregnant. This has helped for two reasons. One, it puts my self-conscious mind at ease that even if they are judging me, at least they have some idea of why. I know it isn't really any of their business, but it just helps to share (at appropriate times). Also, please know that its nothing to be ashamed about. I used to be embarrassed to admit we were having troubles because it is so easy to feel like it is all your fault and something must be wrong. I have definitely felt the same things you described (God just doesn't trust me to be a mom because I'm not (fill in the blank) enough). Those thoughts are not true and sharing my struggles with others has helped me to realize that. And Two, in talking about it I have found SO MANY others in my ward and friends who have struggled to some extent with similar situations. And it feels SO good to know you are not alone. I was seriously shocked at how many of my old roommates/husbands friends/current ward members have struggled with infertility problems. Sure, everyone's situation is unique and I'm not trying to downplay the reality of the trail but it has helped me to know that I'm not the only "broken" one, issues of infertility are real and not personal.

    Trials like these are hard because you don't know how long they are going to last. It would be SO much easier if I knew that in x amount of months I would be able to get pregnant or even if I knew for a surety that I will never be able to conceive....but it doesn't work that way. Its easy to let the goal of getting pregnant take over ever aspect of your life, but don't let it. The last thing that I've learned is hard to remember and something I'm sure you already know but it helps to take time to appreciate life for what it is right now. There are plenty of things to learn and do during the first years of marriage and although I'd do just about anything to have a child right now I am grateful for the extra time I've had to grow closer to my husband and build a stronger family for our future children to come into. Make the most of the time you have without children because although life can be better with children, it will definitely be different.

    I apologize for the unsolicited advice but as you mentioned, there is little support out there and I just felt impressed to let you know that you are not alone. If you have any questions or want to chat feel free to send me an email (kirstenclarksmith at gmail dot com)

    Best of luck!