Now don’t begin by misreading this. I am not about to delve into why infertile couples who eventually have one or more children are better parents than those who don’t struggle. I am merely writing about my own experience. Infertility makes me a better parent – better than the parent that I would have been if I hadn’t gone through this battle.
I started thinking about this when I read an article on Resolve‘s website (Resolve is the National Infertility Association.) The article was about pink laundry lint. Yes, that’s right: pink laundry lint. The author explored why being infertile made her more appreciative of the little things, things that in another situation might have been ignored or even have been a source for frustration, annoyance or anger. This woman had waited for what seemed like an eternity to finally bring home a baby of her very own. When she finally did, she noticed that her laundry lint had gone from its ordinary, ugly grey to bright, cheerful pink. Anyone who has a daughter (especially one like my O who LOVES pink) can tell you that this is absolutely true. A chore loathed by almost everyone brought this mother a sense of joy and appreciation. Infertility made her appreciate the laundry – powerful stuff, right?
I spend a lot of time trying to determine why God or the universe doesn’t think I deserve another child. I mean, if I was a great mother and a good person, surely, I would could get pregnant again and have another one, right? Rationally, I know how stupid this sounds, but I can’t seem to erase those thoughts from my mind. I go to extreme lengths to be supermom. I enjoy being supermom. I love everything about it. I love the look on my O’s face while we do a craft or visit a museum. I love when she looks up at me as I am putting her in her car seat after a visit to a friend’s house and she says, “Mommy. Have fun!”. Some people say motherhood has little rewards. I disagree. That’s all the payment I need: to know that at the end of the day, my girl loves me and that we have fun EVERY SINGLE DAY. Did I ever tell you about the first time she told me, “I yuv you, mommy,” while we were watching the Super Bowl on the anniversary of her first day home from the hospital? Magic, pure magic. But, I digress… A little part of me (not one that I like to admit to having) thinks that if I am a better mom to O, then maybe, just maybe I’ll be able to give her a brother or sister.
I think when we first started to try for #2 (19 months ago), it was all about us. WE wanted another baby. Things are different now. I want another baby for O. She’s an only child without any cousins. I see how she adores other kids and babies, too. I want her to have that in her childhood. I want her to have that in her adulthood– no siblings mean no nieces and nephews, no one to share the burden of caring for aging parents… Ben and I couldn’t live without our siblings. Not being able to provide that for O makes me feel like a failure of a parent.
The trouble with writing about infertility is that there are so many emotions and it reaches so far into every crevice of your life that once the words start flowing, it is hard to stay on topic. Forgive me, will you? So, why am I a better parent because of infertility?
I fought for O, and I am forced to fight even harder for her sibling. When I want to scream and yell at her because she poured milk on the floor for the 100th time or she poked the cat in the eye and tried to rip off his tail or she JUST. WON’T. STOP. WHINING, I stop and think. This is my miracle. This is the good egg, the baby that was inconceivable. She is a walking, talking miracle. There is no way that I could mistreat my miracle or even just holler at her. She’s my precious O, and she didn’t know better. I am never away from the thoughts of how lucky I am to have her. So, I sit her down, I look her in the eye and I gently explain to her why she can’t do whatever crazy toddler thing she just did. And, then I kiss her, smell her hair, and pull her in for a tight hug – even if she resists. She’s my girl, the most important thing in my life.
(Author’s note: I am not a saint, and I have occasionally yelled at my daughter. But it happens far less than it otherwise would.)
I have time for her – lots of time. Sure, I work part-time, and I have a lot to manage around this house with a chef-husband who is gone 100 hours a week. But, O is my #1 priority. There aren’t any other children to feed, clean, educate or entertain. There’s just O. Every Pinterest activity I want to try is 100% for her benefit. Every book read, every puzzle done, every tower built, every tea party had….they are all for O. The girl is incredible. Her language skills in English and Spanish have sky-rocketed. She asks questions I never dreamt she would wonder — some are even awkward and embarrassing for mommy to answer! She is thriving. Some of that is just who she is, her genetic makeup, her innate personality, but some of it is because of the time that I get to spend with her day in and day out.
We have money to spend on her. Now, I am not talking about a ton of money, and I am not talking about frivolous things like boutique clothing and the latest toy. I am referring to Spanish class, music class, one day a week at school, museum visits, zoo memberships. and travel. I often think about how hard it will be to pay for all of the activities we do now once there are two kids. I know we’ll make it work, but for now, we are going to keep enriching O’s life in any way possible.
No moment is ever taken for granted. I cherish each and every second I get to spend with her…even the moments that she is making me want to pull my hair out because those moments are a required part of parenthood. I feel grateful to be able to experience any and all parts of parenthood since I know just how hard it is for some of us to get here. When she wants me to hold her but I have something else to do, I pick her up anyway. When she wants to snuggle, I can never tell her no. When I rock her before bed at night, I hold her a little longer than I should, knowing that soon she will be too big to sit in my lap, and I may never get to experience the peaceful euphoria of rocking your little one to sleep again. I may not get the chance to change more poopy diapers. I might not get to pick up the mess from another toddler’s hurricane. I may never again experience the frustration of getting someone in and out of their car seat. There may never be another person who clings to my legs and only wants to be with mommy. I endure the 10th viewing of one episode of Daniel Tiger and the 100th reading of Elmo’s Colors with a smile. I know there may never be another little person that wants me to read to them or watch some inane cartoon over and over again. I work hard to be present for all of these firsts and lasts, and I try to burn the feelings and images into my memory forever so that I may never be without the joy that comes from mothering a young child.
The bottom line is that I love her more. I love her more than I ever would have. With every heartbreaking disappointment in our world of fertility, I love my little girl more. I love her so much my heart feels like it may explode, but somehow, I just keep making room for more love because she just keeps becoming more loveable.