It would be so easy, so ideal, so absolutely incorrect to state that I am in perfect peace at all times. It would be so easy to assert that 100% of the time I’m resting in God’s grace, His love and His divine timing. Oh, how beautiful and amazing it would be to be able to say with complete confidence that I believe God as much as I believe IN God.
As I tend to do on most days, I woke up this morning hopeful and praising our good, good Lord. After sending my love his daily morning prayer and a slew of “good morning, I love you” memes, I read my daily bible verse, completed another day in my latest devotional, prayed for direction in my day, for help to know the course I’m on, for protection of my family and for a positive pregnancy test. I want this to be our month. Desperately. Selfishly.
As I approach 44 years old, the mother of 4 children who are well beyond their toddler years, I find myself struggling through some kind of bizarre, mildly unsettling and thoroughly unexpected “mid-life” career crisis – stuck at an intersection of “do I really want to be a personal trainer?” and “you paid $20k for that Masters degree in Exercise Science so you’d better use it, girl”. And, as I deal with figuring out what I want to do when I grow up, I also want to get knocked up, be blissfully pregnant, and give birth to our heaven-sent baby boy or girl. And, quite frankly, I want get it all over with before I’m too old. “Too old”, I mean, by my own standards because me, at 47 or 48 giving birth to my 5th child is not something I imagine for my life. No, thank you. Yikes.
But what if that is what God’s plan is for us? What if His divine timing is in a year or more? Sarah laughed at the thought of giving birth when she thought she was way beyond her child-bearing years (Genesis 18:12). Granted, she was 90 years old at the time she bore Isaac (Genesis 17:17), the thought of, “I’m too old to have a(nother) kid”, is the same. Biblical miracles aside, let’s be real – physiologically, there’s an expiration date on my ability to naturally bear children but who gets to decide when that is, other than our almighty God?
Dear God, please let this be our month!
All these thoughts (and quite a few more) were going through my mind as I rolled out of bed and made my way to my bathroom, my last First Response Early Response (FRER) in one hand and my phone in the other. I’d gotten myself into the habit of filming my pregnancy testing. I’ve been doing it since Cycle 1 (we’re now on Cycle 4). The process of talking into a camera has the strangest and most surprising calming effect on my spirit as I anxiously await the test results. Who knew?
I didn’t want the required 3 minutes for the test results to process. I looked within 1 minute, saw the negative, let my heart sink for a few moments while I reported the results to the camera, stopped recording and stood up to begin the next stage of the Big Fat Negative (BFN) pregnancy testing process: fruitless analysis or as it might be labeled by a mental health professional: The 5 Stages of Grief.
Stage 1: Denial – After you receive a BFN you begin to re-examine the test device (stick). You stare at it and wonder if that colorless indent line or shadow line you see is the beginning of a potential Big Fat Positive (BFP) because, most likely, if you’re TTC, you’re testing way earlier than you should be, anyway, so that could be a false BFN… right? You grab your cell phone and turn on its flashlight and examine the stick. By this point, it’s well beyond the test’s time limit and you know that anything you see at this point is completely unreliable. You stare at it in natural light again. This time, though, you hold it up towards the direction of the sun to see if maybe, just maybe, there’s some color in that shadow line. Because, look, you have to be pregnant. All these symptoms you’ve been feeling. All the effort you put in to tracking your temperature, tracking your ovulation and timing your intercourse (this alone is worthy of its own separate post) has to pay off this month. It has to. You stare at the test again, sort of the way you do when you go to the refrigerator, open it and look in it, close it and then repeat the process again as if some food that wasn’t there will magically appear this time. You finally decide it’s negative so you throw it in the trash. For now. Because, the likelihood of you retrieving it from the trash is astronomically high.
Stage 2: Anger – Now that you’ve trashed of the negative pregnancy test (for now), you dissolve rather rapidly into the next stage of grief. You feel pregnant this month. You know you timed everything perfectly. You prayed and prayed for this to be the month. How could this test possibly be negative? Again!? UGH! You’re angry with your body for the symptoms you just knew were indicators of pregnancy. The twinges, cramps, sore breasts, nausea, food aversions. All things you know in your rational mind could be pre-menstrual symptoms but, because you’re TTC and wanting a baby so bad, you allow your mind to believe are pregnancy signs. So, then, you get angry with your mind for playing tricks on you, for making you think you could be pregnant. You’re angry at things specific to your personal TTC journey. And, if you’re really angry this month, you might even take it out on God. You’re angry that He isn’t answering your prayers in the time you want Him to. You’re angry that He doesn’t seem to realize how much you want a baby. So, you start to talk to Him, to reason with Him. Certainly, God is rational. Isn’t He? Ugh.
Stage 3: Bargaining – You ask God to please hear your prayer. You beg Him to fill your womb with a baby for you to love, cherish and raise to be a child of God. You tell Him that you will give up caffeine, or drinking, or smoking if He will just bless you with a baby. You promise to stay on track with your healthy eating and exercise routine this time. You tell Him you will do anything if He will just give you a baby. After you’ve sufficiently begged and pleaded for His mercy and grace (which you already have [Ephesians 2:8, 4:7]), you go and fish the pregnancy test out of the trash to check just one more time to see if the second line has suddenly appeared. It hasn’t. So, the floodgates of your emotions burst open and you begin to drown in a seemingly uncontrollable river of tears.
Stage 4: Depression – Now, you’re sad. You’re wondering if it will ever happen for you. You’re questioning your body and your inability to make it do what you think it’s supposed to do. The way you deal with this stage of the grieving process can manifest itself in so many ways. You may bottle up the emotions, putting on a confident and strong front for everyone around you, including your significant other. You may spend a day or three moping around, eating comfort food and watching reality shows. You may immerse yourself in a hobby, work or family-centered activities to distract yourself from the overwhelming sadness of another failed conception attempt. How you cope with this stage will also depend on how long you’ve been TTC and how strongly your believe God’s timing is perfect. But, at some point, you reach the final stage.
Stage 5: Acceptance – In this stage, you’ve finally taken out the trash, quelling the urge to re-examine the negative pregnancy test. You realize that there is another month ahead and you can try again. You have learned some new things this past month, you know your body a bit better, you’ve read about ways to improve your chances of conception, you’ve (hopefully) connected with other women who are in the same boat as you. You know this is a process. You remind yourself that that even the healthiest and most fertile couples can take up to a year to conceive a child. You’ve accepted that this month is another opportunity to bear fruit, to practice your faith, to be grateful to God for all you know He will do in His time.
You may vacillate between all 5 stages of grief, at different points in time. You may experience depression before you experience anger. Or anger before denial. You may reach the level of acceptance but still have feelings of depression. There’s no linear way to experience the emotions that are bound to surface during your unique TTC journey. It’s a free-falling roller coaster ride than no one really wants to be on but we endure, we grow stronger in faith and community with each passing month. And, at the end of our own individual journey, when we’ve gotten our Big Fat Positive (BFP) and, then our newborn in our arms, we look back and realize how we strengthened our character, month and after month. We realize that the fruits of our labor are measured not by whether or not we conceived that month but how we chose to handle it.
And we are all the better for it.