Uterus, Decorative Use Only?
Norah is a gift from God. Every parent feels that way at some shining moment in their parenting journey, but for us it’s a little different. Endometriosis is a disorder in which tissue that normally lines the uterus grows outside the uterus and can be found on the ovaries, fallopian tubes or the intestines. This disorder has wrecked havoc on my ovaries for the better part of a decade causing secondary infertility. When Sam and I united our families we each brought a daughter from a previous marriage with us. We dreamed of what it would be like to raise a child together without the burden of split households and custody arrangements. The reality was that because of my condition we might never see that come to fruition. We accepted this early on in our relationship and focused on cherishing the children we had.
Needless to say when you’re a young couple the questions people plague you with are always about children and marriage. Unbeknownst to them the topic was like a dagger to the heart. Every time someone would ask us when we planned to have one of our own inside I was screaming, “We can’t!” But thats certainly not a polite response and so instead I would smile timidly (grimace) and remind them we already had two children to be grateful for (awkward smile). When you suffer from infertility and are hounded by inquisition it reminds you of your failure. That’s certainly not the intent, but that’s the emotional response it triggers. It’s not logical, it’s just a consuming sorrow that cries out to be acknowledged. So you do and then you tuck it away and move forward. This tragedy was made that much more real for us also carrying the burden that Sam is the last male in his lineage to carry on the family name. We are Italian, it’s a big deal! So pretty much the consensus was no pressure, buuuuuut hurry up and have a baby already!!! Little did they know...
During my struggle with endometriosis I was getting internal ultrasounds every six weeks to document the cycle of the massive cysts growing inside my ovaries, playing with medication every few months, and so my body was on a rollercoaster ride of hormonal changes. It got to a point where I felt more like a science experiment than a woman and enough was enough. After a particularly useless appointment I went home in tears and told Sam, “I’m done.” This wasn’t helping me get any better and the emotional toll was likely making my symptoms worse from stress. That day I decided no more ultrasounds, no more poking and prodding, no more medication, just no. I committed to caring for my body through a more natural approach. We decided that I would stop taking birth control, so that my body could try to come back to whatever it’s “normal” looked like and start from there. Obviously with the decision to come off birth control comes the risk of pregnancy for most people. For us, this wasn‘t entirely a concern because of my fertility issues. I only had one fully functioning ovary at that point, so we decided to leave it in the hands of God. If we were meant to bear a child together then we would and if it never came to pass then it wasn’t meant to be. At no point did we consider ourselves to be “trying” to have a baby. We were simply going to live our life together for the beautiful adventure that it was.
With that weight lifted we moved forward with our life! My symptoms gradually decreased as I worked through different methods of treating my condition holistically.
We planned our wedding and got married on a crisp September afternoon in the most enchanting forest before a roaring fire. We slipped away to Scotland for three weeks for our honeymoon and it was like a dream. Life was beautiful. It was full and we were so happy, what more could you ask for?
A few weeks after we got home I was feeling off. Fatigue was stealing hours of productivity from my day and I couldn’t understand why. Sam jokingly recommended I take a pregnancy test. He laughed. I laughed. We died a little more on the inside. The absurdity of it was enough that it had become an inside joke to alleviate some of the pain. By this point I had been off birth control for well over a year, which only seemed to confirm our suspicions that we couldn’t get pregnant. But then we looked at each other and did the math and somehow I hadn’t had my period since before the wedding...impossible. Sometimes my body would go through cycles where I’d have a period constantly for weeks and then nothing for months, so it wasn’t completely abnormal to be late. This was how I reasoned away the hope that was building inside my heart.
Hope can be a dangerous thing. It allows you to believe there’s possibility in the most desperate of circumstances. I was always careful to quell any hope that stirred because it seemed like folly to let that take hold. I remember feeling this war raging inside me when we took that first pregnancy test because I was fully preparing myself to mourn the loss of a child that we were never going to have. As we waited for the results in each other's arms a feeling of gratefulness for this man washed over me. He walked this battle at my side every step of the way, never allowing himself to voice the disappointment I know he felt. Even in that quiet moment where I’m sure his hope for a baby boy was consuming him, he held me up in preparation for the wave of grief that was just around the corner. Our life was full, we had so much love in our home already, we shouldn’t feel sad, but we had let hope curl around our hearts in that moment and there was no prying her loose.
As we stared down at the double pink lines in complete disbelief the world stood still. This couldn’t be. We looked into each other’s eyes and there the question was burning bright: was this real? So I did what any sane woman would do. Disregarded the test as a complete and utter fluke scoffing the whole way through taking another one. Then another one. And another one...and another.
At some point I woke up from an out of body experience standing in my bathroom staring down at six pregnancy tests lined up on the sink with neon pink lines all screaming “PREGNANT” at me, which still seemed a completely ridiculous notion. I suggested we take one more, Sam belly laughed and engulfed me in his arms. Standing in that embrace, the only place that’s ever been home, he whispered to me the words we never thought we would hear. You’re pregnant. There was something about this claim uttered aloud that shattered the last bit of the wall I had built to protect my heart and
the possibility of holding our child in my arms crashed into me with such force that I was rendered a blubbering mess of unbridled joy.
And that, my dear friends, was the moment when the firecracker that you know as Baby Norah became a reality for her completely unprepared parents. There are moments in our lives when we can feel the winds of change blowing our sails in a new and unexpected direction. Cherish these moments when you find yourself sprinting head long into the unknown. Those are the times when we feel most alive.