Saturday, December 29, 2012

the letter. again.

So I've seen a lot of people doing year-end recaps and Blog Highlights of 2012. I thought briefly about trying to come up with something similar, and who knows-- I might actually try to do it. Later. But the first thing that came to mind when thinking over my own 'big moments in blogging' this year was the Letter to New Moms I guest-posted over on E's blog back in May. I don't know if that's my "best" blog of the year, but it was definitely the one I stressed out over the most! And it was hands-down the one that brought me the most new readers, friends, and email pen-pals. So I figured maybe I'd re-post my letter here, on my own site, just in case you're new here and missed it or...whatever. Just because. So put on your sundress and spray tan and think waaaay back to May, the week before Mother's Day and graduation season, and here we go!

Dear New Moms:
            For some reason, when I first started thinking about writing this “letter,” here’s how I kept wanting to start it: Dear New Moms of the Class of 2012. I don’t know why. But it made me laugh. And every time I mentally started this letter, that’s how it started. Dear New Moms of the Class of 2012. I felt like I was starting some kind of graduation speech or something, ready to impart my words of inspiration and wisdom upon each one of you as you embark on your magical journey of motherhood, joyfully commemorating your first Mother’s Days. But each time I started my speech, it lost momentum pretty quickly. Dear New Moms of the Class of 2012: I don’t know what to tell you, except that I wish I could be one of you. I was supposed to be one of you. Um, yikes. Depressing. No one wants to hear that speech.

So let’s ease into this thing by going back to my graduation metaphor. Sometimes metaphors are easier for me to speak in, because the layer of humor and degree of removal-from-reality helps me to deal with the topic a little better. And at this point in my infertility journey, humor and escaping reality are oftentimes all I have left as coping mechanisms. So let’s start with a metaphor, shall we?

Imagine you’re in high school. You’re an excellent student, and you have big plans for college and getting the heck out of your parents’ house. You and all of your friends are super excited about graduation and college—it’s all you can think and talk about. As graduation day approaches, your emotions are sky high—this is really happening! Graduation! College! My life is about to start! And then the day of graduation arrives. As you get to the arena, cute new dress underneath your cap and gown, your graduation advisor suddenly pulls you aside. “I’m so sorry, honey, but there’s been a mix-up. Some paperwork was misplaced…You aren’t graduating today. You need to give me back your cap and gown. You can go sit in the audience with your parents and cheer for your friends, though.” Umm…whaaa? You quickly protest—but my GPA is a 4.0! I didn’t miss a single day of school this year! I’m the president of the Student Council! but it is all to no avail. You are not graduating today. No one can really explain why, but you’re not. So you trudge up and sit with your parents, watching as your friends celebrate and toss their caps. After the ceremony, you explain to your friends what happened. Don’t worry, they assure you. It will all get figured out soon. You’ll get your diploma and be off to school with us in the fall!

But the weeks and months pass and it doesn’t get figured out. You get pushed from department to department, and no one really knows what happened, but you’re definitely not getting a diploma—looks like you’ll be back in high school come August. Your friends are sad, but depart for college as scheduled. You keep in touch with them frequently, but it’s tough hearing their stories about dorm life and sorority rush while you’re stuck re-taking classes you already aced and fighting with your parents about curfew. You resign yourself to the fact that you’re not going to be going to college this year, but hold out hope that the paperwork will get figured out and you will get to graduate next spring. You go through the motions of another senior year, jealously watching your friends adjust to college life. You take notes on their lives, confident that this information will come in handy next year when you start your freshman year of college.

But graduation comes, and once again, you are denied your diploma. Are you KIDDING ME? you think. Again, there are no good explanations—only that it’s not your time. One teacher even tries to encourage you by reminding you of how grateful you will be when your time DOES come. Are you serious? “My time” was over a YEAR ago! And once again you find yourself embarking on your senior year. Your friends feign interest in your senior year exploits, but are mostly busy planning the parties they host in their cool off-campus apartments, and complaining about how their other roommate never cleans up her bathroom. Well at least you HAVE a roommate and an apartment, you find yourself thinking. I still live with MY PARENTS!!!!! But that sounds petty, so you try to sound concerned. You leave nice comments on their Facebook photos of fun college events, fully aware that you yourself have long since quit making albums—who really cares about your 5th prom?

And this metaphor is getting really long, but here’s the thing: Pretend this scenario NEVER ENDS. It goes on and on, you keep not graduating and having to repeat your senior year, and your friends keep moving on in life. Even as they’re graduating from college, they occasionally try to encourage you that surely this will be your year. But those well-intentioned words fall empty now—really? You think this is my year? Easy for you to say—your graduation and life went exactly as planned, while I’m stuck in some crazy time warp of confusion and broken dreams.

This, dear New Mom Class of 2012, is a taste of what it’s like to live with infertility. In case you were wondering, I was supposed to be a member of the New Mom Class of 2009. And 2010. And 2011. And 2012. And yet here I am, still childless and waiting. Stuck. For God knows how much longer.

So what kind of wise and timely advice could I possibly have for you—you who embody my every hope and dream of the past four years? I could easily give you a list of Things Not to Say to Infertile Women...but you can find those lists anywhere on the internet (like on my own blog. Every day. Ha). I could wax poetic on the Top 10 Reasons I Want to Be a Mom...but really, this blog is quite long enough already. And that would make me cry. So I guess what I really want to say is this:

Be so, so, so, so thankful for what you have. ALL OF IT. The good AND the bad. Know that there are millions of women like me out here, watching you through teary eyes, our broken hearts longing for a chance to experience the sleepless nights, the difficult feedings, and the precious sweet smell of a freshly bathed baby. We would give anything-- and oftentimes, it feels like we already have. We've given all of our money and then some. We've subjected ourselves to the scrutiny of doctors and specialists and social workers, trying to earn the right to become mothers. We've hosted your baby showers and visited you in the hospital, despite feeling like we may crumple up and die from the longing in our hearts. We've prayed countless prayers that seem to have gone unnoticed, while people who have no idea what it feels like to mourn the loss of their dreams try to offer advice about how we should be feeling. So please don't take one single moment for granted. Rejoice in even the annoying parts of motherhood, knowing that the inconveniences are a small price to pay for the priceless gift you have been given. And when you're up all night, feeding that fussy baby, take a minute to drop down on your knees and thank God that you were chosen for this job. Be thankful. Be thankful.

And while you're busy basking in your thankfulness, try not to be offended by our rapidly changing emotions and behaviors. Deep in our hearts, we are happy for you. We love that our friends get to be mothers (often several times over). We're also insanely jealous of you, and sometimes finding the balance of those emotions can be tricky, but we're doing the best we can! Don't hesitate to invite us into your fun little baby-centric world, because sometimes, depending on the balance of hormones and the phase of the moon, we just may be all about it. We may be able to engage in hours of happy new-mom talk, analyzing sleep cycles and debating the merits of different brands of diapers. And we probably would love to hold your baby (and there's about a 95% chance we won't try to kidnap him). But try not to be offended on the days when we can't. Because sometimes we can't. And it doesn't mean we don't love you or your baby, it just means we can't do it. Love us anyway. And think of something non-baby to change the topic to (suggestions: make up! Hunger Games! ridiculous things you saw online!) real quick-like. 

Happy Mother's Day, New Mom Class of 2012. I hope that on Sunday you felt loved and appreciated...but even more than that, I pray that your heart is overwhelmed with thankfulness for the gift you have been given. Every day.

And while we're on the topic of thankfulness-- thanks for putting up with me (and my fellow fertility-challenged friends). I know we're a crazy lot, but with a little luck, one day we'll break out of this awful season of life and be sitting right alongside you, comparing stretch marks and teething gels. For our sake and yours-- pray that the day comes quickly.



  1. This is how I found your Blog, and I'm so happy that I did. You are an amazing writer and this letter still puts a lump in my throat... it is exactly how I feel about infertility. Thank you for expressing the woes of infertility so wonderfully for so many to see... Praying that 2013 will be our year! xo

  2. I'm so glad you posted this! I've been working on a "Top Ten Posts of 2012" list this week for my blog, and definitely felt like this (even though I didn't write it) is one of the ones that is the most important to me. I'm honored to include it.

  3. I remember reading this in May...still made me cry today. I think about you and so many other women I have met in the blogosphere and pray for you all! I mention you and Matt specifically by name (so does my husband - he really likes you both!) each night. Here's hoping that you are part of the New Mom Class of 2013.

    This re-posting couldn't have come at a better time for me. After contributing to a relative's inability to celebrate Christmas as usual, I needed to read the paragraph about how sometimes IF makes it so we JUST CAN'T. We just can't celebrate or be excited or sit by someone who has what we want so badly but are still waiting for.

    Keep up the honest and beautiful writing, Erika - you do a lot of good with your posts!

  4. I really love this. Amen to all of it. Ive been on both sides of the metaphor - infertile and now a mother. I try really hard to keep perspective by telling myself during the crazy sleepless hard times "Britt. . . remember that you prayed for this day and God was gracious enough to answer your prayer!"

    Thanks for reposting your letter. Love every aspect of it.

    Happy 2013 :)

  5. Oh Erika, I love this so much! I hadn't read it before and I'm so glad you posted it again! I will be directing some of my friends here ASAP via facebook.

  6. I don't know how I missed this blog, but OMG! Erika! You have somehow captured exactly what it's like to struggle with infertility. There were so many parts of this blog that made me sob with empathy and deep understand. I thank God that I found you, and that through this amazing internet I found a stranger who makes me feel a little less alone. Thank YOU for giving me that.

  7. Really good letter, exactly how I feel about it! I am so ready to move out and move on with the next chapter!! Happy New Year Erika!

  8. I loved the letter then and I love it now, even with a new perspective. Thanks for sharing this again!

  9. This is not the first time I've read a post like this, and while I generally like the message of not taking our blessings for granted, I just feel like a bit of perspective is deserved. On BOTH ends.

    You've made an excellent example of your perspective. Good points, truly. Can I tell you how I feel, from the opposite side?

    I realize that this is not at all the intent, but posts like this sometimes have a way of coming off as a sort of angry blame at women who have been blessed to become mothers. I think you really mean it when you say, "We're happy for our mom friends and that they've been able to have kids", but the idea of telling a grown woman to be thankful for what she has and you don't is a bit condescending. I don't need to be told that my children are a priceless blessing. New Moms Class of 2012 are not your enemy, they did not cause your infertility or wish it on you, and yet these mothers are VERY often to target of posts just like this. We are very often the target of, well, venting posts. It starts to come across as blame, you see.

    There is also the Christian aspect for me that we are to share in each other's struggles, carry each other's burdens, no matter what they are. Telling someone to be thankful when they are struggling isn't always received as loving. The, "Be thankful and thankful for every minute or else!!!!" approach is a bit cruel when a mom might REALLY need a shoulder to cry on and a listening ear. It's easy to say be thankful for it all, and it is wise advice. But just as it hurts you when mothers make ill-thought remarks about the infertility you experience which they don't understand, it also hurts to have someone say JUST BE THANKFUL when they don't know what you're going through.

    I've left grocery stores in humiliation and tears, and I've cried to my pastor's wife over my children's behavior. I've mourned the loss of my independent self, and I've grieved over health diagnoses my children have encountered. I've been in very deep, dark depressions that have been made worse by feeling as if I can never take a shower or look presentable again in my life because my children's needs are just so much more important. I know you're thinking, "At least you have kids! Be thankful!" But I am, the point is, that somedays we moms simply need recognition that it's not all "sorority rush" and "dorm parties". Just as it hurts you when moms say things when they "don't understand" your perspective, the same is true for us! You don't understand. I need help sometimes, not someone to snub me with a JUST BE THANKFUL!

    I'm not comparing a mother's struggles to yours, they are decidedly different.

    Still, just as you don't like to hear the "Top Ten Stupid Things Moms Say to Their Infertile Friends", mothers who struggle very much in their own unique way don't need to hear the constant JUST BE THANKFUL. Posts like these come across very much like, "We don't want to hear it, no complaining. You don't get to have a bad day."

    As if we have no right to have hard times, made more complicated at times because we are moms.

    You see, it's not all sorority rushes and dorm parties. It's not.

    And one last thing to consider, there is enough pressure on moms to be perfect. Enough side-by-side critiquing and competition with each other. To try and shut us up with the "Just be thankful! No complaining!" message only makes it worse. Moms need support, they need people to recognize it's hard. Just as you need people to recognize that fertility is hard and heartbreaking. It is.

    And my hope for you is that you DO have children, that you DO "graduate" in 2013. I wish you the best, I am not your enemy. And when you do become a mom, I hope you have friends and support that will carry and RECOGNIZE and VALIDATE your burdens as a mother. Trust me, you will need that.

  10. Erika, I loved this when you posted it the first time. I love it even more, having had the privilege of seeing your love and support for this mom in action.

    Katie, I don't think you know Erika very well, if what you walked away with was a 'you can't have bad days because you are fertile.' there are few people who are so deeply compassionate as Erika, and I'm bummed you're not seeing it. To have opened up her home to a friend with a child, one who slept in what would have been the nursery, and poured out nothing but care and support shows me that there is no way she doesn't recognize how hard it can be. There's no way she is judging or critiquing those with the gift of motherhood. It's just not in her nature.

  11. perhaps the most beautiful post in the history of blogging.

  12. Catherine, I never questioned Erika's compassion nor do I feel she is judging. I never said any of that. I merely offered another perspective.

    My point is a simple one: I have not walked in her shoes, and she has not walked in mine. Her point to be thankful is a good one, but it's my job to check my emotions and count my blessings, not anyone else's. It's our job to carry each other's burdens and grieve with each other. But the "just be thankful" response is not loving, and frankly not your place when you haven't been in someone else's shoes.

    I have nothing personal against Erika. I hoped my perspective from the other side, that "just be thankful" can sting for a mom who might be hurting in a way non-moms can't understand, would have been received with an open mind and heart.

  13. LOOOVVVVEEEEE this!!! How have I not read this before? This is FABULOUS! I seriously couldn't say it any better! And I completely agree with Catherine, compassion and optimism in the face of some of the greatest adversity I have ever known are defining characteristics of you Erica! It's an honor to be in the trenches of infertility with someone like you!

    Here's to one of hell of a graduation party coming your way soon!

  14. Loved this post 8 months ago and loving it even more now. It has been 2 years of trying and this post perfectly explains what I am living. Thanks for sharing and putting this hard struggle into words.

  15. As a friend that has been on both sides of the fence and dealt with some really, really tough stuff in this motherhood journey, Erika has never once told me to "Just be Thankful." She was one of my regular encouragers when we were going through a year of hell with my oldest son's health. She was empathetic when our second adoption failed. She has been a faithful prayer partner for my family.

    And she has now handled the announcement of two more pregnancies and births with grace.

    I say this as gently as I can, Katie. But I think you missed the point.

    I can't wait for your graduation, Erika. We are faithfully praying that your time comes soon.

  16. I had to wait a bit to reread this because I knew it would make me tear up - it was so beautifully written, Erika, and I've actually shared with several people. It's truly part of your ministry to others. Maybe not one you wanted to take on, but what a blessing that you are willing to do it!

  17. I love this post, too, and I think it's one of the reasons I found and started reading this blog. I'm not sure, May was sooo long ago. :) I think the graduation metaphor is perfect for explaining infertility. I promise I will never remind someone that "won't it be great when your time comes?!" This post is excellent for shedding light on the struggles of someone wanting to become pregnant and I love that. I've never gone through a long bout of infertility, but I have lost two babies and gone through one pregnancy where we were told the baby would die at birth. These experiences put me through a rough time of wanting to be pregnant when I no longer was, or wanting a baby when I thought I wouldn't have one, and having months of physical healing to go through before being able to become pregnant again. A different type of infertility, I would say. Now I have two healthy kids and I know I am blessed beyond belief for that.

    On the other side, I love what Katie said as well. Not as anything negative toward Erika, of course, and I don't think that's what Katie was trying to do.

    I remember after losing my first baby and wanting so badly to be pregnant, hearing mothers complain about their sleepless nights would make me wonder what the heck they could be complaining about...because I would have given my kidneys to be in their places.

    While there is no room to complain about life with healthy babies (because honestly, we're not to complain about anything) motherhood can be just as hard as infertility. I've cried the same tears as an exhausted mother as I did as someone desperately wanting to become a mother.

    Both sides of the coin bring challenges, and just as I would never say to someone who struggles to become pregnant "enjoy your freedom! enjoy your sleep! won't it be great when your time comes!" a mother doesn't always want to hear "be so thankful you have a baby to be awake with!"

    Both women struggle, and it would be lovely and perfect if we could help each other and bear each others' burdens. I think moms (or at least me) feel like we can't talk about what's hard in our journeys as mothers because we know what a blessing it is to be a mother, and we don't feel we deserve to acknowledge how to hard it can be...and then we feel isolated and alone thinking we're the only mother in the world struggling. It's a very isolating feeling. Everyone knows that infertility is rough, but I think we sometime forget that being a mom is rough, too?

    It seems to me that's all Katie was trying to say...not that Erika was telling mothers to 'just be so thankful,' because Erika, your post doesn't come across that way at all. I need reminders to be thankful when I'm up with the baby at nights, and kind and thoughtful perspectives like yours help me remember that.

    I just had to stick up for Katie a bit, because I understand what she's saying as well. :) It's hard, over a computer, to get the emotion behind someone's words...but it doesn't seem to be 'missing the point' to just share another perspective. :)

    (I like to put lots of :) so that no one will be mad at me. I love this post! yay! :) )

  18. One of my most favourite posts ever. Even though it makes me cry every single time.

    And thank you for the reminder to be thankful for my children. Sometimes, when days are hard and overwhelming it's difficult to remember the sad, lonely, single woman I was for a lot of years, praying for a husband and a family. It's good to be reminded of her and of the many women who would give (and have given) a lot to be in my place.

  19. Erika, I am so thankful for you and your blog. Although I am a long way from even trying to have a baby, you have put a face on infertility for me. Yes, I read a lot of blogs that have struggled with that and that now have children, but I guess since I know you, it makes it more personal. Even in the news of the "Kim/Kanye baby," all I can think is poor Khloe. (Yes, ridic that I have such intense feelings about the Kardashians.)

    What I am most thankful for is your honesty. I think most people try not to complain on their blogs, lest they sound ungrateful, but sometimes life is hard and I fully believe we are to "bear one another's burdens, as to fulfill the law of Christ." ;) I know "authentic" is a word that is pretty cliche on Christian blogs now, but it really is so important.

    So thank you for being honest and authentic and allowing us to share your burdens. We will never stop praying and believing that God can and will do more than we can ask or imagine.

  20. Thank you for this post and thank you for sharing your heart. I have been on both sides of this metaphor and can completely relate.

    I'm sorry for your struggles and hope that 2013 brings you the blessings you've been longing for.

  21. I found this post through Open Adoption Bloggers, and it's one of the best posts about infertility I've ever read (and I've read a lot). I have been on both sides - I struggled with infertility for several years before conceiving my son through IVF. I then went through many years of trying to have a second child before becoming a mom again through a domestic open adoption. Being a mom is tough - I've had dark days, many sleepless nights, intense frustration, anxiety, trips to the ER ... I could go on. But none of it compares to the deep sadness and despair I felt before becoming a mother - days when I really wasn't sure if it would happen or me. I am a mother, and nothing in this post made me feel like Erika thinks of me as "the enemy." It's clear through her writing that she doesn't view motherhood as some sort of cakewalk or that she thinks mothers don't have the right to complain. I get it because I've been there, and having been there, I am thankful. Very thankful that I have the privilege of having those exhausting, hard, frustrating days that I can complain about.

  22. This is such a beautifully written post, Erika, and I know it has meant a lot to a lot of women going through the same struggles as you. I am joining you from Natasha's blog today. I often struggle with what to say to friends suffering from feelings like these because I just feel like anything I say may do more harm than good. Just know that I do not take a single day of motherhood for granted! Praying that good things are coming soon and that you will soon know what all of this waiting was for!

  23. Such a beautifully written post. My husband and I have been TTC for over a year now. Just had HSG test performed and waiting on SA. I know our journey has not been as long as yours, but I understand how lonely the journey is. Feel free to see what we are up to over at "Life After the Wedding" :) Thank you again!

  24. Wow, I don't think this could be written/said more perfectly. I think you've embodied everything us infertiles are feeling this time of year. I will likely post a link to this post... Just so those out there who are so blessedly mothers can feel our side of things!

  25. Thank you for writing this. I found your blog through E, Myself and I. We are just starting this journey you've been on for a long time after a miscarriage earlier this year and now the uncovering of some possible other issues this month.

    I can relate to so much of this. Since my miscarriage I have found out that 12 friends are due between September (when I was due) and November. I literately have 2 friends that aren't pregnant or don't have kids at this point. And while yes, I want to go to their baby showers and first birthday parties, sometimes I also want to talk about something else.

    Thank you for your honesty.

  26. I've shared this with some friends, and they thanked me for shedding some light on my crazy infertility journey. You inspire me to look at things in a new way. I read this letter often, it makes me feel less alone. Thank you for being so candid, and always being so honest :)

  27. Erika, I haven't gone so far back in your blog since I'm a more recent follower but holy cow. This is so dead on. I hate it I hate it I hate it. I hated watching seeing class after class graduate and their lives go so perfectly as planned when there was no direct reason as to why I wasn't graduating!! I think I should have at least been in class of 2011 but class of 2014 is when they finally got things straightened out. I love watching you as a mom and I can feel your love for Millie. I am so glad our graduation date finally came <3


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