I am so happy to introduce a special guest blogger to Like Mother Like Daughter. Cheryl Crocker is one of my closest friends, a teacher extraordinaire in small town Saskatchewan, and an amazing wife and mother. She wrote this piece following an extremely challenging time that she and her family recently experienced. Welcome Cheryl!
Because I have had a fairly privileged life that’s been full of many blessings, not being able to provide my daughter with a sibling has been harder on me than it should. 16 months of infertility wasn’t easy – it was actually the hardest thing I had ever experienced until I recently miscarried. Just when we thought we had come out of a tough season of life, miscarrying at 12 weeks, quite frankly, kicked the crap right out of me.
Walking away from this experience without learning anything or growing in who I am would be a missed opportunity to turn a bad situation into something good. Truth be told, I am still working on believing my own words in this article, but nevertheless, here are a few of the lessons I’m learning:
1. You are not in control of every aspect of your life. You may have goals, a ‘five-year-plan’, or maybe even a life map. Maybe like me, after having your first baby, you bought a big old van to fill it up with little soccer players. You may have life all figured out, but you need to know that there are ‘controllables’ and ‘uncontrollables’ in life. It’s great to have goals, but are they the right kind? For example, you can decide to get a Master’s Degree (controllable), but you can’t dictate sunny weather when you finally get to the school break and need a holiday (uncontrollable).
I haven’t always been aware of the ‘controllables’ and ‘uncontrollables’ in my life and I have put pressure on the wrong outcomes. I cannot control conception. I have read article after article, used ovulation kits, tried fertility acupuncture, took all kinds of vitamins, and pretty much tried to stand on my head to help out gravity. None of it worked. And it’s not my fault.
If you don’t have control over the situation, how can you possibly blame yourself or beat yourself up over it?
2. There is no perfect formula with age, dates, and gaps when it comes to creating a family. Because I work in a high school, I’ve had the privilege of getting to know many families. Some of my students are one of a dozen siblings or are only children. Some have siblings that are 15 years older or are Irish Twins. Some have parents who are in their 70s and some kids I taught are already parents themselves (talk about feeling old). What I’ve noticed is that as long as there is a healthy love at the centre of the family, age and dates don’t matter at all. We are all different and are not made to be formulaic stick-figure stickers on the back of car windows.
Creating a perfect family for the sake of looking good on a Christmas card will not bring you happiness.
3. Just like we shouldn’t be proud of something we can’t take credit for, we shouldn’t beat ourselves up over something out of our control. Have you ever met someone who is genuinely proud of themselves for being tall? Could they be any more annoying? It’s like they think they actually did something admirable to deserve their height. If you’re beaming from ear to ear over creating a child, that’s great. But really, all you did was have sex. You participated in one of the most primal rituals humans can perform. It’s not that difficult. Miraculously, one little sperm found one little egg. Be happy, thankful, delighted and overjoyed that you created life, but don’t become full of pride over producing a child. This has the potential to hurt others and make them feel responsible that they couldn’t achieve what you have.
Be proud of things you have input on like the kind of character traits your child shows, completing a Tough Mudder, or getting a Bachelor’s Degree, but don’t be proud that a sperm found its way up the fallopian tubes – that was a gift from God and not of your doing.
4. When others complain about their kids and how hectic their lives are, be patient. It’s really annoying when people gripe all over social media about how difficult their lives are. It’s even harder when you desperately want the life that they seemingly hate. Just remember that there may come a time that the thing you wanted most in life (a baby) is the one thing depleting all the joy and energy you ever had. If you’re married, think back to a time when you were single and convinced that marital bliss was never going to happen for you. As you know now, marriage is great, but not every minute of every day. Or, maybe like me, you never thought that adopting the world’s cutest golden retriever puppy would lead to waking up daily with dog hair stuck in your throat and dirty paw marks on your white bedspread. We all have to take the bad with the good.
Now that you’ve got what you wanted, you can see how easy it is to take it for granted. We all seem to believe that the grass is greener on the other side.
5. People will say stupid, hurtful things to you. Some people didn’t mean to hurt you. Others won’t have a clue how much their off-the-cuff comment hurt. And then there are some people who don’t have friends for a reason. My own mother didn’t start asking about upcoming grandchildren until about month 13 of trying, whereas an acquaintance bluntly asked me if I was too old to have kids. I was insulted on a few levels. Apparently I’m infertile and looking a bit rough. When we get hurt, we need to find a way to let it go rather than holding onto the comments with clenched fists. I get it, you’re mad and you want to stay mad, but harboring even more hurt will not help you heal.
And, don’t forget: there will come a time when you too put your foot in your mouth and will need forgiveness.
6. When someone offers help, take it. A few days after miscarrying, I ended up in the ER and had to have an emergency D and C. Due to very low hemoglobin levels post-surgery, I was incredibly weak. I like to picture myself as a tough person, but taking a shower was enough to put me back into bed. I had 100 emotions running through me and not enough energy to even process them. I fortunately live and work in the best community in the country (maybe even the world), so friends, family and students brought meals, flowers, cards, and candy. They took my daughter out for play dates, phoned or left notes, and helped clean up my house. It was a very humbling experience to shamelessly take help, but I needed it.
Don’t let pride keep you from letting people in. Let people love you.
7. Don’t stop life while trying to conceive. I had one pair of jeans for a whole year. Why? Because I thought, ‘These won’t fit as soon as I get pregnant’. I avoided joining exercise classes or committing to almost anything. Why? Because I said to myself, ‘I’ll have morning sickness soon’. Everything I did revolved around conception and it created rules and regulations that put me and my family into a box scheduled around ovulation.
Don’t stop life while trying to create one.
8. Don’t give up on hope. Life without hope and purpose is a very dark, deep hole to get stuck in. It is good to mourn and it’s ok to live life in a bit of a fog for a while, but once you are ready, do whatever you can to get out of it. You must keep hope and not let in the opposing, destructive force of worry.
Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness. -Desmond Tutu
Cheryl is an English teacher at a private Christian high school. She is married to a very busy husband, has a rambunctious ‘threenager’, and a disobedient (yet loyal) golden retriever. All this combined creates a perfect, chaotic life.