When people see me walking around these days, wrangling four boys through the shops, I often wonder if anybody could ever guess the real story. Would they suspect that several doctors once told me I was infertile, that I lost three babies, that I battled hormones and needles- and my faith– for almost four years before finally holding my firstborn in my arms?
Nobody could guess now, and not many people could guess back then- because we are all great at broadcasting our happiness, but often silent about our grief. Do we fear judgement, or shame? Could it be a weakness, to wrestle with our pain?
All I know is that there was nothing weak about fighting to keep my faith for nearly half a decade. It was the toughest, bravest thing I ever did. After each disappointment and negative test, after each loss and dead end, it took all my courage to keep believing.
At some stage early in the journey, I bought a little blue baby suit, and it became a totem. I would lay it out on the bed and imagine what it would be like to dress my child and lay him down in his bassinet.
I know it might sound strange, but for me, it was a symbol. As long as I had that little outfit, I still had hope. I was ready for him.
That’s not to say that there weren’t plenty of dark days. Many a time I marched outside and threw the little blue outfit into the bin. I was done. This was stupid. I didn’t care anymore. And then I’d be outside at 2am, rummaging through the rubbish, desperate to connect again with my little symbol of hope.
I know there are no guarantees in this game. One of my closest friends is currently going through fertility treatment and I understand. It has to be one of the toughest roads for a couple to travel on- a challenge against the very nature we were supposedly designed for. You carry on doing normal things like groceries and birthdays, while you silently rage war against the unknowns in your body… knowing that you also need to be at peace with the very real possibility that you might not win.
My own rollercoaster journey to motherhood wasn’t over at conception. Even the pregnancy was fraught with complications and I found myself in hospital several times, willing with every cell in my body for my baby to stay.
I remember one such night in hospital, after doctors had prepared me for the worst, holding vigil over my belly into the early hours of the morning, just talking to him- promising that I would teach him to kick a ball, and walk with him to school and dance with him at his wedding. I fell asleep with the little blue suit in my hands and a whole lot of hope in my heart. That’s all you have- in the absence of evidence, and against all common sense, there is always hope.
And then one day, twelve years ago- the war was finally over. There are no words of course, to describe the day he was born. There is no language to capture the immense gratitude or the overpowering love. Such cheap words, in the face of so much emotion.
The boys are now big and noisy and gross… but I still sleep with the little blue suit under my pillow. It serves as a reminder of the gift of motherhood, but even greater than that, the gift of hope. Regardless of what I may face in my life, all I need is a little something to hold on to.
Next year my firstborn will be a teenager, soon he’ll be a man. But he’ll always be my boy. Brought home from hospital in a little blue suit.
I dedicate this post to all women and men courageously fighting fertility battles; you are not alone.