“Life shrinks and expands in proportion to one’s courage.” ~Anais Nin
Many people have told me that I am a brave person. Mostly though, I think I just play the cards I’m dealt.
When I was twenty-one years old, I had a stroke. In a single moment, everything I had ever taken for granted about my health and about my youth flew right out the window. I felt truly vulnerable for the first time in my young life and it scared the bejesus out of me.
Following a full recovery, that fear quickly turned into intense bitterness and anger that stayed with me for months afterward. I felt an incessant need to regain control of even the smallest and most inconsequential things in my life, almost as if to prove to myself I was still there.
I was miserable and I made everyone else in my life who cared about me miserable with me. It was a rough time.
By hook or by crook, though, I finally realized that constantly punishing myself and those around me wouldn’t change the fact that my body had failed or that the failure had left deep scars. The only thing I could change was me, in the face of it all.
My stroke had affected me negatively, I knew that. A year after it happened, I decided that I needed to make it count for something positive too. I needed to learn something good from it all. Otherwise, what was the point?
So I did.
I learned that life is full of things I can’t control and that believe it or not, this is okay.
I learned that “bad things” don’t “only happen to bad people.”
I learned to accept help when I need it and not to isolate myself in pain.
I learned to genuinely respect and empathize with the personal struggles of others.
I learned to never to give up on myself.
I carried these lessons with me through my twenties, all the while aware of how much bigger of a person I felt I had become as a result of them. I ended up carrying them all the way to the infertility clinic eight years later.
If you don’t know, infertility and miscarriage are awful. Together, they are crippling.
You have no idea how many times my hands cradled my head in despair as I leaned against bathroom countertops, physician’s desks, exam tables, the steering wheel of my car, pre-op room gurneys. I barely have an idea. It was too many to count, too many to even remember.
My stellar husband, David, and I just wanted a family. We couldn’t fathom why it was all so hard.
In the span of six years, he and I supported one another through three intrauterine inseminations, two in-vitro fertilization cycles, two frozen embryo transfer cycles, four pregnancies, and three miscarriages. It was a long, difficult journey.
However, one very special little one, our daughter Molly, made it into the world and into our arms. We were amazed and overjoyed at her safe arrival then and are so grateful now for all the love and joy she has brought to our family ever since.
Our second child, Molly’s future baby brother or sister, is out there somewhere too. But he/she won’t be joining our family through the same means that we were gifted Molly. We are most definitely done with fertility treatments.
David and I have chosen Open Adoption to complete our family and we couldn’t be more excited.
We have yet to find the birth parent(s) with whom we will share our family and whose incredible child we will love and cherish with our whole hearts. But already, the tenderness and gratitude we feel in anticipation of this little one and his/her birth family is limitless and has no bounds.
Our experience of infertility and miscarriage was devastatingly difficult, but it was also good. I made it count. Again. We achieved Molly and discovered the beauty of Open Adoption. I also learned. A lot.
I’ve learned to be honest with myself. Always.
I’ve learned to honor the desires of my heart with no apology.
I’ve learned how empowered I feel when I take care of myself.
I’ve learned to make space in my life for my direction to change in ways I can’t anticipate.
And last, but not least, I’ve learned that the best things in life are worth waiting for.
I am a better person for all I’ve learned. I definitely know it’s made me a better mom, a more patient mom, a more connected mom. I will always be grateful for that.
We’ve all been through a lot, no doubt about it. But it’s what we do with our feelings and challenges that define us, not the experiences themselves.
I encourage you to find some time today or tomorrow when you can be completely alone with your thoughts. It can be while taking a walk or a run, lying in bed at night right before sleep, or sitting somewhere beautiful that deeply resonates with you. It doesn’t matter.
Look at your hands in front of you. Imagine that they gently hold each of the problems you are faced with, the worries, and the fears of the day. Accept them.
Then ask yourself:
Has this experience taught me anything about what makes me a strong person?
Has it taught me anything about my weak spots and how I can make them stronger?
Have I learned anything new about what I want or need to be happy and fulfilled?
Have I learned anything valuable about the people in my life and how I can make those relationships better?
Did I learn anything about life that will help and inspire me going forward?
How can I begin to apply these lessons starting now?
How can I help others with the lessons I’ve learned?
Dare to be honest with yourself. You’ll be amazed at what you come up with.
No regrets image via Shutterstock