What is one of the best gifts your child can receive? It’s not a toy that stimulates imagination or creativity. It’s not a game or a bike or even music or sports lessons. I believe that one of the best gifts a child can receive is a sibling. And this is not a gift that a parent can always choose to give…as secondary infertility is on the rise.
I grew up as an only child for most of my childhood. When my parents first had me, they were happy with just having one child. They were nominal Catholics at the time in Poland. When I was about 5 or 6 years old, they were saved and saw children as a blessing from God. They decided they wanted more. But, it didn’t happen. My mom had unexplained secondary infertility and she was never able to conceive again. She was only 18 when I was born, so she still had many childbearing years ahead of her, but for some unexplained reason, her womb was closed.
I have a lot of good memories from childhood, but I also remember feeling lonely and wanting another sibling. Preferably a sister. Preferably close to my age. Even better, a twin. Sometimes in my imagination, I pretended that I had a twin sister. We had some good family friends and a wonderful home fellowship that I attended with many children and I enjoyed playing with them. But much of the time, at home, I was lonely. I played with Lego and made crafts…by myself. I remember seeing ads for sponsoring children. They showed all these African children and I so badly wanted one. I was disappointed when I found out that sponsoring doesn’t mean you get to bring one of those children home.
Many of my friends were homeschoolers and came from larger families. I wished so much to have siblings and as I got older I dreamed of one day getting married, having lots of children and homeschooling them.
When I was 12 years old my parents became foster parents. We started having children in our home. It was challenging and fun in different ways although most of the children we had stayed for shorter periods of time. Then, one day when I was 16 years old we received these little fellows:
And they stayed. In fact, my parents adopted them.
So then I acquired 3 brothers. Receiving 3 brothers at once as a teenager is different than growing up with siblings close in age all your childhood.
So anyways, moving ahead I ended up getting married to my wonderful husband. Knowing about my own mother’s struggle with fertility, I wondered if I would have struggles in that area. I hoped not.
Looking back we didn’t have much trouble getting pregnant with Malachi. However, at the time I was already getting worried when it didn’t happen in the first few months that we wanted it to. We were so happy to have a baby! Becoming a mother truly changed my life and I was overjoyed with the love that comes with having a baby. When Malachi was 9 months old we got pregnant again! I was a bit surprised at how quickly that came about, and figured that I wouldn’t have the same struggles with fertility as my mom experienced. However, at 12 weeks into that pregnancy, we lost our precious baby. It happened while we were on our trip in Poland. It was a terrible experience. For some time after we lost the baby I just felt in a state of shock. I couldn’t believe that it really happened. It all happened at the end of our trip to Poland. There was a whirlwind of activity. We lost the baby and we still had a few days left to visit with family there. It all felt so unreal. But then the sorrow sunk in and I had to deal with all the emotions that came with it. There was sadness and anger and thinking of all the things that I could have done differently that maybe could have prevented it. Maybe if I had not flown on a plane while in my first trimester…maybe if I hadn’t pushed myself to stay up late every night and visit and walk around everywhere so much….maybe if I hadn’t changed my diet drastically from being (at the time) gluten-free at home to eating gluten every day in Poland….maybe if…And so I wondered about the maybe’s and of course blamed myself for not being more this or more that to prevent the miscarriage. But anyways, it happened and there was no undoing of it. At least I had my very supportive and caring husband with me through this as well as my parents who were with us on this trip.
Now, before this miscarriage happened I remembered reading an article in a women’s magazine about how right after a miscarriage you are the most fertile you can be because of all the pregnancy hormones still running through your body. I had told this fact to some of my friends who had miscarried and they all got pregnant right away again. I was pretty sure that this would happen to us too, that we would just get pregnant again right away. I wasn’t prepared for the year-long wait that lay ahead.
We came back to Canada and I didn’t get pregnant right away. Or soon after. The months went by.I started to worry and panic on the inside. I was so scared of having secondary infertility. I really desired for Malachi to have siblings. In my worrying I would pray. I took fertility-friendly supplements and tried to eat a healthy diet. I would also do google searches for “secondary infertility” and read other people’s stories of not being able to conceive again. This wasn’t an encouraging activity. I also read articles online about parenting an only child. They suggested things such as: you’ll need to organize more playdates with friends because your child won’t have siblings to play with. You’ll need to play with your child a lot more, because they’ll be lonely. It made me sad. I would go to the park with Malachi and notice all the moms of 1 and 2 year old toddlers who were pregnant with their second. Meanwhile, a lot of my close friends were getting pregnant or having babies during that year. My Facebook news feed was flooded with pregnancy updates, birth announcements and baby photos. Every month that went by where I found out that I wasn’t pregnant I would cry. I wanted another baby oh, so badly.
Finally, I had to release my fears of infertility to the Lord.
And then, we conceived! We were so overjoyed to see the two pink lines on the pregnancy test. Finally, after all the tears, all the prayers and that long year of waiting I was blessed with the desire of my heart!
Looking back, I know that a year isn’t really that long to wait. But it seemed terribly long at the time. Looking back, I wish I hadn’t been so distressed about it. But hindsight is 20/20.
I have some friends who struggle with fertility, a lot more than I ever did. Although I didn’t struggle with it as long as they have, I feel like I can empathise with the struggle. It’s real. And saying trifling comments about it doesn’t help.
Children truly are a blessing from the Lord. I love seeing the large families around here who are blessed with many children. I love seeing the siblings being best friends with each other, encouraging each other and being like “iron that sharpens iron”. I love how large families work together and play together within the varying age ranges of the siblings. We want to home school our children, so my hope is that my children will be best friends with each rather than needing others to be their best friends.
In the public-school mentality, siblings are seen as annoying. You have friends with kids that are your age and in your classroom. My hope and prayer is that our home will be a centre for friendship and security for our family, and that our children can learn and grow together, spurning each other on to do great things for God’s glory.