By: Nancy Arroyo Ruffin
I was 34 when I decided that I wanted to have a baby. What seems to come so easily for some can be virtually impossible for others. We don’t realize this until we find ourselves playing the role of Sisyphus, trying desperately to push that rock up the mountain only to have it roll back down no matter how hard we try.
I never thought, once I decided to start a family, that it would be so difficult. Getting pregnant when you actually want to can be one of the most challenging and emotionally exhausting experiences one can face. Even more so when it seems everyone around you is getting pregnant without trying. I’ve seen many friends and family members become parents and I always wondered when my time would come. When would I be chosen to receive this blessing? I quickly realized that conceiving isn’t something we can control. We can assist the process, but we cannot make it happen.
Everything I’d read said most couples conceive within a year of trying. Lamar and I had been trying to conceive for two years with no success. We decided to see a fertility specialist because if there was a problem, we wanted to deal with it as soon as possible. We had the normal fertility tests done. I was ovulating regularly. I didn’t have any obstructions in my Fallopian tubes. I was perfectly healthy and so was he. Still, I couldn’t help but think “if I’m healthy, why can’t I get pregnant?”
Our doctor told us that sometimes there isn’t any scientific explanation. He said since we’d been trying so long to conceive our best chance for getting pregnant would be through intrauterine insemination. While this was not how we imagined conceiving, we were willing to do whatever was necessary to get pregnant. By the time we arrived to the doctor’s office for my first insemination mini-swimming pools had formed in my palms. Lamar held my hand and assured me that everything would be okay, that this was just a part of our journey. Trust God, he said.
The insemination process lasted less than 5 minutes. I was hopeful. I had no doubt that God would bless us with a child. I remember thinking about a quote from the author Paulo Coelho, “When you want something, the entire universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” I (we) wanted a child badly. It was my heart’s deepest desire and, because I wanted more than anything to be a mother, I just knew that the universe would reward me. It didn’t.
Every month I went through the same process and every month concluded with the same result, a negative pregnancy test. An uncontrollable anger swept over me. It taunted me like a pesky mosquito. The harder I tried to shoo it away the harder it came for me, taking hold of my sanity and turning me into someone that I didn’t recognize.
I began to doubt myself. I began losing confidence, I became jealous and I resented anyone who had a child. I compared myself to women who were less responsible than me, women who were not as established in their careers as I was, women who weren’t married yet had two, three, sometimes four children. I kept asking myself and God, why them and not me? What good is a woman that cannot give life? I felt I was unworthy, like there was no purpose to my existence despite all of my other accomplishments. The one thing that I wanted most I had no control over.
I felt alone because although Lamar was supportive, he had no clue what it felt like each month when I went to the bathroom and saw my dream of becoming a mother flow out of me. Every 28 days my womb purged itself, reminding me of the broken vessel that I was. No one understood what I was going through and I was tired of hearing, “just stay positive, it will happen”.
One day at a monthly support group meeting I expressed to the women how I was feeling. I told them how, despite all my efforts to remain positive and focused on my dream of becoming a mother, a part of me felt like it was never going to happen. I sat in that circle of women and cried like my soul had been wrenched from my body. Their quietness magnified my crying. They held my hands and listened to me. At the end of my sobbing one woman said to me “You must trust that it will happen. You must have faith that it will happen. You must believe that it will happen.”
That night I went home and wrote the following in my journal:
“Trust. Faith. Believe. Those are the words I got from tonight’s meeting. As I continue on this path of motherhood tonight will be the last night that I have any doubt. I will go to sleep tonight knowing that I AM A MOTHER. I will trust. I will have faith. I will believe.”
The next morning I awoke feeling differently. I felt at peace with myself and where I was in my journey. Even more than that, my inner voice was prodding me to take a pregnancy test. I was a few days late on my period, my breasts felt tender, and I had been unusually tired. I made my way into the bathroom, took the test, and waited. I’d taken pregnancy tests before, but there was something different about taking it this time. I was calm. I didn’t feel anxious like I did previous times. Without looking at the test my heart already knew what the result was. I reached over to the window sill where I had placed the digital pregnancy test and in bold black lettering was the word, “pregnant”. I let out a loud shriek and ran into my bedroom to tell Lamar. Before I could get the words out my eyes welled up. The levies in my tear ducts had shattered and there was no holding them back. Tears flooded down my cheeks. I couldn’t contain my happiness. The joy filled every part of my body. After 6 insemination cycles our dream of becoming pregnant came true.
I called my doctor to schedule my first prenatal appointment. During our first visit the doctor performed a transvaginal ultrasound and confirmed that I was indeed pregnant. He said that my pregnancy hormone levels were a bit low, but he was confident that they would increase. At my second appointment my hormone levels were up and we were able to see the baby’s heartbeat. I was 6 weeks along. Lamar and I were the happiest we’d been in a long time. He was taking excellent care of me, doting over me, not wanting to cause me any stress. I enjoyed every minute of it. All the time I spent focusing on getting pregnant, I didn’t realize that getting pregnant was only half the battle. The other half was making sure that I carried full-term and gave birth to a healthy baby. I was so consumed with just being pregnant that I lost sight of the bigger picture.
As I was ending my 8th week I noticed some spotting when I went to the bathroom. The spotting continued for a couple of days, but was followed with uncontrollable bleeding and cramping. My heart was heavy. I was no longer able to deny what the doctor had told us at my last prenatal visit. I was miscarrying. I crumbled to the floor and laid in the bathroom as our baby poured out of me. The blood came like booming waves, an unending attack in my uterus exploding into pieces amongst the fractured fragments of my dying faith. I’d never imagined I wouldn’t carry to term. I felt numb inside. I was dead. I cursed God and what he was doing to me. What God would place a life in my womb to only take it from me? I felt like someone was playing a cruel joke on me.
I locked myself in my bedroom for the entire week that it took for nature to take its course. I refused to see or talk to anyone. I was in mourning. God had placed the baby in my arms and then snatched it from me. I was broken and did not know how to begin repairing the shattered pieces of me that remained. I needed time.
“It has been said time heals all wounds. I do not agree. The wounds remain. In time, the mind protecting its sanity covers them with scar tissue and the pain lessens, but it’s never gone” – Rose Kennedy
It has been 3 years since I lost my baby. Emotionally, I am in a better place now. I no longer blame God or myself for the loss. I am healthy and happy. On July 27th I will celebrate my daughter’s 2nd birthday. While we may never understand why certain things happen, the miscarriage taught me that sometimes bad things happen in order to make way for greater things.
Nancy Arroyo Ruffin is an award winning author and motivational speaker. A Latina of Puerto Rican descent, she is the author of Welcome to Heartbreak & Letters to My Daughter, Latino Literacy Now’s 2014 International Latino Book Award Finalist for Best Poetry Book. She currently resides in Bergenfield, NJ with her husband and their daughter.