Sunday, March 15, 2015

The Other Fertility Challenge

Last week, Isaiah asked me if I could pray to have a baby.  If he knew how far I am from needing divine intervention in such matters, he'd be even more confused than he already is.  The question isn't really, can I have a baby, but, should I?

At church, he's a brand-new Sunbeam, and sometimes I end up in Junior Primary for long enough to observe him bobbing up and down on the front row.  Hearing his, and his colleagues' irrelevant remarks throughout the lesson is my favorite thing ever--"I like dinosaurs!"--but once in awhile it seems that something sinks in.  Isaiah somehow absorbed the story of Abraham and Sarah's miraculous triumph over infertility in their old age...because they prayed.

Isaiah is done with diapers, done with nursery, and absolutely done with one hundred hugs and kisses per day.  He is the youngest of five, and the oldest child I've ever had without a younger sibling in tow.  Every baby I see makes me pine for one of my own.  So Isaiah's question came at an interesting moment for me.  How could I explain to a three-year-old why I'm not going to have a baby, when I really do want one?  After the question was posed three or four times, I came up with, "Because babies cry all night and that makes me grumpy all day."

Of course, there's more to it than that.  "Grumpy" is a euphemism for "chemically imbalanced" or maybe even "unfit to care for children."  But let us proceed.

The older kids on hearing this were surprised that such a small thing could stand between me and the incomparable blessing of another child.  "Mom, you don't have to worry about that!  We'll take care of the baby at night so you can sleep!"

"I don't think that would work," I smiled, and the conversation moved on.  But part of my brain kept going on that derailed train.  They're home schooled.  They get their work done in under four hours each day.  And two of them would be teenagers by then.  They could totally take nights.  And maybe, with a decent nights' sleep, I could be functional!

At which point the logical part of my brain started shouting appalled exclamations about fulfilling everyone's worst stereotypes of home school families.  And I came away surprised at what stretches of the imagination I am willing to indulge--in order to picture myself with another baby.

Fertility is a double-edged sword.  My own sister struggled with infertility for years before giving birth to her son.  Countless couples pour out their hearts to God for year after year as they await the blessing of children.  I honor them.  Their struggles are real.  Their heartache is impossible to comprehend for those of us who have never experienced it.  And their faith is marvelous to witness.

Comparatively speaking, the other end of the fertility spectrum is a good place to be.  But I'm here to say that it can be difficult, too.  Those of us who conceive easily have the dreadful responsibility of deciding when the godly powers of procreation should, and shouldn't be employed. And it's a decision we face over and over again.  Whether, and when to bear children is a question TJ and I have prayed and pondered over extensively: with each one of our five children, we've felt sure that the Lord blessed our decision to give birth.   It still took a lot of faith to grow our family when we were still getting school and employment figured out.  It has stretched me personally more than I can say, to bring children into the world when my own mental health was in the balance.

There are two lists always running in my mind.  The things that contribute to depression, and the things that alleviate depression.  Having babies goes on both lists.

But the Lord never lets us put him in our debt, and for every leap of faith, we have had blessings showered on our family.  We are so happy together.  There are times I watch the kids playing together on a sunny day in the back yard, and I ask myself, "Who am I to deny these blessings to another child who may wish to join this family?"

But there are other times.  Times when, as happy and healthy as my kids are, I can see them only through the veil that chronic depression puts over the mind. My condition colors everything.  It impairs my abilities to sense the true nature of our family, convinces me that I am failing in my mission as a mother, and introduces friction into relationships with those I love most.  Sometimes, I count the hours until bedtime so I can cry myself to sleep.  These are the times when I hope with all my heart that the Lord will not ask any more from me.

Does clinical depression make me an unfit mother?  No.  God's grace has provided my children with everything they need, in spite of my deficiencies.  And if it were truly His will for us to welcome another child into our family, he would enable me to do it well.  It's knowing whether He wants this for our family that is the tough part.  So I am trying very hard to hear the Lord's voice on this one.  TJ and I have been counseling and praying.  I've been talking to friends and family.  And of course, I've spent a lot of time studying God's word.  One dear friend shared this quote with me from an amazing talk given by Richard G. Scott:

Our Heavenly Father did not put us on earth to fail but to succeed gloriously...He is our perfect Father. He loves us beyond our capacity to understand. He knows what is best for us. He sees the end from the beginning. He wants us to act to gain needed experience:
When He answers yes, it is to give us confidence.
When He answers no, it is to prevent error.
When He withholds an answer, it is to have us grow through faith in Him, obedience to His commandments, and a willingness to act on truth. We are expected to assume accountability by acting on a decision that is consistent with His teachings without prior confirmation. We are not to sit passively waiting or to murmur because the Lord has not spoken. We are to act.
Most often what we have chosen to do is right. He will confirm the correctness of our choices His way. That confirmation generally comes through packets of help found along the way. We discover them by being spiritually sensitive. They are like notes from a loving Father as evidence of His approval. If, in trust, we begin something which is not right, He will let us know before we have gone too far. We sense that help by recognizing troubled or uneasy feelings.
I love to get answers and directions from Heavenly Father because it gives so much peace--especially in major life decisions.  But there have been times when I've had to act on a best guess and rely on His promise that He will let me know before I go too far in any one direction.  And for now, that direction can be traveled in our seven-passenger mini-van.

That is, unless Isaiah prays for a miracle of his own.  


The Bailey Family said...

I love this post so much! You express where you are with such clarity, and you've given a voice to those on "the other side" of the fertility challenge. And I love the quote! I am going to print that out and have it somewhere I can read it often. So clear!

Ruthann Wheeler said...

I understand your dilemma and I think it is very much a personal decision. As I'm sure you remember from your time here in Lyman, that Jason and I had differing ideas on the perfect size of our family. I felt strongly that we should have the first 4, but after my 4th I did not think I was able to do anther. Her pregnancy and infancy were so difficult for me I did not think I could do it again.

Here I have to put in a side note, I am amazing at your ability to provide for 5 children (and considering more), while still struggling with the demands of your illness. I do not suffer from depression and still have days when I feel like crying myself to sleep. The demands of each child sometimes seem insurmountable.

Back to my story, I told everyone that we were finished and that we would not be having any more. However in the times between changing diapers, going to school activities, etc in which I had a few quite moments to myself I continued to get an impression that we were not done. I wrestled with this feeling for over 3 years, not wanting to say anything to Jason when I had already said we were done.

Finally I asked Jason how he felt about having another, not able to deny the promptings that came so strongly at that point.

Anyway to end the story we got our fifth. He is a wonderful addition to our family.

After he came I had confirmation that he was to be the last. Although I am still sometimes sad that I will not have any more babies, it is different from the distinct prompting of the past.

I don't know that this helps you with your decision, but I thought it would give you another perspective.

Karen Dick said...

Thanks so much, Georgia! I wrote this post mostly to figure out my own feelings, and I really had to breathe deeply when I went to post it! It's hard to find the line between sharing and over-sharing. I love that quote, too. It helped me so much as a young adult, and having a friend recall it to my memory at this time was pretty cool. Also, thanks for sharing on FB. Love you.