Trigger Warning: This story contains mention of miscarriage that may be triggering to some.
“’God did not abandon you.’ I whispered this to myself while standing in a dirty bathroom giving myself a shot in the stomach. Trying to keep a needle sterile in a college stall wasn’t how I imagined I would go about making a baby. It was surreal. It was all wrong. And I felt guilty.
Having kids was always a given. Growing up, I had NO idea what I wanted to do. All I knew for sure was that it would involve a big family. When it took us nearly three years to conceive, I was starting to get scared. Seeing those two lines confirming a pregnancy was the best feeling. When I went on to have virtually no symptoms for 14 weeks, I just thought I was one of those lucky magic unicorn moms who have easy pregnancies. The miscarriage that followed was one of the most painful and traumatic experiences of my life (but that’s a whole other story). Two years later and still no baby, a very unexpected feeling started to take hold of my life: guilt. It would sit in me and grow for years. Establishing deep and thick roots that would overtake any good feelings trying to grow. Questions like, ‘When are you two going to start having kids?’ took on a life of their own. I would usually say something like, ‘I don’t know, we’ll see,’ and change the subject. But inside, I would have full conversations with people. Trying to justify their questioning and redeem my guilt for not being able to have a baby like every other normal person. I know now that conception isn’t just a given for people.
So after five years and one miscarriage, guilt hitched a ride while my husband and I decided to try IVF. After all the testing and talking, we stepped into our doctor’s huge office and listened while he let us know we had a one in a million shot of ever conceiving on our own. He drew us pictures on his notepad trying to explain what needed to happen for us to have a healthy pregnancy. And then he told us that wouldn’t likely happen. So we did what many desperate, baby hungry couples do; we saved what we could, opened credit cards and asked the bank for money. When you’re 24 and dreaming of a house full of babies you’ve been told you can’t have, the ticking clock is incessant. If we wanted a baby, we had to try NOW.
Thoughts about that conversation with our doctor is what led to a small breakdown standing in the bathroom that night while injecting myself. I felt lonely. I felt a little crazy. And I felt unworthy. Unworthy of motherhood. But just as quickly as those feelings would rush on, I would stuff them down and lose myself in the excitement of knowing that we had a 70% shot at success. We were finally (probably) going to have a baby. The next few months are such a blur. I don’t remember the day to day. Instead, I remember those 11 months in snapshots. Getting a phone call in Costco that we were this close to being approved for our loan. Pleading my case between the vitamins and toothpaste. ‘Please. This is our best shot at a baby. We’re young. We can’t wait until we’re more financially stable.’
Then weekly blood draws. Sitting on the grass between Spanish and Political Science classes on the phone with multiple pharmacies to order my meds. Nausea and mood swings from those meds. Being taught how to inject into my muscle with a needle the size of Texas. Teaching my aunt how to inject me on nights my husband wasn’t home to do it. The subsequent limping and pain I experienced from injecting in the wrong place. Worry. Crying. Elated. Sick.
Getting a picture of the two perfect embryos that would be implanted. Handing the final check to the anesthesiologist right before ‘the procedure.’ Then loneliness and more guilt. My husband was on a work trip during implantation. A work trip vital in helping to pay for this procedure. Conception shouldn’t have to be done without your spouse. This may sound bad, but I don’t even remember who was there with me that day. Was it my mom? Maybe my sister. I don’t know. My husband wasn’t there and that’s what I remember. And throughout it all, guilt was widening its roots.
The day we saw those two pink lines appear we were ecstatic. The wait to officially confirm our pregnancy via ultrasound and heartbeat was nothing short of torture. But when we heard the heartbeats it was all worth it. Seeing two babies where emptiness used to sit was like being able to release a huge breath. We had babies. We were chosen to be their parents. I felt connected to them immediately. I was validated, justified. Motherhood was mine for the taking.
Morning sickness hit me almost immediately and I found comfort in it. Everything about this pregnancy was right. From coffee and chicken being the most disgusting smells to extreme fatigue. We told people almost immediately. A couple of people commented that maybe we should have waited to announce until after that first trimester, and the guilt tightened its hold a little more. Once it became obvious I was carrying more than one baby, the public commentary was constant. I could hardly go shopping without someone asking about my belly. I didn’t mind it at all. Once people had their twin theory confirmed though, there was one question that would be a constant theme. ‘Are they natural?’ Which really means, ‘Did you make these twins by yourself, or did you need help?’ The first time I heard that question, it popped my little happy bubble. Even though I was a mom now, I couldn’t run from the fact that nature, or God, never intended me to be one. It wouldn’t matter that we filled our house with two of everything. Cribs, swings, bouncers, boppy’s, and bottles. People would always wonder if they were ‘natural.’ And in the back of my mind, I wondered if motherhood was really something I should be doing.
These days, IVF doesn’t feel as taboo. With the social media explosion there’s so much information, so many support groups, and so many people telling their stories. I’m not sure I would have felt the same guilt if those things had been in easy supply 10 years ago. I dug into all the blogs of course. I joined the baby center community where you could join a group perfectly curated for your situation. Other moms due at the same time as me having twins via IVF. But these weren’t public groups. No one else was cheering you on. And most of the discussions were centered around people complaining about their mother in law or other family members. Or asking questions more suited for a doctor to answer. No one brought up guilt. I felt very alone and really ridiculous for feeling anything but extreme gratitude, so I kept it to myself.
My boys are now 9 years old. I’ve discovered Instagram (was it a thing 10 years ago)? Now you can get lost in people’s stories. You can watch their life unfold like a movie. There’s endless amounts of information and support if you seek it out. But STILL—I never hear anyone talk about the guilt. Maybe I missed it somewhere, maybe it isn’t common to feel this way, or MAYBE people just don’t talk about it. So let’s talk about it. First, why the guilt? Because NOT being able to conceive on our own felt like a punishment for something. No one (that I know of) in my family has an issue having babies. Having kids was a given. I knew nothing about infertility. Once we knew this was going to be an issue for us, I started reading and listening to people’s stories. And a lot of them talked about having faith and answered prayers. They talked about the calling of motherhood. They talked about adoption. They talked about finding purpose outside of children. Then we decided to do IVF and I looked up more information. Now I was reading about people’s choice NOT to do IVF. They talked about the ethical and morality issues. They talked about going against God’s will. They talked about all the kids who needed a home. But it was too late. We were all in. I was in a bathroom with a needle and I never stopped to think about the bigger picture. But if I had, I’m not sure my boys would be here, and that idea is inconceivable.
So where did we go wrong? Did we not pray enough? Our faith wasn’t strong enough. We weren’t good enough. We weren’t healthy enough. We weren’t responsible enough. These questions poisoned a lot of happiness for so many years. And then there’s the time when the blogger who I had been reading for years suddenly decided to weigh in on the IVF debate. They said it was unChristian. And lacked faith. I was listening to the blogger talk while watching my boys toddle around the front yard. More poison. If my boys were sick or struggling with something, I wondered if this was a curse they would have to endure because they weren’t meant to be here. I wondered about their future and their purpose. When they were babies and toddlers, the questions about how they came to be didn’t stop. There’s something about twins that make people stare and ask questions. And even though I understood the curiosity, every question about their origin made me wonder if we had made a mistake. It’s not something that’s fun to talk or think about. The fact that I could question my children’s inherent purpose and worth all on its own caused more guilt. Now, 9 years into their life. I know that their worth and identity is defined by Christ. I know they were known and loved before they were here. I know their lives have meaning and purpose. But it haunts me that I ever took that value away from them, even a little bit. I had been setting them up to be measured against an impossible standard. They were going to have to prove their worth to assuage my own misplaced guilt. Thank God I’ve come through that. But what if there’s someone who hasn’t?
Look, no matter how your child/ren got here, your child is a gift from God. There’s NO OTHER way to define them. No matter who birthed them, where they’re from, what you went through, what THEY went through, or what anyone says. YOU are their mother and YOU are the best place for them. Their life was ordained by God and that’s all that really matters. I know that guilt doesn’t always care about facts. It starts as an idea and then twists and turns until it’s a gnarled tree in your soul that everything else needs to push through before it gets sunlight. Sometimes, when I have those really hard days, that horrible thought still creeps in. ‘The reason this is so hard is because you were never meant to do this. You’re going to have to work harder if you want to be a good mom.’ I know that it might be awhile before you can finally pull out every last root and keep them from growing back. But as soon as it starts growing again, cut it back and give sunlight and attention to the beauty that’s growing in your family.
The twist in my story is that when my boys were just 5 months old, we got a surprise. I was pregnant again. This time with a beautiful girl. She joined our family the next year and it couldn’t have been a more perfect story. But regardless of your story, whether you’re in the beginning or halfway through—take this from mine; everyone’s story is different. We all have different experiences. Some of you went through multiple IVF fails before one worked. Some of you are still trying. Some of you will adopt. But no matter HOW your child got here, know this: There’s nothing wrong with you. Motherhood is yours for the taking.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Rachel DeMello from Brighton, Colorado. You can follow her journey on Instagram. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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