Updated: Jan 8, 2021
Norah was a gift. I'm sure many parent feels that way at some magical moment in their parenting journey, but for us it’s a little different. Endometriosis is a disorder in which tissue that normally lines the uterus grows outside the uterus and can be found on the ovaries, fallopian tubes or the intestines. This disorder has wrecked havoc on my ovaries for the better part of a decade causing secondary infertility. When Sam and I united our families we each brought a daughter from a previous marriage with us. We dreamed of what it would be like to raise a child together without the burden of split households and custody arrangements. The reality was that because of my condition we might never see that come to fruition. We accepted this early on in our relationship and focused on cherishing the children we had.
Needless to say when you’re a young couple the questions people plague you with are always about children and marriage. Unbeknownst to them the topic was like a dagger to the heart. Every time someone would ask us when we planned to have one of our own inside I was screaming. But that's certainly not a polite response and so instead I would smile politely *grimace* and remind them we already had two children to be grateful for *awkward smile*. When you suffer from infertility and are hounded by the inquisition of whether or not you're "trying" it makes you feel like a failure. That’s certainly not the intent, but that’s the emotional response it triggers. It’s not logical, it’s just a consuming sorrow that cries out to be acknowledged. So you do and then you tuck it away and move forward. This tragedy was made that much more real for us also carrying the burden that Sam is the last male in his lineage to carry on the family name. We are Italian, it’s a big deal! So pretty much the consensus was no pressure, buuuuuut hurry up and have a baby already! Little did they know...
During my struggle with endometriosis I was getting internal ultrasounds every six weeks to document the cycle of the massive cysts growing inside my ovaries, playing with medication every few months, and so my body was on a roller coaster ride of hormonal changes. It got to a point where I felt more like a science experiment than a woman and enough was enough. After a particularly frustrating appointment I went home in tears and told Sam, “I’m done.” This wasn’t helping me get any better and the stress was making my symptoms worse. That day I decided no more ultrasounds, no more poking and prodding, no more medication, just NO. I committed to caring for myself through a more natural approach. I decided to stop taking birth control, so that my body could try to come back to whatever it’s “normal” looked like and start from there. Normally when you make the decision to come off birth control you accept the inherit risk of pregnancy. For us, this wasn't entirely the same because of my infertility struggle. I only had one fully functioning ovary at that point, so we decided to leave it up to the universe. If we were meant to bear a child together then we would and if it never came to pass then it wasn’t meant to be. At no point did we consider ourselves to be “trying” to have a baby. We were simply going to live our life together for the beautiful adventure that it was.
With that weight lifted we moved forward. My symptoms gradually decreased as I worked through different methods of treating my condition holistically. We planned our wedding and got married on a crisp September afternoon in the most enchanting forest before a roaring fire. We slipped away to Scotland for three weeks for our honeymoon and it was like a dream. Life was beautiful. It was full and we were so happy, what more could we ask for?
A few weeks after we got home I was feeling...off. Fatigue was stealing hours of productivity from my day and I couldn’t understand why. Sam jokingly recommended I take a pregnancy test. He laughed. I laughed. We died a little on the inside. That possibility felt absurd enough to us that it had become an inside "joke" to alleviate some of the pain that reality caused. By this point I had been off birth control for well over a year, which only seemed to confirm our suspicions that we couldn’t get pregnant. But then we looked at each other and did the math in our heads and somehow I hadn’t had my period since before the wedding...impossible. Sometimes my body would go through cycles where I’d have a period constantly for weeks and then nothing for months, so it wasn’t completely abnormal to be late. This was how I reasoned away the hope that was building inside my heart.
Hope. It can be a dangerous thing. It allows you to believe that the impossible is possible. I was always careful to quell those thoughts when they stirred because it seemed like folly to let that fantasy grow roots. I remember feeling this war raging inside me when we took that first pregnancy test because I was fully preparing myself to mourn the loss of a child that we were never going to have...again. But I wanted to believe in the impossible. That good things can come to pass for good people. As we waited for the results in each other's arms a feeling of gratefulness for this man washed over me. He walked this battle at my side every step of the way, never allowing himself to voice the disappointment I knew he felt. Even in that quiet moment where I’m sure his hope for a baby boy was consuming him, he held me up in preparation for the wave of grief that was waiting to consume me. Our life was full, we had so much love in our home already, we shouldn’t feel sad, but we had let hope curl around our hearts in that moment and there was no prying those claws loose now.
We stared down at double pink lines in utter disbelief. This couldn’t be. It just wasn't possible. We looked into each other’s eyes and the question plaguing us both was burning bright. Was this real? So I did what any sane woman would do. Disregarded the test as a complete and utter fluke scoffing the whole way through taking another one. Then another one. And another one...and another.
At some point I woke up from an out of body experience to find myself standing in the bathroom staring down at six pregnancy tests lined up on the sink. Each one dazzled my eyes with neon pink lines all proclaiming “PREGNANT”, which still seemed a completely preposterous notion. I suggested we take one more, Sam's rumbling laughter shook me from my stupor and I look up to find the most glorious smile lighting up his eyes. He engulfed me in his arms. Standing in that embrace, the only place that’s ever been home, he whispered to me the words we never thought we would hear. You’re pregnant. There was something about this claim uttered aloud that shattered the last bit of the wall I had built to protect my heart and the possibility of holding our child in my arms crashed into me with such force that I was rendered a blubbering mess of unbridled joy. Our child.
And that, my dear friends, was the moment when the firecracker that known to the world as Baby Norah became a reality for her completely unprepared parents. There are moments in our lives when we can feel the winds of change blowing our sails in a new and unexpected direction. Cherish these moments when you find yourself sprinting head long into the unknown. Those are the times when we feel most alive.
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