Each year since 2011 when the holidays loom on the horizon leaving a trail of negative pregnancy tests in their wake, I imagine with hopeful optimism how next year will be different. I placate myself with reassurances that this year will be the last year of childlessness: Next year I’ll be either happily pregnant or a joyous new mama. Next year will be a truly happy Christmas. Next year I won’t feel the hollowness of an empty womb. Next year I won’t have to wrestle with unanswered questions of “why?” lingering in my heart. I know it’s silly, that being pregnant or having a baby next year won’t magically erase the past pain of infertility, but I find myself playing this game anyway each and every year.
Now this year is joining the ranks of “next year” and is ending markedly the same as all of those “last years.” And despite the blows of 2015, this Christmas season I once again find myself packing up the IF failures of another year gone by. I begin the cycle of looking toward a new year that, with it, comes new potential. I can swap marking time by how far along I should be and replace it with a countdown of how many chances (well, 12….) I have waiting for me in 2016.
There are choices I can make this year’s end: I can live in grief and reminiscence and bitterness. Or, I can create something good and beautiful out a sloppy mess. It is my choice for nothing positive to come from our loss. I can find a way—even a small way that only I understand—to honor the life we were blessed with for such a short time.
I want there to be a silver lining to a year that has otherwise been filled with storm clouds. I’m straining to learn and grow from loss and failure, to not let it all have been for nothing. I’m choosing on purpose to see this as an opportunity to deny my innately selfish response to loss and to instead reach out to others: I signed up as a volunteer at an animal rescue organization; we bought a bunch of food to give to our church’s food pantry outreach; I took my elderly, lonely aunt out to lunch and bought her some small Christmas gifts so she’d know that someone cares. All little things that getting recognition for is not the goal. Even though these things aren’t done out of motivation to make me feel better—but instead to bless someone else—I end up with something untouchably satisfying out of starving my unhappiness.
Because life will go on with or without me.
Because whether I let this year slip past again is a conscious choice I make.
And even though it hurts this Christmas season amidst babies and loss and unsuccess, I feel a peace. The kind of peace that truly passes all understanding. A quiet reassurance that it will all be okay. It wasn’t my time yet, but someday it may be; or it may never be. I don’t know what the future holds. All I can do is try, trust, believe, preserve. We infertiles are a stubborn, tenacious lot: if there’s one thing this journey teaches, it is that nothing happens immediately and we have to wait for everything. I can tough it out a little longer.
And in the meantime, I can try to make the journey into something beautiful.