We’ve been trying to conceive for six months. Six months is a funny amount of time. It’s both short: only half a year. Yet it’s also long: 26 weeks, 182 days.
And every one of those days I’ve thought about it. Some days in tears, a few days in calm acceptance, most days a resigned sort of waiting, because what else is there to do?
Six months is normal they say. Actually now that I am 30, they say 8 months is average.
But this average waiting, these weeks of the quiet building of bright hopes that only go dark and wane with the moon each month, this average waiting is hard. And it joins the growing list of the parts of womanhood that are nearly universal but aren’t explained in glossy pamphlets to you when you are 12 on the cusp of puberty.
And I sort of understand the silence. Trying to conceive is a private thing. It’s an exhausting cycle of small griefs to involve a large circle of people in. Sometimes I don’t want to be a part of it myself. And I wonder if there are women who really are so relaxed or full of faith that they really and truly don’t mind the waiting.
I suppose there are. But I am not one of them. I mind the waiting. I do not like it.
But I am not alone. It’s an illustrious club of women, stretching back millennia. Some of the oldest accounts of women we have are women waiting for babies. And now, I am walking with friends who have been waiting for years for their children. That is a sacred privilege, even if it’s one that no one really wants.
The flipside of this sisterhood of waiting is celebrating with those who are having babies while others wait. Sometimes it is easy to celebrate, to be buoyed with hope for the miracle of life, to remember that babies really are made and carried to term and born into this world.
Sometimes it’s hard, because it seems unfair, too easy, too quick. I have this childish sense of fairness, we are all waiting in line, and she cut in front of me. I have been here for six months, and my friend over there has been here for 2 ½ years, and another friend waited 9 years—9 years for her baby daughter.
But waiting for babies is not like waiting for movie tickets. It’s not an equitable wait. There are not a set number of babies; they aren’t going to run out. My best friend having a baby now doesn’t take away from my having a baby later. So I can rejoice with her while I wait. I know this.
But sometimes the grief doesn’t want to be reasoned with. Sometimes it’s just hard.
At the end of the first month of trying, I cried for the better part of four days. I cried in the middle of the night when I woke up with my period. I cried when I held my niece the next morning. I cried when I called my mom, who told me again of her crying the month she and my dad had first tried for me. I cried during most of church. I cried when I saw pictures of other people’s babies.
I remember wondering how people could stand this much sadness for so many months or years. Or how people could lose a baby. It seemed the grief would be too much to bear.
And then without my doing anything, the weight lifted. And I found myself in the new month, hoping again.
Each month has, strangely, been a little less difficult, like I’ve settled in to this idea of waiting in months or perhaps years instead of weeks. I’ve learned that the intensity of the grief is partly tied up in the hormones, and that in a few days from the start of my period I will feel more normal again. So I try to let the tears roll through me without fighting them.
But it’s only been six months. Maybe at a year the grief will deepen and extend.
Maybe for some people, the grief doesn’t lessen, and each month, each year, is harder than the last. I don’t know, this waiting is such a private pain.
Last week, I mentioned to my grandma that she could pray for us to have a baby. And this woman who prays for all her grandkids daily said, “Oh, well I didn’t know what to pray. Evan has such a busy year, and I know you’re helping him. So I have just been chatting with God about it.”
I was so blessed by that. I see the mercy in the wait, in my ability to help Evan without a pregnancy or baby pushing us even further. But my prayers, when I can make them, are just, “God, please give us a baby.” I know that praying for his timing and acceptance that this-isn’t-the-time is a good and right thing to pray. But sometimes I think it’s ok for us to pray for our desires and to let those around us pray for God’s will to be done.
My grandma in her 70s knows how short six months is. And I, in the middle of it, know how long six months is. I appreciate her praying for God’s will, for his timing.
I want that.
I also want a baby.
It is a strange sisterhood, this waiting. And brotherhood too, because I know that we are being carried by the prayers of so many people—husbands and brothers and fathers of friends and family too.
That is good to remember, because, as interminable as this season feels, one way or another it will draw to a close, and I will be able to remember and pray for God’s will and a baby for those who are in the season of waiting themselves.
As Lent approaches, how are you thinking about waiting and praying?
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