The day my father passed away my period was supposed to start.
I’d gone to the hospital to see him the day before. He’d had two strokes. It was all very unexpected, all happened so fast. I burst into tears immediately when I saw my father, mostly unresponsive but making movements, hooked up to countless machines. I wanted to vomit then and I want to now, recalling the scene, the shock to my system. It’s a scene you can’t prepare yourself for, an onslaught of emotions that can’t be predicted or contained.
Late in the evening the next day he passed away. And my period was late.
My husband and I have been trying to get pregnant for a while. We’ve tried to be relaxed and laid-back about our trying—though these are not attributes I’m known for. I know exactly how long we’ve been trying.
We knew we might have trouble getting pregnant. I have endometriosis, a chronic illness that causes, among other things, severe pain, heightened especially around the start of a new cycle. It is also a leading cause of infertility in women.
My husband and I regularly check in with each other about where we’re at with all of it. We discuss whether it might be time for a surgery where they can scope and have a look around to see how advanced my endometriosis is, and if I’m able to even get pregnant.
It sounds easy, an obvious choice, to have the surgery and get some answers to plan better or start exploring other ways of building a family.
But I’m not ready, not yet. Finding out if I can get pregnant also means finding out if I can’t. And finding out I can’t get pregnant means another death—a loss, something definitive to grieve, another thing to reckon with. There is a finality in having that surgery I’m not ready for.
In this time of trying to be chill, there have been many nights where I fall asleep pleading with God: “Please don’t let me be broken. Please let me be able to get pregnant. Please God, please God, please.”
Two days after my father’s passing, my cycle started.
His passing left me with a grief I can only classify as complicated. I drove to my hometown in pain, crying, considering the loss of a man I loved even though he emotionally abused me. Who was sick and also incredibly generous. Who I cared for and also felt I had to distance myself from for a time. Who I desperately wanted to make proud. A man whose likeness I carry outside and in—a thing that comforts me mostly and worries me sometimes. A man who worked hard, helped others, and taught me about Jesus. I am still simmering with regret, anger, and longing for the way things could have been different.
Being in physical pain only amplified my emotional pain. An added grief to an already precarious pile of death, loss, and heartache. A broken body, a segmented grief, losses and pains piling up and slipping about like a sloppily made layered cake falling over on itself.
As time has gone on, the loss of my father leaves me feeling lonely in ways that have surprised me. It intensifies the ache for children of my own. I long to make my husband a father, to watch my body change, to experience childbirth, to raise a family. I’m also terrified about the risk and vast potential for heartache there is in bringing a child into the world.
Each time my cycle starts again every few weeks, the feelings of disappointment, shame, and deficiency, dread of the upcoming pain, and fear set in anew. But, without fail, I also feel oddly relieved to not be pregnant.
About equal with my fear (and the associated shame) of infertility is my fear of having children. I’m terrified of infertility. But I’m also terrified of getting pregnant. In this time of trying to conceive, there have been other nights I’ve plead with God, “Please God, don’t let me be pregnant yet. Not yet. Maybe soon, but not yet. Please God, please God, please.”
If I am in fact able to get pregnant, my hormone levels put me at higher risk for miscarriage. Some loved ones have miscarried and it’s devastating, heartbreaking, shattering. I am afraid of this sort of undoing. We’ve reached a sort of stability after a few tenuous years and I don’t know if I could get through a miscarriage. I don’t want to find out.
There is also my chronic illness. What ironically may keep me from getting pregnant may also keep me from being the kind of parent I would like to be. I work part-time and even without children this margin in my life is necessary. On my bad days, on the days where I flare up or my body is exhausted from the days on end in pain—days that I’m unable to drive, leave the house, do much more than groan, wince, and cry, could I take care of a child too, on top of that? Could we, could I, hack it?
I can’t fathom how a life with children would work out for us, mostly because in every other aspect of life I can’t know what the future holds. But I also can’t imagine a life without children. I want our family to grow larger, I want to grow old with children we’ve raised. I want to teach a little one how to cook and garden, how to love our neighbors, how to forgive. I’d very much like to do so with the certainty that I will be ok, my husband will be ok, our children will be ok, and the world we bring them into will be ok.
In the same breath I ache with longing to be with child, and also sigh relief that I am not yet.
We ask for miracles, but mostly we pray for peace.
The night my father passed I wept into my pillow until I fell asleep and I thanked God he was not in pain anymore—that he was at peace. I am comforted that he is free from suffering, made whole inside and out, in the place where all is made new.
One day my own broken body will be at peace, will be made new. One day our broken relationships will be made new, with the earth and with each other. One day the countless uncertainties in this life, the thing beyond our control, the risks we can’t calculate, the griefs and losses we cannot tabulate, will all be made right.
While we wait, whether we are able to have children or not, my plea is mostly for peace.
“Peace. Please God, please God, please.”
Cover image by Federica Giusti.