How Infertility Has Shaped Me As a Mom
By Chelsea Ritchie
“Here comes Baby A!” And then I heard the vibrant cries, our son Logan, being born into the world, his sister Kirsten, our precious Baby B, arriving 2 minutes later.
“They are here! You did great mama!”
I remember laying back on the operating table, laughing and crying, joy and an incredulous disbelief rolling over my heart. I became a mom in those 2 minutes - at least one recognized by the majority of society.
Truth is, I became a mom years prior carrying embryo after embryo, then pregnancy after pregnancy, only to end up with empty arms. Infertility did a number on my heart over nearly a decade. It broke me into a million pieces, then slowly put me back together. It made me numb in seasons and raw in others, feeling every emotion under the sun in an excruciating vibration. It taught me things about myself that I tried to bury deep, but underneath it all, strength, hope, and a steady faith remained. And finally, after three miscarriages and on our 5th IVF cycle, our miracles arrived. The answers to our prayers. The harvest after sowing so many years of tears.
I became a mom.
Suddenly, with a fell swoop, my world of infertility no longer existed. In its place came a new world, that of motherhood. A new community, new lingo, and as natural as it felt, it also felt incredibly foreign. This is what we prayed for, yet the new unknowns shook me as I ventured into this new path of unselfish love.
The years we struggled with infertility now have shaped me as a mother. The role switch has been the most beautiful, yet disorienting thing I have ever experienced and I have found the infertility community doesn’t often talk about what happens next - when you shift into this new world, this new unknown. The world you are infinitely grateful for, yet so new.
Motherhood post-infertility has given me many things.
It’s given me perspective.
I learned early on how valuable this gift would be. Despite an 11-day NICU stay with both babies, and a second c-section surgery after the first split open from postpartum swelling (not fun!), I felt blessed. I had babies to show for it. It’s taught me that the hard days, the ones filled with tears and vomit, poop and tantrums, are the greatest days of all. These hard days are the ones I prayed for, the ones I would have given anything for in the hours after my D&C, the ones that I begged for while crying in bed after another failed cycle. Now I celebrate the puke, molars cutting, and late night snuggles because I have the chance to experience these miracles, a blessing I won’t take for granted, not when so many of my friends are still waiting for this kind of hard. This physical exhaustion I feel as I fall into bed at night, listening to the sound of a choppy monitor, is incomparable to the emotional exhaustion of wondering if our time will ever come.
It’s reminded me seasons change.
Winter doesn’t stick around forever, neither does teething. The days may sometimes feel long, but they stack together so quickly, seasons disappearing before my eyes. Suddenly, they are crawling, then walking. Babbling then talking. Learning to blurt out “Help please!” to “Me do it.” I don’t want to rush through these seasons waiting for the next, they go by too quickly.
It’s taught me about my identity.
For so long, we were the “couple who couldn’t have kids”. I unintentionally carried around the shame of this title for far too long and once Logan and Kirsten arrived, I suddenly seemed to have the stamp removed and culture put this “mother” stamp on my head. And even then, I realized the stigma of infertility, and even motherhood, was never where my identity was supposed to be rooted. I have continued to sort through my faith, uncovering and rooting myself in something greater than a diagnosis or role ever could.
It’s made me a better parent.
I tend to move slower with my kids, seeing the world from their eyes, responding with more patience than I thought possible. I say “yes” more than I say “no”, and don’t take lightly the responsibility we have to raise children who are kind, honest, and faith-filled.
It’s taught me I can’t control anything.
It’s allowed me to loosen my grip on expectations. It reminds me even if we do X and Y, we won’t always get Z. It’s helped me swallow unforeseen bumps in the road and appreciate the now.
It’s made me even more empathetic and aware.
Not just to my children, but to the cashier at Target who blurts out how lucky I am to have kids, and how much she wants one herself. It makes me a whole less likely to complain because I don’t know who around me is struggling with what. It’s made me more sensitive to triggers other be experiencing at my expense, understanding how a simple stroll through the mall make be making a childless womans’ heart hurt. I engage in conversation with strangers who find themselves bubbling over with emotion and opening up about their journey at a coffee shop. I make eye contact more often.
It’s taught me not to say “you must be”.
One of the most challenging transitions into motherhood was the overwhelming assumption that people had that “I must be _____”. It set me up to not know how to admit that while, yes, I was so grateful/happy/joyous/content, I also was confused and lonely and exhausted and searching for any resemblance of my old life. I struggled with learning that emotions don’t have to be mutually exclusive and that it was okay to ask for help when I was desperate for sleep and a break. Neither of those things meant I wasn’t grateful and now I try to ask more questions to others, rather than deliver blanket statements of how I assume they feel.
It’s taught me you always need a community behind you.
While going through infertility, I had a tribe of women who understood my season and emotions, cheering me on and praying for us. Now, going through motherhood, I have realized the significant value a community who loves you unconditionally and doesn’t judge your messy bun, stained leggings, or smudged mascara. It’s made me go out on a limb more often to be that community to someone else too, because chances are they will say “You too!? I thought I was the only one.”
It’s taught me how to increase my faith.
I know not everyone reading this will relate, but as a Christian, infertility taught me how to trust my unknown circumstances to a known God. It showed me that God did His best work in my heart though grief, loss, and heartbreak. It wasn’t a flashy faith that help me up, but the stillness and peace of knowing God was with me in the wait.
Infertility has made me a better parent, hands down. I never thought I would ever say I am thankful for infertility, but here I stand, utterly thankful for how I was broken and restored. It’s strengthened my marriage, showed me what a true friend looks like (and taught me how to be a good friend to others), and it reminded me that it’s possible to find joy outside of your circumstances.
I know how blessed we are. How the pain strengthened us. How infertility grew up. And despite the many, many tears over the decade, I truly wouldn’t change a thing.
Chelsea Ritchie is a Midwestern girl who loves connecting with others about infertility, motherhood, and living authentically. She’s been married to Josh for 14 years and recently welcomed twins, Kirsten and Logan, to their family after nearly a decade of waiting and loss. Chelsea loves a good cup of coffee, a cozy bookshop and mindless reality TV. She co-authored a 6 week woman's devotional called "In the Wait", which helps women lean into God while living intentionally in seasons of waiting. She values engaging her faith and embracing difficult seasons with joy. You can find her on her blog, Facebook, and Instagram at @chels819.