For twelve years this was our reality. And even now, one mention of someone having Baby Fever, and it all comes rushing back.
I know we’re not supposed to feel like anything is “wrong” with us. But sometimes, on the hard days, I feel like I’m living my life in isolation from this incurable disease. Not every day, but times when my body feels the sharp reminder that it’s unable to create life. It feels so harsh, and so unfair. I know we’re supposed to remember that it’s all in God’s hands, but why aren’t his hands allowing this dream to come to pass? I lay on my bed in the fetal position, wincing the day away. I lay there feeling like any distant cry of a baby, or a pregnancy test commercial is going to send me over the edge of the bed into a pile of sobs. Shawn will ache with me, in his own way. He will wish, more than anything, that he could change things.
There’s no cure for infertility. There’s no cure for the heartache and the reminder that something just isn’t right. Your heart aches. Your body aches. You try another treatment. You suffer another loss. There’s no explanation. We pray, not because it necessarily feels natural, or easy, but because we don’t really know what else to do. And because even in the pain we know that God still hears us and is working on our behalf. And because we know that faith, in its very nature and by its very definition, is trusting God when we don’t understand. When we can’t see. When we don’t know how to trust, or when we don’t feel like trusting.
So you can understand why I still feel a small pinch of jealousy when I see a pregnancy announcement. I know, I know, we have a baby now. It doesn’t make sense. But for so many years everyone else was getting pregnant, and I wasn’t. Old habits die hard, I guess. Our reality has changed, but our connection to those raw emotions, and our ability to relate hasn’t.
So you can understand why I feel slightly dizzy when someone sees Noella in her cute bow and gasps, “Gah! She’s giving me Baby Fever!” It’s one of those phrases that used to sting. Because 9 times out of 10, when someone says they have Baby Fever, it’s coming from someone who knows up close and personally how sweet babies are. How they change and grow, and when you get the privilege of raising them, you get a front row seat to that. And when someone says they have Baby Fever, they say it nonchalantly like they have the cure, like they’re suddenly up against the life decision of whether or not they should have one, or have more. And that’s a life choice we’ve never had the luxury of making. Have you ever heard a grandma say that she has Baby Fever? Nope. Because the shop’s shut down and therefore, the Fever is no more. It doesn’t mean she doesn’t still adore babies, think they’re cute, and want to cuddle them for days on end. The women who have The Fever have the option or the choice to have a baby, to expand their family, to procreate if and when they want to.
Imagine having all the symptoms of Baby Fever and not being able to do anything about it. Imagine not even being able to go on and on and gush about how much you yourself would love to have a baby. Instead, you hid that enthusiasm behind a “What a cute baby!” smile, because it was too much pain and too socially awkward for you to bring up those strong desires. And you certainly weren’t in a place to welcome everyone’s tips, ideas, “Take more folic acid”, “Just relax and it will happen”, or “My aunt Sharon adopted and then she got pregnant with quadruplets” comments on a given Tuesday in aisle 7 of the grocery store.
In the past, struggling with unexplained infertility, I thought, “If you have Baby Fever, I must be in quarantine.” Your “fever” must not be very strong because you have one kid over there eating grass, one strapped to your front, and one on the way. Apparently there’s no vaccine for Baby Fever. Saying you have Baby Fever around someone who doesn’t have any kids (and wants them), while you have two and one on the way, is like telling someone laying on the cold tile, suffering from Malaria, that you thiiiiiiink you might have a mosquito bite.
I get it! Babies are so so so so so cute and sweet. They really are! I’ve loved babies all my life. Imagine loving them and not being able to have one. Noella must be contagious because sure enough, I hear all the time that people in our vicinity have contracted Baby Fever. “Welcome to my world” I want to mutter under my breath, remembering how it felt to hear that, and to have no cure.
And don’t even get me started on how some people say that their ovaries hurt when they see a baby. I wanted to (and sometimes still do) throat punch those people (in love, of course). For twelve years my ovaries hurt. Literally! Not to mention the poking and the prodding and the injections of four IVF treatments.
When you’re standing there with a “Z for Zade” necklace around your neck, and I’m standing there with no initial around my neck, and a cute baby comes in the room, and you say that you have Baby Fever, or that your ovaries hurt, it’s unfair and cruel and it brings my pain to an even more personal, and literal level.
I don’t take for granted this time in our life. Not for one second! And I get that I’m now “the one with a baby”. But I also try to always be aware of who’s sitting at my table on Wednesday night. Or who’s within ear shot. Their ovaries may literally be hurting, and they may be suffering in silence.
So I pray for guidance as I interact with people. And I look for ways to hear their stories, and to listen to what their time in quarantine was like, and to always welcome them into the group. There may be no vaccine for baby fever, BUT THERE IS A GOD WHO WORKS MIRACLES WHEN WE LEAST EXPECT IT.