As a person going through infertility who has sought support and community, I have met a lot of other women who have suffered in the quest to build a family. I have seen women come and go through the process who I've met at different places on the journey. And sometimes, seeing these women after the treatment part of infertility is over (for the time being, anyway), can just fill me with hope.
I had a week where I saw several beautiful, round, pregnant bellies belonging to those who have gone on in their journeys. I know it sounds unfair and biased, but there is nothing more beautiful to me than a belly on a woman who has fought hard for that growing miracle. It is truly extra special. And when there are people who you haven't seen in a while, with whom you have lost touch (at least from a fertility standpoint), and for whom you have held out hope for a happy ending, and you run into them and they finally have the first part of the prize jutting out in front of them, it's all you can do not to cry. Not tears of "why isn't that me?" or unfairness. Tears of joy and relief. Tears of happiness that someone with a long, arduous journey has made it to the point of visible pregnancy, and tears of hope that if they can make it to that point, then it is not impossible that I will, too.
Just to clarify, a pregnant belly is not the prize. It is the first part, what you get on the way to the prize. As someone who has had a positive turn into a personal tragedy, and who has seen and heard many women experience the heartbreak and loss of miscarriage, I know that a pregnancy does not always equal a healthy baby. Even a visible pregnancy can be taken from you. I am so happy when there are bellies, but I am even happier when there are babies. Because that is the real goal. I used to hope for a positive test in all of this. Please, please, let me get a call that congratulates me on my pregnancy. Then I realized, through others and then unfortunately my own personal experience, that a positive test is not enough. A (reasonably) healthy pregnancy is not enough. Really, until that baby is born breathing, the journey is not over. And, from conversations I have had with my ladies who have crossed over to the other side, it's never over. The pain and heartbreak of infertility never goes away...it always colors your point of view and your experience. I will be a different parent because of this struggle. Not necessarily a better parent, although I can always hope that will be the case, but a different parent.
But back to the hope! What a wonderful feeling to see women whose dreams are so close to coming true, women whose stories have been long and difficult and not what they expected. I never expected that my path to parenthood would be this much of a marathon. I never thought that there would be so many twists and turns and roadblocks put in our way. But how amazing is it to know that I can really and truly believe that eventually, maybe not how I envisioned it but definitely some way and some how, I will be a mom. It is possible. I saw and celebrated proof of that this week. You can go through the unimaginable, feel more and more like you are on the neverending road to desperation and despair, and then have the miracle happen to you. I so hope that one day my pregnant belly gives the same message to someone else who is on the journey, wondering when (when, when, when!) this will ever be over. Someday my beautiful, round, pregnant belly will also be a beacon of hope.