Sometimes I compare being infertile with having a traumatic memory. I find I’m mostly unaffected by this memory, but occasionally I’m plagued by these painful emotions that seem to come to the surface at the most inopportune times. It’s usually unexpected, as I’ve gotten pretty good at working through the things that usually trigger sadness, such as pregnancy announcements or baby showers. For a few years, however, I frequently struggled with something so small that I didn’t even realize the impact it was having on me. My painful emotion trigger happened to come in the form of something so seemingly benign– it came in the form of the prenatal vitamin.
I know it sounds silly. I would go to the store and buy prenatal vitamins. I remember buying my first bottle right before I got married, just “in case the birth control pills didn’t work out” (I’m laughing as I write this now). I thought I had good reason for doing this, as I knew of the elevated iron, calcium and folic acid levels necessary to stave off life-long disabilities in newly forming babies. I took my prenatal vitamin every night. A few months went by, and I finished off my first bottle. I bought another. Each night when I poured the vitamin out of the bottle and into my hand, I would have the same thought, “Gee, I wish this would come in handy some day.” It was a daily reminder that I wasn’t pregnant.
I stopped taking the prenatal vitamins one day. At the time I hadn’t really put two and two together; all I knew was that it had to stop. I was tired of looking at the bottle whenever I opened our medicine cabinet in the bathroom, but at least I didn’t have to take one. A few months later as I sat in a hospital gown on my ob/gyn’s exam room, my doctor asked me in a routine sort-of-way “So, are you taking prenatal vitamins?” At the risk of appearing semi-depressed, I started to cry. I shook my head in response to her question. “It’s just a constant reminder to me that I’m not pregnant” I told her, tears flowing down my cheeks. “Emily,” my doctor said as she handed me the tissue box, just take the vitamins.” She was understanding yet matter of fact. “I know, I know. I really should take them…” I said. But I didn’t. It was just too hard at the time.
That doctor’s appointment was over a year ago. I’ve had two surgeries since then, and we’re currently in the process of adopting a baby. The other day as we were shopping at Costco, I walked by their large supply of prenatal vitamins on the shelf and it suddenly occurred to me that it didn’t really bother me anymore. Sometimes it’s amazing to look back on your life and think of the hurdles you weren’t so sure if you could get over at the time– only to find that you made it over! It’s like realizing that the Lord has healed a piece of your heart that you didn’t know was fixable. Sometimes it’s slow, drawn out process. This time, the wound healed and the bandage fell off months before I realized it. My traumatic memory trigger had been jammed shut through the Lord’s healing, and I wasn’t even aware of it. And now I just take regular old “Women’s Vitamins.” They happen to be high in calcium and even include folic acid. And I can take them without being reminded of the fact that I may never have children. It’s a win-win.