Saturday, March 5, 2011

The Essay That Didn't Win

Last year, I wrote an essay for a contest for Real Simple magazine. I asked a bunch of people for help with the proofing and opinions, and am forever grateful for them. Six months later, I've found out I didn't win. While it would have been nice to be published, win a trip to NYC, and get paid, its not the most important thing. As cheesy as it sounds, pouring my heart out onto paper, putting my feelings into a coherent essay really feels like winning. And because I know you all can't wait.. Here is that non-winning essay..

The Never-ending Road to Parenthood

“First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes a baby in a baby carriage.” That’s the end of the nursery rhyme we all chanted as kids. Our whole young life we believed that it happens that easily. We find our soul mate, we get married, and then we’ll be blessed with a child. There are story books with babies delivered by storks, movies with babies dropped off on door steps, and baby dolls that grow in a garden. Sure, we have “the talk”, so we know where babies come from, and everyone talks about how wonderful it is. No one mentions that before it’s wonderful, it might break your heart into a million pieces. No one tells you that you’re risking your heart and sanity when you start trying to conceive. I never thought I’d even have to try, I thought it would just be a wonderful surprise.

After having my left ovary and fallopian tube and part of my right ovary removed when I was 17, my child bearing future was unknown. Being that young, I wasn’t worried about it. I had years before I needed to worry about diapers, spit-up, and car pools. At that age, I didn’t even know if I wanted to have kids, so I didn’t know how to process all the information thrown at me. When I met my husband some years later, I knew immediately that I wanted to have a child with him. After we got married, we tried to conceive for about six months before we told anyone. Even then we only told a few of our closest friends and family members. I’d done all kinds of research online, read many books, and asked my friends who already had kids. I was prepared; I knew what to do, and what not to do, but fifteen months after starting our journey to parenthood, we were still just a twosome. I think that I was in some form of denial; I couldn’t let in the thought that something might be wrong. Admitting to myself that this wasn't normal was a hard task. As a woman, my body is designed to bear children. My body was failing me, making me feel like I was failing everyone. I was failing to make my husband a dad, my mother a grandma, and myself a mom. Being the over prepared person that I am, I headed to my doctor with all my information and research, and a list of questions. I left with a diagnosis, some medication, and a plan.

That’s when the universe started taunting me. It seemed everywhere I went, pregnant bellies were staring at me, and newborns were cooing in my ear. My sister and her husband conceived in their first month trying. It was like a dagger to my heart. I was thrilled for her of course, but at the same time, I was devastated for me. The hardest day for me was the day that my niece was born. My emotions on that day were divided into four equal parts: Happiness, Sadness, Fear, and Guilt. They are all pretty strong emotions on their own, but together, it really turned me into a water faucet.

Happiness. Of course I was happy! My little sister was about to make me an Aunt! I have an Aunt Sharon myself; I know how awesome I get to be. My little sister, the one I used to play house with, the one who shares all of my childhood memories, the one who I used to take care of like she was my own when she was born (even though I was just a year and a half), was bringing a life into this world. She was bringing a gorgeous baby girl into a world where there were already so many people who loved her. It was an awe-inspiring moment.

Sadness. Anyone who has been through even one month of trying to conceive knows how sad it can make you when someone else has your dream come true. It doesn't matter how much you love them, or how happy you are, part of you is sad. And when you've been trying for a while, it just adds another degree to that sadness.

Fear. Oh, the fear! It’s almost indescribable. The fear is like a black hole sucking in everything else around it. It goes so deep that you can't even feel all of it, and that's a good thing, because if you did, you'd be committed to an institution. The fear that I will never have this moment of excitement, this moment of my whole family waiting with me to meet the newest addition to our lives, this moment of joy when he/she finally makes their entrance into the world. Sure, there is always adoption, and that would be great too, but it won't be THIS moment. The fear is so scary, and so easy to get lost in if you let yourself.

Guilt. I had tremendous guilt for feeling anything other than happiness. It wasn't fair to my sister, or to my family for me to feel the way I did. They shouldn't have had to give a second thought to how I was doing. I should have been the last thing on their mind, but I wasn't. They all made sure I was okay. That's absurd, I was not the one admitted to the hospital in labor. I was just the poor sister who wishes she was. I don't think that I will be able to forgive myself for a while, I felt selfish. It was unintentional, of course. I can't control how I feel.

But I did control how I acted. I got a handle on myself before I went to the hospital, and when I felt that my tears were going to come, I made sure I was out of the room. I'm proud of myself for that. I will forever remember holding my sister’s hand, telling her she was going to do great, and her telling me the same thing. I don't know if she remembers it, but it meant the world to me. She shouldn't have had to give me a mini pep talk, but she did. And I love her for that.

In a way, writing this essay is one of the biggest risks I’ve taken. Putting my feelings on paper and letting strangers read it is such a vulnerable position. On the other hand, the chance that my words might help another person out there dealing with infertility feel less alone makes this a risk worth taking. Every month I put my heart out there, and every month it comes back with another piece missing. It’s a struggle, but I keep my hopes high that I will be a mom someday.




  1. Very well written...try submitting it to someone else!!!

    The part about your sister having her baby reminds me a little of a situation I had. My twin sister & I got pregnant around the same time. While she went on to have a healthy pregnancy, my little ones heart had stopped beating at 12 weeks. It was pretty difficult being in the delivery room with her the day my neice was born.

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