By Jennifer Roberts
Josh and I got married in November of 2012. We’ve been married for 5 years now. In a way I feel like we met yesterday, and in a way I feel like it could have been a lifetime ago.
I grew up in Florida and Josh and I met there in early 2009. When I met him, I had just gotten over one of those “friends with benefits” things that women get into at one point or another of their single years. I wasn’t looking for a serious boyfriend at the time, especially one who was 6 years younger than me who played professional baseball. There were many pro athletes in that area, and because I lived there I made a few friends that played sports professionally over the years, so I knew the stigma attached to dating one of them and that sometimes stereotypes are true.
Needless to say, I ignored my somewhat bitter thoughts and let Josh charm me into what became a relationship worth more than I could have ever dreamed. I knew from the very beginning that when Josh was done playing professionally, he would prefer to move back to the Pacific Northwest permanently. After we got engaged, I finally made up my mind to leave everyone I knew and give the PNW a fair chance to ‘wow’ me and become my home.
Our wedding was back in Florida 6 months after we moved across the country to Washington State. It was magical. It was fun, memorable, and filled with love. When I look back at most of the pictures, I see how excited I was to be celebrating with everyone I loved so much and how happy I was to be with them all. Those pictures always bring a smile to my face. However, the pictures of Josh and I on that day are a little hard to look at now. They remind me of what should have been.
I feel like I am looking at another couple. I see so much hope and excitement in our faces. I see innocence and naivety. I see simplicity and wholeness. I see a couple who had hopes and dreams. I see a couple who had plans to raise a kid to have a good sense of humor and to be respectful to others. I see a couple who had no reason to think they may never start a family of their own. What I see is a couple that never had to think about infertility and baby loss, and I wish there was a way I could jump back into those pictures and be that newly married couple again, even for just 5 minutes.
Two and a half years after getting nowhere on our own with baby making, we decided to go to a fertility clinic for IVF. My confidence in myself and my body was shot. I was having a hard time thinking positively, and it was no longer fun to “try”. It’s hard to imagine anything that will make a woman more insecure than not being able to make her husband a dad, when it seemed so easy for everyone else. Infertility feels like a curse and it can turn people into something they never thought they would be.
As soon as we went to our first appointment, I felt better knowing that it was now in a professional’s hands. It was relieving to not have to keep track of my cycle and feel like an absolute failure month after month. I was confident that at our ages and good health that we would have good results.
The IVF process was easier than I’d expected, but it still took a toll on me physically. I gained 15 pounds on top of the weight I had already put on from a few rounds of Clomid, from having to deal with “Winter Weight” for the first time in my life, and from going from an active job to a sedentary one. If it wasn’t bad enough to feel like I was failing as a woman and a wife for not being able to make babies, I also now put on a total of 30 pounds in 3 years. Of course, my husband’s body looks the same as it did at age 24, because… men. Uggg.
Lucky for us, the IVF cycle was successful and I got pregnant on the first try. I finally felt happy about my body for doing something amazing and the bigger my belly got the happier I was. Benjamin was growing and healthy and perfect. Life was finally coming together and I felt like the long, hard road to get to that point was all worth it.
Then my water broke at 31 weeks and 1 day.
At my 30 week appointment the ultrasound tech was pretty confident that Ben was over 4 pounds. So I tried my hardest to use that fact as a crutch while I was in the hospital for 10 days on bed rest. I had myself convinced that as soon as he was born, it would all be okay. Maybe he might need a few weeks in the NICU to help his lungs develop, but babies are born at under half his weight all the time and end up perfectly fine. I tried my hardest to push the negative thoughts out of my head.
Ben was born at 32 weeks and 5 days. I felt proud of myself. I was more proud than I have ever been. We did it! Josh, me, my lazy reproductive system, and a little help from science made this beautiful, perfect little boy.
“He’s here!! 4 lbs 13 ozs” is what the first picture we both posted of him said.
“What a great weight, little man.”, was what a comment on that picture said.
His weight being the only obstacle that we thought we had. Our son was alive, he cried, he was pink, he looked strong. He scored a goddamn 8 out of 10 on the Agpar Test! We did it.
Then Ben died 18 hours later. From a bacteria that got to him because my water broke too early.
So here we are today, 20 months after my body helped kill my baby. The baby that it took over 2 years to make. And it’s time to try to have another baby. How do I put the doubts aside and trust that my body will do what it’s supposed to? It way more than a negative body image now. It’s disdain and straight up hatred towards it.
We’ve been married for only 5 years, and everything has changed. My husband is the lucky guy that ended up with a broken wife. A 39 year old, over weight, infertile women who doubts her body and even her own purpose at times. At what point does he give up and leave for a 26 year old who could easily give him a child? Or a 30 year old that he could live an uncomplicated life with? Who could even blame him if he did? Before you start thinking “You are being dramatic, Jenn, that sounds extreme.” I want to tell you that I’ve met women in support groups that this very thing happened to. On top of them dealing with the broken heart of losing a child, they now live with the broken heart of being left by the one person who understood what they were going through… because he wanted an easier life.
When I look at our wedding pictures, I am truly envious of the girl in the white dress and the tall handsome guy in a suit. Those two have it made. They have their entire lives ahead of them. Nothing can go wrong if they just honor each other, stay true, and keep their marriage their number one priority, right? They are young, happy, in love with each other, and most importantly hopeful.
My wish is that those same people will someday be old, happy, in love with each other, and content.
Jennifer Roberts and her husband, Josh reside in Portland, OR. They have survived infertility, the loss of their son, Ben, who died shortly after birth and a first trimester miscarriage. They struggle every day to remain hopeful that they will someday have a family. Jennifer’s personal blog is benwashere2016.blogspot.com
On Being Human
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March 2 @ 7:30 pm – March 4 @ 11:00 am
For women and non-gender conforming humans.
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