Southern Legitimacy Statement: Elizabeth Byard grew up in Arkansas but currently lives in rural Oklahoma with her husband, cats and llamas. They are in the final stages of becoming licensed foster parents.
I’ve come to terms with a lot of things in my life. I will never be the prettiest girl in the room. I’m too tall, too awkward. I’m not the smartest person I know. My husband has annoyingly taken that title. I never found a career that I truly felt was meant for me. I don’t always finish the projects I start. I haven’t always been the best daughter or friend. I’m abysmal at answering text messages. If I have succeeded at anything, it’s being average.
These are the cards I was dealt. Not the best hand, but not the worst.
But there are many things I like about myself. I am kind. I am compassionate. I am fair. I am humble. I care for things and people easily. Perhaps too easily. I dole out affection with ease. I was taught to love without judgment, condition, or fear. And it’s these qualities that I think would have made me a great mother, and perhaps even worthy of the love of a child. I’ve cared for them my entire life. I was a camp counselor, live-in nanny, daycare teacher, I worked in a private elementary school. I spent my whole life caring for others children and thinking naively to myself “when I have kids I will do this” or “my own kids will never be allowed to do that.” If there was ever anything I thought I would be great at, it was being a mom. I wasn’t born to be a star, but I know I could love the hell out of some kids.
But that was not the hand I was dealt.
I try not to read the headlines, the ones that say this child was beaten, this one died from neglect. What use is it to ask yourself why their parents were deemed worthy and not you?
There’s always adoption, you say, without offering to help pay the average fee of $30,000-$40,000.
There’s always fostering, you say, without considering the emotional toll of having to give back children to parents who are struggling to care for them properly.
There’s always “you can have mine,” you say. It’s only a joke, but that doesn’t dull the sting of it.
There’s always IUI, IVF, ICSI, you say, without knowing that we’ve already tried all those things and have the dent in our savings to prove it.
There’s always this fertility statue, diet, herb, exotic fruit, vitamin, ancient tribal chant, you say, without seeing an entire hall closet already stocked with it all.
There’s always “just relax,” you say, “it’ll happen when you stop trying” and your friend of a friend who miraculously just turned up pregnant at the age of 45 without even trying so never give up, you say, not realizing that for some people it just. doesn’t. happen. Period.
There’s always cats, you say, and well, that part is true.
There’s always God’s plan, you say, and what can anyone say to that?
There’s always “I’m sorry,” you say. And I reply thank you with all my gratitude.
Infertility isn’t something you can fix for another person. Yes, even if they adopt, even if they get a surrogate. Because infertility isn’t just about the ability to have a kid or parent. There’s a grief that comes from never being able to pass on your curly hair or blue eyes. There’s a grief from being the last of your line. There’s a grief from not being able to pass on a name. There’s a grief of never being able to experience pregnancy. There’s a grief of never being able to experience birth. There’s a grief that comes from the failure of your body to do the one and only thing it was biologically designed to do.
I’m a lucky girl. I have an amazing husband. I have beautiful friends. I have a loving family. I’m surrounded by the most supportive people. I do not struggle to eat or stay warm or have healthcare. I have three cats that I adore and a home that I fall in love with more and more. I have things to look forward to like the day we adopt a dog, new baking recipes to attempt, seeing all of our land turn green this spring. I think about the good things every day. It’s my constant mantra, the dialogue I run through without fail when I fall into the grief of knowing I cannot make my husband a father, my mother a grandmother again, may never know that love that every parent says “you’ll understand when you have your own.” I wish I could understand.
I’m a lucky girl. A lucky girl. Lucky girl.
And I am.