When I got married at 19 years old I had a lot of people tell me I was too young to make such a serious commitment. I would change too much, we would grow too far apart over the years, etc. No, the proper age for marriage was somewhere closer to 22-25. And so I responded…
“I know 19 is young, but when you find the right one, why wait on starting your life together? I knew I was ready when I was enjoying the things I was doing and all I could think of was ‘I wish Tim were here with me for this because I want to share this memory with him when we’re old’. Plus, I think it’s far easier to put two developing people together than it is to put two completely independent people together. We are learning to do life together, to grow together, to be together rather than trying to adjust set-in-stone habits of being independent of each other. We’re not ignorant of the odds and are actively taking precautions against the common pitfalls of young marriages.”
After I had been married a few years I had people asking me constantly (and yes, even before this) when we were going to have kids. Having quickly forgotten the young age at which I married, it is expected that children follow somewhere between 3-5 years after marriage. And so I responded…
“We’re so young and are just really enjoying our time together. So many young marriages struggle and we are building a really solid foundation before adding in kids.”
Later I responded…
- “Whenever God gives them to us.”
- “That’s a great question. I would love to know the answer, too.”
- “We’re working on it…got some extra cash to help us out?”
When I got pregnant with Alayna, our second, I had a lot of comments about how we’ve certainly ‘been busy’. Wide eyes at the short gap between my children’s ages were common. After all, children should be spaced closer to 2.5-3 years apart and Jessica and Alayna are only 21 months apart. And so I responded…
“Yes! Between the doctor appointments, drugs, more doctor appointments and more drugs, we’re just exhausted!”
“Our first child came just after our 10 year anniversary, after years of infertility treatments and two miscarriages. We had no idea how long our second would take, so we never prevented and then started fertility treatments as soon as our doctor would let us. It still took two months of treatments even on the right plan.”
Oh, and then I love the people who ask if we’re having multiples knowing that we’ve had fertility treatments.
“Nope, just one.”
Are you sure?? (eyes wide at my growing belly) You never know!
“No, we’re sure, we’ve already had 3 ultrasounds…they don’t miss those sorts of things anymore.”
Now that I’m pregnant with our third I get even more comments. First, I should know that the proper number of children is unequivocally 2. Families are meant to come as packages of 4 total…plus a dog. I get a lot of “you do know how that happens, right?” questions…somehow implying that I couldn’t possibly have done this intentionally. I often wonder what they would say if I responded with “No, could you please explain it to me? I have got to stop this epidemic soon or I’ll be the next TLC reality show.” Second, not only am I breaking the norm of having 3 instead of 2 children, it is just unfathomable that they are so close together (Baby #3 and Alayna will be 17 months apart and Jessica is another 21 months older than Alayna). Three within about 3 years is not really what sane people do apparently…no matter the circumstances. And so I respond…
“Well, our first came just after our 10 year anniversary after many years of trying, countless fertility treatments and thousands of dollars. The second one took us two months of fertility treatments after almost a year of not preventing. Our third we didn’t think was possible, he/she is our surprise free baby. So, yes, we have 3 in almost 3 years, but we’ll have been married for 13, so I figure it evens out.”
The thing about me is that while I know plenty of others who get genuinely angry at such inquiries and statements, it doesn’t really bother me. I think people are just generally curious and they want some sort of ‘inside scoop’ on the story of such oddities. That’s why I tend to give them the whole story rather than blow them off. What bothers me, though, is this notion lie that 1) everyone will and should fit into this little box of expectations, and 2) that so many people are apparently blissfully unaware that sometimes life doesn’t turn out the way even you intend, let alone the way the rest of society intends. THIS is the problem. This is the reason why when you mention infertility issues, people share stories of the magic solution that worked for their best friend’s cousin’s sister’s aunt. People think that life really is as simple as deciding what you want and making it happen. Did I intend to get married at 19? Ok, fine, you got me on this one…I always wanted to be married young and God did bring me my spouse at a young age. Happy days. I love my husband and all the memories we’ve collected over the years. Did I intend to wait until I was 29 to have my first child? Oh my gracious, unequivocally NO. I fully intended to be a young mom…that was the perks of being married young was to get to enjoy my children while I was still really young. That did not happen. Did I intend to have my first two children so close together? Yes, absolutely yes. Did I think it would happen? No, I think we both assumed it would take longer. Did I expect to have a 3rd child so close? No…not even in my wildest dreams did I think God would bless us with our surprise free baby so soon. I thought maybe a number of years down the road we’d be shocked to find ourselves pregnant, but never this soon. That said, I have ALWAYS wanted my kids all very close together…I have never wanted a 3-5 year gap between my children. I learned a long time ago that we don’t get to always pick and choose these things, but if it were up to me, I would do it the exact same way…I would have just done it sooner.
And then there’s this…and this is the one I really struggle with. As soon as I mention fertility treatments for our first two and that this one is our surprise baby, I almost certainly get this response: “I hear that so often, as soon as you stop trying you wind up pregnant.” Ugh. If there is any comment in all my years that borders on causing me anger instead of annoyance it is this one. First, as thrilled as I am with our surprise baby, I feel terrible to appear to perpetuate this lie. Someone who is medically infertile (a year of no prevention without a pregnancy) and certainly someone who is a long-time infertile who went through thousands of dollars of treatments is NOT just struggling getting pregnant because she hasn’t relaxed and stopped trying. Doing nothing is not a sure fire way for an infertile to get pregnant and I feel slightly terrible that I am now another person who people can point to where this appears to be the case. And so I respond…
“Well, we had quite a few years of us relaxing and not trying when we first got married and that didn’t result in pregnancy. After our first child we had a year of not preventing (and not really trying) and I didn’t get pregnant. In 12.5 years of marriage we have never seen a positive pregnancy test outside of fertility treatments despite the fact that we’ve taken lots of vacations (including a cruise), gone through our seasons of staying really fit and eating healthy, and have tried and not tried to get pregnant to varying degrees throughout that entire time. I would call this pregnancy nothing short of a God-given miracle. Rather than believe it ‘just happened’, I believe that God divinely intervened on our behalf knowing that we had no intention of pursuing the other methods He used to bring us our first two children. In fact, I think God was very purposeful in leading us to purse fertility treatments with our first two and the reason we stopped after that was because we felt He had different plans going forward…we no longer felt led to pursue fertility treatments. We weren’t sure if that was because our family was complete or if He would build it further through other methods (adoption, conception, etc). He chose to build it further through allowing us to naturally conceive. He doesn’t always do that. He didn’t do that after our first and we know plenty of people whose families were not built further after they stopped trying in spite of their desire to have more children. Sometimes it works out that way, but other times it doesn’t. We’re just thrilled, though, that He did that for us.”
Of course the reason this bothers me, I touched on already. Instead of being the one outside of the box (outside of society’s expectation), I suddenly find myself smack dab in the middle of the perception that is simply not reality. Not everyone who gets married young will get divorced, not everyone wants or will be able to have kids when expected, not everyone wants or is able to space their kids out ‘just so’, not everybody who has fertility treatments will have multiples, and not everyone who stops fertility treatments will get pregnant. I am not divorced, I had kids 10 years into our marriage at 29 years old, I am having (Lord willing) 3 kids in just over 3 years, I do not have multiples…but yes, I did get pregnant after deciding to stop fertility treatments. One thing, one thing where I happen to fall into the widely spread incorrect perception and suddenly I’m back in the box, thus cementing the false thoughts of many around me or who know my story. I am not complaining, I would rather be here and in this position than anything else in the world, but let’s get smart, people, and stop spreading these incorrect ideas about the ‘perfect’ life. Guess what? Lots of people get married (and remain happily so) at very young ages…and lots of people get married after they are gasp over 30. Lots of people have kids right away after getting married and lots of people have kids many years into their marriage (by choice or otherwise). Lots of people bunch their kids together and lots of people have years and years between their kids. Lots of people have fertility treatments and only ever have single children…and lots of people with multiples never took a fertility drug in their life. Lots of people stop fertility treatments and lots of those people never have any children after that point. Sometimes life doesn’t turn out the way we plan and sometimes we plan life the way others would not. That is the beauty of life…the beauty of God in how He can craft plans so perfectly beyond expectations and our own plans and the end result is far better than we could have ever imagined.
So, if you are reading this, please make a conscious effort to stop putting these expectations and perceptions of the ‘normal life plan’ on people. We have a hard enough time breaking through our own plans and expectations than to have others constantly heap them on us as well. Just let God do what He’s going to do, let us grieve the loss of our own plans when necessary, and celebrate with us when new milestones happen no matter what way shape or form they come in.