Happily married and with one adorable son, I admit that in many ways I envied her life.
While I struggled with finances along with uncertainty about my future both personally and professionally, my friend seemed to have it all figured out. She seemed so in control, and her life seemed perfect.
Since I’m single, I know that I cannot speak from experience; I have no idea what it’s actually like to raise children, but as the second oldest of seven children, I was used to that good chaos that comes with family life. And it’s something I wanted, and I still want.
Growing up with many siblings meant that I always had to share, I never got new things, and dinner was almost always macaroni and cheese or some sort of processed meat. But looking back, the relationships that I now have with my siblings and all of the experiences and adventures that we shared made the little inconveniences well worth it.
When I asked this friend if they were planning to have another kid, she always said something like, “At some point, yes, we would like that, but right now I just don’t think we are psychologically prepared to add another kid into our lives.”
As my jealousy raged, I took those words to mean, “We just don’t want to mess up our perfect lives right now.”
Then one day, she called me out of the blue and told me that she had been diagnosed with PCOS. (A syndrome that usually results in small cysts building up on a woman’s ovaries.) PCOS doesn’t always lead to infertility, but women who have it run the risk of miscarriage if they are able to conceive and have higher rates of infertility.
Lets just say of the options that the doctor gave her to fix the problem, none were ideal.
But it wasn’t the dilemma that she was in that was particularly striking to me. Rather, it was her attitude toward the situation that continues to stick with me. Listening to her talk about the situation made me realize just how ignorant, judgmental, and un-loving I had been towards her.
“You know,” she said to me, “even if I can never conceive again, my son is a blessing and a gift. There are other things that we can do to have more children. I’ve always considered adoption; that’s always an option. Besides, who knows what may actually happen. We know enough couples who were told that they would never be able to have children and miraculously had a child. But even if I only have one child, he’s more than enough.”
Tears streamed from my eyes. I could sense her suffering, but I was moved by how calm and hopeful she was. After the many times that I had mistakenly judged that she and her husband were not having children just because they chose not to, I was now learning the truth.
As I’ve gotten older and I’ve talked with a number of friends who are married, it has become more and more apparent to me that many women struggle with infertility; and that is a huge suffering to bear. I have no idea if I will ever get married or have children. But learning about my friends’ struggles has made me realize a couple things:
Even if it appears perfect to you, you never really know what’s going on in someone else’s life. Each stage in life brings its own struggles, some that we can predict and some we can’t. It’s inevitable that we’re going to suffer. I’m starting to see that the happiness I see in my friend doesn’t come from having everything you want. It comes from how she responds to the circumstances she finds herself in, especially the difficult ones. So rather than envying her, I’m now trying to learn from her—to appreciate what I have and to look forward to what might be.