Behind the Mask

Updated: Sep 6, 2019

I’m still trying to decide if I’m a mom. Those comforting a grief-stricken woman after a miscarriage would say, “Yes! You are a mom – to angels in heaven.” But five dead babies never really qualified me for motherhood in my mind. Besides, it’s easier to forget. Or at least pretend to forget. We never planted those rose bushes, or named them, or did even one of those memorial things you hear of people who lost their babies do. It would’ve hurt too much. And I might’ve had to let someone see just how much pain I’m in. I’m better at masks…

This year I say goodbye forever to my 20s and welcome the big 3-0. Thankfully, 30 doesn’t feel as old as it does when you’re 20. These last 10 years have gone by in a haze. A lot of pain that I’ve tried to forget. But I don’t forget.

I wanted to be a mom by 30. Actually, I wanted to be a mom by 21, when my husband and I started trying for a family. But, as the years came and went, 30 seemed like a much more reasonable goal.

My husband and I were married at the tender young ages of 23 and 20. We were among the hoards that speed their way to the “I-dos” in the name of, what, I’m not actually sure. Love? Sex? God’s Will? Fortunately we had both been raised in homes and churches that taught that marriage is forever. And maybe it was our pride that kept us together in those first years, but at least we had that. Because it was rough. We had ideas and expectations, unrealistic often, about what a marriage should be, and I especially, projected them onto my husband with ferocity. It wasn’t until I started letting go, relaxing, breathing, and accepting, that our marriage and love could blossom and grow. Now, after almost 10 years, we’re best friends, we love each other, and I am not alone.

My adult life, and my marriage, has been marked by waiting. With no success, my husband and I tried to get pregnant for almost two years before seeing a fertility specialist. Once we began seeing a specialist, we began many invasive tests which all came back negative. There was no explainable reason that we couldn’t get pregnant. Our doctor put me on some fertility medication to try out since he couldn’t find anything wrong. These worked – immediately. I was pregnant in the first month of trying those drugs, but the joy was short-lived, as I had a miscarriage shortly before the first trimester would’ve ended. This was followed by three more miscarriage in the next year, and one more, over a year later.

I don’t have many clear memories of that time, but I do remember some things. I remember which friends were over playing games when I started bleeding that first time. I remember my someone telling me the next day that it wasn’t a big deal because lots of women bleed during their pregnancies. I remember dropping a mug on the floor, it smashing to pieces, and me breaking down. My mom was there to hold me. I remember screaming and trying to bash my head or the floor, or was it the wall? My husband was there to hold me that time.

These spaces can be filled in with unimaginable heartache, anger, and regret. Friends and family having their own families – some eagerly moving on and leaving us in the dust, others blocked out by my own walls, reinforced by resentment, jealousy and hate. Thank God for those few that hung on for the ride, and for the few that found me at my darkest and chose to love me anyway.

Somewhere in the middle of all of this, we decided to begin the process of adoption. After two years of waiting for a local adoption, we switched over to an international program, and began our official wait for two children from Haiti.

Waiting can be a tricky thing. My life was on hold way too often in my 20s. This caused me to be stuck at a job I hated for eight long years. I had no ambition other than a family. I didn’t move on because first, “I could get pregnant,” then because, “maybe I won’t miscarry next time,” then, “maybe we’ll get picked by a pregnant mother and adopt a baby.”

Starting my own business around something I was passionate about helped ease the wait and gave me some meaning. Getting a puppy for my 23rd birthday gave me a best friend and a baby at the same time. And when we switched our adoption path, the possibility of a baby “tomorrow,” went away. This took much pressure off my shoulders. I was able to go back to school, get a college certificate, and then a job doing something I enjoyed. And here I am… Still waiting, but finally, we’re in the home stretch of the wait.

My husband and I do actually have children now, kind of – a beautiful Haitian boy and girl, 6 and 2 years old. But, they live over 4000km away. We met them last October and spent two gruelling, heartbreaking, and joyful weeks with them in Haiti. And then we left. There’s not a moment that goes by that I’m not thinking of them, waiting to hold them again. In my moments alone, I cry. But when I step out, thank goodness for masks, right?

You many be wondering, “Where is God in all of this? Surely there is an epic God moment!” I’ve asked the same question many times and continue to ask it. But I don’t have a grand story of God coming down, wrapping his love around me, and yanking me out of a pit. I have doubt, I have anger, and the “why” question is always right around the corner. I often bash right into it and stay stuck for a long time. I often feel as though God has abandoned me.

But I have learned some things in the waiting.

Fighting and stressing doesn’t help. When everything’s been said and done, you have to relax, or you’ll go insane. Try to pray, go on that vacation, eat that cake. If you fight the wait, it’s like sinking sand. You’ll be overwhelmed and stressed, and you might drown.

Sometimes there’s something you can do. In my story, this has meant doing the deed while ovulating, filling out the right paperwork, getting our kids rooms ready, and learning what I can about parenting our adopted kids.

The friendship in your marriage is super important. When there’s no one left, there’s still him. It’s going to go much better for you if you can learn to love him for who he is, let go of your expectations, and laugh together.

It’s OK to not hold babies or go to baby showers. Sometimes it just hurts too much. You can say no. You don’t need to explain yourself.

Your life doesn’t have to look like everyone else’s. It’s OK to be different. You can’t measure your worth, your life, or your progress by looking at those around you. Don’t compare. We each have our own path.

As far as I’ve come, I still often feel like a shipwrecked mess (as per the Starfield song). So I wait. For redemption, for peace. Maybe it won’t happen like everyone expects. Maybe the breakthrough won’t be something I can feel. Maybe I won’t see clearly in this lifetime. Maybe it’s a good thing that God can see clearly through the walls and masks that you can’t see through. Maybe one day soon, I’ll believe in my heart what I know in my head – that He loves me and has a plan.

About the Author:

Stephanie Dueck is truly one of the most awesome people I know. Whether running an HR department or tackling a CrossFit circuit, she excels. Steph loves dogs and runs her own dog training business on the side. She also has an amazing tattoo. (If she's honest with you, she'd probably like a sleeve.)

If you would like to send Stephanie a message, email and put “Stephanie” in the subject line.

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