Marriage and Motherhood

For as long as I can remember it has been my dream to be a wife and mother. God has blessed me with half of my dream. I am married to my best friend, life with my husband is always fun. The rest of my dream hasn’t come to fruition, yet. My life living with a congenital heart defect is all I’ve ever known. While I had always wanted to be “normal”, I always knew this was my life. I accepted it. I accepted the struggles, the hospital visits, the surgeries, my daily meds, all of it. Everything that comes with this life. It is MY life and it has made me who I am. I am proud of this life.

I never felt like my CHD took anything from me. That was until I found out that I wouldn’t be able to have biological children. It was my one dream in life, to be a mother. To carry my baby in my womb. I still remember how I felt that day. My fiance (now husband) and I went to my cardiologist appointment ready to discuss our options, for when the time came to grow our family. In the back of my mind I knew that pregnancy might not be an option, but I was hopeful.

I remember hearing my cardiologist tell my mom once that I’d never have children and in the 6th grade, I noticed that my medicine bottle said in big, bold letters “DON’T TAKE IF PREGNANT.” I was so mad! I marched into my momma’s room and said “Did you see this? It says I can’t get pregnant!” My mom looked at me with loving eyes and said “Well, sweetheart, you are 12 and that is something we will discuss when the time comes. No need to worry about it.” So I didn’t, but it was always in the back of my mind growing up. With medical advancements, I was hopeful that I would be able to have children. It is my dream, after all. How could God take that away from me?

The Honest Truth

So there we were, sitting in a room, talking to my doctor about our dreams. She kindly looked at me and said “Amber, I will always be honest with you. I don’t think you should have biological children. I don’t think your heart will be strong enough.”

She then told us, she could give us three possible outcomes, but there would be no way to know which I would fall into. Scenario 1, I’d have a great, successful pregnancy and the baby and I would be healthy the whole time. Scenario 2, I’d have a very rough pregnancy, resulting in being on bed rest for the majority of the pregnancy. My heart would be severely weakened and I could pass on my CHD to my baby. Scenario 3, I would not survive labor. The baby could have my CHD or be born stillborn. She also told us that miscarriages are very common with CHD mothers. That would be another complication and would take a toll on my body.

I sat in a chair holding back tears. How could this be possible? Why is God taking this from me? I wanted to scream! My cardiologist asked me how I was. I smiled and said I was fine, then thanked her for being open and honest with me.

My fiance and I walked slowly to the car. When we got in the car, I looked straight ahead and said “I understand if this changes things between us. You have every right to want to be a father. If this is what you want, then we don’t have to get married.” He took my hand, then said,”Look at me.” I did. He continued “I want to be a father and you will be a mother. We are doing this together. I know you are willing to risk your life to carry a baby, but I will not put you through that. I am not going to risk losing both of you. If we are going to be parents, God will find a way to make that happen. I love you and you will be my wife.” I smiled, through the tears, trying to believe him.

Gripped with Sadness

I was crushed. All I did was cry. Regretfully, I went to work the next day. Phew, big mistake! At that time I was a preschool teacher and being in a room with babies day in and out was torture. I cried every time ” You’ll be in my heart” by Phil Collins came on during nap-time. For months, when nobody was looking, all I did was cry. I couldn’t walk in the baby section of Target without crying, I avoided it like the plague for years. I slowly started to heal. But, it has been hard.

On our honeymoon I broke down, again and told my new husband that I was so sorry. I couldn’t give him the one thing that a wife is supposed to give her husband, a child. He held me as I cried and gently reminded, again that we would be parents and God had our baby out there. But, again, I didn’t believe him.

The Cycle of Grief

They say there are Five stages of Grief. I have gone through them all. Denial, slowly became anger. I was angry! Angry at God. Angry at myself, my cardiologist, at my husband. I was just angry! So I stopped praying. I wouldn’t open my bible and if we went to church, I wouldn’t sing. How could I sing the praises of Jesus, when he took this from me? Even though I was angry, Jesus would keep whispering a verse to me.  

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Jeremiah 29:11

Anger, slowly went into Bargaining. I would say to myself “If only I had been born normal, then I’d be able to have a baby” I became very guilty. It was my fault. I was the reason we couldn’t have kids. I carried that guilt around for years. Satan loved reminding me that I was a failure. After we had been married for 3 years, we began to look into surrogacy, we quickly learned that would be a no go! We didn’t have $50,000 to $100,000 to spend. We quickly put that idea to bed. Again, I felt like a failure.

Another Setback

Adoption slowly started coming into our thoughts after that. We started researching and planning to take the next step. Then the bottom fell out from under us. I started being harassed and bullied by my employers over my CHD. My boss placed me on forced FMLA leave because they felt that I was a liability to myself and others. I had a huge Goliath in my path. This was the start of my depression.

I don’t like being told that I am weak, having limitations put on me. I know my body, I know how much I can and cannot take. Being told that I was a liability to myself and others, hurt me deep. I felt like something was wrong with me. I started having panic attacks all the time and not sleeping. Everything was crashing down around me.

Finally, my employers informed me that they would let me return to work, but only if my doctor gave me full clearance. To be clear, my doctor never put limitations on me. She trusted me to be smart enough to know how much I could take. Before I was put on leave, my bosses would ask me little things about my heart, i.e. what was my full condition, why did I always carry water with me, and other questions that I thought were harmless at the time. Honesty is the best policy, that was what I was taught. So I was open and honest. They in turn used that against me.

That was a hard lesson and time in my life. But, I learned to stand up and fight for myself. Something I was never good at. And, that was hard to do, trust me! But, Jesus was with me the whole time. Standing alongside me fighting.

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Deuteronomy 3:16

God’s Perfect Plan

Jesus never left me. He was right there. That year taught me a lot. My husband and I learned to lean on each other more. I was able to care for my mam-maw before her dementia became worse. I was reminded that Jesus knows exactly what he is doing. Nothing takes him by surprise. He knew that I needed to get out of a terrible work situation, he knew that my mam-maw needed me. Later, my mam-maw went into the hospital and then to an assisted living so she. The next day, I had an interview for my dream job to be a pre-k assistant at the same elementary school that I attended as a child. And, a week later I was hired. I see now how God’s hand was in the details that year. I was where I was supposed to be, even though I couldn’t see it.

Faith of a Mustard Seed

The stage of depression was/has been my longest struggle. It took me a while, but I have slowly begun to accept my journey to motherhood. I have accepted that it is not in my best interest to have my own biological children. I want to be around for a long, long time! My husband and I will go through this journey together. Just like everything in life, we do it together. Adoption is the best option for our family. I have been on this roller coaster of emotions for 8 years and my husband and I have been pursuing our dream for 5 years.

While we are not yet parents, I have faith that God is working on our little miracle. Even on my days where I struggle with the wait, I still have faith, the faith of a mustard seed. It may be small, but it’s there. My dream is what keeps me going. God isn’t taking away my dream. He is making it better, better than I could ever imagine. He just wants me to wait and be patient, because when it happens, it’s going to blow our minds! It’s like he is giving me a present and I am slowly unwrapping it. I just need to savor this moment in life.

Jesus has been so faithful to me. I know Jesus won’t abandon me. He never has. He will never abandon you. Even on your worst days, the days where you are angry at him, he is still there. Just waiting, patiently for you. Loving you.

He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

Matthew 17:20

This post was shared by Amber West from her blog More than the Scars. Amber was born with Tricuspid Atresia and VSD. She believes in seeing the good in every situation and advocating loving the body that God gave you, scars and all. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her husband, family, pets, and now cuddling with her sweet, 6 week old baby.