I remember taking tests as a child. My pounding heart and clammy palms as I waited to see the content of the test, wondering if I had prepared enough, if I was smart enough, if I was just…enough.
That’s how I feel now, thirty-some years later, as I reflect on the role testing has played in my life for the last ten years.
Four years into our marriage, it was the infertility testing, trying to figure out why we hadn’t conceived yet.
Five years in, it was a positive pregnancy test, followed by a slew of “advanced maternal age” testing for possible abnormalities, and ending in the healthy birth of our sunshine girl.
Six years in, it was another positive pregnancy test, followed at the halfway point by the death of our baby, and then more testing. And then more after we lost another baby. And another. Testing to see what was wrong with us, and with our babies. Then, finally, another positive pregnancy test, followed by a bunch of tests that scared us, only to find our son was stubborn and stuck around the whole nine months.
In the years since – more tests. More positive pregnancy tests, followed by loss. Dozens of ovulation tests, trying to find the best days to conceive. And so many negative pregnancy tests, the single line mocking me from the bathroom trash can.
Testing gets a bad rap sometimes. We talk about test anxiety and teaching to the test and high stakes testing that can chart our course for the future – which is what all these tests feel like to me. High stakes testing that will chart my next eighteen years – no, the rest of my life. It’s why my heart races and my hands shake waiting for the three minutes to pass and willing myself not to look until the time is up. Because with each test, life hangs in the balance.
What I need to remember, though, is that none of those tests define me. It is easy to forget that, to feel like the test results are a personal judgment of my brokenness and even my fitness to have a baby. It harkens back to my childhood, wondering before a test if, at the core, I was good or prepared or smart “enough”.
These days, two and a half years from my last pregnancy, and my last loss, I am trying to see all that testing in a different light. It is not a test to pass or fail, but one as in the science of metallurgy, in which the heat of the furnace separates priceless metals from impurities. I pass the test not by getting pregnant, but in how I respond. Will I allow the TTCAL roller coaster to define my worth as a woman? Or to give me a short temper with the people around me, nursing bitterness in my soul? Or will I let it grow me into a woman of greater compassion toward others, and greater understanding of myself?
I find the strength to aim for the latter in my faith, my family, and in the babyloss community where the stories of others have always been my greatest encouragement. My strongest cheerleaders and biggest champions are other loss moms on the journey with me, or slightly ahead, and that is what I long to be for others, and what I know we can all be for one another.
What about you? How is the journey of trying to conceive after loss refining your character?