By Wendi Kitsteiner
Reflection hurts. And I have a few spots in my past that make my heart hurt when I think about them. I imagine we all have something like that in our lives. Memories that cause us pain. Either because of something we did or something we didn’t do or something that happened to us or something that we caused to happen to others. A sickness. A betrayal. A death. A disappointment. A mistake.
After two years on an Air Force base in Turkey, our family was relocated to a nineteen-by-twenty-one-mile island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Part of Portugal, Terceira Island in the Azores was, without a doubt, one of the most beautiful places I had ever seen. Picture Ireland surrounded by water. Greener than anything you can imagine. Rolling hills. Beautiful volcanic rock coasts. Cows meandering through the streets. Bullfights. A café in every town.
But despite the beauty surrounding me, my heart and body were in unspeakable pain.
After years of infertility treatments, we had a few remaining embryos that we wanted to give a chance at life. I had undergone IVF four other times, but this time, the medications I was on caused me to spiral into a depression. I lost twenty pounds and found myself pregnant and terribly sick.
I dealt with intense anxiety, panic attacks, depression, and of course pregnancy sickness that caused me to feel nauseous nearly all day long. The only way I could sleep was with sleeping medications, and each new day left me feeling no better than the day before. I went to bed each night knowing I would wake up feeling the same–if not worse.
Oh, and that very green island? I came to understand why it was so green.
Rain. Relentless rain. Five straight months of rain.
The nausea was as relentless as the rain. I passed through the first trimester and into the second continuing to dry-heave anytime I moved. I couldn’t read. I couldn’t exercise. I couldn’t write. I couldn’t watch TV. I couldn’t get on the computer.
Talk about being stuck in your own head.
I was on an island in the middle of the ocean without any of the comforts of home. I couldn’t find the groceries I wanted, shop at the stores I wanted, or see the people I wanted.
Oh, and did I mention I had three other children under the age of four to take care of?
During these long months, my husband and I knew we loved each other, but we did not feel that we loved each other. He became my counselor and physician, rather than my husband. I cried myself to sleep every night as he tried to talk me off a cliff. I truly believed that the Wendi I had always been was gone forever.
I started doubting my ability to parent, homeschool, move to a farm–everything we had planned for years. I took care of my children like a robot might, with very little emotion attached.
My husband reminded me every single day that it was a chronic illness. That people dealing with illness often got depressed. And that I would bounce back. He promised me I wouldn’t feel this way forever. But I couldn’t comprehend feeling better.
I hung on for dear life, praying that when I delivered this little girl, the dark veil would lift.
In the midst of all this, we received word two different times that my husband might have to deploy. One of the times, he couldn’t even bear to tell me until after he got word he wasn’t going to go. The other time, we waited together, facing the unknown. I was in another country on a cold, wet, rainy island in a big house that didn’t smell or feel like home to me. And then I was told I might lose my only true rock–my husband.
I had to fly back to the States to have our baby, and at the last minute, my husband got tagged for another military assignment and was unable to accompany me home. So my nearly-thirty-six-week still very sick and pregnant self and three tiny children made the flight from Portugal to South Florida without his help.
The moment Hannah was born, I began to heal. It was as if the moment she was removed from my womb (all 10.2 pounds of her!), the slate was wiped clean. It took time, of course, for me to completely feel like myself again after the damage those months did to me. But within a matter of weeks, and definitely within a matter of months, I was back.
My husband and I quickly began working to repair what a year of no communication can do to a marriage. Today, I can honestly say we are back to where we were before that year–deeply in love and a united team.
But the remembrance still haunts me. I confided in my husband that I could not think back to that place without a flood of dark memories. As much good as happened there, I could not think of that place in fear of rousing up all the bad. The thought of visiting it or seeing it again made me tense and overwhelmed.
My husband told me this was normal. And then he shared with me the lyrics to a song by the Christian music group MxPx:
You’re old enough to know it’s not your fault
You’re strong enough to face your darkest conflict
Now you’ve woken from your nightmare, and now you’re fighting back
And nothing can survive when you attack
This road to healing, hurts more than anything
It’s okay to skip over those parts of our story. It’s okay to have a month or a year or a few years we would like to forget.
But in the midst of that, we must also see God’s hand. He brought me through those times and carried me out on the other side. I am better because of that experience. I am writing this piece right now, forcing myself to reflect, because I know that opening that wound may help someone else’s wound to close.
I pray that if you, like me, have moments of your life you’d rather forget, you can remember how big God is and how capable you are of rising above the sadness and living again! Our God is an awesome God.
Now that you’re on fire, you’re voice is like the wind
Now that you’re on fire, let life begin again
Now that you’re on fire, a new day has begun
Now that you’re on fire, you are like the sun
Now that you’re on fire, now that you’re on fire
Wendi Kitsteiner is a former city girl now living on a farm in the middle of nowhere, Tennessee with her husband and four young children. She is passionate about the causes of infertility, adoption, and keeping it real as a mom. You can follow her at flakymn.blogspot.com or becauseofisaac.org.