M and I were going through all of the Christmas cards two days ago; our yearly ritual.  We flipped through card after card from friends and acquaintances. 

“Merry Christmas!  Baby number three due this June!” 

“Happy Holidays!  Our second bundle of joy arrives in March 2009.”

“We learned the exciting news that our sweet daughter will be a big sister next year!”

“[Names of Mom, Dad, Child] and Baby ___ due February 2009.”

And of course, the usual selection of pictures showing families who look like they could be posing for a Lexus commercial.  

I didn’t want to say this, but I was thinking it.  (As usual, I went ahead and said it.)  “It really doesn’t make sense how pregnancy and babies just come so easily for some people.  It’s hard to see these cards and think about how several of these people started trying around the same time we did, and now they not only have one child but are pregnant again.”   

M looked down and picked up another card.  It was professionally done, with expensive-feeling paper and an artistic candid photograph of a beautiful couple sitting on a park bench.  “Merry Christmas from J and E.”  The lighting highlighted their shiny hair and bright eyes, the whiteness of their teeth.  Not one thread was out of place.  It could have been a J.Crew ad. 

After a moment, M, still holding the perfect card, said, “I don’t want a family Christmas card that looks like it came from a magazine.  That isn’t real.”  He paused and looked at me.   “Not being able to get pregnant…that is real.  And I want our life to be real.  I want our family to be real.”

I hugged him and cried into his shoulder.  And as sad as I was, I felt a strange kind of peace as my tears streamed down my face and onto his shirt.  It’s in moments like this that I can actually feel a little thankful for our infertility.  Thankful that things aren’t going according to plan.  Thankful that we’re not getting everything we want.  Perhaps the beauty of this Real Life, with all of the sorrow and joy together, might be somewhat lost to us without feeling the frustration and longing and confusion that accompanies our infertility. 

So tonight I am thankful for our Real life, and our Real family.  And as I reflect on this moment, I would not want it any other way.

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