Personal Story ImageIt is late on a Tuesday evening. I am patiently waiting for my eight-month-old baby girl’s laundry to dry. She has grown so fast lately that only a few pairs of her footed pajamas still fit her, all of which are in the dryer delaying our usual bedtime routine. Too impatient to wait for the entire cool down, I stop the dryer and feel the warmth of her tossed clothes while smelling the subtle yet fragrant aroma of Dreft detergent mixed with Snuggle dryer sheets. The load is dry, thank goodness. I scoop the clothes out, put them into the laundry basket, reach down to clean out the lint, and shut the door. Yet, before placing the now crumpled lint into the trash can, I do what I’ve done every load of her laundry since she was born. I open my hand, look down at the dryer lint and smile. There in my hand is no ordinary dryer lint – it is pink dryer lint – a color of lint never present until the birth of my little girl, a color that symbolizes more than one would ever think dryer lint could.

What is it that makes me rejoice over pink dryer lint?  Why is it that I choose to stop and smile over something so simple and ordinary? It is because I have stared the very real possibility of life without pink dryer lint in the face. I have spent many sleepless nights wondering if my dryer lint might ever be something other than the dismal gray it usually is, a color that in my mind represents the fear and disappointment that hung over me prior to becoming pregnant. Gray, the color of ordinary dryer lint, and in my world, the color of infertility.

We don’t talk about infertility because it comes with such a deep sense of inadequacy, a pain, a longing. We don’t talk about infertility, and because of that, thousands of women and men struggle silently feeling like they are the only people in the world not able to do what everyone else does so easily and often accidently. They are people just like me, people who see nothing but gray dryer lint, people who feel an uncertainty about the future that they never knew they’d face. They are people who grew up dreaming of being a mommy or daddy, who always had that in their plans, and suddenly their plans have been crumpled into pieces, replaced only with a giant question mark surrounded by tears of hurt and fear. Gray dryer lint.

It is only in going through the hurt, the inadequacy and fear of not conceiving, though, that we come to appreciate the pink dryer lint. Most people would never notice it at all or would see it and think about how their daughter’s closet could use some color variety. Not a person who has gone through the journey of infertility. Not a person who has held onto to the deepest hope in their heart of becoming a parent as they endured the IVF process. That person looks at the pink dryer lint, tearing up time after time, and thinks, “I have a little girl. I am a mom.” Pink dryer lint, to me, is better than any trophy or prize. It is the symbol of hope that overcomes all obstacles. It is the color of perseverance. It is the color of giant leaps of faith. It is the color of life’s greatest blessing. Pink dryer lint is a gift I receive each time I do my daughter’s laundry, a gift I hold in my hand and marvel at, thanking God for the blessing of my little girl and the chance to be her mommy.

My sweet baby is sound asleep in her crib now, snuggly and warm in her freshly washed pajamas. I fold the rest of her clothes as she softly dreams a few feet away. Next to me, is that crumpled ball of pink dryer lint. I just can’t bring myself to throw it away.  Looking at it takes me through every step of our journey, and at the end I find myself right back into the present joy of watching my baby sleep. It is midnight now, but I go downstairs and find a Ziploc baggie. I place the dryer lint inside, close it, and with a decided smile I walk over to my daughter’s closet. I open her memory box for her first year and tuck the baggie of dryer lint safely inside. One day when my baby girl is older, she will ask me, probably with a confused giggle, why I put dryer lint in her memory box.  It is then that I will sit her on my lap and begin to tell the most beautiful story of hope and love I know: the story of her.

Wishing all of you struggling with infertility the gifts of hope, perseverance and dryer lint worth rejoicing over. Be it pink or blue, may you find yourself with a tear of joy glistening in the corner of your eye as you scrape it out and hold that lint in your hand. May you smile knowing very few people can appreciate such a little ordinary thing, but you can in the deepest way possible. As one of the IVF nurses told me just moments before our egg retrieval, may you always remember that “Often the things that start out the hardest, turn out the greatest.”

Contributed by: Lisa Maynard is a Kindergarten teacher and photographer from the Cleveland, Ohio area.