This week is National Infertility Awareness Week.
My experience is bittersweet. For four years, my husband and I tried having children. After four years of tears, testing, and trial, we conceived! Then sadly, after a brief 5-6 weeks, we lost our child. It was my first miscarriage that I knew of. I went to baby showers and events with children during those four years and the same month of my miscarriage. It hurt. I was happy for my friends and family, but it was like a slap in my face of what I yearned for and didn’t yet have.
Trust in God’s timing.
The shrill resounding gong of well meaning Christians made my eardrums bleed, my heart pound, and my soul dead. I know his timing is perfect, but I noticed that those telling me to trust God always had kids. Here I was wading in uncertainty and expectation while they cradled the babe I longed for. It was easy for them to spew such careless advice. Rather than hearing me cry and offer gifts on Mother’s Day, or something akin to that, I was essentially told to gird up my loins and be content with the lot God had given me. I was grateful for the opportunity to travel and bond with my husband, but I felt a deep sense of longing in my heart. Those dark days weren’t made any easier by being told to trust God. I did. I just wanted to know I wasn’t alone, that I had people interceding and praying when I felt too sorrowful to do so.
If you stop stressing it will happen.
I have an infant now. I have another child on the way. I can’t recall how many times I was told, “See, we said to stop stressing and when you did, it happened.” This is a huge slap in my face. Rather than offering up a willingness to pray, people were saying this was something I could control. I already felt biologically inept and like less of a woman. These statements make me feel like I wanted this long journey because I refused to let go of stress.
Clue to everyone out there: You will always have stress in your life. Stress doesn’t go away. You can surrender to God and trust him, but we will still endure trials. Telling me to stop stressing feels similar to those preaching prosperity…like if we fix sin in our lives, work harder, or increase our faith than we will be blessed with the desires of our heart. Science indicated that my issue and my husband’s were very real. We had medically diagnosed sexual problems. (We had a strong desire for each other but frequent engagement isn’t going to ensure conception. It might increase odds, but if there is a problem than a problem exists.) People’s “innocent” comments made it seem like our years of confirmed diagnostic testing was false. You wouldn’t tell someone who had cancer that it was just due to their imagination and if they stopped stressing that it would disappear, would you? Why do we do this with infertile couples?
[Also, Willow was conceived JUST after a miscarriage. We were stressed out to the maximum. Willow didn’t occur because we let go of stress and worrying about having a kid. God gave her to us in spite of stress. He is good and gracious.]
Friends and family might think that since I have children now that I’m not plagued by that dark past. Sometimes I still struggle with having been infertile. I have friends who are still enduring that burden. I ask myself why God would answer my prayers and not theirs. I fear my infertile friends resent me. Since I have a child and another on the way, I wonder if other people question the validity of my experience with infertility.
I always fear something will happen in my pregnancies. I didn’t bond with Willow while she was in the womb because I was afraid that if I did and lost her, the vulnerability would be too much. I didn’t want to invest the energy and excitement I had done with the child we conceived and lost just before her. As a result, I reluctantly kept, and sometimes still keep, her at arm’s length because I fear time being cut short. I fear that I’ll wake up from this magical paradise of having my blessed child and she’ll be gone. Every day I pray a slightly selfish prayer and ask that God might prolong the days of my husband and my children.
I might take some pregnant belly photos, but they are few and far between. The photographs are captured memories. I don’t want the constant reminder of a loss should one occur. I took one photo of myself before we miscarried. It hurts. If I dwell too much though, I won’t be able to appreciate Willow fully. (She was conceived JUST after my miscarriage.)
Well-intentioned, but perhaps legalistic Christians, will tell me that all of this fear isn’t of God. I should be joyous. They will tell me to pray more and have the Holy Spirit manifest in me more fully. “True and sincere” Christians don’t show signs of fear or worry they are full of thanksgiving. Then I have my doubts about my faith when people won’t comfort my fears through the covering of their own prayers. Rather than support and encouragement, I’m met with a series of judgements. I think my faith is authentic but I often question it. Others tell me that depression, doubt, and fear will pass; if we stop dwelling in pity than we can be grateful for what God has given. While there might be elements of truth to this, it isn’t the balm of a kind word.
This is to women still battling this dark pit. It feels so lonely. I’ve been where you are. I felt isolated. Your concerns and fears are real. It is okay to feel. God doesn’t say we have to be vacant of emotion to have authentic faith. Please know though that your value and worth are tied up in your identity as a child of God, not as a mother. You are deeply loved and can impact society immeasurably. Becoming a mother will not change your ability to influence the world, sure it would be in a different capacity, but you can still do incredible works for the kingdom of God. You are a dear treasure. Also, your family of two (you and your partner) is just as valid as a family with kids. Since we are adopted children of God, we can even be a family as a single individual. Family is the whole community we belong to, not just the offspring we produce or the life mate we choose.
You are God’s beloved. May you not have to fight this battle in silence or loneliness anymore. I pray my confession of this struggle might help you in your own testimony. To God be all the glory. Know that we fought this ordeal together, an ordeal that made us sisters. May your awareness of my journey through this situation assist you as you navigate this path. You don’t have to endure this in isolation any longer. I’m here to listen to you vent and eat a pint of ice cream if you so desire. You are loved dear sister and you don’t have to go through this alone.
(FYI: Sister refers to individuals who have dealt with infertility not specifically my sister by blood relation.)