I read a fellow blogger’s post this morning that has stuck with me all day. In it, she was brutally honest about the pain and suffering she has experienced due to infertility. Most people who look at me and at my family don’t understand the empathy I have for women battling infertility. They think, “What does she know? She has 5 beautiful daughters! She can’t possibly understand what infertility means to a woman.”
The reality is that I can and do. Yes, I have five children now. But, once upon a time, many years ago, I didn’t. I still have those pesky notes on my gynecological charts labeling me as “infertile”. In fact, when my youngest was born (on my 40th birthday to be exact), I will never forget the doctor walking in my room perusing my medical chart and laughing. His comment? “Well, I think we can remove this label from your chart since this is your 5th baby!” At the time, I also laughed (after the contraction passed). But, as I have reflected on that moment, I realize that I wasn’t ever completely comfortable with his comment.
The reality is that many women today who do have children ARE infertile. One never knows the circumstances behind how the children were conceived within a family and most of the time, society doesn’t ever really want to know.
The reality is that infertility means so much more than not having children.
- It means a heartache so intense that it radiates to those around you.
- It means a daily spiritual battle as you beg and plead with God to grant this one small request.
- It is feeling as if you are somehow inadequate or broken.
- It is an almost mechanical intimate relationship with the person you love above all but which is getting shadowed by this desire that is coming from the deepest part of your soul.
- It is the crushing depression that comes to you each month when you realize that once again, whatever you are trying this time didn’t work.
- It is the comments from well-meaning people around you asking when you are going to start your family. Or after the 1st child is born, the questions about why you have such a large age gap between your children.
- It means taking medicine that messes with your moods in ways that no one around you really wants to experience or causes such weight gain that you feel like an elephant.
- It means laying awake at night wondering why you aren’t like your friend who gets pregnant if she so much as looks at her husband.
- It means questioning yourself constantly about the things you did in your past and whether those actions are the cause of your problems now.
- Most of all, it means that you are questioning who you are and what purpose you have here in this life when all of your life, you have dreamed of being a mom. Now, what do you do if you aren’t?
In Fumbling Toward Grace, Sarah raises the most important question that is raised in an infertile woman’s heart. Is God trustworthy? Deep down, as a believer, you know the answer is yes. But, as a woman feeling broken and lost in the midst of the pain of infertility, the reality is that while your mouth is saying the word yes, your heart is wondering whether He truly is.
As a woman who has lived and survived infertility, I have a different perspective. I can now look back and see how even when I didn’t realize it, God was guiding our days. He knew the correct timing for us. He knew what was best for us. And yet, as much as I recognize that now, it still doesn’t take away the pain from earlier. That earlier pain and suffering will always be a part of who I am. It is what has guided me to getting early help for my teenage daughters who are battling the same medical condition that I have. Because, as time has passed, I know now that there is hope. It doesn’t seem like it in the midst of the trial, but hope is with us all of the time. Today, the field of Naprotechnology has brought so much to the topic of women’s health that I actually have hope and not despair for my daughters and their coming trials with infertility. I actually have hope that with the new treatments out there, maybe, just maybe, they won’t have to suffer as I did.
I also have hope that one day, people will be able to look around them with a different perspective. Not all that we see with our eyes is accurate. If we see someone in church with only one child, we shouldn’t assume automatically that they are contracepting. Maybe they are infertile and are rejoicing in the one blessing that God has given them while battling the despair that they can’t have the larger family they envisioned. Maybe even a family like mine in church which fills the whole pew, understands more about infertility than what you think. Until you have walked a day in someone else’s shoes, we need to remember not to judge and to do our best to put on the best perspective of all… God’s!
Jesus does not ask for great achievements: only surrender and gratitude. St. Therese of Lisieux