To Our Future Child or Children,
(If God has more in store for us)
The Holidays are here again…. Thanksgiving has just passed and Christmas is coming! We just wanted to share that as hard as waiting is for us we are thankful. Because we believe in our hearts that at the end of this journey is YOU. And, we chose to be thankful for every single day that brings us closer to bringing you home. We can’t wait to meet you!
Mom & Dad
People make allowances for all sorts of grief.
Compassion is often our first and most natural response when it comes to bereavement and loss, especially loss we can give a name to. Something discernible that from the outside is easy to understand. Easy to put into words.
Infertility is a loss of staggering proportions.
To those of us who experience it, it can be incomprehensible. Bewildering. Mind-numbing. Yet it is not an easy loss to define. Nobody died. There is no funeral to attend. No one sends flowers or sympathy cards.
Even to the ones who suffer this loss, it can be a struggle to find the proper words to describe it.
What have we really lost? What words can we use to do justice to this thing that knocks the air from our lungs?
It isn’t loss that has a name or memories or a number of years attached to it.
“We are mourning something intangible — what never was and what never will be. Because of this, it can also be difficult for others to grasp.”
While most people would agree it is sad to not be able to have children, the idea of feeling desperation and wild crippling grief could seem dramatic, excessive and even weak.
I came to think that the most common response to infertility was: “At least it isn’t… ”
From well-meaning souls I heard that at least I didn’t have cancer. At least I hadn’t had a miscarriage or three. At least I hadn’t lost a sibling or a parent or even my job. At least I wasn’t dying.
To be fair, these “at leasts” weren’t meant to be hurtful but they did breathe distance into some of our relationships. A part of me understood that these phrases were meant to reassure me, that these people genuinely wanted to help me to put what I felt in perspective, but at that early point in my journey I was still reeling from the pain and shock of it.
It wasn’t perspective I sought, (that came later), it was understanding.
I needed someone to sit down and hold my hand and say, “I’m so sorry, this must hurt so much. I’m here for you.”
There were some who did exactly this, who it was safe to grieve with. They spoke with love and compassion and the very fact that they allowed my grief to exist and they heard me was healing.
Unfortunately, more often, the unintentional message I heard was that of my sadness being undermined, made less by the words “at least.”
How could my personal pain possibly measure up against all the greater tragedies in the world?
So I would sit there, my eyes cast down. Twisting my fingers together. Nodding my head apologetically because how could I disagree with such logic?
Yes, at least I wasn’t dying.
Except I was.
I would catch myself feeling as though I should apologize for all my sadness and anger, for daring to be so bold as to let my heart shatter and my world fall apart over this. Apologize for all this hurt my heart couldn’t contain.
I would bite back all the words I wanted to say. The hurt and desperation I thought I might be able to share with someone. I recall feeling complete dismay that others couldn’t see how this loss to me felt like grieving an actual death.
“I didn’t have a child I was mourning, but in my heart I was mourning every child. “
I cried rivers over the little boys and little girls who would never have my smile or my husband’s eyes. I began to have dreams of stumbling down a difficult forest path leading to a pitch black lake where a child was floating face down in the water. The grief I experienced in this dream echoed my grief in real life–indescribable and haunting.
I hurt endlessly, and on top of all this, I felt like the worst sort of failure because I wasn’t able to just slap a smile on my face and convince myself that at least it wasn’t worse.
For myself, at the time, and others in the process of going through this, it is the worst. It just is.
There is nothing trivial about grief over infertility. A person can grieve the loss of their dream of a biological family as honestly and deeply as someone else can grieve the loss of a child or parent or partner or their health.
There is no “at least” when it comes to the breaking of the human heart, there is no need to try to measure one person’s pain against another to see who is worthy of feeling grief and who isn’t.
If you are in a similar situation, you probably know already that no grief ever fully disappears, but I want to tell you from eight years down the road from this pain, that one day these wounds that now feel so raw and open will heal. They will still pulse with pain every so often but you will be restored to yourself and left with the truth of who you are.
The truth is things will change and you will change. It won’t always hurt the way it does now. I promise you that you will find your way.
I’m going to leave you with one “at least” that I hope makes a difference.
That in this pain that feels so solitary, at least you’re not alone.
This was first published on Some Talk of You and Me.
Have you ever googled “Thankful for infertility“? I have. And all of the articles at the top of my search were written by women who had reached the other side. They were the ones no longer in the trenches and throes of infertility. The ones who have had their adoptions finalized. The ones who have given birth to healthy babies. The ones who have had their dreams fulfilled, no longer pouring every last penny into medicine and doctor appointments. And they were the ones no longer gasping for air from the deep heartache of a miscarriage or a failed adoption.
Given the fact they were living on the other side, I believe it was easier for them to look back and be thankful for all that infertility had taught them. They could see through the eyes of grace how it strengthened their marriage, renewed their faith, and brought them blessings in disguise. They could see how their journey through their miscarriage made them stronger and braver. They could see how everything that went wrong, helped make all things right. And they could see all of this because they were on the mountain top looking down.
But you– the one still fighting for your dream. The one whose heart is still painfully aching from a miscarriage. The one who just discovered another treatment cycle has failed. And the one who is hanging onto hope by a thread. I am writing this article for you. Because I want you to know that this Thanksgiving, as you carve the turkey, pass the stuffing and put way too much whip cream on your pumpkin pie, it’s okay if you are struggling to be thankful.
Sure, you can name one thing or even several things…your home, your job, your spouse, or even the food in which you are about to partake…but the one joy you thought or hoped you were going to be thankful for this Thanksgiving holiday, you can’t mention. And maybe it is because you have recently learned that the miracle that once filled your womb isn’t going to fill your arms. Or the plans you made in order to make this year different, have failed. And failed miserably. Or maybe it’s because the dreams you believed were coming true, have instead turned into a nightmare.
And my heart aches for you. Because I get it. I understand. I even understand the pressure you are under to still be joyful and thankful for all that still remains. And I understand the guilt you feel when you can’t and the shame you have when you aren’t, even though you know you should be. You know you live an abundant life, but it’s just so hard to see it right now. And so this guilt and this shame on top of all of this heartache? It just makes the stress of the holiday much more difficult to bear. And it makes you feel like a horrible person, am I right? But friend, as you venture into Thanksgiving this week, I want to tell you something from my heart to yours: It’s okay.
It’s okay if you are unable to fight back the tears as you gather around the table to give thanks.
It’s okay if you can’t see how your miscarriage could ever be woven into some master plan of good.
It’s okay to be sad…even outraged…that your life isn’t going according to plan.
It’s okay if you need to lock yourself in the bathroom and cry when the emotions become too overwhelming, the thoughts become too painful, and the heartache you have becomes too strong.
It’s okay to be angry and confused at the unfairness infertility brings.
It’s okay if you don’t sweep your emotions underneath the kitchen rug you are standing on while you peel the potatoes, but rather open up and tell your family how your womb aches. Your heart hurts. And the hope you have is fading.
And it’s okay to shake your fist to the heavens and tell God exactly how you feel. Not holding anything back.
It’s okay to question why your plans are not good enough or the timing isn’t right.
It’s okay to be mad that you have spent thousands of dollars and countless hours at the doctor’s office just to be given a chance to have what seems to come so naturally and easily to others.
And it’s okay to hurt, to cry, and to still feel disappointed even though others think you should have moved on by now.
It’s okay to tell your Aunt Judy with grace that it’s not really her place to ask when you are going to have children.
It’s okay if while grocery shopping for thanksgiving dinner you see a pregnant woman in the same aisle as you and you need to turn your head. Even move to another part of the store. Or wipe away a tear.
It’s okay if you decline the invitation to hold your cousins baby or walk away from a conversation about motherhood.
It’s okay if you decide to cook a meal for just you and your spouse…forgoing the traditional family affair.
Friend, basically I want you to know it’s okay to not be okay this Thanksgiving.
So give yourself the gift of grace. Because you are not a horrible person. You are a normal human being with normal emotions after experiencing loss and constant disappointment and heartache. Even the most perfect person has occasional trouble seeing the joy through the pain. So, sweet friend, don’t beat yourself up or kick yourself down. Just do the best you can and try to remember through the holiday season that it won’t always be this hard, or this overwhelming, or this stressful. Because just like the women in the articles wrote, night always turns to dawn. Seasons always change. And the valley you are in today might be the one you are looking down on tomorrow. But until that time comes, just know that it’s okay to not always be okay this Thanksgiving.
Imagine you’re sitting in your house, sipping on a cup of tea while your two kids play in the living room. You have kindergarten and playdates on your mind. Cartoons are blasting on the T.V. and they’re playing loudly. You can make out only a few words here or there, but mostly you hear laughter. You look beside you and notice cereal smashed into the floor. The living room is a tornado of toys and sippy cups. But you don’t care. You have what you have always wanted, a bustling house where kids live.
But what if you didn’t? What if you woke up tomorrow and descended the stairs to a pristine looking room. You could hear birds chirping in the distance. It’s silent. For over 6 million women in the U.S, this is their reality.
This reality is hard for Christine to swallow. Since she was young, she had dreamed of having a family. Being a mother was a role she knew she was perfect for. When she was 18, she started dating Neil. Neil wanted the same things. Everything was going perfectly.
When Christine was 19 she was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. Women with PCOS have an imbalance of sex hormones, which can lead to menstrual issues and trouble getting pregnant. As a teenager, she never imagined this could affect the image of what she wanted out of life.
When Christine was 25, she and Neil decided to start a family. They stopped using birth control, and were excited for the next chapter in their lives.
A year of trying later, they knew something was wrong. Their new reality became doctors and fertility treatments. It became poking and prodding. It became surgeries. Their dream seemed to get farther and farther away with every appointment.
The doctors didn’t help. Physically or emotionally. Christine knew they saw her as number. One of those 6 million women. They coldly gave her every negative test result, with a monotone voice. The uneasy feeling that constantly sat in her stomach left their minds as soon as they left the office and met their families for dinner.
What had she done wrong? Why couldn’t she get pregnant when so many other women get pregnant without even trying? How could there be mothers who give their children up or treat them poorly while she sat in this doctor’s office for another test and cried herself to sleep at night. It didn’t seem fair. It wasn’t.
When medical treatment was becoming more painful than helpful, Christine and Neil decided to turn to holistic treatment. They began seeing an acupuncturist and started changing their lifestyle. They changed their diet to include organic and fresh foods, began exercising, and took Chinese herbs. Things felt right this time.
Within a few months, Christine was pregnant. But it was a chemical pregnancy. A chemical pregnancy is essentially a very early miscarriage. The only thing to prove that you were actually pregnant for that short time was the pregnancy test. This happened twice. A chemical pregnancy is like a cruel joke to someone who is just waiting to see the two pink lines in front of their eyes.
They kept up hope as well as their healthy lifestyle the best they could. They started every day with a positive outlook. Maybe today will be the day. It has to happen. Things have to work out.
They were reaching their 33rd birthday. The clock was ticking away. With every day that passed it felt as if their chances of having a family were drifting further away. They decided to explore IVF and surrogacy as an option. They weren’t giving up.
This brought more invasive testing. It had to be worth it though, right?
The doctors seemed to grow colder with every word they spoke. Negative 125% chance of conceiving naturally on their own and 0% chance with IVF, which meant surrogacy or adoption was their only shot. The thought that she would never be able to feel what it was like to be pregnant, to be able to carry their own child, was an unbearable thought. This felt like their breaking point. They could almost see the world crashing around them. Hot tears welling up in their eyes. The doctor’s voice seemed to sound muffled, a thousand miles away. His face blurred by the tears. A few words ruined their lives.
Just a few days later a miracle happened. Sometimes doctors are wrong with their diagnosis. After all, they are based mostly on statistics. Maybe Christine was in denial, but on a whim she decided to take the last pregnancy test she had in the house. Having only one pregnancy test in the house after years of fertility issues was like a code red. What could it hurt? She went about her morning, ignoring the test laying on the counter. She glanced at it as she walked by. TWO LINES. It can’t be. It must be “line eye,” right?
The next day, after taking about 10 more tests, the reality she always imagined for herself seemed to inch closer. She went for blood tests and ultrasounds. It was true. She was pregnant.
She kept it a secret, even from Neil. Why get his hopes up? There was no way this could be real.
This time two weeks had passed. 8 years of praying, countless treatments, surgeries and doctor appointments. It felt like a dream. Every day felt different. Happier. She shared the news with Neil. They would have a family.
Weeks passed. Everything was normal. Except better. One morning it changed again. Christine felt achy and weak. She noticed bleeding. The doctor said it was normal, but it got worse as the day went on. They went to the doctor for another ultrasound. The look on the doctor’s face was enough to make her heart stop beating. She knew.
“I’m sorry to tell you, but you’re having a miscarriage.”
There was a fibroid and it grew so large it suffocated the baby. The baby had no room to grow. Just like that, it was over. It was as emotional as finally seeing those two pink lines on the pregnancy test. Except this time, she could feel her heart breaking. Pain she couldn’t have imagined before this.
The world might as well have stopped spinning. Maybe it was a nightmare. She would wake up in a few minutes and still be pregnant. But it wasn’t a nightmare. This was their reality. They felt tired and hopeless. They didn’t just lose a child. They lost their future, their family, and their hope.
“Maybe I could have eaten better. Maybe I didn’t sleep enough. What did I do? My baby would have been xxx old now. One day, we will meet again.”
These are thoughts Christine has every day. 6 million other women do too. Staying positive is hard. But she does. And now she’s dedicating herself to help those other women like herself. And there are plenty of them. Over 6 million.
Christine is still in the reality of the infertility struggle and work hard every day to make this dream of a family come true.
She has given herself the power to say “This is not how my story will end.”