I am infertile. My body? It can’t do this thing that so many women around me do… conceive, swell, deliver, nurse, cradle, comfort. My body cannot feel a swift kick in the ribs; my ears can’t hear the gooey rush of a heartbeat on an ultra sound; my feet cannot swell with water retention; my hands can’t trace the tiny fingers of a fist pressed hard against my belly.
This is reality. This is grief. I am thankful that, over the past nine years, the Lord has shifted my longing to peace; brokenness to healing.
You must understand that what I am about to write is meant to be matter-of-fact… educational, perhaps. I want you to know that your pregnancy announcement or your Facebook photos are more to the infertile heart than just a baby.
Walk with me…
Earlier this week, I read this beautiful letter to daughters by Lisa-Jo Baker. Truly beautiful. Every daughter should have a mother willing to write these words… to carve this emotion into life. As I read through, tears welling and head nodding, knowing how blessed I am to know such mother-love in my life (and not just once), familiar grief pressed hard against a well-healed scar.
See, this thing called infertility isn’t just about the baby. It’s not just the cycle of cycle after hope and disappointment; it is more than the scent of newborn head or the long nights of rocking and pacing. Of the 3-5% of couples who do not go on to resolve their childlessness through birth or adoption, infertility is really a lifetime of hearing the word ‘No.’
‘No’ to: pregnancy, delivery, first booties, knit baby blankets, hospital visits, christening gowns, sleepless nights, first teeth, blow outs and stained sheets and vomit-duty and Cheerio-crusted curls.
‘No’ to: first steps, toddler tantrums, first words, open-mouthed kisses, grocery-store meltdowns, first trips to the beach, dentist, swimming pool, first broken bone, defiance and self-feeding and big-kid beds and endless days of potty training.
‘No’ to: first days of school, new teachers, good friends, mean kids, first sleep-overs and shoes that last barely a season; fussy eaters, homework fights, sports teams, graduations, discussions about drugs, sex, and rock & roll; questionable fashion trends, bad haircuts, experiments with vegetarianism, never leaving their room, learning to drive, enforcing curfew, first boyfriends/girlfriends and first break ups.
‘No’ to: first jobs and college and moving out and praying we taught them enough to let them stand on their own two feet; engagements and wedding plans and walking down the aisle and first homes and co-signing mortgages and figuring out the empty nest, wishing them home and to fly in the same breath.
‘No’ to: pregnancy announcements, grand babies, knitting blankets and booties and shopping and late night calls from exhausted, panicked mothers and babysitting and brag books and the fierce, quiet joy at the seemingly natural cycle of life.
This is reality. This is grief. This is the lifetime we live in the quiet moments after you announce a pregnancy, post pictures of first days of school, Easter outfits, Christmas morning, swimming lessons, mismatched outfits, or just the bright spots and moments of an everyday life.
Don’t stop posting. There is joy in watching your life unfold as ours will not. There will be days we will respond from a place of deep gratitude that we are part of your life… that you allow us to live vicariously in a way, years ago, we would not have thought possible. And there are days when we will sit quietly on the sidelines because that lifetime of ‘No’ is pressing hard against a permanent bruise.
Please understand this isn’t about guilt. Embrace the joy you’re given. God has lavished blessings on us both… blessings markedly different but beautiful in their own way. And each of our lives is sprinkled with hardship and struggle… perhaps I don’t know yours, but I’m not so naive as to believe that because you have the children I longed for your life is perfect. I know there are moments you cry out to God with fears and anxieties and disappointments and hidden grief.
Though I am infertile, my life is not barren. I am loved well by you, by family, by a God who cares about each of the tiny details of my life (Psalm 37:23). Grace has brought healing and joy and peace in a way that daily feels miraculous and overwhelming.
For those in the trenches, however, knee-deep in the boot-sucking mire of grief and disappointment, please think for a moment of this post. For many, this would-be life flashes before their eyes every month there is only one line on a home pregnancy test, every trip to the clinic, in every line filled out on the home study form. Will you pause for them? Just a quick pause in the crazy of your day with kids or grand kids or… not a full stop. Just a pause, because the wonder of that lifetime can truly slip through you in a moment.
Trust me. We know.