We sit in clinic waiting rooms or at dining room tables poring over countless questions that make up an adoption home study, and we ask ourselves the quiet list of questions that has become part of our everyday existence. Questions that, had the beast of infertility never reared its hideous head in our life, we wouldn’t dream of asking…
1. Am I not meant to have kids?
We get told this, you see. By well-meaning busybodies who think they’ve got a better grasp of God’s plan for our life than God does: ‘Clearly you weren’t meant to have kids.’ We are told that these words weren’t meant to hurt us… this was never their intent. But whether you intended to hurt us or not, those words sliced deep and long, and we were left fumbling with whether it was true.
And so we ask it ourselves… of friends, of spouses, of family, of God. The answers we receive are all wrought of a helpless lack of knowledge. Our tears slip past our lashes and we know that the silence on the other end of the line means one thing: there is no easy answer. There is, perhaps, no answer at all.
2. Does God know I’ll be a terrible mother?
We know ourselves. We know our foibles and imperfections. At some point we wonder whether one of these is the unforgivable… the one trait in humanity that must end with us. The one weakness we must never thrust upon the vulnerable and malleable minds and hearts of children. We wonder if somehow, somewhere down the line, we took a test we didn’t realize we’d flunked: that we would fail at motherhood and thus did not deserve a chance.
And yet, in our hearts, we cannot reconcile this. We try. We harbour it as a secret fear, while quietly assuring ourselves that surely we have some quality that would redeem our weaknesses in motherhood. But we are hard pressed to believe, and for fear of someone confirming this anxiety, we tuck this question in our hearts and beg it never to surface.
3. I can’t take much more. How do I know it will be worth it?
Our arms are bruised and swollen from countless blood draws. We’ve been at the clinic more times this week than we care to admit. We’ve started each of those days with a confirmation that our bodies can’t do this thing called baby-making… not even with help. We pop pills and take shots; we wait, naked beneath a sheet, for yet another ultrasound tech to confirm that we aren’t ovulating, are ovulating too much. “We’ll try again next cycle,” we’re told, as we’re left alone in the room to clean up and get dressed.
And while all we want is a baby in our arms at the end of the day, the truth is we question the cost. Through exhaustion and disappointment and severe hormonal changes we challenge whether it isn’t easier to quit. To just stop. To lay down the head and weep until it doesn’t hurt anymore, and then just get up and carry on. The hurt doesn’t end, though. Friends who have walked this journey to the other side assure us that it’s all worth it. Worth it and more. And so we slog on, limping and weary and doubting.
4. Should he have married someone else?
Oh, the broken failure inherent in this question. We are raised to be mothers, even now, even today. Most of the time, we marry with the hope of having children. But within that it is the giving of children that means so very much. To give a son or a daughter to our spouse. And here we are: hollow, empty, broken. Everywhere we go we see women pushing strollers and pregnant women and we know how we are failing. We know.
Had he married someone else… perhaps he could have two children by now. We walk through the math of years and cycles and wonder what games this man of ours would play with a two or three year old. A five year old. And we know he isn’t playing those games because of us. The ‘if onlys’ are endless then, and crushing.
5. Who am I as a woman if I am never a mother?
Ahhh, this. Perhaps the bravest of questions, this one. We sit in church pews and watch families find their seats. We silently count the number of wee heads that follow their mama and wonder what possible good we are in the world if we aren’t mothers. What use we are in the church… What possible contribution we can make…. what place we’ll have or role we’ll fill. Whether we will always always be second best: a less-than woman; a less-than Christ follower…
The identity crisis can be severe; it can last years and sometimes leave us bone-weary and hopeless. And all the while, we silently count wee heads following mamas… wondering and wondering.
Why do I share these questions with you? As a window into the heart of a woman facing infertility. This road we walk is so much more than just desiring a child: it challenges and breaks us, leaves us shattered and uncertain, and these questions (each one of them straight from the pit of hell) undermine our ability to see past the pain and sorrow of infertility.
You don’t need to dig up the right answers. We know you feel helpless. Powerless to make change for us, to ease our sorrow. And truly, it’s not what we long for from you. We hunger for your compassion. Your love. Your ability to stand for us when we need to crumple into a sobbing mess. Stand with us. Speak Truth to us. Even when we don’t want to hear it: Speak. Truth. To. Us. For we are bombarded on every side by lies that we are not enough, that we are broken, useless, damaged, hollow.
And just know. Know that these are some of the questions we battle with. Accept that these questions are part of the journey, and they will change us. With your prayers, your love and your compassion, they will change us for the better.
This post is part of National Infertility Awareness Week. Please go to resolve.org to learn more, and to become a part of the movement.
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