I have been on both sides of the fertility fence. Enough to know that evil put the fence there. There shouldn't be a fence, but our wounded broken hearts create a division.
I have been struggling with infertility for seven years. Throughout those years, I have also struggled in my friendships with friends of normal and high fertility.
It took me six years to have SP. Six. Years. During that time, I struggled with finding joy in the pregnancies of others.
There is no adequate description for the amount of sorrow, suffering and trial that goes into that indefinite wait. I didn't have a handbook that said it would end after six years. Every day I woke up, faced with that insurmountable burden, made just bearable by having one child, and I would try to dig out of my self-pity long enough to thank God for her, and pray for those women going through primary infertility.
Something happened though, when I was pregnant with SP that changed my heart. Someone stopped speaking to me while I was pregnant because she was suffering with infertility. I had suddenly jumped the fence. I was on the opposing team now, and I felt hurt and abandoned. I knew in my heart that it really and truly wasn't about me. Still, after SIX YEARS of waiting, how could there not be an ounce of joy for my miracle?
The real kicker was, I'd done that myself. I'd distanced myself from expectant mothers when I was struggling with infertility. In many ways, I felt abandoned by both camps on the fertility front.
I have two living children. I'm at the "two and through" number for most of the world. But that doesn't mean it's any easier to wait on that next baby. The longing increases with each day, and despondency and doubt have a chance to take root in those dark moments. Secondary infertility counts too.
It also gives me a glimpse at both sides of this struggle. Enough of a look to know we have to kick the damn fence down. Some convictions are worth swearing about.
To the women weighed down by the oppressive darkness that is infertility, I ask you to do a few things.
First, recognize that in our fallen nature, jealousy and anger are natural feelings. Do not beat yourself up over it, you've had enough pain without torturing yourself some more. Be kind to yourself first. If you need to hide a newsfeed or unfollow a blog so that you can make it through the day, do it. Just don't stay gone for good.
That means the second thing you need to do is fight for joy. Find one thing, just one thing that brings joy into your life and do it. You've likely been a pin cushion and feel more like a medical experiment than a human at this point. Do something that makes you smile and gets you up on your feet. I write here. Sharing my sorrow and joy in this way brings me peace. Scheduling one outing/field trip/playdate a week with my girls also helps.
Find a fitness class, a pottery class, a poetry reading, anything that taps into a different part of you than your procreative side. It's so easy to be wrapped up in your worth as it relates to your ability/inability to procreate when you're TTC. Find something that has nothing to do with that. Do it just because you can. It'll help build up those pieces of you that are shattered and disappointed in your own body.
Find someone who has walked the path of infertility as well. This might be in person or on a blog. It is so healing and helpful to know that this is not just your struggle. So many women have stood where you stand. They can be that light, showing you that slowly your joy will return. That pang may remain in your heart, but someday you'll delight in all manner of things again.
Once you have found ways to add joy back into your life, dip your toes back into those friendships that have been strained. The greatest success I had was in finding ways to be of service to those with large families. Is someone having a baby soon? Make them a meal, knit a blanket, drop off a few groceries, anything to help. Do it in small pieces that you can handle. Pray for them. Trust me, they're praying for you too.
Finally, and what I've found the most success with, fake it til you make it. Seriously. Sometimes actions need to proceed the feelings you'd like to have accompany them. Smile and congratulate that mother having her xth child. Delight in her gift, and remember, there is no finite supply of children. Her child does nothing to affect your likelihood. That little one isn't one out of your pile, even if you'd be more than willing to take them home, thank you very much!
Be a friend. Be a helper. Be you. What has most effectively taken the sting out of other mother's large broods has been getting to know those women. It has taken me from seeing their newest addition as a troubling reminder of my lacking to a reminder of God's promise. He so wants to bless us. If we're busy looking for a blessing that remains unfulfilled, we'll miss the ones raining out all over us. Those large families have been my blessing, and the secret to helping to heal my heart in infertility. Holding their babies still makes me long for more of my own, but it's been the best gift.
I know there is so much heartache accompanying infertility. To be missing something so central to womanhood is excruciating. But please, please, come back. We need to make just as many steps towards removing that dividing line. You have so much to offer, and your friendship is a blessing. Let those mamas of many in. Let them pray for you. Let them be your comfort. Let their babies be a gift that reminds you that God is so good. So, so good. As hard as it can be some days, those bonds will actually be what bring you back to life. Celebrate life. God has a beautiful plan for us, and we will not let evil steal our joy, even in the midst of sorrow.
To the women who want to support us in our struggles:
Please don't complain about your children to us. We love you, we know you need to vent, please find someone who is equally yoked for that vent session. We want to be a part of your life, we do. We want to know how you are, and we want you to share your day with us, but sometimes that complaining comes off like ungratefulness for something we would die for. It's not you, it's us. We love you so much and know that there can be just as much "hardness" in being overwhelmed, but we're just a little fragile. Be kind. That being said, that hilarious story about your toddler's crazy antics, share away!
Don't ever offer us a child in jest. Seriously. I'll take them. I'll take them all. We know that there's probably a child or two who can just hit that particular nerve of yours and you're ready to send them away with the circus, but we can't truly empathize with that sentiment.
I was once told it's better to have too few children than be overwhelmed by too many. That remains one of the most hurtful things someone ever said to me during my greatest struggles with infertility. I went through six years of trying to get pregnant and then discovered I was expecting when we had a four week old foster daughter. I raised a drug-exposed infant who needed to be held constantly while I was pregnant. SB and SP were 10 months apart. I had SB until December of last year, so I spent 18 months with kids closer than one year, one of whom was special needs. I know what overwhelmed feels like. It's better. So much better.
Be joyful in your vocation. Celebrate your new arrivals. If we can't handle it at that particular stage in our journey, we'll pull back. Please don't take it personally. We are loving you from afar and do hereby solemnly swear to plug back in as we're able. Be that joyful voice that motherhood is beautiful and that we're struggling towards something that is worth the struggle. Don't minimize the gift, we already know it's amazing, or we wouldn't be subjecting ourselves to medical interventions and/or adoption home studies.
In all things, know that we're trying to love you and your family as best we can. And we'll trust you to do the same.
There's only sides if we refuse to budge from our particular angle. Evil knows we're stronger together. Let's do more to love and celebrate each other.