This week we missed another baby shower.
This time it was a shower for two dear friends who are expecting their first child any day now. I wanted to be there, planned on it even. But then I fell apart in the baby section of Target while shopping for their gift. As the tendrils of panic attack squeezed around my chest and throat, I knew it wasn’t the day to go.
Last November we got the final, echoing news: premature ovarian failure. I’m 38, but my ovaries think I’m at least a decade older. That means that, along with practically no chance of conceiving a child, I also get hot flashes and all the other joys of early menopause. Yippee.
The grief of this is hard enough. We feel called to parenthood so strongly that the ache is both physical and perpetual, but biological children aren’t an option. No little one with Chuck’s eyes or my chin. No sonogram pictures or cute Facebook announcements and gender reveals. Hell, I grieve morning sickness and lost sleep, because those experiences would at least mean we’re expecting.
But it’s not just the grief of it.
Infertility complicates so much. For one thing, it makes friendships harder. I’m hoping this wears off with time, but right now it’s hard to hang out with friends when all they talk about are their kids or their plans for when it is their “turn” to announce a pregnancy.
Don’t misunderstand: I am so glad for friends as they grow their families. Their joy matters. I want the best for them, but right now need to celebrate from a distance. My happiness for them doesn’t erase the knowledge that we don’t get a “turn”. That hurts. Sometimes unbearably.
The hurt is only exacerbated by all the religious language that gets attached to pregnancy. Every time someone comments on how God has blessed them with children and every time someone tells me I “just” need to pray a certain way in order to receive that blessing, I’m reminded of the YEARS of prayer that either God hasn’t heard or has responded to with a resounding “no.” Or, perhaps God doesn’t work that way. It could be that. Regardless, we’re both pastors and the absolute worst things that have been said to us over the last year about our infertility have all been said by other pastors.
Like I said, it’s complicated.
Infertility is an isolating experience. Introvert though I am, I’ve never stayed home as much as I have in the last year. Chuck hides out as well. It’s a matter of self-preservation. Social interactions are filled with too many questions and too many triggers. Well-meaning friends seem to expect us to have moved on, or to be filled to the brim with happy hope as we prepare for adoption. But the journey towards adoption is a minefield in and of itself, with frequent reminders that we must prove our worthiness to do what so many others do with seemingly little thought.
Again, it’s complicated.
We ARE hopeful and excited about adoption. As the long home study process unfolds, in the midst of all the hurdles, we catch glimpses of a future where we finally get to meet the child I currently think of as Little One. That future is beautiful and scary, hopeful and despairingly far off, joyful and uncertain.
In the meantime, there are good days as well as bad. We’re surrounded by people who genuinely love us and are rooting for us, even if they say things that are unintentionally hurtful. Church folk are rallying to help with the fundraising for our adoption. People are praying for us and our one-day child.
My point in posting this is twofold. First, I’ve not written about infertility and feel it’s time to do so. The resounding silence of it clogs up every other vein of writing in my life, and I NEED to write. For my D.Min. For my calling. For my spirit.
Second, though infertility is experienced by so many (the numbers are increasing rapidly for a variety of reasons) there is still such a high level of shame and silence attached to it. Speaking (or writing) into the silence is a way to lessen that shame. Perhaps by owning up to this struggle, someone else will feel less alone.
Perhaps by shining light on it, we will feel less alone too.
*Note* – While I’m usually a proponent of open discussion, this post is too personal and vulnerable for it to be fully fair game. Any comment in which we are told how we should or should not feel will be summarily deleted. Likewise, we already know the biblical stories about miraculous children after years of infertility. I know in my bones why Sarai/Sarah laughed, I’ve prayed Hannah’s prayer with tears in my eyes and ashes in my mouth, and I’ve yearned for Elizabeth’s joy. Please save those stories for another occasion. Thanks in advance. -Lara