This will be like a bonus quick takes, because I have 14! In continuing with the theme of Infertility Awareness Week, I've got 7 of the hardest things about infertility and 7 of the blessings of infertility. The 'awareness' I hope these bring to the experience of infertility is just how difficult it is to walk around feeling all of the below all at once. Certainly, it depends on the hormones and timing, but for the most part, all of these emotions are going on inside me all at once. It's a constant battle between despair and hope.
So that we end on a positive note for a Friday, we'll start with 7 of the hardest things (in no particular order, and by no means a complete list):
1. The realization that I'm not just missing out on a BFP (big fat positive = a positive pregnancy test) and giving birth, but also first birthdays, taking the training wheels off a bicycle, first crushes, drivers' tests, pee-wee football, band concerts, proms, graduations, wedding days, and grandchildren. In the beginning, it's of course all of the pregnancy and baby things, but somewhere along the line events I went to for my teenage brother became very hard, as I realized I may never do those things with my own children. I hide in my house, with the lights off, on Halloween. It's the realization that infertility isn't just about BFN's (big fat negatives = negative pregnancy test) and not taking weekly baby bump pictures, but rather about a life that will not be lived.
2. The toll infertility has taken on our physical intimacy. I have a post scheduled for next week about this. All that learning NFP gave back to us, infertility has taken. There is nothing easy or light about this aspect of our marriage anymore. It has become a source of great sorrow instead of great joy.
3. The almost paralyzing fear of groups of children, even ones born to formerly IF ladies. One or two, I'm good. More than that, and I almost have a panic attack. I've run out of the Church picnic and I avoid family events because of all the kids that will be there. I used to be a teacher, a preschool teacher. Large groups of children were "my thing," where I felt most comfortable. Now, they are where I feel least comfortable.
4. The realization that all of the cute, fun ways I've planned to tell The Man and our parents of a baby on the way may never happen. For every month of the year, I have a plan. I know exactly how I'd tell them. I picture the joy and celebration. I know it seems like nothing, but to know I may never say to my mom or my dad that they will be a grandparent is nearly as crushing as never telling The Man he is going to be a Daddy.
5. The complete and utter failure that I feel like I am as a wife and as a woman. In my head, I know that I am not. My heart doesn't know this. My heart is broken over this failure. When I see my body in the mirror all I see are scars and brokenness. Realizing how sinful this is and that this is not how God sees me, nor how The Man sees me, only makes it worse. Objectively, my body is broken, it does not work right. Subjectively, I feel broken and useless.
6. The lack of time to grieve and the amount of time spent sobbing in the evenings and at night, knowing that I have to get as much out as possible because the morning will come and I will have to go to work and get through another day. To get out of bed some mornings takes every ounce of energy and hope that I can possibly muster, how I make it through the day sometimes is shocking to me. I don't think I will ever understand how the lack of something is so heavy.
7. The ways that I have failed to accept the grace of God. The times I've resorted to venting and bitterness and cruelty to those around me. The times that I've not rejoiced over a new life or that I've hidden in my office when a coworker's new baby was brought to work to be introduced. The times I've lashed out at someone for no reason and never gone back and apologized because I felt I owed them an explanation I wasn't prepared to give. All of this and more. I've prayed for grace and He has answered that prayer, I have not always accepted it.
And now, for 7 blessings of infertility (again, in no particular order and an incomplete list):
1. Friendships. True friendships with people IRL and on the internet. Shared tears and people willing to suffer with us. Friends who've asked how I am and meant it. Who have listened to me go on and on and on about our infertility and never once made me feel like I've needed to just stop.
2. Faith. A much deeper faith than I thought possible. A relationship with God that is so secure even as I push Him away, I feel Him holding me tight like a parent holds a distraught child.
3. I ran a marathon. Truly, without infertility, I would never have kept running. I needed to lose weight, that was what started it initially, but what kept me going was the sanity I feel when I've exercised. The pounding of my feet on the pavement and the successes. Running reminds me that I am not totally broken. That my body is amazing and capable of awesome things.
4. An understanding of what it means to say "Life is a gift." I know in a way I would never have understood without infertility, that life is a gift. Nothing I do, not any medicine I take, method of NFP I use or don't use, prayer service I go to, nothing at all can make me "earn" motherhood or "deserve" it. Life is a gratuitous gift bestowed by God and God alone. Each living person is nothing short of a miracle. Infertility taught me this.
5. Patience. (Did you laugh a little? Or a lot?) I laugh a little at this one, but where the patience comes in is really in dealing with others. I am much more likely to assume that someone is having a hard day or to realize that they are carrying a cross that I know nothing about when someone is less than kind to me. I've learned that, despite my insistence to the contrary, not everything is about me.
6. Embracing spiritual motherhood and being able to use my personal experience and my job to reach out to others. Planning the retreat last June (and again for this November) was an act of spiritual motherhood that healed my heart in so many ways. It was truly a privilege to be able to help so many others, and I'm so grateful to be able to do it again. As I said to Fr. D during the retreat, when the entire room of hands went up and people saw, visibly saw, they were not alone, "all the work and everything that went into this retreat was all worth it for that moment right there, and that includes our infertility."
7. Last, but most importantly, a marriage that gets stronger each day. It's not been easy. We each carry this cross so differently and yet we have to do it together. We have very different personalities (extrovert choleric whose love language is words of affirmation (me) married to an introvert melancholic whose love language is physical touch (The Man)) and very different approaches to problems, so it's not been easy. But we are working through it, leaning on grace and practicing forgiveness. (With so much sensitivity to my friends who still wait for husbands. I am sorry if reading this one brought you pain and I love you!)
Yep, all that really goes on all at once most of the time.
Infertility Awareness Week 2014 - Today!