It is one of the things about being Catholic that most often pierces and heals me all at the same time. So much of the faith is about seemingly incompatible realities - God is both One and Triune; Christ is both human and divine; and more. So often when I am stuck, and cannot figure something out, it comes back to this truth of both/and. Et et.
So too it has been this week.
I will insert a disclaimer here. This is written with brutal honesty from the perspective of a woman who is on the eve of the 4th anniversary of TTC. Never in a million years did I ever imagine this would be my life. Just this evening, The Man said to me "I wish I could make you happier." No amount of words on a page will ever explain the sadness that has overwhelmed me in recent weeks. No amount of words will ever describe the emotions I am feeling.
As part of this disclaimer, I will say that all of what follows is emotion. Fr. D. has been working with me to get me to separate fact from feeling. I realize this is emotion; I realize there are facts at play. Neither realization changes my subjective experience of this. Not today. Not yet.
Last week, Polkadot was brave enough to write about how sometimes even an IF gal feels feelings that bring forth guilt and sorrow at another IF gal's BFP announcement. I left a comment on the post, but it seems blogger ate it. My comment basically said "you are not alone; I have felt this way too." It was a comment that was hard to write, so when blogger ate it, I just clicked away, too exhausted emotionally to write it again. (Sorry, C :(.)
It's actually been more recent that I've had these feelings and to say that guilt accompanies them would be the biggest understatement of the century. I'm not sure which is worse, the sorrow I feel at the announcement or the guilt. There truly is no way to explain the complex emotions that surround a fellow IFer announcing she is pregnant or adopting. And there seems to be a lot of that happening lately.
But yesterday, a specific one of our own, one who has been a source of hope and inspiration to so many of us finally got her miracle. Yes, I am referring to Amy at TCIE.
It was Amy's comment on my first IF post that made my heart leap, I'd admired her for years before I even knew I was IF and to see her take a moment to comment meant the world to me.
It was Amy's blog that I spent hours upon hours reading the archives, seeking for a way to survive this.
And when I got her text that she had emailed. I knew.
And the subject line of her email. I knew.
And I rejoiced. I was working and so I could not shout from the rooftops, but I could rejoice.
Joy. Nothing but joy as I celebrated for and with this beautiful friend of mine.
When I read her post was when the rest of it happened. The tears came. The sobs came. The guilt came. When the both/and came to be.
I've spent much of the past 24 hours trying to figure out what it was that caused the tears. The sadness. The guilt. And here is what I've come up with.
Something about seeing it on her blog was what made it touch my infertile heart. Before that, it was a friend who I have prayed for, yelled at God on behalf of, and asked that her prayers be answered before mine. Hence the rejoicing.
But the rejoicing didn't stop my pain. And this time it was different. I was not sad because Amy is pregnant and I am not, no, there is only joy there. I sent this in an email to her, never intending to make it public, but honestly, I think it needs to be here. It is such a part of this road, and reminds me so much of a post Amy herself wrote about why does God give us a support system only to take it away?
You see, once upon a time, when she still had a public blog, B at Hebrews wrote about Infertile Island. About how we are here, and we all want to get off this island and we rejoice when someone leaves, but it still leaves those of us here, right where we are. We have no way of getting ourselves off this island, it is God and God alone who can do that. And when one of our sisters leaves, we rejoice and at the same time we are sad to see her go. Because the island is a little less now.
And so, here is what I said to Amy:
The island of infertility is a little less fun because you are off it, and I am so glad you are gone, but I already miss you.Because no matter how much any one of us wants to deny it or explain it. Those of us who do not have children, who have never seen a BFP, who have never had the phone call. For us, there is nothing to soothe our hearts. There is no promise, that even in the worst case scenario that we will be reunited with our children in heaven. As Amy said, she is forever more a mother. (And please, I am not comparing the pain of primary infertility with miscarriage, this is a fact. I am aware it brings no consolation.) We are left on this island, ever aware that it is not up to us if or when we will get to leave.
I miss you so much it hurts.
And I feel awful for that, because I miss you, but as much as I miss you, I am infinitely more glad you are gone from this island.
When we leave this island, it is a cause for joy. For rejoicing. For enjoying every. single. moment. of motherhood that comes. Be it a short time on earth or a lifetime. I do not begrudge any one of you who has experienced motherhood, if even only for a moment, any of your joy. Please - rejoice. Dance. Praise God. Give thanks. Celebrate. All of it. For every moment that you rejoice reminds me that all of this pain is real. That it is not made up in my head. That it is justified. That infertility is awful.
That no matter how this turns out, the joy of children is all that I imagine it to be and more. That no matter how fruitful my marriage is, no matter how much joy I experience without children, the joy of children is just as joyful as I think it to be. No, I do not mean that it is the most joyful thing I could experience, that can only be done in fully living God's will for my life - and if that is a life without children, then that is where I shall find true joy. But, this does not mean that a life with children is any less joyful. Both/and. Et et.
And so, tonight I try to wrap my mind around the fact that this island is different. Forever changed. Somewhere there is a new woman shedding her very first tears over a BFN, wondering if anyone else feels like she does, joining us on this island. Changing it in her own way. And one who has encouraged us and supported us and helped to us to embrace this island, to embrace this cross, has finally left.
And so, to you, my dear friend, in addition to all that I said in the email I sent you, I say this:
Congratulations!!! Rejoice and be glad. Thank you for the countless prayers, posts, emails, texts and conversations. Thank you for showing us all how to do this. Thank you for loving us all and embracing each one of us as we got off the boat and slowly, fearfully found our place on this island. Celebrate every moment and feel no guilt, for now you can show us that motherhood is both as wonderful and as hard as we imagine it to be. Both/and. Et et.
I have never been so happy to be so sad in all my life. This island will not be the same without you and I am so so glad you are off of it.