As we all gathered together around a cozy campfire to devour our roasted hot dogs, bowls of chili, and mounds of pasta salad, I could hear to the left talk of a nursery and the upcoming baby shower. Directly behind, I overheard someone discuss the struggles and joys of going from one child to two. To the right were your precious three and four-year old’s giggling together while you tried to bribe them into eating something other than their mouth-watering sugar cookie. And as I sat there, slowly eating my hotdog and listening to everyone’s conversations, I found myself going in and out of a trance as I watched my beautiful sister-in-law unknowingly rub her adorable baby bump.
With all that was going on around me, I could not help but take notice that each one of you is–well, very much fertile. Therefore, as I continued to scan the yard and listen to your conversations, a part of me wanted to be green with jealousy as conceiving seems to come easy and natural to all of you. Another part wanted to run and hide as I felt shame. Even embarrassment. Because my mind kept going towards the thought that maybe I have done something wrong to deserve this. Or that I am not deemed worthy or good enough to be a mother. Because why else am I so different from the rest of you? Why else am I having so much trouble?
It is usually in these moments when I feel jealousy, bitterness, anger, and shame that I want to retreat and feel sorry for myself. I want to crawl under the covers and bury my face into the pillows. Or be alone as I take a long hot shower and let the tears pour down my face. And on that particular day, it was no different. I wanted to leave. The empty field behind me and the woods before me looked inviting. And as difficult as this is to admit, I shamefully remember at one particular moment, where I wanted to jump up and scream before running off, “Would you please stop having babies!”
Goodness, I felt so guilty. It’s easy to get upset and not feel the slightest bit of guilt when you see a pregnant woman who doesn’t value their pregnancy. But to have anger? And jealousy? And bitterness (even for a second) overflow to you–my family members—who I know have as much right to a child and who will cherish each one was disturbing for me. After all, you are the people I love the most. You are my brother, my sister-in-law, my cousins, aunts, and uncles. You are my flesh and blood.
And believe it or not, most days, walking through infertility or being around others who are experiencing the joys of parenting isn’t this hard. It’s not always on my mind. Or a thought in my head. Honestly, it’s not. And when it is? It is usually just a hope-filled thought of “not yet” or “someday it will be my turn.” But then there are days like that one at the cookout. Days and events when I am surrounded by hundreds of moments, reminding me of what I am not. And I feel alone. I feel different. I feel insecure. And I believe the lie that I am an outcast. A leper that no one, and I mean no one, understands or that anyone seems to truly care about the struggles my husband and I are going through.
But deep down, I know that’s not the case. It’s simply not true.
Because each of you knows about my struggle to conceive, you are compassionate towards our situation. In fact, I couldn’t ask for a better family that is as loving and supportive as you are to me. Not every family will send cards and text messages offering encouragement. But you do. And so I know without a shadow of a doubt that none of you would do or say anything to cause me more pain intentionally. Therefore please forgive me for those moments when I forget that your conversations about children and pregnancies are natural and normal. And please extend to me grace when I lose myself for a moment and become jealous of this season of life you are in. I don’t mean to. Honest, I don’t.
But sometimes, some days are just harder than others.
The grief I experience over my circumstances can best be described as the rain. On some days, it’s like a light mist or sometimes a sprinkle. While other days, the grief comes pouring down on me like a quick, unexpected afternoon rainstorm. And when this happens, my emotions take over, and I get swept away.
I didn’t expect the grief to come and sweep me away that day. As I said, infertility was something I thought I had come to peace with. You know, a mist. Or, at best, a light sprinkle. But the shame, the embarrassment, the insecurity, and the awareness that I am different all surfaced, much like that unexpected afternoon storm. None of you noticed, though, right? Or at least I hope you didn’t. Because after four years of this war against infertility, I have learned to come prepared for these storms that rage within myself. I have learned to carry around an umbrella as I find refuge in the hope that this isn’t the end of my story. The curtain hasn’t closed. And God has a purpose and a plan for my long path to parenthood. I have learned to lean on Him during these moments rather than pull back or run to the woods. I’ve learned to whisper His name instead of words of envy. And most of all, I have learned that when the rain comes, to dance in it.
So, to my family members who continue to grow effortlessly and I continue to struggle, I want you to know that while there will always be conversations that cause a “sting,” I still want to hear you talk about them. I still want to watch you rub your belly, discuss your nursery plans, or talk about the struggles of parenting. This is your life right now. This is the beautiful season you are in, and I wouldn’t want myself or anyone else to miss out on a single second of it. So please, don’t worry about me. I’m okay. No, really, I am. I’ve got my umbrella and, hopefully, some awesome dance moves.
With all my love,
If you are struggling with infertility, I encourage you to write your own letter to your family members. Let them in on the struggles you face—the feelings you have and the pain you feel. Just make sure you do it in love and with grace.
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