For days I have sat staring at a blank computer screen unsure of what I should write for National Infertility Awareness Week. To be quite frank, I wasn’t fond of the theme #StartAsking. In fact, I hated it. But after some soul-searching, I realized it’s because over the last year it has become increasingly difficult for me to ask others for what I want or need. Don’t get me wrong, I am still awesome at making a Christmas wish-list or telling my husband to take out the trash, but to ask for something that fills an emotional void? Or addresses the deepest desire of my heart, which is children?
I can’t do it.
I can’t seem to find the courage to tear down my perfectly constructed wall in order to ask for those things my soul craves. I would much rather be the one to give others what they need in times of heartache when their dreams become shattered. I would much rather whisper words of hope to the hopeless and be the one sending gifts of encouragement to the one who feels defeated. I would much rather be the one praying for the hurting and speaking life to the weary. I would much rather give then receive. Because sometimes receiving requires asking. It requires becoming vulnerable to the other person as you take off your mask and say, “Here I am…”
And I can’t do that.
I find that lately I will do anything to avoid opening myself up and letting others see my wounds. Especially when given the question “how are you?” Because sometimes when I answer “fine”, I am anything but “fine”. I am weary. I am overwhelmed. I am frustrated. I am angry. I am sad. Even ashamed. I want more than anything to escape this story…this nightmare of a Polycystic Ovarian stricken body that I feel so imprisoned and trapped to be inside of.
There are days I just want to stay in bed and nights when I can’t fall asleep. Who knew making a baby would be this difficult? Or expensive? I constantly catch myself daydreaming about my life before infertility and how much happier I was. I think about how if everything had gone according to my plans how much easier my life would be right now.
But to share with someone else who hasn’t walked this road these thoughts? I can’t. It’s too hard.
It’s become too hard over the last year for me let others who do not “get it” to see my tears, carry my burdens, or try to feel my pain. It’s become too hard for me to share with them my pain because I don’t want them to feel uncomfortable. I don’t want to disappoint them with my wavering faith or have them feel sorry for me. And I don’t want them to tell me something in response that will only make the pain worsen or the fear over my circumstances intensified. Because as it turns out, the longer I wait for my miracle, the more others around me start to doubt and lose hope it will happen. And with their doubt come their words of ‘maybe it’s just not meant to be’.
It’s become too hard for me over the last year to tell others that I feel deficient, alienated, and unworthy. Because if we are being completely honest, lately when I walk into a room full of mother’s or pregnant women, shame immediately washes over me like a tidal wave. Questions begin to surface that cause my mind to race and my spirit to weaken…
Why can’t my body do what her’s can?
Why do I have to cut out gluten, dairy and soy but they can eat cheeseburgers, pizza and ice cream?
Why hasn’t God answered my prayers that I have been fervently crying out to Him?
Is it because I am not doing something right?
Or being punished for something I have done wrong?
But to voice these questions out loud? To let someone else know of my deepest insecurities? I can’t do that. That’s become too hard. And rightfully so. Because no one ever wants to appear weak. No one ever wants to feel vulnerable or insecure. Or come across as someone who doesn’t have it all together. No one wants to open up their heart, expose their wounds and then risk hearing statements that belittle them or minimize their pain.
I know, because as an infertility blogger, I have fallen victim numerous times to the skewed views and opinions others have toward those struggling to conceive. I have had to read and endure comments that cause my stomach to twist into knots, shame to overwhelm my soul, and tears to fill up my eyes.
“Stop being selfish and just adopt if you want children so bad!”
“I think you need to check yourself into a mental hospital if infertility makes you so upset!”
“Stop being so butt hurt over other people who are normal and can have kids!”
“Infertility isn’t that bad! Other people have it worse!”
“Take it as a clue…God doesn’t want you to have children.”
To say that their comments haven’t taken a toll on me would be a lie. Because the mask I am wearing reveals the truth. It has quieted my voice, hidden my feelings, and pushed down my heartache. But as I write this, I have realized that the more I walk around with this mask on, the more I need to take it off. Because without anyone asking the tough questions and sharing the painful thoughts and emotions infertility stirs up within our soul, how can the stigma be erased? How can we eliminate the isolation it brings? Or expose the lie that infertility is a form of punishment? Or just an inconvenience?
People like to be comforted. To be understood. To be heard. And to undeniably have prayers for a miracle prayed over them. However in order to have that, people also have to be willing to take off their mask and do what they think they can’t. And do what they think is too hard. They have to step out of their comfort zone and be willing to take a risk as they break the silence. Because silence only magnifies the struggle. It only breeds the stigma. And feeds the loneliness. It keeps people believing the lie that they are alone and that their struggle isn’t valid. Or worth mourning.
This is why, today, I am taking off my mask. And I am boldly going to #StartAsking for what I need.
And what I need is grace. Grace to be able to decline attending a baby shower invitation without judgment. Grace for when I have to excuse myself from conversations surrounding birth stories and stretch marks. And grace for those moments when I lash out in frustration at the advice given to “just relax” or the suggestion made to “just adopt”.
I also need others to not feel as though they must walk on eggshells around me, afraid to open a wound. But instead feel free to acknowledge my struggle through a hug, a text message, or a gentle whisper of, “I’m sorry. I know it hurts.”
I need my friends to not just say, “Call me if you need to talk” but to call me and say, “Let’s talk.” Because chances are I might not tell you I need encouragement while standing in the midst of a crowd, but I will if we are one on one.
I need those that I pass by in the hallways of church to not just stop me and ask if I am doing okay, but to stop me and ask if they can pray. No other questions asked. Just prayers prayed and hugs exchanged.
I need my husband to look me in the eyes often and ask me how I am doing. And then just hold me when I answer. I need him to share with me his thoughts and his feelings. I need to know and even see that I am not alone in this, and that he is fighting for our family, for our future, and for our marriage just as hard if not harder than me in prayer.
I need the church to remember me on Mother’s Day. To recognize that this day is hard as it reminds me and so many others of who we are not but want so desperately to become.
And I need for those who have not walked this road to put themselves in my shoes and feel my blisters. To try to understand with compassion and empathy that infertility is not just an inconvenience. It’s a disease of the reproductive system that affects 1 in 8 couples. And like any other disease, it’s frustrating. It’s gut-wrenching. And it’s depressing. It’s like a grave that keeps following you around day after day as it swallows your hope and buries more of your dreams.
It is walking down the baby aisles and touching the onsies, picking up the booties, and wondering when. And asking why.
It’s loving a child you have never even met. And missing them every day.
It is trying to understand why prostitutes, drug addicts and those who abuse their children are given such blessings. But you? You seem to have to fight and work and struggle beyond your strength and exhaust all of your resources to receive.
It’s hearing the words, “I’m sorry but there is no heartbeat.”
Or expecting to walk out of the hospital with a birth certificate, but instead it’s a death certificate.
It’s a constant war between your body and your soul. A war that you must fight to win daily and a war that is exhausting, yet somehow and in someway, you find the hope to battle on.
That is infertility.
And while it might be heartbreaking, soul crushing, and dream shattering, I know deep down it’s nothing to be ashamed of in my life. I didn’t ask for it. I didn’t do anything to deserve it. It’s not some form of punishment or God’s way of telling me He doesn’t want me to be a mother. And so with my mask off, I am going to #StartAsking myself to let go of the guilt. Let go of the embarrassment. And let go of the stigma society has placed on me, someone who is 1 in 8.
I am strong. I am brave. I am unashamed. And because I am all of these things, I am boldly going to #StartAsking.
And sweet sister, if you are also 1 in 8, know that it is okay to step out and #StartAsking too. There are over 7 million men and women who share the same dream and know the same struggle. You are not alone. And together, we can unashamedly take off our masks and make a difference not only within ourselves, but also within the world around us.
So let’s #StartAsking. And while we are at it, let’s vow together to never #StopAsking. Never #StopAsking for support. For compassion. For understanding. And most of all, for the miracle we need. Because if you are like me, it’s hard to keep asking when each time you have prayed, the answer has been no. It’s hard to keep getting on your knees when the constant disappointment has caused you to over time pull back on the reins of hope because you don’t want to feel the sting of being let down again. I get it. I, too, have found myself not asking as often. But I still can’t help but believe that the pain we feel, the dead-end roads we have faced, and the dreams we have buried with our tears, are all ingredients for the miracle we are begging so hard to receive. I know, it sounds crazy, right? But if you hadn’t noticed, there is rarely ever a miracle without first the overwhelming pain of a problem. A problem that is full of heartache and frustration that causes tears, sleepless nights, disappointments and intense grief. So hold on. Don’t become too discouraged after another failed cycle. Or allow fear to creep into your thoughts. Instead, have hope. Hope that things could change. And then mix it with faith. Faith to believe they will. Because I can’t help but think your problem and my problem is simply creating the perfect breeding ground for a miracle. A miracle that God has proven time and time again He can perform.
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