Sometimes I feel like I am just surviving this journey of infertility, whereas other days I feel like I am thriving despite it. That pendulum swing probably won’t change soon what with hormones, monthly cycles and other factors, but I wanted to reflect today on what helps me thrive. If you are on the same journey as me then I hope this can help you thrive too, even in the face of the daily pain and disappointment.
TALK ABOUT IT
There still remains a massive taboo when it comes to talking about infertility. I don’t understand why but I do know that it is unhealthy!
For a start, if people know you are struggling then it helps avoid those awkward foot in the mouth conversations, or the insensitive remarks that make us want to burst into tears or punch someone.
Sometimes it can be hard for us to remember that if other people fell pregnant easily then they can assume that it’s the same for everyone else.
If they have never felt the pain and loneliness of not being a mom on Mother’s Day, then it might never occur to them that we fight back the tears and put on a brave face as moms are celebrated.
When we share some of our story with them, most people are extremely empathetic and kind. Their words build us up and comfort us when we need it.
Disclaimer – people are people so you will still be hurt, but from my experience it is less. You may even be able to joke about some of the insensitive things being said with the friends who you have confided in – laughter makes the heart feel happier.
Secondly, you won’t feel so alone. For many of us, the loneliness of infertility is one of the hardest aspects, and yet I have been so overwhelmed by love and support since speaking about my journey that I don’t feel so alone any more.
A problem shared is a problem halved as the saying goes. It helps when other people share that burden. They can’t solve it, they can’t change our situation, but they can listen and care, and that really does help.
Practically speaking though it can be hard to bring up the conversation: I am very open about our challenges but I didn’t even know where to start with my mother-in-law, so I get that this can be awkward. We worry about their reaction and sometimes fear that that could make us feel worse rather than better.
Personally I find it easier to communicate hard emotional stuff in writing, and I actually used my blog to tell a lot of people about my situation as I only had to tell the story once! You might not want to go that far, but an email to a friend or family member might be easier than in person.
And remember, if you cry when you are telling someone, that is OK too! Infertility is hard, and we are grieving.
REMEMBER GOD’S CHARACTER
God does not promise us children. He does not promise that all our prayers will be answered in the way we want them to be. But he does promise to be with us, always.
Now, you may not believe in God, and if that is the case you may be tempted to skip this part! But can I encourage you to be open and look into the God of the Bible, because I believe he loves you and he his heart is breaking for you too.
God is good.
He is kind, benevolent and generous. He is tenderhearted and loving. We can see this in Jesus’ relationships with both his friends, and with strangers he met and on whom he had compassion. We can see this in the way he wept when Lazarus died, how he wept over the city of Jerusalem and the hardness of man’s heart, and how he prayed for forgiveness for those who crucified him.
We read that God had compassion on Hannah as she poured out her heart and asked for a son. The same is true for Abraham and Sarah, for Isaac and Rebekah, Rachel and Jacob, Elizabeth and Zachariah as well as for others.
He has compassion on us too.
God is good both in times of joy and in times of struggle. Psalm 34 invites us to experience God’s goodness and in verses 19-22 we are reminded that good people suffer too – but will eventually be delivered from their suffering.
His goodness doesn’t change: our circumstances do.
God is just.
I don’t know why God answers some couple’s prayers for children and not others. I don’t understand why he heals some and others die. So why can I say that God is just?
Psalm 89:14 says “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; steadfast love and faithfulness go before you.”
That is who God is. He doesn’t show partiality, he doesn’t forget our works or our prayers. He is faithful and true.
He has a bigger plan. He sees the bigger picture. It might not feel just or fair right now, but one day it will. We will understand.
God is glorious
“His radiance is like the sunlight; He has rays flashing from His hand, And there is the hiding of His power.”
This is important to remember, as when we struggle we often only see darkness and despair. When we look up at God in worship, when we look at his creation, when we study his character, we glimpse his glory. If you have ever seen the radiant smile of someone who has just encountered Jesus for the first time you will know what I mean – God’s glory changes everything.
Focusing on God’s glory may not change our circumstances, but it will change our perspective.
I experienced this recently when I was grieving and questioning God’s faithfulness. You can read about this here.
Infertility is a loss. Miscarriages are a loss. Failed IVF is a loss. There might not be anything to bury, but we need to grieve. Crying is healthy. Lament is good for us. We can do this alone, and we can do this with others, but we need to do it.
The first time I really grieved my infertility was about a month after our first failed IVF. I had seen our two tiny embryos on an ultrasound, I had their picture. It felt more tangible to grieve their loss. As I wept and sobbed I realized though that I wasn’t just grieving them; I was grieving the months and years of disappointment and failed attempts. I grieved again that September when they would have been due, and I’ve grieved our infertility many more times since then.
I’ve experienced all the phases of grief, and I continue to experience them. It doesn’t go away, but it does get easier. I’m not carrying the grief in the same way I used to, and I think this fact makes the burden easier to carry and helps me to thrive in the midst of grief.
FIND THINGS TO BE GRATEFUL FOR
I am not grateful for my infertility. I want to have children and I want to be pregnant. I wish it had already happened. But I am still grateful in the midst of this and I can rejoice in spite of my sufferings.
This is the key to thriving, and not just surviving.
There are many things I am grateful for. There are too many to list but here is a taste:
- My husband and the fact that we can try and have a family
- The love and support I have from my family and friends
- The relationship I have with my nieces and children of friends
- Good health
- The beauty of creation that is all around me
- A job I enjoy
- My church, the opportunity to worship God and my faith
- Knowing that God loves me
When we can acknowledge things that we are grateful for, our heart and our focus move away from our sadness and despair, and are lifted up to things of beauty and hope. We can breathe more easily and our perspective changes.
I also recognize that my relationship with my husband is stronger and deeper than it was four years ago when we married. Some of this is just because of time and experience, but a large part is because we have suffered and grieved together. We have loved and supported each other through difficult times and grown more in love through this. I am grateful for that.
My relationship with God has been tested and I have struggled with questions of his faithfulness. I have wondered if my infertility is a punishment. I have spent hours in prayer and petition to him, waiting for answers. And I have been comforted by him, loved by him, reassured by him. He is faithful, infertility is not a punishment, he loves me and I love him. I can praise him with a smile on my face or with tears running down my cheeks, because he is good and he loves me. I am grateful for this knowledge.
Sometimes I feel like I am only surviving, but I can, I do and I will thrive, whatever lies ahead.