Wednesday, October 30, 2013

the not so fertile road, part 1

I'm borrowing the title of this post from a friend, Jody, who struggled with infertility and spoke up about it, in a way that ministered to me and blessed me and blesses me still. Infertility is still a largely private suffering. You don't really want to tell people about your sex life, you don't really want to talk about a monthly disappointment that arrives in the form of a period, and you don't really want to hear other people's input on why you're not conceiving, what you should be doing differently, and how that one friend they know just relaxed, adopted, and blammo! Pregnant.

The topic of reproduction is replete with pitfalls, land mines, and wholly unsuspecting and well-meaning people wade right in with questions or comments that seem totally harmless, just conversation starters:
  • When are you guys going to have a baby?
  • My, there's a big age gap between your kids!
  • Are you pregnant? or How old is your baby?
Of course, these can be answered with innocuous, easy replies:
  • We're 13 weeks along, so glad you asked!
  • We were done until God opened our hearts to adoption! or Just like we planned it!
  • Yes! or I just delivered last week!
But there are other answers, too. And the other answers have made me MUCH more careful in how I talk about pregnancy and children with strangers or acquaintances:
  • We've been trying for over a year. Fertility treatments haven't worked, and the doctor says I'm infertile.
  • My first husband died while I was pregnant, and it took time to remarry and be ready for another baby.
  • No, I very recently miscarried at 20 weeks and my body hasn't recovered. or Five years old.
I know at least one woman who has experienced each of these. Shoot, I AM the woman in one of them. And in light of two friendships that have stretched, grown, and unfurled in beautiful ways in the last two years, I'm writing a little series on infertility. As in, loving the infertile from a fertile perspective. My perspective.


In late 2010, my friend Hannah shared with me that she and her husband were trying to conceive. She was really excited to enter a new phase of their life and marriage. They had been trying for a while, and she was beginning to get a bit anxious, as well. She contacted me and another friend, Missy, to request counsel, prayer, friendship, support. We eventually created a sort of "sisterhood of suffering," because each of us had specific and unique story that included it, and each were still walking in faith in Christ. We are also all sarcastic, free with profanity, and fiercely defensive of Jesus and each other.

After Hannah had shared with me some of their trouble conceiving, but before we had created the sisterhood, I found out that Rob and I were expecting. Accidentally - as in, earlier than I had planned. Now I had to tell my friend, the one who actively grieved each monthly period because it was evidence of "failure," of non-life, of prayers answered by a quiet, painful, "No." I was scared of hurting her, even though I know that joy is not a zero sum game (more for me = less for you). I wanted to say all the right things and none of the wrong things, because though she had asked for my support, I did not know the struggle with infertility firsthand.

So I emailed her. My reasoning was that it was better than calling, because it gave her freedom to read and process and reply in her own time. I told her every thought I'd been having about this being a new avenue of grief for me, how I thought we'd need to try for longer, how much I wanted this for her too, and how concerned I was that many people I knew would see this as reason to be happy for me, sad for them. Just like I felt when friends/family announced pregnancies after I was widowed. I was so happy for them! I was so sad for me.

And she was gracious. She rejoiced for the happy news and sympathized with my fears and anxiety about being due during the same season as big Blake died. I was at ease.

One month later, we suffered a miscarriage.

And she was gracious. She heard my thoughts on the mercies of the miscarriage and my sorrow that I hadn't fully rejoiced in this too-short life. It brought us closer, for which I am grateful. Because of the transparency she'd already had with me, I was able to say things to her that were too blunt, too hard, or simply too inappropriate for almost anyone else. You're surprised: I have limits. Be grateful for what I DON'T put on this blog!

The Not So Fertile Road, Part 2: Pregnant again.

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