Sunday, February 26, 2012

A letter to my friends with infertility

Dear friend,

If you are reading this letter, and you struggle with infertility -- I just want to let you know how sorry I am. I know that your pain often goes unnoticed. Your grief invalidated. And your loss trivialized.

I also want to say, "Welcome." My blog is about pregnacy loss -- and for those of you who are struggling with infertility, you might not be dealing with the loss of your baby -- but you are dealing with the loss of motherhood. And that is a very valid pregnancy loss indeed.

I want you to know that I don't totally understand infertility, and all that it brings to life.

 I do not know the ups and downs each month of trying, waiting, being devastated, then mustering up the strength to try one more time.

I do not understand what it's like to have insensitive, ignorant (but well-meaning) people ask when it will be "my turn." I have not had people tell me to adopt, just so I could get pregnant. I have not had acquaintances tell me I'm trying too hard or wanting it too much. No one has ever told me just to "relax and it will happen."

I have not had to deal with years of struggling with friends' pregnancy announcements, birth announcements, subsequent pregnancy announcements, and on and on.

I do not know what it's like to have an empty nursery in my house.

I do not understand what it feels like to wonder if you will ever be a mother. I have not had to look infertility straight in the eye, and just give in because no amount of fighting would ever win me a victory . . . the victory of a sweet baby in my arms.

I have not had to give myself shots, undergo surgery, or face years of tests without a baby to show for it.

I have not had to face the guilt of not being able to provide a son or daughter for my husband . . . or a grandchild for my parents.

I do not know what it's like to face a suffering that is so silent, while at the same time, so consuming.

I have not faced the deep, deep loneliness of dealing with infertility.

As much as I cannot relate, I also feel that there are shadows of your suffering that I have been given just glimpses of . . .

I have felt distrust in my body, and anger when I felt it did not -- or could not -- support a healthy pregnancy.

With Madelyn, I felt as though my body worked against me -- and against her. In many ways, I felt like it did all it could to reject my baby.

At 12 weeks, I hemorrhaged. It was my birthday, and Father's Day. We were sent home from the E.R. with a 50/50 chance that we would lose her. She hung on.

Starting at 28 weeks, I had threatened premature labor and was put on bed rest several times throughout my pregnancy.

Beginning pretty much from the moment of conception (at least that's what it felt like), I had "all-day sickness." It was like having a case of the flu for 9 full months. Taking vitamins made me sicker. I couldn't ever focus on eating well for two. I could only focus on "What can I ingest that won't immediately come back up?"

And in the end, I had preeclampsia and HELLP syndrome -- both of which could have resulted in either mine, or Madelyn's, deaths. During my labor, her heart rate dropped for 8 minutes. After that, we had a c-section.

Two years later, I believed I was pregnant, but refused to take a test. I was still too traumatized from my experience with Madelyn to even think about getting pregnant. Right about the time I thought, "well, I should take a test" -- I began what I dubbed "the period from hell." I really believe we lost a baby then, but there is no medical way for me to know for sure.

I went to counseling following that "miscarriage." I felt a lot of depression and anxiety stemming in part from distrust in my body.

After gaining back some confidence -- believing that my next pregnancy truly would be different -- we had an ectopic pregnancy. There is no medical explanation for why this happened to us. Losing Olivia has made me doubt whether my body was ever really meant for pregnancy. And I have felt much guilt that I could not provide a safe place for her to grow.

Deciding to try again is a very hard decision for us to make. (Although, I know that many of you would give all four limbs just to be able to make that choice for yourself. So I know our situation is not the same.)

I know what it's like to desperately want to be pregnant with your baby -- but not be pregnant.

Some of you have lost babies -- others haven't yet conceived. But I know at least for me how desperate I felt once we lost the baby to be pregnant again.

We have to wait on my body to heal. And we have to wait to pay for Olivia and save up before we can think of trying again.

My wait is short-term. And I know that that is different than what you might be facing. But I do know what it feels like to want something SO MUCH -- only for God to say, "No. Not this time."

I know what it's like to feel like adoption might be the only choice you have to expand your family.

Ryan and I are now licensed for foster care. We still have not received a call for a child. But I often wonder if I'm even ready anymore.

Many people think adoption is easy: "This baby wasn't wanted. You want a baby. Put the two and two together -- and BAM! You have a family!"

It's not that easy. Foster care isn't easy. Adoption isn't easy. Nothing about creating a family is easy. I'm not saying it's not worth it -- or that we still won't pursue adoption. I just know what it's like to face foster care/adoption and think it's your only alternative. And grieve because it's not the same as having your own child.

I know, in part, what it's like to struggle to be on Facebook, to be jealous of others, to struggle to trust God's plan, to struggle to be around other pregnant women/babies, and to wish desperately that my situation were different.

Some days, I actually accept my loss. And then I attend an event where the talk is about babies. Or I see a pregnant woman. Or I watch a commercial with a newborn baby. Or I hear the announcement from a friend that she is expecting. Or . . Or . . . Or.

There seems to be a billion reminders out there about what we don't have. And that's hard to deal with, plain and simple. And when you do deal with your pain, sometimes there's collateral damage. Sometimes a friend is hurt when you aren't able to attend her shower. Perhaps another friend can't understand why you grow silent when your girlfriends get together and the subject of babies arises. Maybe you feel people are tired of you "raining" on their parade.

I know I'm relatively new to this experience, but I can say that it is a constant struggle. I struggle to face those reminders, and chose over and over again to praise God, and say, "Your will be done."

I know what it's like to pay for a baby you don't bring home. And having finances play a part in holding you back from expanding your family.

There are few things more frustrating than feeling like finances are holding you back -- but at the same time, you are so overcome with grief and hurt it is difficult to work harder, or start a business, or move your finances forward.

I have had people say all the wrong things that hurts so much. I know what it's like to sometimes just want to hole up to protect yourself.

I have to admit that, at one time, I was the pregnant person that people dealing with loss kind of hate. If not hate, at least resent. Or maybe, just feel jealous toward.

I got pregnant quickly, without really trying. Without WANTING to be pregnant. And I did spend quite a bit of the next 9 months complaining -- often loudly -- about my struggles in pregnancy. I did not know that my pregnancy really had any effect on others. I did not know that my complaints might have caused pain for anyone.

Most of my complaints were valid. I was miserable for 9 months. But -- if I had known that they caused pain, I think I would have chosen more carefully who I complained to.

I also was the person to say all the wrong things to someone struggling with infertility. They were spoken with the right heart -- but were still all the wrong words.

On behalf of those of us who do not know your pain, please forgive us for our ignorance. For the times we say the wrong things at the wrong time. For dismissing your pain.

And please have grace with us, even as our situations might look so much different than what you are going through.

I hope that on this blog, you will feel welcome to share about your loss, your pain and your story.

From a fellow friend on this devastating journey,


1 comment:

  1. I like this post a lot. Pretty spot-on. Infertility SUCKS. It's all consuming and super painful and people say the most hurtful things and totally unintentionally. The "just have a bottle of wine and a fun weekend and it'll happen" kind of comments used to make me want to slam my head against a wall. Even now it's still frustrating that every time we want to have a baby I have to go through so much to get there. I can't just 'see what happens'. I have to be very planned and intentional and it's an investment of time, money, and energy. But seeing as I have friends who have been trying for over a decade, I'm incredibly thankful for the 2 little blessings I do have.