My Stages of Infertility Grief Thus Far

There are different stages I've been through on this infertility struggle.  The first was to not accept the diagnosis.  That whole pentecostal charismatic Christian idea that if you don't claim the disease it isn't really yours.  It will somehow go away.  But, then I did some research and the more I read the more I identified with the traits of someone with PCOS.  A few weeks ago I went through that denial stage again.  "Perhaps the doctor made a mistake and misdiagnosed me."  "Didn't the second ultra-sound technician say... wouldn't that mean that nothing was wrong."  etc. I kind of feel like I'm back in this stage again.  "Perhaps my medication is contributing to the fact that we are not having children." (Even though this medicine was introduced after diagnosis and I immediately experienced benefits to it.)

Then I went through the "I don't know" stage. "I don't know what to think."  "I don't know what to pray." "I don't know what I want."  The "I don't know what to pray" was the most difficult, because mixed in with it were poor theological thoughts, guilty feelings, and fear.

Fear was combined with guilt for the next stage.  This was the stage where I went and met with a professional Christian counselor.  I actually thought as I went into the meeting that she would think I was in major need of help and plan a series of sessions. Surprisingly, we had one session and in that session she addressed my sense of guilt and fear.  She told me that I wouldn't have the desire to be a mother if I wasn't suppose to become one.  And that answer worked for a while, but then I met people who had so deeply desired to become parents, were past their child-bearing years, and never had become parents.

Then I struggled with the question of whether or not one can hope in something that is not promised.  This stage like each of the others, while I'm in it, seems to last forever.  What pulled me out of this stage was Scripture that promised fertility.  But then you begin to wonder if that really applies to you.

The counselor's comment about God-given desire then changed form. "Am I grieving because I know deep down that it will never happen?  Is that why the grief began before the diagnosis?" "Why wouldn't God bless such incredible Christian women who love children with children of their own?"  That is the one that brings tears to my eyes at this point.  And then there is the challenge to move to a place of acceptance where I am not yet ready to go.  When I try, I get stuck on the question, "How can I imagine the future without children?"

Each of these stages come and go with their own personality and blend together.  The inability to imagine a future without children is becoming intermingled with having trouble imagining a future with children.  The future seems bleak.  I've often struggled when I haven't been able to look forward.

Looking forward is its own beast.  Hope consistently disappoints.  The grief cycles begin over-and-over again.  My spouse and I are at different stages at different times, which is also not helpful.  I'm ready to give up, he's ready to keep fighting.  He's ready to give up, I'm determined not to.  This can be a place of conflict these contrasting desires, because they can appear as insensitive.  I can see how they would tear an unhealthy marriage apart, whereas for us all the other aspects draw us closer together.

This month I complete my first 10 months of fertility treatment.  I had been thinking that I would let go at this point if we determined I wasn't pregnant, but that hope bug now has me thinking, "If I just get off the meds and go back to natural; if I just don't care, we'll get pregnant."

The steps needed to go further with treatment are not attractive to me, but more attractive to my husband.  We'll wait a couple of months to make a decision, but right now I'm sick of medication, suppositories, and the emotional ups-and-downs that are exaggerated by the chemicals & hormones in the treatment.

I read last night a blog where women were commenting on how sometimes it is easier just to not be around people.  I feel that way.  My mother doesn't understand, because she thinks I'm an extrovert.  But I need space where there are not any mothers or fathers talking about their kids or kids talking about their parents or people making birth announcements or celebrating a child's birthday.  I need the space of our home, but sometimes I just need the space of being alone elsewhere.  Our home holds with it the promise of the purchase.  I said it was designed to be a "four-kid home," yet we aren't yet even able to have one.

My sister says it is about identity.  During her very short struggle with infertility, she said it resolved by her redefining her identity, such that it didn't include "mother" in the title.  We didn't get pregnant when I wasn't focused on that "mother" title.  If we get pregnant when we "just relax" I'm going to be so angry, because we didn't get pregnant before we didn't know there was a chance we wouldn't.  In other words, we didn't get pregnant when we were relaxed previously.

This struggle racks such heavy damage on the brain and the soul.  It is one full of cultural mind games.  Our "western" and "modern" society is surprisingly designed such that there is something wrong with the person who has not become a parent.  It is like having a disability that no one respects like they would a disability.  And yet there are sooooo many people who are struggling in this place.

So, I've dealt with it all and found hope in it all, by using it as a place to minister.  Using this struggle as a place to love and care for others who are part of the struggle and to teach those who are not, especially pastors. I am looking forward to having a special memorial service for those who are hoping & grieving through infertility.  I'm grateful for the married couple who are helping who are much further on the journey. It will take place at the funeral home & cemetery and I'm calling it the Empty Tomb for the Empty Womb.  And there is a place where I find hope - hope in something that shouldn't disappoint - hope in being able to help others cope, while hoping and letting go.  It is amazing how even just writing about this brings comfort to my soul and eases the tension.  I'm doing something good for God's glory through the pain.

As I look forward, I am still imagining being pregnant this Christmas, as I have imagined for the last four years. As I look forward to next Mother's Day, I imagine myself at church because I won't be grieving. Yet, I know that if I am not pregnant, I won't be at church that Sunday.  It is just too hard.

When I go to my parents' house, it is still better for me to take someone else's children with me because of the happiness I see on my parents' faces and the satisfaction I feel inside. I'm not supposed to be visiting them at this age without kids.  Everything I ever imagined about this stage in my life included kids.  I don't know how to interact with my mom because her feminine identity is in motherhood. (Oh yes, forgot about that stage - the stage of struggling with one's own femininity.) She is making a great effort though. I don't like that she has to make the effort.

Enough thoughts for today.  Enough pain expressed. Enough hope mixed with grief.  Enough lack of resolution.

(And then there is the lingering thought, "When I do get pregnant, will I just think this grief was all ridiculousness?"  I know from reading others' testimonies that the grief to a small degree stays with you, because you are the older parent when your kids get together with their peers, or you have less children then you had hoped, etc.  I just am not looking forward to the comment I expect to get, "See, there was no reason for you to grieve, God had a child planned for you the whole time." I know I will probably get this comment more than once and probably from some of the elderly members of my church. If you are reading this and you know me, if we do become biological parents, please do not say this to me.  Thanks.)


Anonymous said…
I love you. So much.

I want to comment and respond to your post, but I struggle with what to say. Because, let's face it, words don't fix anything or make it better. I think I also have my own feelings of grief mixed in.

I keep typing responses and then deleting them. And typing some more.

I think what I really want to tell you is this:

1) its not your fault and there is nothing to feel guilty or ashamed about.

2) the grief is real and its okay to feel it and express it whenever and wherever you need to.

3) At this moment, you might feel like a childless mother, but you have been such a good mother to friends, your church children, neighbors, strangers... whatever God brings your way in the future, find ways to celebrate how your current reality has enabled you to be there for others in a different way and made you aware of needs that others might not have seen.


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