How do we stay strong during disappointments and sadness? How do we stay faithful when it seems our prayers are not being answered?
I drag myself along the trail. My feet plod slowly on the dusty path…thud, thud, thud. They feel like they are made of lead. My heart is heavy too, pulling me downwards by an invisible thread, almost anchoring me to the spot. My whole body carries the weight of my sadness. I force my arms to swing and continue slowly forward, trying to physically propel myself out of my grief, trying not to get stuck, paralyzed in my disappointment and fear.
At the same time as I make my slow progress by foot along a dirt path, my husband does the same thing, but by bike. Our chosen methods to deal with our sadness – getting out in nature to think and breathe. The sun begins to drop in the sky, bathing everything in her soft gold rays. When we get home Jeff tells me he feels the burden of our sadness too. He says he feels deflated. “The wind taken out of our sails”, I murmur.
Last time we had learned about our IVF failure I had wanted to run or ride as fast as I could. I had wanted to exercise, breathe hard, feel my heart racing, push myself to my limit, (especially after two weeks of mostly sedentary resting/waiting). I had wanted to remind myself how strong I am physically and mentally. That afternoon back in June when we’d heard the news, I went on a ride with Jeff. I rode hard and at the end of our ride I held my bike high above my head. I demonstrated to myself, Jeff, and God, how strong I was. However, today feels different. Today I feel so heavy inside. Today it will take something else to help me move on.
I wish my inspiration to write today was out of jubilation and not sadness. I cannot wait for the moment to share one of my greatest joys with the world – that we’re expecting our child. But the result of our earlier phone call determined my current disposition. Jeff and I had sat at the teak table on our back deck, the fresh air on our cheeks and inhaling deep breaths, we looked at my phone and waited to hear the results of our IVF 4. To hear whether our tiny beautiful embryo, which had grown healthily for 6 days, had implanted. To hear whether we were pregnant!
During our wait I mention to him that this could either be the best phone call of our lives or the worst phone call. Then I reflected on that and corrected myself. No matter the news this phone call would reveal, it would not tell us of the hardest thing I could imagine: of a terminal illness or the death of a loved one. And while it could represent death in some ways – the death of our dream of parenthood at this moment in time, the death of our previously thriving embryo – at least it was not the worst news we could face. I felt thankful for that. It reminded me to be grateful for what we do have.
(Some studies have shown that infertility carries a similar level of anxiety and depression for people, as those diagnosed with cancer and heart disease. Some women who have suffered from both cancer and infertility, have reported certain aspects of infertility being harder to bear – the shame, failure, and especially regarding their interactions with others on the topic. Dealing with infertility isn’t understood by so many people. This is partly why I chose to be open about our fertility struggles, hoping that shedding a light on fertility issues might reduce the stigma and to help people understand).
The phone call eventually came. The tone of that first syllable of the nurse’s words again letting us know the bad news. Why? Why are we still not going to be parents? The tears came. My body crumpled into my husband’s arms. My sobs quiet at first and then louder, my breath gasping, chest heaving. We try to take it all in. The disappointed crashed down upon us, followed closely by confusion and frustration.
The ‘whys’ become directed at God. When I first looked for His plan in the delay of our conceiving, I tried to look for the silver lining and good that was a result. I thought that perhaps one of the reasons for the delay was to strengthen my husband’s and my relationship. While fertility struggles can cause major issues in the relationships of some, Jeff and I are fortunate to feel that it is bringing us closer and closer together. We admire each other’s strength, courage and sacrifices, and are ever more impressed by the person we chose to be our life partner. However, after time I felt like we had achieved such a strong bond and yet conceiving still wasn’t happening for us.
Did I need to learn something more? I’ve already learned so much from our journey (mentioned in previous posts : Our Journey to Parenthood, We Are Ready For You, Thankful for those little things, and Our baby journey continues), including: patience, strength, gratefulness, faith, and the love of family and friends. Over the past months and years we have drawn on that love. We feel incredibly thankful for the people in our lives, and their love and support.
Why are we still waiting? I have sat by as I watched so many friends get pregnant, and smiled. I have learned of multiple people who conceived on their first try, and smiled. I smile through my own pain at not experiencing the same, but I smile because I always feel happy and excited for others. I have spoken with people who have struggled with and expressed the sadness of infertility for just a few months, I smile and empathize with them. I listen to people who are suffering from secondary infertility after having their first or second child, I smile and comfort them. Sometimes, in my human failings, I get frustrated thinking that a few months struggling with infertility, before or between children, is nothing compared to nearly 5 years. Or perhaps I don’t fully acknowledge to myself the same grief of secondary infertility, when I’d love for even one child. But then I remind myself, who am I to say their grief is any less than mine? I’m not a martyr for going through this. So many people go through so many different struggles and hardships in life. It is often these shared difficulties that connect us. And hopefully I can learn some things and help others along the way.
Maybe I have more to learn on this journey? Maybe God has a different plan for me than I’m imagining? Maybe more than the lessons I have learned, and needing me to become closer to my husband, family, and friends, he needs me to become closer to Him? I search for what it is I am supposed to do. Do I need to pray harder? More often? Go to church more?
Some people have expressed that God did not answer their prayers until they finally turned everything over to Him and put all their strength and trust in Him. I continue to grow in my faith, but I find it hard sometimes. Struggles and hardships can test our faith, and it has certainly tested mine. But I remind myself that our hard times are when we can especially turn to and rely on God.
People have quoted Bible verses to us “Ask and ye shall receive”. They tell us they are thankful to God for blessing them with their child and answering their prayers. Why did he bless them and not us? Plenty of people ask God for things, for honorable things – for themselves or loved ones to be healed, to become parents, to be able to feed themselves and their families. We don’t always get the answer we are looking for. We have to trust God’s plan and timing for us. Being able to do that is a process.
I read a couple of things today that stuck out to me ‘Sometimes BAD things happen to GOOD people’. This is an age-old adage. People often ponder this, especially when they are doubting God’s existence: ‘Why would He let something bad happen to someone good?’ I also read ‘Sadness contributes to the richness and fullness of life’. I reflect on these two statements and realize that if bad things only happen to bad people, we would all live in fear of being bad or doing anything bad. Being fearful is not a good way to live. Also, when bad/hard/sad things happen to people it allows humans to connect, to show their tenderness towards one another, and to recognize their own humility (we are not above suffering, there is no reason someone else should suffer over us). We can learn so much from these things. To some extent, I believe we need to feel some hardship/lows in order to fully appreciate joy/highs. The yin and yang – necessary opposites, contrary but interconnected.
When life is challenging, I try to look for the good and beauty in things. When I went on my walk today, after our devastating phone call (now a total of 7 failed embryos), I saw huge thick gray clouds overhead, casting everything below in coolness and shadow. I also saw the sun peeking out from behind the clouds. It made it’s way through the clouds and warmed my skin. I realize the sun, the light, the things that make me feel good and happy, are what I want to focus on.
As I carry on on this journey, I will continue to look for the silver linings. I will use my inner strength to propel me forward. I will try to let go, and rely on God and my faith. I will be thankful for my husband, my family and friends, and let them help me share the weight of my burdens, as I help with theirs. And I will share the lessons I learn along the way. Jeff and I will go on. We will find a way – someday, someway, somehow – to be parents. As we process our next steps, I want to thank you all for your continued love and support.
Read my most recent post for National Infertility Awareness Week, which includes a poem I wrote, here: My womb is empty, but my heart is strong.