When Grief Comes Knocking… Or Getting Real About Infertility. Whichever You Prefer.

Laying flat on my mat, tears spilled out of my eyes unbidden. Moments like these make me hate going to yoga. I think of myself as emotionally intelligent, but mainly that just means I do pretty decent on picking up emotions in other people. I’m excellent at ignoring and stuffing my own, particularly those volatile ones that make me feel unholy or unfeminine or like I’m going to drown in a well of sadness.

Without fail when I’ve got some stuff I’m avoiding, some emotions I’d prefer not to face just yet, Holy Yoga brings those out to the surface.

Like determined (and repeatedly ignored) collection agents, Sadness, Grief and/or Anger catch me at home and bang at the door. “Hi! We’re here. You can’t ignore us forever! You know we’re knocking. Open up!”

It’s the mindfulness part of yoga. Somehow taking stock of what’s happening in my body and getting physically exhausted by the practice forces me to take note of what’s happening in me emotionally. All that stuff that was crammed into far crevices of my brain comes spilling out into consciousness. It gets too big too ignore, and now I have to deal with it.

I wasn’t thrilled by the latest discovery. I don’t know how to write about this. It feels raw. I typically toss talk of infertility from the safety of having myself together and having formulated a coherent story about God and me (whether it’s a healthy one or not). I talk when I think I’ve got my ducks in a row, and when I’m at a point where stupid words from other people will harmlessly hit my armored emotional breastplate instead of piercing my heart.

This time I’m not there.

I thought after nine years of this story I had my stuff figured out and had reached some place of zen closure.

Apparently I did not. God stripped my hard turtle shell this week. The familiar safe places to hide are gone.

I feel exposed and broken.

I hate that! I want to shake my fist and throw things and yell. I keep interrupting my self-talk that reverts to saying mean and unhelpful things about where I should be and how I should feel.

In the nine years of infertility, I’ve never given myself permission to grieve infertility itself. I’ve grieved miscarriages and an ectopic pregnancy, but never infertility itself.

021917 Cemetery Headstone

I wonder where Mr. Pugh ended up, since he doesn’t seem to be next to his wife. And it’s not likely that he’s still alive.

Allowing myself to grieve feels like acknowledging the death of the dream of biological children. Putting up a headstone in the life story cemetery. I’ve always thought of myself as a pessimist, and unpacking my recent emotions made me realize what an unrelenting optimist I can be. Dogged hope springs from some wildly desperate part of me, even as my inner cynic looks on scoffing in resentment. I’m unwilling to raise that headstone. Everything in me wants to resist by screaming, flailing and throwing a tantrum like a red-faced two year old girl.

021917 frog hat and toothbrushHidden in one of my yarn drawers is a tiny frog baby hat that I bought in a fit of  exuberant hope back before J and I started fertility treatments three and a half years ago. It’s stashed right next to a silver baby toothbrush that my mother received as a gift for a child she miscarried in 1985. My sister unearthed the toothbrush as we cleaned out my dad’s house a few years ago and gave it to me. Now, two shattered dreams keep each other company in the yarn drawer. I can’t bring myself to separate the items or to part with them. And so, they sit tucked away, normally ignored, but not alone.

Instead of grieving, I have been carefully fencing off emotions. Bitterness is toxic; I shouldn’t feel that. Pain hurts; I don’t want to feel that. Anger isn’t something good, Christian women display. That bit about anger is a lie I picked up from my childhood, and though I know it’s a lie, that story still packs some serious power. Disappointment is a drag; don’t acknowledge that. Tears give me a headache and make me feel weak; let’s not go there.

Distract. Deny. Discipline.

I should be grateful. I should be content. I know life’s not fair; what’s the point of saying it aloud? I should move on. Keep muscling through. Those contrary emotions will get in line.

Only they haven’t. While I ignored them, they quietly rooted deeply down in me. And now unacknowledged, they’re making me brittle.

Owning that feels scary. It’s foreign to the way I’ve learned to talk about infertility.

Don’t own how I feel even to myself because the world and my faith might come crashing down together in flames.

Don’t talk about any of these things in the present tense because then people will think I’m broken or that they need to fix me or that I’m not quite “Christian” enough or strong enough or that I just need to get over things (and I already want to be over things. Whatever over them even means). I would like to be over this already. This is messy and uncomfortable and yucky. I would prefer to be done with this emotional circus show.

If I don’t own the vulnerable piece of infertility and just stick with the facts of my story, other peoples’ (usually) well-intended, but still unhelpful words bounce off my armor instead of lodging in my heart like poisoned darts.

I realized that the way I’ve learned to talk about infertility  was designed to circumvent stupid words people might say to me. The way I share diminishes and downplays my struggle. I don’t want to look broken even though I feel it.

I don’t want people to try and fix me or belittle my struggle. I already know things could be worse. Or maybe there’s hope. Or there’s adoption. I get that. But none of that  erases the hurt and grief piece. It’s okay just to acknowledge things are broken and hard.

Today is about owning the part of the story I didn’t want to acknowledge. The broken part where I feel a bit like a vehicle with the wheels coming off.

I think leaning into grief feels like that at first. The world is turned upside down, and you can’t go back to the way things were. Nothing works the way it once did. The only way to walk through grief is to feel it. Embrace the pain instead of hiding from it. And that’s the road I’m walking today.

My story might make you feel sad or awkward or uncomfortable.

Please know you’re not responsible for me or my emotions. I am responsible for me and for my emotions. You, dear reader, don’t need to fix me. God will pull me through this season as He’s done in so many other stormy situations.

I don’t need talk of hope for miraculous biological children or the wonders of adoption or happy, bubbly things. In fact, those are pretty poisonous for me right now.

Laughter and joy will come again. I know this. Right now about the only words that help are “You’re not crazy.” or “Me, too.” Silence is okay too.

For now, I am giving myself permission to grieve and pull out and unpack all those volatile emotions that I’ve been hiding. The only way forward is through them. Avoiding and pretending doesn’t actually work, much as I wished it did.

There’s more to this story that’s coming if you’d like to keep following along with me. But, for today, I think naming where I’m at is enough.

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5 thoughts on “When Grief Comes Knocking… Or Getting Real About Infertility. Whichever You Prefer.

  1. Grief, unfortunately, isn’t something we get over, I don’t think. It gets easier to carry, but it doesnt leave. Sometimes, I think I am grieving who I might have been rather than who or what I was originally grieving in the first place. So, this is to say, me, too, friend, and I’m sorry.

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  2. I get it. I can’t say much that will make you feel better. You’re sad because it’s sad, you grieve because that’s what life throws at us. You are angry because that’s a natural reaction. But I’m very pleased to hear you are giving yourself permission to grieve and also being vulnerable online. If we were perfect, we wouldn’t need the Lord. I will ask Jesus to simply help you through this process the best way – His way. Blessings.

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  3. Thank you for this – your vulnerability, your beautiful courage. You’re not crazy, and me too. That policing of feelings… I do it too. And your experience of yoga – yes. Savasana has reduced me to weeping more than once, all my defenses worn to nothing and my energy to hold back, exhausted. Infertility and miscarriage are also part of my story. May your grief be exactly as it needs to be, and may you have the courage you need to feel deeply.

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  4. Raw and vulnerable releases a beauty to you that’s hard to put into words.

    And in the midst of the emotion in your storytelling, I couldn’t help but laugh at your comment about Mr. Pugh under the photo of his headstone… just reminded me that even in the midst of harsh and painful realities… even in the naming of broken places… there’s still humor and laughter to be found…

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