For those tracking my blog over the last week, you might be noticing a trend by now: infertility. Words keep tumbling out from me. And I think that’s going to be a thing for a bit. I’m in process of naming a lot of things. This is helping me feel sane (even if it makes you worried about me), so I’m keeping on with this adventure. If you’re bummed you missed the last posts that started this theme, you can find them here and here.
So, why all this infertility writing? I want the freedom to choose a different story, to be able, with God’s help, to resurrect life from ashes. In order to do that, I think I need to name the dream being incinerated and the pain of watching it go up in flames.
I’ve been talking about the death of the dream of biological children. And, how do we grieve death? We tell stories. We share what a person was to us — their quirks, charms and foibles. We mourn what we know we lost and also what could have been.
Why blog about it, instead of just writing in a private journal? One, if my story helps someone else name truth in her or his story, it’s worth it. If my words help someone else see she’s not in her messy, broken story alone (or helps him see he’s not the only one who feels that way), it’s worth putting the story out.
Building on the community piece, I’m hungry for connection. I feel like the last one standing without biological children in my friends my age: the one not picked for the biological parenting team. The one holding the short straw of unresolved infertility.
Side bar for my friends with kids: This is not to make you feel guilty! Your children are precious, and I’m glad your kiddos are yours. Even though my lack of biological children pains me, I don’t begrudge you your kids. And, also, it’s okay to talk about those days where your children’s latest shenanigans make you feel like you’ve lost your grip on sanity; for me, that actually helps sometimes.
It feels like it’s just J and I in our story, and that feels a bit isolating. Like we’re the last unicorns, sasquatch or other rare creature. In short, I crave, “me, too.” Or barring that, “You’re not crazy.” Or even, “Maybe you are little crazy right now, but I can see why you’d feel that or think that. And I’m still confident you’re going to be okay eventually.”
A large part of me wants to apologize for writing about depressing things at length, but I’m fighting that impulse. I don’t need to be ashamed of my story, and at the same time, friends, you don’t need to be emotionally responsible for me as I figure out how to move ahead. This is messy and heartbreaking and doesn’t feel good, and at the same time, I feel like the world is starting to finally right itself.
Talking about infertility feels like the awkwardness of accidentally throwing a bowling ball, watching it arc up and being horrified by the resounding slam as it crashes to the ground halfway down the lane. Meanwhile, dodging the judging stares of everyone else in the bowling alley. And ducking my head, while blushing, maybe letting out some nervous laughter, and getting back to the game with my friends. “What, folks? Nothing to see here.”
Yes, I’ve talked about infertility, but I feel guilty and weird about it like it’s something embarrassing. Like something I did wrong. I’ll throw out a reference, and blithely move on. I don’t like to linger on the subject. I actually hate that it keeps coming up. Or I feel awkward about saying anything, because it feels messy and personal. And it is. Here’s the deal though: if none of us ever talks about it, then we all sit in our private stories thinking I’m the only one who has ever walked here. And, we’re not!
So, why the awkwardness, weirdness and guilt?
One, I simply don’t like feeling yucky (and really, who does?), so I’ll cork those painful emotions and look for things that make me happy. And I spend way too much time listening to the should voice: I should do this, I should feel that. To be a good Christian, I should…. Volatile emotions don’t align well with the should voice, so I tend to fence them off.
Two, since childhood, I thought it was my responsibility to protect everyone around me from my emotions. I don’t want anyone’s anxious fluttering over me as though I’m about to irreparably shatter, and I thought other people’s responses to my emotions were my fault. I learned to mask the depths of my feelings in order to make other people comfortable — particularly those who are closest to me. If I don’t talk about my feelings while they’re present tense, other people don’t freak out and worry about me.
Spoiler alert: that belief is a lie and a trap. I’m only responsible for my emotions. Everybody else is responsible for their own. By extension, they’re not responsible for my emotions, either.
Three, I didn’t want advice on how to fix my story or miracle stories that feed Dogged Hope or someone seeing me as some sort of patron saint for the person they know who is battling infertility (I’m really not worthy of that title.). And one of those is typically the response of most folks when they find out about my infertility story.
That, or awkward silence. Particularly when the story comes up because they made a bad assumption, i.e. “Y’all have been married for ten years. Don’t you know you’re not getting any younger? The clock is ticking.”
Thus, I talked about infertility when I was at a place where I felt stable, with my emotional block tower securely balanced, and other people’s words couldn’t do much more than mildly irritate me. Facts, not raw feelings. Bluntness and quick retreat.
Four, admitting I’m infertile feels shameful. For me, there’s something immeasurably different in saying “I wrestle with infertility” rather than “I am infertile.”
I lost the wrestling match with infertility. The match, for all intensive purposes, is concluded. I lost. The vindication story isn’t happening and, at this point, likely won’t ever happen. God hasn’t swooped in with a miracle. Fertility treatments didn’t produce a pregnancy, either. So, it’s not simply that I’ve had to wait. It’s that I’m at the point of the story where I have to say, “Deliverance isn’t coming. Now, what?” And I really hate that part because now I feel more like “I am infertile” instead of “I wrestle with infertility.”
When I wrestle with infertility, it’s something outside of me. When I am infertile, it is part of me. It’s more personal. It more concretely sets me in conflict with my own body, rather than being this outside thing happening to me.
Recognizing myself as “infertile” feels like being branded with my very own scarlet letter. Saying “I’m infertile” feels like announcing, “Hey, I’m defective. I’m the broken doll at the toy store who doesn’t do the things the manufacturer advertised.” I don’t know why my body is infertile. If I had a medical reason, muzzling Dogged Hope and dislodging her grip on my life’s steering wheel might have been easier. That might be wishful thinking.
Cognitively, I know that my being infertile isn’t actually a badge of shame or defectiveness. Emotions, however, don’t always line up with my reason. In my next post, look for some processing on the lies I’ve told myself about what it means to be feminine. By letting go of some of my long-held beliefs about womanhood, I’m finally beginning to create space to be kind to myself.
If you’re interested in continuing to read along, I recommend following the Ragtag Reveries Facebook page, or through WordPress or Twitter (@emcgrewking). (And feel free to share if you’d like!)