We all cope with life’s struggles differently. One thing I am finding out about myself through my struggle is that I desperately need other people to relate to who are going through similar struggles as mine. By doing so, this has helped me tremendously. It allows me to continue putting one foot in front of the other each day, helps me realize I am not alone in this and teaches me to lean on those I can trust and who are my support system though this. Another thing that has been aiding in helping me cope is reading books on topics related to my struggle. I recently came across the book, Hannah’s Hope, by Jennifer Saake. In reading her book, I found her words to be therapeutic and offered me huge validation to the pain I have been dealing with in regards to my own infertility. Not only did her book point out versus in the bible to go to for comfort, but she offered other tools to help cope during this journey. She has such wisdom that is both humble and loving. I would highly recommend this book to anyone dealing with infertility, child loss/miscarriage, and/or adoption or anyone who just needs insight on any of these topics.
In reading this book, much of what the author wrote and some of the bible versus really stuck out to me. I took note of the things that touched my heart and I wanted to share them with you. The first bible verse that stuck out to me was Proverbs 13:12 , “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life.” It’s amazing how much in my struggle I have hung on to hope. Hope is what keeps us going and what keeps us to keep on trying when something has failed. However, each time our hopes of conceiving has failed us, our hope was again delayed. I always say that hope is like a double edged sword because it also leads to expectations of an outcome. When your expectations are not met, you are just continuously disappointed. After a while, disappointment can take it’s toll on you. However, hope has always found a way to creep back into my heart and makes me want to try again…and again…and again. Although my tree of life hasn’t been completely fulfilled quite yet, I still have hope that is someday will. If my dream of another child doesn’t come true, I hope that I can find whatever it is I am supposed to do in life that will give me the fulfilled tree of life I am so badly longing for.
What I am longing for is to expand my family, to have another beautiful child with my husband and see him be a wonderful father again, to be able to experience a child growing inside me, birth that child, and live to nurture and raise that child as his/her mother, and to give my only daughter a life long friend, a sibling. It is with those thoughts that I wonder why God is putting this trial in my life and in all honestly question why this is happening in our lives. It just really makes no sense. When I read this quote from the book, Jennifer Saake gave me something else to ponder when she said, “To look at my current circumstances and accuse God of making a mistake would be like trying to see a finished picture in a single piece of a complex puzzle. The blurs of color are senseless on their own, but when my piece is placed with all the rest, the entire beautiful masterpiece is pulled together. God sees the big picture from beginning to end. I can only see my little piece right now. This insight gave me such comfort because I know what I don’t understand now and what I think is unfair, truly is the way God intended it to be. He’s working on me even when I don’t think He is. To have faith in Him and to believe in this makes me feel like everything is going to be ok. My struggles will one day make sense and I do believe that God is giving us this trial to bring us closer to Him and to teach us something. I am not sure what that something is yet, but I look at what I have learned already and what this trial has brought to my life in the midst of the heartache and there is truly much to be thankful for in all that it has made me realize and truly not take for granted.
Although, I’ve had a lot of realizations and life lessons through this struggle there has also been so much heartache and hurt. Month after month when I get my period and it’s another reminder that we didn’t conceive, is another month of grief. Jennifer Saake explains it this way,“Your fertility challenges hurt this much because you already have a mother’s heart, and are grieving for your children.” I just think about all the time that feels like such a loss to me and it’s true, and in my case, I’m grieving over my child that I haven’t even met, but has been living inside my heart for so long.
When you are grieving, it can be hard to make logical decisions and your emotions can be all over the place. The heart wants what the heart wants and there will always be triggers. Another thing I took note of that Jennifer Saake wrote was this, “Significant dates and events such as holidays are the landmarks that perhaps best capture the chronic nature of this grief. It is one thing to realize “it’s been a while” since you last started trying to have a baby. It is another to think of all the birthday’s, Christmases, and Mother’s and Father’s Days that are passing by.” While it seems like everyone else is able to move forward with their life, since dealing with infertility, my life just seems to be at a standstill. This is especially hard when the significant dates Jennifer Saake was talking about in her book creep up. In particular, Christmas and New Year’s was particularly rough for me this year. I couldn’t quite pin point my exact grief in these dates but boy, did I feel it. I almost couldn’t speak to anyone and I felt like I was going to cry if I even talked. I don’t know what it was, maybe it was just the reminder that almost 4 short years ago we were announcing we were pregnant with E on Christmas or hanging E’s “first Christmas” ornaments on our tree or the fact that another year was creeping in and it was the 2nd year in a row we did not become pregnant. Whatever it was, I assume it wasn’t just one thing, but many things that triggered my grief. It’s hard. It’s oh so hard. Among the grief I felt, there was still some laughter but as Proverbs 14:13 says, “Even in laughter the heart may ache.”
Yet another challenge I face in the midst of infertility is maintaining the unity of my marriage. This was another thing talked about in this book and described as one of the biggest hardships we combat with in our trial with infertility. As if secondary infertility isn’t hard in and of itself. I am amazed at the web of other difficulties it creates. It has been hands down the most challenging part of my marriage thus far and has no doubt taken its toll on our marriage. As Jennifer Saake writes, “Part of the panic comes from lack of assurance that you are still together in this darkness.” Although my husband and I are in this together, we have had rough patches here and there too. Lots of them. Sometimes you just feel like you are not on the same page and when that feeling strikes you just feel down right alone in the process. It’s important to keep up communication and lovingly give each other support. If you are unsure of what support your partner needs, I find it easiest to just simply ask. No decision in this is easy either and it is so incredibly important to make them together. You may come to your own conclusions about a decision you would like to make, but never make that decision alone. Ultimately, it’s so important to learn to agree to disagree, and come to an agreement of sorts in making a decision. I also find listening to that little voice in my head or heart (which ever voice you hear), also called intuition or maybe you may see it as God giving you a sign-whatever you believe, listen to it. It is there for a reason. “Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction…whether you turn to the right or turn to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you saying, “This is the way; walk in it”.” -Isaiah 30:20-21
Although my belief in God plays a major roll in my struggle and my decisions I totally related to Jennifer Saake when she says this in her book, “While I gave my all in the pursuit of parenthood, methods always seemed to fall short. God had the final say and I felt like a puppet on a string, at his mercy, performing without a script.” There is no instruction manual to secondary infertility and no matter what you want and how much you pray or how much to talk to God it may not go the way you want it to go. I’ve learned this the hard way man times. In those moments I continue to pray and ask for guidance and know I am doing the best I can hopefully walking in the direction God is calling me to walk in.
Nothing in this is really in my control and again, before I was deep into my struggle with infertility, I thought it was easy as having sex during my fertile window and boom I would easily get pregnant. I look back at my old self and think, “Girl you were naive and foolish, if only you knew then all that you know now”. However, I was taught to think in this way. I truly wish sex education was different and people truly educated the young generation what it really takes to make a baby. It’s just sad because I may have realized the other truth earlier on and maybe prepared my expectations of making a baby by what Jennifer Saake writes, “Society teaches us that reproduction is ours to control. Shock and sorrow accompany the discovery that we can not always plan parenthood. Infertility is prolonged grief with few defined points of closure. Anguish is caused by the death of dreams, not always by the death of an individual.” This it truly the truth, right down to the last word. I’m living it and breathing it as we speak. I can relate when Jennifer Saake also says, “…you pray people won’t judge you while your heart sits shattered at your feet.”
Grief is a long process to overcome and many don’t even want to acknowledge that. Many expect you to just get over it, especially because there is no visible proof of what you are grieving over and I agree with Jennifer Saake when she shared this in her book, “Above all we need time. We continue to hold on to hope and take active steps to bring additional children into our lives. The thoughts and process consume more then anyone knows. Yet we may or may not choose to discuss our pursuit. The pressure of achieving success is increased with each person we engage on the topic. We need more time to heal, to feel normal, to discover what God’s plan is for us. Asking for time from friends and family may be a self centered thing, but it’s what we need. Don’t take our quietude, seclusion, or self centered set of expectations personally.” This is why earlier I said it is so important to find those set of people you trust and can relate to with your struggle. These people will be the beacon of support you need that will ultimately help you cope and help get you through this troublesome time in your life. A time that someone who has never walked a day in your shoes can so easily try to brush off or not want to try to even acknowledge or bring up to you. For me, grief has not been something that goes away. It occurs month after month after month of not conceiving. You may not see it, but I feel the effects ten fold. I shouldn’t have to ignore my grief and will more then likely need your support.
Support is huge in being able to get through day to day in this. This is especially true because of the hard decisions that need to be made along the way. You don’t know how many times I have prayed for God to just tell me if this dream of mine will come true. Do you know how much easier this process would be if I just knew what my future held? I was surprised to see that I am not the only one who is alone in this as Jennifer Saake expressed in her book, “I often wished I could see enough of God’s plan at least to know if the battle was worth such grief. If only God would tell me, “yes, someday you will have a baby”, or even, “No, my plans for you do not include a child”, then I would either been able to rest in the peace of knowing or grieve my losses and move on”. You wouldn’t believe how much I can relate to that last quote from her book. I’ve always felt that moving on from this would be hard if I didn’t at the end of this, have the desired outcome. It would be so much easier to know which way to go with this. I can only just keep listening to my heart and following that little voice I keep hearing and do what my husband and I think is right and the next step. I will never know otherwise! My main goal in this is to not live with regret and know we did our all to make our dream a reality no matter the outcome.
I do know that with whatever outcome we end up with in this struggle, seeing my baby grow has been both filling me with happiness and sadness. Jennifer Saake explains this feeling perfectly in her book, “As my baby grew up before my eyes, great joy was mixed with the grief of thinking this would be my “only chance” and wishing to savor every fleeting moment. The longing for another baby intensified with each passed milestone, and yet the desires were tempered with guilt that I shouldn’t want more after receiving such a blessing, when so many remained without a child at all.” E is and will forever be our biggest blessing. I don’t ever want others to perceive my wants for another child as greed. I can only explain it as my heart wants what it wants. I want another child. Just as some just know their family is complete, I know mine is not.
Jennifer Saake shared a poem by Russell Kelfer, called “Wait”. I have always loved and have been touched by poetry and I am going to be adding this to my list of favorites. Just as she shared with me in her book, I wanted to share with you.
“Wait” a Poem by Russell Kelfer