Sorrow is knowledge, those that know the most must mourn the deepest, the tree of knowledge is not the tree of life. – Lord Bryon
i took my break. i told andy that we would get through the summer and reevaluate our situation. andy agreed. i went through stages of intense crying and apologizing. the more tears that fell and the more i said i was sorry, the more i realized how much i was hurting andy. i did my best to hide the tears from him. i cried a lot in the shower. i took really long and really hot showers. the noise covered the sobs and i was able to have my outlet and andy didn’t have to watch me cry – again.
those five months of intense treatment were catching up with me. i was able to process what happened because while it was going on things happened too fast and really left no time for coping with each failed treatment. i was able to analyze our movements and our numbers. i was able to reflect. i cried a lot. i would sometimes wake up in the middle of the night and the realization would hit me. i would roll over and cry into my pillow while andy slept beside me. sometimes he would wake up enough to roll over and pull me close. i was able to breathe and i started putting my life and my soul back together.
i was off pretty much all of the medicines and i felt myself slowly coming back. i could look in a mirror and see the life coming back to my eyes and feel a little bit more like myself. no more hot flashes. unfortunately my hair stayed a frizzy fluff ball.
during infertility treatments, timing is obviously everything. because of that timing and the type of infertility treatments we were doing, we quickly learned that spontaneity and intimacy were gone – just bury it in the back yard.
dealing with infertility is very much like dealing with the stages of grief: denial/isolation, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. i guess because in a way, it is a loss. it is real, heart breaking, soul shattering grief.
we dealt with this early on. maybe not the denial part because all of this was pretty hard to deny! but the isolation part really hit us. we found that being around certain people hurt more and if we controlled that, it seemed that life hurt less. it wasn’t that we thought that we could cause the pain to cease to exist, but we thought sparing one ounce of hurt would break our hearts less.
with the group of 4 couples, in a way, you could say that we isolated ourselves when i sent that letter asking for space. we were told that nothing would change and that i was wrong for insinuating that things would change. whether we want to admit it or not, life experiences like marriages and pregnancy will change group dynamics. it might not be intentional but those changes will happen. when we noticed those changes within our group, we slowly withdrew to allow even more space (for them as well as us) and unfortunately after a while of declining invitations, we stopped getting them all together. i tried to stay in touch with people individually sending private messages when life happened (birthday’s, Christmas, death in the families, etc), but after a year or so, i was told that “it is kind of obvious that you don’t want anything to do with us” and was asked to stop sending birthday wishes and Christmas cards. at the end of the day, i still try to keep up with our group of 4 couples through other people or personal messages sometimes. in isolating ourselves we didn’t stop the hurt because that came even when we were in a room alone, but it dimmed it just a little and that little bit helped.
anger was the biggest obstacle for me. i was angry at myself and i was angry at God. there were times i was angry at andy but those times faded quickly and i placed the blame and anger back on myself. this anger was present from the emergency room visit and escalated into a rage over the course of the year. my anger was directed at myself and i replayed everything in my life, wondering at what point my ovaries stopped working and asking myself what if. what if i knew what was going on before we got married? what if i did something wrong to cause them to stop working right? what if? i was lost in a world of ‘what could i have done’ – i wasn’t just lost, but consumed by it. i looked in the mirror at my reflection with hate and couldn’t wrap my mind around why andy didn’t have the same glare when he looked at me.
**I am writing this knowing that some people may be upset by my perception of this, but this is how i felt in the moment. feelings that are still very raw for me.**
most of my anger was directed at God. i was pissed. it wasn’t fair to me that we were “faithful people” that prayed, but i felt like we were being punished. i felt like if i had done something better in my life, or with my life, maybe things would be different. that maybe if i had been a better person, God would have allowed my ovaries to be good. it wasn’t fair. each and every day i was reminded of how unfair life was when i turned on the news and saw women killing their babies. or women strung out on drugs getting pregnant in the blink of an eye. when people who didn’t want those babies got them so easily and i wanted one so bad, i was willing to put myself mentally and physically to hell and back. it wasn’t fair and i blamed God.
my faith, that had been pretty rock solid growing up, was spread thin. really thin. almost transparent. i was really questioning why i believe what i do. i was questioning if i still believed. i was questioning if faith was real and if God was real. i was searching for answers and couldn’t get past my thoughts that if God allowed this to happen to us, or made this happen to us, was this the God that i wanted to believe in. i wanted to believe in a passionate, caring God that cares for his people. with all the heartache, i couldn’t feel him caring. i could no longer feel his presences in the wind. i could no longer feel his arms around me in an invisible hug. when i needed to understand why and feel God the most, i couldn’t. not only was i abandoned by my ovaries and my hopes of being a mother, but God left me too.
i searched for him in all the places that i could look – if I was going to be enraged with him, i wanted to feel him because that meant he was near and that he could feel me. if he could feel me, then i could inflict pain back to him like he was doing to me and andy.
we went to church each sunday. sometimes i didn’t want to go, but i went. i wanted my faith to be strong again. i wanted people to ask me why bad things happen to good people and be able to rely on my faith for an answer – not bitterness attacking God. i went to church. the place that i should have felt God without question. i was wrong. i felt love from the people that went to the church and in hindsight, i could feel God in those people, but i couldn’t see that at the time. but i couldn’t see or feel God from the pulpit. i was sitting there each week wanting to see God and instead was yelled at and told that i was going to hell because i wasn’t singing. lets face it, i don’t sing well. i don’t. i am not going to act like i do. if i do sing, usually i sing quietly. but to be told before each song that i had to sing, made me mad. so now, not only did God give me bad ovaries but God gave me a crappy singing voice. and now, apparently, i am going to hell. it wasn’t a picture of the God i wanted to believe in.
maybe it was because i was already so critical of God and so angry at God, but i felt like all of the sermons were based on God hating some group, or telling me that i wasn’t good enough in God’s eyes. that isn’t what i needed or wanted to hear. what i needed to hear was that we are all broken and that even in our brokenness, we were still made in God’s image. that faith goes beyond our understanding, our dreams and our needs. that faith pushes us to be better, to get better and to get beyond. i needed to hear that God loved me, not that he was judging me. i needed to hear that God’s grace rained down over me when tears poured down my face. to let go of the anger, to be at peace and to give myself grace. i needed to hear that it was ok to be angry at God as long as i kept talking to him. i needed a place i could go on sundays to escape all of my negative feelings that i had during the week and to feel God. i needed to hear about the God that i grew up believing in that was compassionate and loving. that is what i needed to hear.
during all of this, i was working with a youth group. it was through them that my faith flickered. i surrounded my heart in ice to protect me from any more disappointment and it was those youth that started chipping away at that ice. i latched onto those kids as if they were my own because, in a way, they were – and will always be. they made me laugh and, for a moment, my anger would fade and i would laugh. they made me so very proud. they played sports and instruments and we tried to support them outside of church. they took an active role in participating and they put up with me. they allowed me to interrogate their friends and, in their own way, would ask for advice. they would ask questions and discuss faith questions. their blunt honesty put an new spin on the faith that i was trying so desperately to reconnect with. on a sunday, they were my sanity. they were my angels that kept me from getting so lost in the darkness that i didn’t want to come back.
it was during this time that i learned of several other friends having infertility issues. i made it a point to reach out to them. with one in particular, we made it a point to go to dinner and be away from it all. just a girls date night. during dinner, we would take a few minutes to catch up. we would fill each other in on life as we knew it. there was always that moment where our laughter died down and we looked at each other. the subject of infertility would come up. she would ask what was new and i would fill her in on our story and i would ask her how she was doing. i leaned on her and still do.
in my anger at myself, our situation and at God, we decided to keep a lot of our story to ourselves. it was too raw to really talk to most people about it because a lot of people just didn’t understand. it was too hard to be able to admit how broken i really was. how to admit that the vision that i had instilled in my own mind was unraveling. how to admit that i was mad at God. we wanted to be able to control who had what information because, after all, it was our story to tell. it was also too hard to deal with the look of pity. people say that look doesn’t exist, but it does. i was at a funeral and someone came up to me and gave me that look. i said hello and she grabbed both of my arms and said “i am so sorry.” i knew that she was genuinely sorry for us and meant what she said, but for starters, she should have never known – someone gave her information that she should have never known. secondly, that look of pity – that look of, ‘i know what you can’t do.’ i know that you can’t create a family for your husband. i know that you are broken beyond belief. we also didn’t want people to know because we had hoped that treatment would work. we hoped that if we kept it to ourselves, we would be able to “announce” a pregnancy to the world instead of having everyone know when our iuis were and knowing when the pregnancy test would be. since it was based on timing, it wouldn’t have taken too long to figure out and we didn’t need the added stress of people knowing when to expect good news or bad news.
another thing that made me angry were people taking their pregnancies and their children for granted. it wasn’t that it just made us angry, but that it shattered us into a million pieces. we would have been thrilled and we worked so hard for it and nothing. one of my friends told me that she was nervous that i would be upset at her when she told me that she was pregnant. i will admit that my heart skipped a beat, but at the same time, i was overjoyed for her. my only request was that she know how lucky she was and how fortunate she was to have this life growing inside her – to take the good and the bad and embrace it.
i bargained a little bit i guess. i told God that if he allowed me to just have one baby i would do better. i asked him what it would take. i prayed and begged. when i was home alone on saturdays (because andy was in school), i cleaned. i would put my headphones in and listen to ‘doubting thomas’ by nicklecreek over and over while i cleaned and prayed. i would
sing scream the lyrics hoping that it would help me move past the bitterness and the anger. i would scream the lyrics and start crying hysterically listening to those words. the words that were very much who i was. i often found myself in the laundry room with my back against the washer sobbing. i often found myself in the most normal situations sobbing – completely broken. i don’t know if it was all the medicines coming out of my system or just every once in a while the reality hit me like a ton of bricks. i didn’t bargain for long because it got me nowhere.
when the anger faded, sadness filled the void. i don’t think that we ever went into depression. we were sad – yes, of course. but we weren’t depressed. we wanted to act like nothing was wrong and sometimes we could, but the truth was that it hurt. there were some days that we couldn’t get cereal from certain stores because that aisle shared the diaper aisle and that was just asking too much. i remember going to the store to get one thing and decided we needed poptarts. i was in a hurry, grabbed them and when i turned around, i was looking at baby food. i started crying in the middle of aisle 8. we had good days and we had bad days. we were very honest with each other about this. all it took was “this isn’t a good day” and we knew what we needed to do to help the other one out.
i am going to get off topic right now and say that i have never liked this last stage of grief. because i don’t believe that acceptance is really the end result. i feel like with each loss (in the situation of a person passing away or the loss of dreams and hopes) there is no real end. i think that you move beyond the first stages and you enter a stage of “mostly ok.” it isn’t that you fully accept the situation but that you move past the rest. acceptance is such a strong word.
the thing about grief is that it sneaks up on you. even when you feel like you have gotten past the first four stages and move into the fifth and once you feel like you get through the fifth stage, there are triggers that will take you back through all the phases again. the stages might move a little faster and don’t take as much time to process them through to the next, but all of those stages resurface.
since the word is acceptance, we have accepted a few things. we have accepted that even in our own personal grief, we can still have joy. joy for other people and joy for ourselves. we have accepted that even though we were thrown unwillingly into the infertility club, that we will survive. we have accepted that other people are going to take things for granted and our feelings will be hurt. we have accepted that people will unknowingly ask us why we don’t have children. we have accepted that people will ask us questions about when we are going to get pregnant. we have accepted that even in the depths of the darkest place we have ever been, the world will continue on around us, regardless of our grief and loss of what could have been.
I write about the power of trying, because I want to be okay with failing. I write about generosity because I battle selfishness. I write about joy because I know sorrow. I write about faith because I almost lost mine, and I know what it is to be broken and in need of redemption. I write about gratitude because I am thankful – for all of it. – Kristin Arstrong