Infertility breeds loneliness. It causes a divide in relationships. It can make you feel like you’re not 1 in 8 – you’re 1 in 1,000.
Because of this, I think people don’t know how to interact with us. We don’t fall into the normal equation of other couples our age. Being at the playground the other day with my nephews reminded me of the awkwardness of this divide. The playground was packed and I swear, it could have been a convention of my doppelgangers. There must have been twelve women at the playground and we were all wearing t-shirts and zip ups, leggings, and sneakers with ponytails. And all brunettes. What in the world? Not even one blonde? Has it gone out of style?
The only thing that differentiated me from the rest of the playground chaperones? I’m not a mother.
I settled into my usual stance that I take when entering a family-focused area: my body tenses, I look to the ground, and mentally prepare myself for the questions I know will come.
It doesn’t take long, as the first mom on the peripheral approaches me. I give my usual reply and then look to the side to pretend I’m distracted, thankful that it’s a sunny day so my sunglasses can hide my true expression. She shuffles her feet while holding one hand under her baby bjorn and looks for a way to rejoin the two women she knows. I’m no longer an interesting person.
I’m waiting on the station and the train isn’t coming.
I’m not a part of this club.
It’s hard to be the one always (always, always, always) waiting.
This type of interaction, both with strangers and people I know, has often left me wondering: how can parents and wanna-be parents cross, whether imaginary or not, this wide, gaping hole?
I love our church. God called us there the first week after our honeymoon and we have been incredibly grateful for it ever since. I love the teaching, the people, the community, and the support. But I won’t pretend that there isn’t a Sunday that goes by that I don’t feel the sting. We go to a church that is overflowing with an abundance of children. I teach them during Sunday School. I watch them run energetically down to the front of the auditorium to be prayed for before Children’s Church. I watch their baptisms. I (used to) help plan church-wide baby showers. I see them busting open the doors after the service so they can all run outside to play tag with their friends. I see them being lovingly embraced in their parent’s arms. These things squeeze my heart.
Our church is extremely blessed to be able to easily grow their families. And I know it hasn’t been that way for everyone, but for the most part we are a very fertile church family.
But that “something extra” in the communion juice that people joke about? I must not be drinking it. Am I picking the wrong cup? Or that elder that people have pray for them and then they are pregnant a couple of months later? We must be getting prayed for by the wrong person.
I say these things in jest. But this feeling of being different, a leper, invisible, an outcast, is very much real.
Sometimes I am extra cruel to myself and count the number of children that some couples have had since we have been married. There are times that a family goes up for a baptism and I imagine my husband and I being up there with our newest addition. I have been standing at a church picnic and been completely overwhelmed by the feeling of shame and embarrassment, watching everyone else’s kids running around and having fun.
Infertility is the grief that keeps on giving.
1 in 6 couples struggle with infertility. Statistically, it had to be (at least) one of us.
I need you to know that infertile couples have lots of bad days. But they also have lots of good days. God has protected me in that not every single time I see a pregnant woman, a baby announcement, or am surrounded by happy families, destroys me. We don’t want infertility to be our be-all and end-all. One of my favorite Switchfoot songs says “I want to thrive, not just survive.” But that’s harder to do if you’re riding solo.
Most people dealing with infertility realize that your blessing of having children is an amazing gift from God, and genuinely want to be involved in your life. We love your children, and we love you. We know you would change our circumstances if you could. And we know you are praying for us.
So please don’t shut out couples who are going through infertility. We need your compassion, first and foremost. But we also need your companionship and your friendship. I understand that it’s hard, I really do. You might feel guilty, or don’t know what to say, or don’t think that we will have an interest in your life because we don’t have kids.
Sometimes we just need you to be our friend. You don’t need to say anything. We need friendship just as much as anyone else. Being reminded that you are parents and we are not would be a drop in the bucket to the loneliness we have felt over the past couple of years.
And you also need us. Just like it’s healthy to have relationships with people in different age groups, it’s healthy to get to know and come alongside people going through different challenges. Everyone has or will go through a season of some sort of pain or suffering in their life, and there’s no reason why we can’t use that time to impart perspective and to encourage one another.
Elisha of Waiting for Baby Bird, one of my favorite infertility bloggers, wrote a very brave post to her family members. The post, An Open Letter to my Fertile Family, contains a beautiful quote that I think most infertile couples wish they could extend to their friends and family: “And so I know without a shadow of a doubt that none of you would do or say anything to intentionally cause me more pain. So please forgive me for those moments when I forget that your conversations about children and pregnancies are natural and normal. And please extend to me grace when I lose myself for a moment and become jealous of this season of life you are in. I don’t mean to. Honest, I don’t.
But sometimes, there are days that are just harder than others.”
It had to be one of us.