It’s not often that I think about infertility these days. With three little bodies running around and climbing and singing and talking and reading and playing, it’s hard sometimes to imagine the life before all this life was here. It’s hard to believe that there was a time when I wasn’t a harried and happy mommy to three.
And then I went on Facebook today, and I saw HONY post this,
“We’ve been trying for a few years. We both want it very badly, but it’s probably been hardest on my wife. It’s her body and she’s been the one that’s had to go through all the treatments, so I think the failure hits her hardest….”
“Will you be OK whatever the outcome?”
“‘OK’ might be too strong a word, but we’ll definitely survive.”
And my hands started to tremble. My heart started to pound. And I felt that strange, strong, pulsing lump in my throat that only true stories of infertility can bring to me. All of a sudden it wasn’t 2014. I wasn’t in a room surrounded by my sleeping children. It was a cold and lonely 2006, and my journey still had years to go.
I don’t go to that place often. I don’t need to anymore. But it is a part of me, and it is a vital part of my mothering.
It’s not always easy dealing with the remnants of infertility. It brings a lot of guilt. For years upon years I prayed for these blessings, and any moment I am not filled with bliss feels a bit like a betrayal of those yearnings. Because I know just how easily all of this could not have been.
I’m almost positive it contributed to the postpartum depression I experienced years ago. I didn’t believe I had a right to be tired. Any time I wanted a moment to myself, I would berate myself. After all, how dare I take a single breath of this beautiful life for granted.
And then there are the fears for the future. We are pretty sure we would like another child one day. Our last pregnancy came easily. My middle one in less than a year. But that doesn’t mean this time will. Right now I sit here happy with my three little ladies. It’s scary to open the can of what if. Scary to get my hopes up. Scary that they could be crushed.
But all of this, this whole journey, is a part of me and it is a part of our family. Magoo knows just how long we waited for her. She knows the story of when we found out — about how I almost fell down the stairs I was running so fast. Of how we sat there and cried. Of how the very memory of those tears can bring me to pieces to this day.
And these days, I’m grateful for those days. I’m grateful for the pain and for the sorrow and for the lessons it taught me about love and longing and perseverance and hope. Those years taught me who I was. It taught me who we were as a family.
It wasn’t always that way. When we were experiencing them, I would try so hard, but for the life of me, I could not imagine ever being grateful for that pain, ever embracing it, ever respecting who it helped me become.
And it’s those feelings that I think of when I think of Brittany Maynard, the woman who plans to use physician assisted suicide on November 1st because she faces a very terrifying diagnosis of terminal cancer. Her story scared me when I first heard it. It scared me to think of how fast realities can change. How our lives could be gone in an instant. How fleeting it all is.
And I totally understand her desire to avoid the pain. Who wants pain? Who wants their last experiences on this planet to be of unspeakable pain? Who wants to have their loved ones watch them deteriorate and waste away? I surely wouldn’t, and I can fully comprehend why Ms Maynard wouldn’t as well.
As a Christian, I don’t believe in euthanasia, but while reading through her story, I couldn’t quite remember why.
And then I read this story by another woman, a mother, who also faces a terminal diagnosis but who decided to fight until the end. She knows cancer will win, but she isn’t going to give it an easy fight
I read that a few days ago, and all of these thoughts and all of these feelings have been swirling around in my mind, and the only conclusion I can come to is that the struggle matters. The pain matters. The heartbreak matters. And the suffering matters.
As a culture, I think we have this idea that pain is always bad. That suffering is to be avoided. That there are easy ways out that won’t have an impact on our souls and our beings and our humanity.
But I’m starting to see some err in those concepts. What if it’s the suffering that carves out our identity? What if it’s the heartbreaks that soften us and mold us and make us more human? What if bypassing all of that can lead to a life of ease but of shallowness?
We have so many choices and so many paths and so many opportunities to avoid suffering that we might not want to face. And I’m not a masochist. I’m not about to cut off my finger or go days without water. But when the suffering is dealt to us, when it is in our cards and ours alone, maybe we shouldn’t be so afraid of it. Maybe we should dive in and embrace it, and find the rainbow through our tears.
Maybe things would look different. Maybe as a people, we would be different. And perhaps it just might awaken us to the suffering in those around us.