Monday, August 31, 2009

No More Stories

It seems like everyone has a story that they want to share if you tell them you are dealing with infertility. If I say that we have been trying for 3+ years, they tell me about their friend's sister's co-worker who had her first baby after 10 years of trying – or that they finally conceived after giving up on TTC. If I say I have had 3 miscarriages, they tell me about their cousin's uncle's brother's wife who had 7 miscarriages and was later able to carry to term. I know that all of these stories are meant to be an encouragement and inspiration to me to not give up, but sometimes I wish people would just appreciate what I am going through without telling me about someone they know who had it even worse!

At times it feels like they are minimizing my struggles. Instead of sympathizing with where I am right now, they start talking about some other couple. It makes me feel like I am in some sort of a sick contest to see who ends up with the most difficult journey to a family and still triumphs. Like I need to compete to have the absolute worst story so that I will go down in all of my friend's history books and our story will be the one they tell some other unsuspecting infertile woman who is just looking for some support and affirmation.

But it makes me wonder how often I have done the same to someone else. Do I ever respond to someone who has just told me about a struggle by comparing what they are going through to someone else's struggle, or even to my own experiences? Instead of trying to support them, let them talk it out, offer my prayers, do I just divert my attention to something or someone else? Do I truly listen to what they are telling me, or do I just start thinking about how I am going to respond to them? Wow, this is starting to sound like one of those seminars on active listening!

Living with IF, we develop certain sensitivities to common things that people say – like "just relax," or pointing to their cute little child and saying "this one right here is birth control" (yes, that really happened to me recently in the grocery store). I know my friends who have children have their own pet peeves about what people say to them. I remember making a comment to a friend after she had her third boy, that maybe next time she would get a girl. I later found out that people say that to her all the time and it really gets on her nerves – like she isn't happy with the children God gave her – whoops! I guess there are a lot of things you don't learn until you walk a mile in someone else's shoes.

Last summer during a particularly rough period, I ordered the book Hannah's Hope by Jennifer Saake. It is beautifully written. As I was looking for bible verses tonight, I grabbed her book and found a chapter entitled, "Put Yourself in My Shoes (Before You Put Your Foot in Your Mouth). A few sentences that I highlighted seemed particularly appropriate:

"In trying to explain fertility challenges to those who have never lived through such experiences, I have to remind myself that the outside perspective is one of innocence."

"When my life is over, do I want to be remembered as that self-absorbed woman who could only focus on her own hurt…"

"As you find yourself in uncomfortable places or conversations, ask God to give you grace to survive the moment, along with an understanding heart to hear the intended meaning behind your friend's words."

"Then Job answered and said: I have heard this sort of thing many times. Wearisome comforters are you all! Is there no end to windy words? Or what sickness have you that you speak on? I also could talk as you do, were you in my place." Job 16:1-4

"The prating of some men is like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise is healing." Proverbs 12:18

"Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do. And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection." Colossians 3:12-14

Reflection Questions

  1. How do I wish people would respond when I tell them about my struggles?
  2. Do I respond to others in the way I would like to be treated, or do I end up saying and doing the very things I dislike?
  3. Am I too focused on myself to appreciate other people's struggles?

Lord, help me to be a good friend to others. To truly listen to them, affirm them, and offer support when it is needed. Give me the wisdom and sensitivity I need to respond to other's needs. Help me to appreciate other people's comments for what they are intended to be, instead of what I twist them to mean. In all things, let me respond charitably to others.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Family Matters

This month my husband and I celebrated our 7th anniversary and my 31st birthday. I love the month of August! While these milestones mark another year passed and another year older without a baby, they are also reminders of how blessed I am to be in this beautiful family. It is easy for me to think that my husband and I are part of a family, but that we are not a family yet because we don't have any living children. In my mind, I know that our family started the day we were married, but how do you grasp that concept when you have grown up thinking that family necessarily involves children. A couple years back we were spending a weekend with our college friends. This couple got pregnant on their honeymoon and every chance they have had since. The oldest daughter was talking to me one morning and asked, "Are you guys married, but you just don't have kids?" It occurred to me that in the family she has been raised, it had never occurred to her that a couple might be married with no children. So, how do my husband and I form a family by ourselves?

The family is the fundamental cell of society and it's roots are in the married couple who form a family on their wedding day. One of the most basic characteristics of a family is sharing. We share a home, food, income, activities, friends and relatives – we don't have to have children to do any of those things. All of the things that a family encompasses is modeled first and foremost in the married couple through the expression of their vows– together in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. Yes, we are dealing with the sickness of our bodies – even if that may not be physically evident to others. Our husbands join us for important doctor's appointments, hold our hands when we receive difficult news or are undergoing an uncomfortable procedure, they care for us when we've had surgery and vice versa. We face good times and some very difficult times, but we persevere and hopefully our relationships are better for it. Each day of our marriage, and through every sacrifice and shared experience, we are deepening our commitment to those vows. We become a model of love and of the true meaning of family, in a world that so often needs to be reminded of that.

Families are never called to be closed in on themselves, but to be fruitful. During the rite of marriage, we state that we intend to accept children lovingly from God. So how are we to look at our marriages if we try to have children, but are unable to? Well, we are seeking to accept children from God –whether naturally or through adoption. We are not preventing ourselves from receiving children, but waiting for God to bless us at the time of His choosing. And when He does decide it is time, there is no doubt that we will love those children in a special way. Our patience, endurance, and perseverance bears much fruit in the meantime – fruit that will help us in our future roles as parents. For now, we may seek ways to serve others outside of our family whether through giving of our time, prayer, or monetary blessings. But most important of all, we are blessed with this extra time to focus on building a strong marriage. People are attracted to strong families and strong marriages. What our future children and what society needs most are strong, happy marriages. That bears fruit beyond measure.

"Make known to me your ways, Lord; teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my savior. For you I wait all the long day, because of your goodness, Lord." Psalm 25:4-5

"For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother (and be joined to his wife), and the two shall become one flesh. So they are no longer two but one flesh." Mark 10:7-8

"It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails." 1 Corinthians 13:7-8a

Reflection Questions

  1. Do I see my husband and I as a family? Why or why not?
  2. How are our interactions and experiences of infertility a reflection of our wedding vows?
  3. How are we being called to be fruitful at this time?

A Marriage Blessing Prayer

We thank you, O God, for the Love You have implanted in our hearts. May it always inspire us to be kind in our words, considerate of feeling, and concerned for each other's needs and wishes. Help us to be understanding and forgiving of human weaknesses and failings. Increase our faith and trust in You and may Your Prudence guide our life and love. Bless our Marriage O God, with Peace and Happiness, and make our love fruitful for Your glory and our Joy both here and in eternity.