Christmas is hard for the infertile Liz. When my family asks me what I want for Christmas all I want to say is, “a baby”. Not all of me finds it difficult, just the part of me that slips into my sorrow every now and then. It happens less often now, but my sorrow is a like a stalking tiger; it has the ability to sneak up on me without being seen and then take me down with very little warning.
Most of the time I am able to live my life without fear of this sorrow, but come Christmas time, the fear seems to multiply. Christmas is the beginning of the end of the year celebrations. Every day brings me one step closer to a complete year of failure; every new year reminds me that it has been another whole year of infertility. Every year I think, “This is my year, this is the year I will become a mother.” And every additional year that goes by I feel like a forgotten failure of a fool.
Christmas is also a wonderful reminder of the birth of our savior Jesus Christ! Which is wonderful, don’t get me wrong, I thank God every single day for the birth of his son, because without Him I am nothing. However, let’s look at the Christmas season from the perspective of an infertile woman. First, you need to think like an infertile woman.
Imagine you have spent your entire life wanting to become a mom, and then you got married to an amazing man and suddenly there is this additional piece of you that desperately desires to watch him become a dad as well. But then you find out that your body won’t allow that to happen and although you were the first of all your friends to get married, they are now all having babies, seemingly without trouble. And although you know it’s a lie, you can’t help but feel like everything is your fault, because it is your body that is not functioning properly. So you spend years trying to figure out how to fix it, only to realize that no matter what you try, you can’t control it. But you don’t give up hope, because God can perform miracles so you keep on going, but you get daily reminders of your struggle to become pregnant. Here are some of those reminders:
Wake-Up: many women who are trying to conceive must take their basal body temperature before even getting out of bed. Why? It’s one way to track ovulation. So upon waking you are immediately reminded of your struggle (BTW, I never did this because it doesn’t work for women with PCOS.) Also, infertile women track their cervical mucus at this time as well, which I did do.
Breakfast: This may seem morbid, but I have this reoccurring dream about making breakfast and each egg I crack open is a dead human fetus. Every time I make eggs I am reminded of this dream and my fear that my human eggs and potential children are wasting away with every day I age. The biological clock thing sucks ass.
Coffee: If I am past ovulation and could potentially have a fertilized egg currently making its way through my fallopian tubes, I take notice of everything I eat and drink. Could this harm a baby? No caffeine, no sushi, no painkillers, no alcohol, etc. Coffee is my daily reminder of these restrictions.
Workout: If I am past ovulation and could potentially have a fertilized egg currently trying to attach itself to the fluffy lining of my uterus, I take special notice of the workouts I do. No high impact or contact sports (this isn’t so relevant now that I’m not playing street hockey or skiing).
Bloating, fatigue, headache, sore breasts, cramping, spotting, nausea, flem, etc.: If you have ever researched early symptoms of pregnancy than you have probably seen this list of words. If you have ever researched symptoms of PMS you have probably seen this list of words. If you have ever researched daily symptoms of PCOS you have probably seen this list of words. What does that mean? I spend every single day wondering if every yawn, nauseous feeling, cramp, etc. is an early symptom of pregnancy and remembering that with my body, it could be anything. My body is a CONSTANT and UNRELENTING reminder of my failure to be a mother. I know that sounds dramatic, but it is the reality of my brain and the brain of many infertile women. It is not healthy, and I have come a long way with therapy and Celebrate Recovery, however, this lie continues to haunt me daily.
Seeing baby pictures on facebook: I want baby…
Visiting Family: I want baby…
Pregnancy announcements: I want baby…
Baby aisles in grocery stores: I want baby…
Commercials: I want baby…
Sayings like “stop being such a baby…”: I want baby…
FB statuses wherein parents joke about giving away their grumpy child: Give me your grumpy baby…
Ok, so now that you have a very small idea of what an infertile woman’s brain is like, let’s talk about Christmas.
The mailbox is full of beautiful Christmas cards filled with beautiful pictures of beautiful families full of children. I love them though, please don’t stop sending them to me, I treasure them, even though every one of them sends a small dagger through my heart, reminding me of what I desperately long for. But it would hurt even more not to receive them.
Then there is the shopping for gifts: I always find myself fantasizing about what I would be buying my children if they existed. Dean and I spend hours shopping for gifts for our nieces and nephews, and it is the highlight of my Christmas shopping, but it is also a reminder that we don’t get to buy gifts for our own children.
And then, for at least a month leading up to Christmas, everything in church is related to the Christmas story. It’s a beautiful story, but it involves pregnancy, and not just any pregnancy, but a virgin pregnancy.
It also involves the story of a woman named Elizabeth who was barren, and then in her old age conceived a son who was to prepare the way for Jesus. So, every time someone brings up the Christmas story I am reminded of the beautiful gift of pregnancy. The gift that I have begged for and not received.
Most people look at this story and say, “See! God is faithful, Elizabeth conceived! She was barren and he gave her a child.” But what they don’t see is that even though Elizabeth and Zechariah (her husband) were upright in the law and were good people, they were beyond child bearing years when they had their son. Although this says “MIRACLE” to most, to people like me this says, “Even though you are following the Lord you’re going to have to wait for years and years and years and years until you’re a mom. And then when you are a mom everyone is going to think you are the grandmother. And you won’t be able to keep up with your kid because you will be old and fragile. And you won’t be able to lose the baby weight because your metabolism will be so incredibly slow. And you will be heartbroken for all the years leading up to your pregnancy, and you will still be jealous of the other women, because even though you have a son your son doesn’t have siblings. And you won’t become a grandmother because your only son will be murdered.” So it totally baffles me when Elizabeth (although pregnant herself) sees her cousin Mary, a virgin, and says, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.”
How can she even say that? Did she really mean it? I consider Dean and I to be in a form of pregnancy ourselves as we wait to be matched in adoption, but recently when I found out a couple, both of whom I love dearly, was pregnant once again, do you know what I said? “What the hell?!” I didn’t say this TO them, I said it at home. And then I raged, literally, raged.
I yelled at God and told him to stop messing me with. I told him I was done being forgotten. “Why is it so easy for some and yet seemingly impossible for us?” “Why don’t you love me as much as you love them?” “What did I do wrong?!” “Why are you doing this? They have so many, and we have none! Is this what you mean when you say the rich will become richer and the poor will become poorer?” I got so angry that my husband actually told me to stop. And then I got even more angry and told him I wouldn’t stop feeling what I feel and if he doesn’t like it he better take it up with God. Yea, I was raging. I’m not proud of it. In fact, later I found myself apologizing to my Lord and asking Him to forgive my unbelief and my anger.
Do you know what God said to me?
“You are never forgotten to me, my child. I love you dearly just as I love your friends dearly. It is not your time and it pains me to tell you so. But I will never abandon you, and I won’t shy away from your hurt or anger. I won’t tell you to stop. I can take anything you throw at me. I am here. I love you. I am.”
You see, it’s easy for us to forget the years of heartbreak Elizabeth endured before she conceived John the Baptist. We see the outcome, we see God’s purpose in it all and so we say, “Well, she had to wait that long to conceive the child that God had planned for them, and not just them, but the world. Her waiting had a purpose.” But what about those years leading up to it and even after John’s birth? How did Elizabeth find the strength to keep going? How did Elizabeth find it in herself to rejoice when her cousin was pregnant without even having intercourse? How did all those years of heartbreak suddenly shatter when she walked into Mary’s presence?
I don’t know the answer, I mean, I know the “church” answer: “Jesus”. And I truly believe that to be true, Jesus was present there. Jesus’ fetal presence made John the Baptist leap in the womb and Elizabeth could not help rejoicing. That makes sense to me, but how can I allow the presence of Jesus in others to override my heartbreak? How can I allow God’s will to become so fully my will that my heartbreak is bearable and doesn’t harm others, but can actually bless others?
When I find out, I’ll let you know. I think it is only something I can learn through trusting in the Lord, and to do that, I have to let go of what I so desperately want. I’m stuck, because I’ll let go if it gets me what I want, but I can’t let go because if I’m letting go only to get what I want then I’m not actually letting go at all. Uggghhh. I guess all I can do right now is pray, and if you find the desire to pray with and for me, please do.
Hi Jesus, I need you. I need you desperately. I need to see you everywhere, and in everyone. I need to feel you in the depths of my soul filling me with your love. I need you to override my fear, anger, and jealousy. I need you to be my only desire. I need you, I need you, I need you. Please, help me to believe you when you say you will never abandon me. Please, help me to bring you all of my burdens, anger, and grief. Please be with me in my jealous moments and protect others from the sting of my pain and my sword of a tongue. Thank you for being there for me, thank you for loving me, thank you for saving me from me.