This week is National Infertility Awareness Week. I’m mixed about it. Having struggled with infertility myself, awareness was at the forefront of my mind, but certainly not in the campaign kind of way. I felt like I had a huge, blinking neon sign that read “Infertile. Diseased. Barren. Failure.” I felt like everyone knew how dysfunctional my body was and judged me for it; they were aware of my inadequacies as a woman, and I didn’t want any part of it. I just wanted to bury myself in an unmarked grave.
On the other hand, other women need that awareness and the subsequent support system. For the community as a whole, the devastating effects of infertility on a family are nothing to scoff at and there is great value in raising awareness. So in conjunction with National Infertility Awareness Week, here is my humble submission. I wrote this piece nearly three years ago when I was 38 weeks pregnant with our son. Even with two children it still hurts to visit these dark days and to reflect on my own battle with infertility, but it has shaped who I am and something I choose not to run away from.
Mother’s Day was an interesting experience this past Sunday. For the last few years, Mother’s Day has been more of a day of sorrow than celebration. I spent those Sundays grieving and did not want to attend church. Listening to the talks seemed pointless because it would “never apply to me,” regardless of what Sheri L. Dew said.
I shed much fewer tears this Mother’s Day as we anticipate the birth of our baby boy in 24 days. In fact, I was at odds with myself, experiencing two paradoxical emotions. I rejoiced in the impending moment when we will be blessed with a child, but I still found myself grieving. I know there are women in my congregation that cannot have children and their pain is still very real to me. There have been a dozen or so pregnancies in our ward in the last few months. If I were not one of them, would I be able to delight in everyone’s happiness? Hearing of my dear friends’ pregnancies left me crying tears of joy and self-pity simultaneously. Even the success stories about how someone tried for so long and eventually conceived were far from comforting. For every success story, the bitter part of me seemed to open my eyes to the handful that still could not have children (or worse, the many that are having children but refuse to take care of the lives they bring into the world). I searched the scriptures for comfort and found 4 women who were barren (Sarah, Rachel, Hannah, and Elisabeth). All 4 women were eventually blessed with prophet sons, but I didn’t want to wait until I was 90-years-old before I could finally have my Isaac. I wasn’t asking for a prophet. I just wanted a regular kid. On my worst days, I was angry with myself and with my body’s inadequacies, as if I were purposefully holding Patrick back from experiencing the challenges of parenthood. I could be a martyr, but why did I have to get married and take someone down that path with me? Irrational? Yes. But I have never been one to think rationally when I mourn.
Raising children is a righteous desire. President Monson mentioned at the Worldwide Leadership Conference that if a person remains righteous, that desire will not go away.
The constant gnawing feeling at your heart is a gap that cannot be filled with material things. Often, spiritual things only temper it, never fully healing you. The limbo that accompanies hope–should I wait and see if this works or should I move on with my career–is agonizing. The derisive thoughts–what is my purpose here if I cannot raise a family–only contribute to the torture, and the guilt from entertaining such thoughts is overpowering at times. The despair felt in finally giving up because it hurts too much to continue hoping is unbearable.
We are truly in the Lord’s hands. Despite my dark moments when I was unwilling to receive comfort and companionship, He still found ways to quietly assist me without my knowledge. Will every infertile couple conceive? Unfortunately, no. I am grateful to be numbered in those that are blessed with pregnancy and thank God daily for His mercy.