Saturday, March 26, 2011

Lanolin on my belly, drink this, just relax...and other random thoughts

It has always amazed me how many people in the with-children world are infertility experts. So many people I barely knew had stacks of advice for me; each a sure cure for the barren womb.

"Just soak virgin wool in lanolin, and lay strips of it on your belly every night. within two months you will be pregnant. I guarantee it."

I tried it, but I got a rash from the lanolin and then read a report stating many people are allergic to lanolin in it's undiluted state. But, I still wasn't pregnant.

"If you just drink a small glass of red wine every night, it will increase blood flow in your ovaries and you will be pregnant in no time."

Seriously? I am pretty sure alcohol and pregnancy have never been a good idea.

Oh, the advice got better as time went on. Most people just said to relax, "quit thinking about babies and you will have one." I think that mostly works for people who don't want to think about babies. It seems like most teen mom's weren't thinking about babies when they got pregnant. But for me, it didn't work.

At the point I knew there was no hope of becoming pregnant I found the advice from strangers comical. The total hysterectomy made it possible for me to at least stop wondering if this was the month. Unfortunately, unsolicited advice didn't stop there. One woman even suggested that if I had enough faith, God would restore my uterus and ovaries, allowing me to have the baby I dreamed of. I'm not putting God in a box, but really? What kind of advice was that to give a woman grieving the loss of a dream.

Through all of our grief, and even now as we walk in healing, the one thing that will make my skin crawl is the phrase, "Oh well, you can always adopt."

It's not because adoption is not an amazing and very important part of many families. Adoptive parents and children are just as bonded as any other family and they are truly YOUR OWN children once they are in your heart.

My problem with that advice is that it discounts the grief of the couple facing adoption as their only choice to fill their family with children. As if adoption will completely remove all of the emotional stress of finding out your infertility is terminal. Or, even worse, that the infertile couple is also completely out of the loop with modern possibilities and they have no idea that adoption is available. I realize people say things like that out of a desperate need to offer help. We all want to be able to fix someone elses problems. But guess what, permanent infertility, especially when we are talking about a loss or disfigurement of reproductive organs, is not fixable. no one on earth can make it go away.

Of course we know that adoption is something to consider. But sometimes it just isn't possible. If a couple is called to adopt, then they absolutely should, but if not...don't. It's okay to allow the Lord to heal you even if that healing doesn't include children. I always thought a baby would be the only way my heart could ever feel joy, but now, after years on the healing side, I know my joy comes from only one babe...the one in the manger, who grew into the man who took my pain upon his back.

If you want to care for those hurting over infertility, tell them you love them. Tell them you are so sorry for what they are going through and tell them you are praying. But, please, unless you are a fertility specialist, don't try to fix it for them. Just be there when we need a hug.

Blessing and Joy on the Journey,

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Baby Shower Blues

As we walked our journey through infertility, and ultimately permanent childlessness, baby showers tied with Mother's Day for the most painful events of the year. It wasn't so much that I couldn't be happy for my friends, with their ever-filling homes. It was the torturous process of shopping for baby gifts, and then making small talk at the shower, where everyone was baby-crazy.

I rememeber spending three hours in one of these stores the week we started Clomid. I was so hopeful. When our neices baby announcement arrived, I went straight to the store to pick up the perfect gift. I found the coolest stroller/car seat/ basinet combo thing. It was exactly what I would have wanted, so in spite of the heafty price tag I bought it for her.

Shortly after that I was diagnosed with endometrial carcinoma, uterin cancer. I would never become pregnant, never feel life in my own body; never experience the pains of labor that bring us to a lifetime of sacrificial, maternal love; never hold my baby - counting fingers and toes... I didn't know I could forgive my body for such betrayal.

Every cute little die-cut invitation with pink bows or pacifiers brought with it a storm of jealousy. I stopped short of speaking my envy out loud, but I really didn't understand why everyone around me was populating the planet while I was saying goodbye to every dream I had.

Eventually, I just quit opening any envelope smaller than the phone bill. It was safer that way. I couldn't bare another trip to Baby's R Us or Baby Gap. The advent of online shopping made it a little easier. Going to their registration list, picking randomly and ordering saved the pain of perusing through stacks of baby items I would never need.

My husband, John, tried to console me, but he didn't see why it upset me so much. He was sad that we wouldn't have our own children too, but he was already moving on. That's part of the bias in the torture of infertility - men aren't expected to attend ritualistic events like showers, no one expects them to gush and coo over baby pictures being passed around a Sunday School classroom and fathers-to-be rarely ask their friends to feel their baby kick. They are given repreve to heal before they  have to face a world full of babies and baby showers.

I knew I had reached a point of healing three years ago. A friend from my church was pregnant. They had struggled with some possible infertility, but in a relatively short time conceived the baby that would be their beautiful little girl. Since her family lives several hours away, our small group wanted to throw a shower for her. I could hardly believe my own ears as I offered to plan the shower. It was confirmation that God was indeed working a miracle in my heart. I loved shopping for decorations, and games I once found drudgery were now part of my plan.

You may not be there yet. It's okay. Please know that their is healing for our broken, grieving hearts. It comes when we least expect it. Sometimes in the healing, a sweet baby or a particularly cute baby announcement can bring tears to my eyes...but now they are tears of joy and rejoicing in the blessing of life. Finally I can rejoice with those who rejoice. That's the power of the God who loves me.

I pray you find blessings and joy in your journey,