Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Handling comments from new friends

I know this is similar to my post from Mother's Day, but I think this topic is so important. It is one of the most difficult parts of the journey with infertility, it is the issue that makes infertility an unavoidable topic for those in the midst of the journey, and unforgettable for those who have reached the end of the road.

I love meeting new people, but there is a part of every new friendship that is still awkward for me, and sometimes for my new friends. It is the moment the subject of children comes up.

"We have 4 kids, how many do you have."

"We don't have any children."

Eyebrows raise, "Oh, why not."

"Well, we couldn't have children, but we're good with it now."

"Oh, you don't have to be strong for me."

"No really, God has healed our hearts and we are good with His plan for us."

"Oh, now you know, I'm just going to pray that you get pregnant when you least expect it."

At that point I am holding back the laughter that used to be tears. Part of the reason we don't have children is because I had uterine cancer seven years ago, and no longer have a uterus or ovaries. So, while I'm not putting God in a box, I am also not looking for a surprise pregnancy. (There is a story in Beside the Empty Cradle about a similar discussion.)

People want to help, I understand that. Every person in whatever stage of their walk with infertility understands that the parenting world just wants to help. Unfortunately that help usually just leaves people feeling uncomfortable. The helpful phrases from new acquaintances include...

  • Well, you can always adopt.
  • Maybe it's just not God's plan for you. (even those who are okay with childlessness, feel queasy when they hear this early on.)
  • Oh, you're so lucky not to be tied down with kids.
  • Really? You can't be happy without kids.
  • You should just relax, then you'll get pregnant.
  • My aunt's, friend's, daughter tried..........

The list could go on and on and on, but these are some of the big ones. A few of these pieces of wisdom might even be welcome from someone you've known for years, or who is on the same journey as you...but upon an initial meeting it can be a painful reminder that most of the world believes there is something wrong with childless families, and that there is something you absolutely are doing wrong if you don't have children and want them. (I think the parenting world needs to read my book as much or more than those on the infertility roller coaster.)

Of course, we are not the only ones who face advice that is unwarranted and sometimes just plain rude. I have friends who are in their 30s, 40s and even their 50s or older, who have never married, and don't have children. They hear advice and comments all the time. We need to STOP. As a society we must stop thinking we have the right or the need to fix everyone's life. My single friends are often happy with their life. And if they have a tinge of wonder about spouses or children, that is very personal, shared with family or close friends...not usually upon an initial introduction.

So how can we handle those conversations with grace, leaving both parties feeling positive about the new friendship? Honestly, it's on us. We need to realize the comments and advice are not a personal assault. Smile, be gracious, and if you have a great sense of humor and can make a joke to turn the conversation around, go ahead, but be careful not to do so at the expense of making your new friend feel stupid about their comment. I have actually been known to give a small uncomfortable laugh, and say you know, I have thought about those same things, and sometime maybe we will have time for me to tell you my story. You will really be surprised. Then, I have an opportunity for a second meeting with my new friend. And, when I share our story, my testimony and my heart in the issue of infertility and childlessness, my friend is more educated and knows better the next time she meets someone who is walking the infertility journey.

We must all remain teachable, and we must all be willing to lovingly teach others.

God Bless Everyone!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Here is an excerpt from Beside the Empty Cradle: Finding Peace in Childlessness.

The queasy mornings started the day my doctor went of vacation. Two pink lines put me on cloud nine, but I waited to tell John. I didn’t want to hurt him again. I knew this time would be different. The queasy mornings were a welcome addition to my day. I woke up hoping to feel nauseated. A checklist of symptoms grew in my mind.

Lack of energy – check.

Tiny sensations in my belly – check.

Nausea – check.

A new chapter in our life was growing in me. It was all I could do to contain my excitement until I could see my Doctor. His two-week vacation dragged on while my anticipation grew.

I was scheduled to be his first appointment when he returned from Greece. Until then, I kept my pink-lined-stick in a zip lock bag stashed in my top dresser drawer. I could hardly wait to show him, and let his tests confirm what I already knew.

I didn’t have much energy all day, but I had decided that would be normal for the next several months. After dinner, John went to relax in his recliner and I went into my office to work on an article.

There was no sudden movement, no cramping. Warmth on my legs sent me dashing to the bathroom. It was 7 feet from my desk, but by the time I reached the tile floor there was already a trail of blood on the carpet. It would not stop; I was loosing too much blood. Dizzy and scared I yelled for John.

In the emergency room the hemorrhaging continued. A negative pregnancy test ruled out my self-diagnosed miscarriage. The list of possibilities was short, but inconclusive, until the doctors could stop the bleeding. My hemoglobin was dangerously low, less than seven. The nurse couldn’t keep the warm blankets coming fast enough.
To read more about the diagnosis that changed our lives forever and the hope we found through faith in Christ, follow this blog and order your copy of our book, Beside the Empty Cradle, from your favorite Christian bookstore, Amazon or by requesting more information in the comments section of this post today. 

To bring Pamela to your infertility support group, women's event or church service email (info @ freshcupministries.com) You will need to remove the brackets and the spaces on either side of the @ sign for the email address to work...unfortunately to avoid automated crawlers and spiders we must post it this way.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Healing from the Grief

I was speaking to a woman about my book recently. She had not read the book, but as we talked about the concept she asked me if I thought my heart was healed from the desire to have children. I told her that it was. She paused a few seconds and then said, “My friend can’t have kids either. I wish she could just get over it. Her grief isn’t doing anything but keeping her from moving on.” I was shocked and a little horrified. I pray that no one ever thinks that I would tell someone in the midst of their infertility journey, or even someone who is permanently childless, not by choice, to get over it. Healing and living does not mean that there is no longer a desire to love a child, in your home, permanently. According to several of my friends who are adoptive parents, even growing your family through adoption does not take away the what-ifs about a child from your own womb.

Infertility and childlessness is different than other heartbreaks, and the grief, while just as painful as that from the loss of someone through death, is often much harder to move past. While I have found peace and healing for my brokenness there will always be a part of my heart that wonders what it would have been like to have been a mother. Telling someone to "get over it," denies the pain that is very real in their heart. It is equivalent to telling a mother who has lost a child that they should just get over it...that is indeed not humanly possible. There will always be a hole in that mother's heart and a series of what would my child be like today, for the rest of their life. For the infertile or childless couple there are often babies who have gone to Heaven before they were carried to full term, and there are what-ifs and what-would-they-be-like-todays that invade routine thoughts frequently.

Sensitivity as your friend heals is much more beneficial to both of you. It's okay to encourage your friend to heal, to get involved with activities that make life more enjoyable in general...but at all costs avoid the insensitivity of the phrase, "get over it."

Healing does not mean you deny ever being broken. Healing also does not mean that you have no scar and sometimes the memory of the brokenness can bring back tears of momentary grief. That does not mean that you don’t have faith, aren’t accepting God’s plan for your life, or that you are saying you are happy about your infertility. You can be joy filled and still know that something in your life is not the way you wanted it.
Instead of healing indicating that one has “gotten over it” perhaps we should look at healing as the bridge over troubled water, like Simon and Garfunkel sang about, but where does that bridge lead? My prayer for every permanently childless couple is that it leads to a life beyond the grief. My prayer for every family whose childless state has not been deemed permanent is that they will fill their family with the children God may have for them, through biology, adoption or whatever means He chooses to use.

Sometimes, a look beneath the bridge will bring a tear, sometimes relief when we realize how far we’ve come. And often, glimpses at the troubled water there is become less frequent. But in Christ we can face the floods of emotion that come with infertility and childlessness, and allow Him to lift us from those troubled waters so that we may cross the bridge.