12/22/13

Infertility, grief, and sharing joy around the Christmas tree

source.
Today I want to share something that has been on my heart for a few weeks. It was a difficult thing to express because I'm addressing areas of both great joy and great pain. I hope I shared it with sensitivity and love. 

Because John and I are so public about our infertility, our friends and family have been wonderfully sensitive. They don't make any jokes about when we're going to add more children to our family and when friends have announced their pregnancies to me in the last few years, they've done so with loads of grace. I cannot tell you how loved I feel when my friends share their special news with so much kindness. This is one of the biggest announcements they will make in their lives, and they are thinking about my feelings. When they share their news with such sensitivity, it allows me to truly join their happiness rather than fend of feelings of jealousy and pain. It is truly a blessing to have such kindness shown to me during such a difficult season in my life. 

Many people who have not struggled to conceive cannot understand that infertility is a major life crisis. When you couple that life crisis with the fact that many couples struggle secretly or privately, there is (too) much opportunity for hurt to arise. Especially during the holidays when friends and family reunite and the passage of time from one year to the next is made so clear, couples who are coping with infertility may feel like they are walking through a field peppered with land mines. Personally, I can share that this is the third Christmas in four years when I can remember thinking the previous year, "Next year I'll either be pregnant or have a baby in my arms." That's a hard thought. As someone suffering with infertility, you feel so vulnerable, never knowing when a hurtful question or comment (accidental or otherwise) will catch you off guard and hit you with grief. 

Today I want to ask something of all you wonderful fertile friends out there: will you give those of us struggling with infertility some extra grace this Christmas? If you know a couple and you're wondering when they're going to have (more) kids, will simply you not ask? Can you avoid jokes about cousins so-and-so who seem to be producing "like bunnies?" Will you focus on the blessing of your little ones or the funny things they do rather than complaining about them to people who would give anything to be up all night with a baby? We know- we infertiles- that you don't mean anything by those jokes or comments or questions, but if we're being honest we'll tell you: they still hurt. 

I know there are going to be couples who have a special announcement to make this Christmas. Maybe it will be the perfect time to share your news! But can I ask you just to think for a minute if any of your loved ones sitting around the Christmas tree might be struggling with infertility? Can I ask you to consider waiting until after the celebration to share? To allow your loved ones to enjoy the day without the weight of infertility heavy on their hearts? Or, alternatively, to share your news privately with your infertile friends before the big announcement? If we feel prepared, it makes a difference. 

It's not that we don't want to share your joy. It's not that at all. Grief is just such a funny thing; we can't always override it with strength of will. We'll get there. We just need a little extra grace on the journey. 

To my friends on this infertility roller coaster: let's remember this Christmas that another person's blessing doesn't take anything away from us. Infertility is the enemy; not our loved ones. Be sad for your pain and loss. Be angry that you were dealt this hand. Then breathe deep. Choose joy. In this area of life, we've been given the harder path. We've also been given the opportunity to rise above envy. To choose kindness and grace over jealousy. To celebrate new life even when it feels like ours is crumbling. Let's be kind to ourselves and gentle, but let's not allow bitterness to win. Choose joy and trust that in time, it will come. 

"Get rid of all bitterness.... Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." Ephesians 4:31-32

xo

22 comments:

  1. Beautifully and kindly worded, Jillian. Merry Christmas to you. :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Anonymous12/22/2013

    Thanks so much for sharing, Jillian.Thanks for giving words to something so many are thinking. Merry Christmas! I am praying that your surgery was answer for you. Kristin

    ReplyDelete
  3. I really, really loved this post, Jill. I went ahead and shared it on my FB. You have such a gift with words.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Anonymous12/22/2013

    Perfection.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Anonymous12/22/2013

    Thank you for this. This is our fourth year dealing with infertility. In fact, we face an IUI tomorrow morning so this article was perfect timing. I read it with tears in my eyes. It is so hard... it affects your emotional state, your marriage, your relationships with family members, family. You can be having a fantastic day and someone will announce a pregnancy and throw you into a roller coaster of emotions. We will survive but with battle wounds. Praying for all the other hurting infertile women or men tonight... God is somehow doing this for our good.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous12/23/2013

      Praying that your IUI will be successful and you will have your own late Christmas announcement to make!

      Delete
    2. Anonymous12/25/2013

      Thank you for your kindness, prayers to you and Merry Christmas! I am also from Michigan! Do you give out your instagram info? I would love to follow you. :)

      Delete
  6. Anonymous12/22/2013

    Absolutely beautiful post. I have been that well-meaning friend who asked questions that only brought the pain to the surface, I learned quickly how many people battle with infertility, so I really make a point to be careful. Yet even as I read your post I found something I was guilty of saying in the last week. Thanks for your thoughtful post.

    ReplyDelete
  7. My first SIL struggled with infertility and seeing her hurt by careless people was a lesson for me. I know a few couples who don't seem interested in having kids - and I will never, ever, ask about that. For I know that their silence may mean that they're struggling with infertility too,.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous12/23/2013

      I agree. You should never, ever ask when people are going to have kids. 9 times out of 10, it is because they can't have them, or have had difficulty in trying, not that they don't want them. Those who reproduce easily just seem like they don't even think about it in those terms. If you don't have kids, it's because you chose not too, in their way of thinking.

      Delete
  8. You handled this so beautifully! I care about this issue, having two friends who struggle with infertility. I care about grief but so often feel pushed aside by the "don't say this" and "you could never understand..." True, but I sure do care, and you really invited me in to care with you. I appreciate it so much, it soothes a tender spot of grief in my own heart.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Anonymous12/23/2013

    It is extremely difficult at Christmas. My sister anounced both of her pregnancies on Christmas day as part of everyone's "present". I'm sure she doesn't realize the hurt that causes to those who can't conceive. It is a joyous time, but it's so easy to be jealous, as you mentioned. Good thoughts here. Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  10. Anonymous12/23/2013

    Lovely post, Jill. I have a couple friends who have struggled with infertility, and try to be sensitive to their pain, but have witnessed others who were unaware of their struggles ask them those questions that were so painful to hear. As someone who has not struggled with infertility, I would love to hear how your friends were able to sensitively announce their pregnancies in a compassionate way. It is hard to know how to tell your friends you are pregnant when you recognize the pain of infertility. Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous12/23/2013

      I'm not Jill, but I like what she said in her article about telling your friend first, before you tell a whole group of people at the same time, so they can be prepared and have an appropriate reaction in front of the group. Also, I would definitely recommend not doing it on a major holiday, such as Christmas, Thanksgiving or someone's birthday, because then it becomes all about you and not the holiday celebration originally intended.

      Delete
    2. Hi there- that is a great question and I am thankful that you asked. One friend in particular who did the best job told me her news privately and she was so loving to acknowledge my feelings. I'm paraphrasing but she basically said, "Jill I have to share some news with you. It's good but it is hard for me to share because I know what you're going through. I just found out I'm pregnant."

      I gave her a giant hug and told her how happy I was to hear the news. She teared up a bit and thanked me before reiterating again how she was so happy but it hurt too because she wished I could have that blessing too. I asked her a few questions about how she found out etc. and we talked for a few minutes and then she left, giving me a chance to digest all the emotions I felt: happiness for her, sadness for me, gratitude for what a wonderful and compassionate friend I had in her.

      There is no perfect way to make the announcement, but a little grace and gentleness goes a long, long way! Hope that helps a bit.

      Delete
    3. Anonymous12/23/2013

      Grace and gentleness really sums up the whole thing....it goes back to that treat others the way you wish you were treated if you were in their shoes thing. Great post!

      Delete
    4. Anonymous1/11/2014

      As the original poster to the above question, I just wanted to say thank you. You have a very thoughtful and caring friend.
      I hope this comes as a source of encouragement, but I just found out that my friend who has been dealing with infertility ever since her first pregnancy ended in miscarriage 7.5 years ago is now 14 weeks pregnant! She was told she would never be able to conceive, as she had 5 different things wrong with her reproductive system, and had basically resigned to that fact years ago. She had just adopted her second child not a month before she found out. Incidentally, she went gluten-free about a year ago, not because she has celiac, but because of fatigue.
      I am praying you are blessed with good news of your own to share.

      Delete
  11. Anonymous12/24/2013

    I absolutely loved this post and shared it in an online fertility forum. They all loved it too :) This is the first Christmas where I am dreading a family get-together. I'm having some fertility related health problems, and my family doesn't know this. I don't know the future but I fear that I'll never be able to get pregnant. My cousin is younger than me and recently got pregnant her 1st month of "not trying but not protecting". She will be showing at this Christmas gathering and I fear the comments directed towards us re: when we'll have children. I'm afraid of bursting out in tears! Thank you for this blog post. Happy for her, sad for me (need to keep it in perspective!).

    ReplyDelete
  12. Thank you for sharing, Jill. I love the ideas on how to sharing big news gently-- there have been many times I wish someone had done that for me!

    ReplyDelete
  13. Anonymous12/25/2013

    I think this is wonderfully written and I read it at a perfect time. I am dreading spending time with my husbands family next week because his little sister is about to pop and his two other sisters just had babies. (All his sisters were pregnant at the same time, which lead me to feel extremely isolated and left out around his family) so the time we spend there will be full of pregnancy and baby talk. Along with that, when they announced it months ago...after 1 month of "not even trying," it was done in an insensitive way even though they knew we had been trying and wanted that so badly. I love his family, and I know they mean well, they just can't relate and understand and I have been hurt so much by their actions it makes me dread spending time with them. Because of that, I have spent much time wondering if I'm just being over-dramatic about our situation, desiring more sensitivity from them and being upset that they're not. (Another reason why I appreciate this post!) I need to not take out my anger and sadness on them, let go of resentment and bitterness and be happy for them. That is something I've been asking the Lord to change in my heart and I'm sure with time it will. One of those things that's easier said than done!

    ReplyDelete
  14. Crystal M12/26/2013

    wonderful job again, Jill! You hit it right on!

    ReplyDelete
  15. Thank you for sharing this and for putting into words what so many feel. While I am not struggling with infertility, I know many people dear to me who are. As I read, I also felt like I could replace "infertility" with "undesired singleness" for much of this post. I am 29, and I am at the stage where most of my friends are married and many with kids. It's hard and a struggle--seeing them with their families and hearing their announcements of rings and cribs hits hard, especially when I have to show up to another Christmas gathering by myself, wondering if next Christmas will be different, with someone at my side. I know God is faithful and has a plan, and as you said, it often takes choosing joy to carry me through each step. So thank you for your openness and honesty about the hard parts and the joyful parts of life.

    ReplyDelete

I love reading your comments! Those left on posts older than 2 days will require moderation.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...