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