My husband and I met and married pretty quickly. Our first date was January 3rd and we were married by December 12th. So I guess it was no surprise when we found out we were pregnant that March following our wedding; we liked to work quick!
We were making plans to attend our wonderful cousin’s wedding in Northern California and decided we should make a little romantic weekend out of it and spend a few days in Wine Country as well. We were completely surprised when I woke up the day before our trip to a positive + sign on a little white stick. But oh so excited!
I think I was especially excited because it is what I had dreamed of since a little girl! Meeting and marrying Prince Charming. Having a cute little baby with him and becoming the dearest of words: “Mommy.” Our excitement overflowed and so did the planning. I am pretty sure Babies R Us saw me weekly if not more….. Multiple baby showers in the various states I had lived in were planned. A nursery was designed and set up. Name books were underlined, dog eared and highlighted. It was all I could talk about and think about. I breathed baby all day.
When I was about 28 weeks pregnant we visited one of those 3D Ultrasound picture studios. With my bare belly sticking up, and friends and family on Skype, thanks to state-of-the-art technology we were able to see our little boy’s chubby cheeks and tiny fists floating through his watery home in my womb. Of course I cried. Such a beautiful experience!
The next morning, as soon as I hit my office chair, I emailed out to all my friends, family and co-workers the ultrasound pictures of our beautiful baby boy. Immediately emails and texts came rolling back in saying how cute he was and how they couldn’t wait to meet him! And my cup overflowed.
But what I didn’t know was there was a woman I had made cry. I didn’t know she had been trying for 4 years to get pregnant. I didn’t know she had multiple in vitro fertilization attempts that didn’t work. I didn’t know she had 6 miscarriages that she had grieved through in the past few years. I didn’t know that my baby pictures I rejoiced over and emailed to her just broke her heart because I could have a baby but she could not.
Days later I was told of her sad news through a friend. I was asked, per her request, not to mention my pregnancy and baby around her nor to send out any more pictures. And, even though I saw her almost daily, I was to not mention my pregnancy whatsoever. And I am ashamed to say I got angry. Here I was, in the happiest time of my life, and I needed to be quiet. I needed to hold my joy. And I felt cheated. Cheated out of the joy of my pregnancy.
But what I didn’t realize at the time was she felt the same way: she felt cheated out of the joy of being pregnant. She felt robbed of the chance to have life growing in her womb and being called mom. She was heartbroken. And I had just added to her grief.
Years later, I am now pregnant with baby #3. I have been blessed to have had no complications or real issues with any of my pregnancies. And yet I feel overwhelmed most days to have 2 toddlers and a newborn on the way. I get frustrated when I can’t get into the shower because my daughter won’t let me put her down. I get frazzled when I can’t make a meal because my son is screaming every time I walk into the kitchen because he wants to do puzzles NOW. I get emotional because I still never get to sleep through the night.
And yet I know that same woman, whose heart I broke, would ache for these moments. She would give anything to feel this wanted or needed as a mother. She would happily embrace all the child issues I take for granted.
I was thinking about Hannah in 1 Samuel chapter 1. She was loved dearly by her husband and yet mocked by her husband’s other wife, Peninnah, because Hannah did not have a child. Hannah was taunted and teased. I can only imagine she felt inadequate in her role as a “wife” to produce but more so her heart was in anguish to hold the gift of a child in her arms. And she had a woman close to her, her husband’s other wife, constantly emphasize Hannah’s lack of a child to her face.
You see what I’ve come to understand is that infertility is mostly a silent grief. Just as I had, there are women who have dreamed since they were little girls about having a baby…. and then they have come to the shocking truth their “happily ever after” may never come. Many people don’t discuss their attempts to get pregnant or their inability to conceive. Instead they keep trying over and over, month after month, quietly in sorrow for what they might never have. Hope followed by discouragement. Faith succumbed to fear.
I will never know what those who deal with infertility face. Until we reach Eternity, we may never know why someone who wants such a precious gift will never be able to have it. But what I can say to my friend whose heart I broke, and all the other women and couples who have bravely faced infertility for years is this:
You are courageous. You are full of hope and strong. Your heart is filled with a compassion and desire I will never experience to the same extent; however, I pray I will learn from your gifts of patience and trust. I am sorry for not being sensitive to your needs. I am sorry for the all the times I have whined and complained about my child’s sleep issues or toddler problems instead of recognizing each and every moment as a gift from God. I am sorry if all my stories of motherhood and baby-life have come across as painful jabs to your heartfelt desires. I am sorry for not understanding your pain and grieving with you instead of jealously wanting my joys to be more important than your sorrows. I am sorry for not holding your hand, praying with you, hugging your neck, and telling you you don’t have to be silent in your struggle; you are not alone. I will promise to learn from your brave heart to hope and trust and keep on believing in God even though you don’t understand His ways. I promise I won’t take for granted the gift of my children as I learn from you each and every day what a blessing they are.
Friends, especially mommies, I encourage you today….. you may not know if someone is dealing with infertility. They may keep quiet in their struggle. But let’s not be like Peninnah who took jabs and taunted what she had over Hannah. We may not ever intentionally mean to discourage anyone but let us pray for discernment to whether or not our words and actions may hurt our friends who are like Hannah. Instead let’s offer loving hands of hope, faith and encouragement to our sisters and friends who bravely persevere on.
This friend that I had hurt with my ultrasound photos…. despite my foolish heart and frustrations against her, the day she met my infant son for the first time, she swept him up in her arms, held him close, began to speak and sing soft words of endearment to him. And I can tell you it was one of the most beautiful moments I have ever seen. For a woman so filled with pain, to show my son so much affection, made me repent of my hurtful spirit and hope somehow my son brought her joy… if even for that moment.
UPDATE: I am honored and humbled by the number of responses I have received from this post. Your stories have blessed me and please know I will be praying for you. And to everyone reading (especially those who are mommies), I ask for your sensitivity if you comment as the goal of this post is to encourage and inform… To bring comfort and joy somehow. Thank you for your help in this!