Five long years. More than 60 heartbreaking months. Over 1,825 days of riding a rollercoaster of hopefulness, despondency, and aching resignation. God only knows how many more days, weeks, months, and years of the same are in my future.
I am infertile.
Like most people, I always assumed I was healthy and everything in my body worked the way it should. So when we started trying to build our little family, I assumed it would happen quickly and easily, like with everyone else. Boy, was I wrong. Months of childlessness turned into years of childlessness. Years of praying and crying and eventually trying to find out what the heck is wrong.
Infertility is devastating.
If you've never suffered from the inability to conceive the children you and your husband long for so much (or your wife, for any men that may be reading), then it's impossible to completely understand the kind of grief that is the special hell of infertility.
It is loss, but unlike the death of a loved one, it's not a single event that you can move forward from as you work through your grief. No, instead, picture a phoenix, the mythical bird of continuous death and rebirth. That's what infertility grief is like. Your hope goes up in flames every month, only to be reborn again a couple of weeks later, bright and resplendent, beautiful and terrifying. You pray that this time, the hope won't crumble into ash in another 2 weeks. But then it does. Over and over and over and over again. You can't ever fully heal from a grief like that.
Infertility changes you.
I am not the same person I was 5 years ago. No, the cross of infertility has changed me forever from the person I used to be. But not, I think, for the worse. Catholics believe that God, being all good, never causes evil, but in his love and mercy, he allows it, so that He may bring a greater good out of it than would have occurred otherwise.
You read that right. I said God allows suffering BECAUSE he is loving and merciful. After a long time of being infertile and suffering the grief, sadness, and emptiness that goes with it, I have come to understand that God allows us to suffer this because He loves us and is showing us his Mercy.
Because of my infertility, I turned to God in my grief, and he drew me into a closer relationship with him than I would have had without it.
Because of my infertility, I have learned to be more compassionate toward others in their suffering, especially long-term suffering.
Because of my infertility, I have truly come to understand that a child is a completely unmerited gift from God. We don't deserve children because we're "good people." Nobody deserves a child at all. Nobody has a "right" to a child, when and how they want it. So much of society today treats having children like just another consumer transaction, with the child as the commodity of the moment. I used to have this mindset as well, but God, in his Mercy, saved me from it by allowing me to suffer from infertility. Now I know that, if we ever have biological children, I will understand how truly blessed we are.
Due to my biological issues, it's likely that I will never have a child of my own flesh, and I accept that. It's still hard, and always will be. Most days I am okay. Some days, it blindsides me and I am not okay. I still feel empty, hollow, and broken. But I accept it, because God is helping me through it, and more importantly, because he is changing me through it.
I am infertile.
"The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord."
National Infertility Awareness Week is April 21-27. To learn more about infertility and a really great place that treats the root causes of it, visit the Pope Paul VI Institute at http://www.popepaulvi.com/