Many days as a busy mother of four little ones I don’t think about my infertility. The last thing a woman with four children ages 6, 4, 3, and 1 should be thinking about is having another baby. I love Jim Gaffigan’s quote about having four kids: “People ask me what it’s like to have a fourth child. Imagine you’re drowning. Then somebody hands you a baby.” This is not the moment I should be feeling the loss of being able to have more kids whenever I want them. But sometimes my emotions don’t pay much attention to reason.
So here’s what I want you to know about your infertile friends with kids:
– Miracle pregnancies are kind of aggravating– If we had done something (shots, medication, IUI, IVF) that we knew had contributed to a pregnancy, we might feel confident that we could go that route again if we wanted. Being unable to have kids with the help of treatment, but getting pregnant on our own means I feel like there is absolutely nothing I can do to make pregnancy happen on my timetable.
–Getting pregnant doesn’t fix infertility– My body isn’t healed. Whatever issues we were dealing with before that caused our infertility haven’t necessarily gone away. I still have a broken body and a complicated relationship with how I feel about it. I still don’t trust my body and sometimes feel frustrated and angry that it doesn’t work the way it should. (And please PLEASE don’t imply to your infertile friend who has had a baby that “once you get it turned on you can’t turn it off” or some other statement that implies that pregnancy will now come easily for her. That brings a lot of complicated emotions that just aren’t helpful.)
–Infertility has lots of ramifications– While I may have experienced a healthy pregnancy, infertility is a beast with lots of tentacles. You may still be a woman who deals with the other physical effects (hormone problems, pain issues, cycle complications) or a man with his own issues, but now everyone in your life thinks you’re back to normal. Infertility also has implications for your marriage and intimacy that don’t just go away with a pregnancy.
–Now I don’t fit in anywhere– I developed a great network of infertile sisters who I could share my struggles with prior to the birth of my biological child. I now don’t feel as comfortable with those ladies because I know my pregnancy “success” can be painful for them. It is out of a sensitivity towards them that I take a step back, realizing they may not feel I can identify with their pain in the same way anymore. I also don’t feel like I fit with the super fertile ladies of the world who don’t understand my complicated history with infertility and miscarriages. This is a lonely place to be.
–I know what I’m missing– Before having a biological child I had learned to be very content with adding to our family through adoption. I would still be happy to do that, but I am more keenly aware of the losses that come from not knowing your child’s history and not having the ability to protect them prior to birth. I also know the joys of the pregnancy experience and it’s sad to think I won’t experience that again.
–I don’t necessarily want to be pregnant- Pregnancy was really hard on my body. There were many aspects I loved, but it was also a difficult time physically and emotionally. I know that getting pregnant wouldn’t be easy or a quick fix for the emotional struggle that is infertility.
–I don’t necessarily want another baby- Well, it’s not that I don’t want one as much as that I’ve realized infertility isn’t always about having a child. Infertility is a process of grief about what you can’t have as much as it is a desire for what you wish you had.
–My emotions won’t listen to reason– While I’m well aware that having another baby right now would be difficult and complicated, that doesn’t stop me from grieving that I can’t make it happen. I remember just days after the traumatic birth of my son I felt the sadness of realizing I was back to being an infertile woman. I obviously wasn’t wishing for another pregnancy, just wishing to avoid the disappointment of having a body that doesn’t work in the normal way.
–I feel guilty– I feel guilty that one pregnancy experience didn’t cure me of wanting to be pregnant. I feel guilty for not trusting God to do the right thing in his time. I feel guilty for being frustrated with my body even after it did its job. I feel guilty for being blessed when my infertile sisters are still waiting. I feel guilty that I would choose to have another biological child instead of saying I only want to adopt. (I love adoption and will be thrilled if we adopt again, but also realize there are MANY ways that having a baby the old-fashioned way is easier.)
-I choose busyness over emotion- I want to bury myself in tasks (writing, church, childcare) so I don’t have to think about how my body has failed me. I don’t always want to talk about my infertility or think about it, so I keep myself immersed in other things. Sometimes that’s a healthy way of handling my frustration and sometimes it’s denial and avoidance.
–I really want control– My shameful secret is that what I most want isn’t another baby, it’s control. I want to imagine a world where I could pick how many kids I’m going to have and then I could make it happen. I wouldn’t have to wait through times of “trying” or lengthy adoption processes. I could be in charge. Of course, it’s such a false sense of control to imagine that being fertile means you make your children happen. Every conception is an act of God, but I admit I’m envious of those who seem to be able to make it happen (or not happen) at will.
So give your infertile friends with kids a little grace. Some days may be fine, some days may be hard. Each couple’s journey is different and they may come to a place of peace about it or it could continue to be difficult for years. It’s an amazing blessing to have a friend who understands and helps you walk through it, whatever your struggle may be.