There has been a lot of talk recently in the news with certain well-known folks losing their 21st pregnancy. I was saddened by the news of their loss and the criticism they are recieving in a very painful time, and yet, I am glad that the subject of miscarriage is no longer off limits in general conversation. Those of us who have been on that road are no longer expected to sweep it under the rug, thank God for taking what surely must have been a deformed child from our malfunctioning bodies in mercy, and never speak of it again. Yep, I am glad our society is not there any more.
But what about those who never conceive at all? What comfort do we offer them? To those who lose a pregnancy, we give comfort through the Blessed Hope or by saying their baby is waiting in the arms of Jesus. Not those who can't conceive, though. No one says anything about any Blessed Hope to them! For their hurting hearts, the Blessed Hope becomes almost painful - they have no little ones waiting in the arms of Jesus to heal the hurt of loss their absence caused.
Instead, we offer advice: go on vacation! Just relax, then it will happen! Go to the doctor, they'll give you some drugs that you can inject yourself with over and over and then you'll ovulate and get pregnant! Or do IVF! Or just adopt!
Now don't get me wrong. There is a place, a need for adoptive parents. There are, indeed, many babies waiting for a loving family to adopt them. But it is not the cure-all that those of us who have had our babies would like to think it is. And it does NOT take the place of the babies born in the hearts of mothers who can't have them born into this world.
I recently read a post written by a mother who had secondary infertility. She'd had her one baby girl nearly ten years before, and despite many efforts to have another, was facing the fact that in her forties she needed to say goodbye to the baby boy she wanted desperately, but that she would never hold in this world, and never will in the next. It was an incredibly powerful statement of the terrible finality of infertility.
She needed to grieve him. She had a right to grieve him. And yet, so few saw the legitimacy in her pain. Why? Why are we allowed to grieve for the babies we lose in pregnancy, post conception, but not the babies that we loved and saw as a part of our lives before they were even conceived?
There is grief that comes when someone passes from our lives, whether they have been living in our bodies for a few short weeks and then gone before we ever met, or whether they have been part of our lives as long as we can remember. But there is also grief that comes from the death of a dream, particularly when that dream involves not just a life lived here on this earth, but a soul made for eternal life.
When once I told a friend of mine that I believed her right to grieve (losing hope through infertility) was every bit as valid as mine (having lost through miscarriage) her reaction was immediate, intense, and appreciative, which truly surprised me.
Because it is one of those taboo topics, shunned from polite conversation, even in this day and age of tell-all books and instant tweets, there are still many would-be mothers and fathers in pain. Silent pain. Alone in their grief, misunderstood by the vast majority, and given ridiculous advice by all.
It's not just a dream, a hope, it is a vital piece of the life they hoped to live here on earth and a jewel in the crown they wanted to cast at the feet of their Savior. Yes, there are ways to pursue parenthood, and many will and do. But first, before that step, they have to give themselves permission to grieve their own babies that they will never hold. How can they when the rest of society is so busy marginalizing the trial placed on their shoulders?
So next time you are tempted to say something like, oh just go on vacation, it worked for us! Or, when are you going to have a baby? You arent getting any younger, you know! Think again, and get your mental foot out of your mouth.
Next time you are tempted to take your children for granted, stop. Just stop. Ask yourself if what you are doing is really more important than the little hearts, minds, and souls that have been graciously placed in your care. They aren't accidents, not a single one of them. They each have a purpose. They aren't inconveniences to be managed. Take a moment right now to just thank God for each one of them, and remember what a blessing each is next time you are tempted to say something snarky to that childless couple in the restaurant that keeps staring at you and your kids. You don't really know what they're thinking. Her biggest struggle with you might not be the noise, it may be a terrible, ripping her heart out kind of pain that makes her grimace.
Yes, grant a little grace, folks. That mother (even if she isn't a "mother" in the world's eyes) deserves the same kind of tender sympathy that a woman who miscarried deserves and is given. And I can say that, because I've been the miscarrying mother.
May each one of you, mother or father, grieving or holding a child, hopeful or losing hope, find grace sufficient in our Heavenly Father this Christmas season. Never lose hope. Hope is necessary for life! I don't have all the answers, and because I've not walked in those particular shoes, I certainly don't have the right words of comfort. But I pray you will find comfort in the arms of the One who does.
No, there is no contest between miscarriage and infertility. There is only pain, maybe a little more similar than you might have thought, and there is the Healer of all hearts, hopefully in between there is kindness, understanding, and prayers lifted up for each other through our unique trials.