Tag Archive: emotional pain


The Ebb and Flow

My life consists–as I am sure many lives do–of an emotional ebb and flow. For me, a lot of my ebb and flow surrounds my feelings regarding my circumstances. And one circumstance in particular that I often allow to dictate my feelings is in regard to my inability to conceive. (You can read more about that here.) Thankfully I am currently experiencing the “flow.” I noticed this when we recently had friends visit with their new baby. I enjoyed him immensely. Sometimes it is just purely painful for me to be around babies. I am better at hiding that pain than I used to be, but my heart still feels like it is being stabbed in those times of “ebbing.” I am thankful for the “flows;” for the days and weeks it hurts less and is not the glaring sore that it is in those other times. The emotional ebbs and flows tend to catch me by surprise. Many times I am not even sure myself whether it is an ebb or a flow sort of day or moment. Shortly before their arrival, I was a little anxious about how I might inwardly respond to being around their little one. But I truly enjoyed snuggling his squishy body and petting his silky hair. Why is it that we like to pet the hair of babies?! Maybe it is just me. But it is sooooo silky smooth and soft!

I am thankful for the “flow” moments and days. I am especially thankful that as I grow in this area of struggle that there is more flowing than ebbing. Either I am growing in my pain tolerance; time is allowing my wound to heal; or I am better understanding God’s character and growing in trusting His plan even when I don’t like it or understand it. Maybe it is a little bit of each of those.

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My Hidden Hurt

The emotions that ebb and flow with an infertility struggle are both understandable, yet somehow inexplicable.  I know from too much first-hand experience.  I will get more into all of that at a later time, but was struck this morning at how I am growing in my learning curve of “being happy for you while being sad for me.”  I didn’t use to think this was okay.  But after meeting with a counselor for a while, was able to realize that it is okay to be sad (for me) as hearing about new pregnancies and babies rips off (again and again) whatever scab may have covered my wound of barrenness. It is okay to feel that pain and be saddened by it.   And it is okay to be happy for them.  And it is okay if I can only be 1% happy while being 99% sad, or can be 99% happy and 1% sad—though I have yet to experience that particular split.

Thankfully, God is growing me in this as He oh-so-slowly heals my hurt in this most sensitive area.  So this morning, when I very compassionately and privately received the news of a distant friend who is now, unexpectedly (due to their own struggle with the same) but happily, expecting, I was able to say congratulations and actually mean it.  That hasn’t always been true.  The news still brought tears to my eyes—and not tears of joy, although I truly, truly am so glad for them.  But it still brings to the surface so much of my own pain and confusion and lack of understanding of this time and again repeated loss. 

There is so very much to say on this close-to-my-heart topic.  And I have such a whirlwind of emotions surrounding infertility that it seems impossible to put them into understandable sentences and paragraphs.  But I think I am going to try.

There are so few (as in I have only found 1) quality books out there on the experience and struggle of infertility specifically.  (It is called Inconceivable by Shannon Woodward.  And I highly recommend it.  I describe it as “the book I would have written.”  Or at least really close to it!)   I have considered writing one, but that seems a daunting and terribly painful task.  I am not sure that doing blog postings on it will be any less so.  But it may serve me well in the healing process.  And it may serve some of you well in the education process (or possibly even healing if you are on a similar journey).  This is just one of those things in life that you just absolutely cannot “get” or truly understand unless you have walked that road.  And certainly each of us experiences this journey differently because we are different and we carry different baggage.  But I would guess that the root of feelings and response are much the same—at least for the female half.  But it is a topic that is indescribably painful for those who experience it, confusing to those close to the ones experiencing it (as some of us tend to be quite unpredictable and emotionally unstable), and sometimes too easily dismissed by those who just really don’t understand the struggle with this particular “hidden hurt.”

This is going to be far too long for a single post; and far too emotional for me to write in a single sitting.  So bear with me as I slowly and gingerly make my way through this incredibly close to my heart topic over what is likely to be several separate posts.  I am sure that some (like this one apparently) will be quite long, while others will be brief.  So with a post like this one, you’ll have to grab a cup of coffee with your favorite creamer, snuggle up in a blanket, and come along for the ride read.  If you want to, that is.

You know, sometimes I feel just plain guilty about feeling so “sorry for myself” (for lack of a better description) over something like infertility when there are so many “real sicknesses” in the world.  People battle cancer and lose family in car accidents or watch loved ones slowly degenerate due to disease, or any number of other awful things that sadly happen in this world.  But I heard a seminar talk once about dealing with grief.  And the speakers cautioned against comparison.  Our loss is still ours, and it is still a loss.  Each person has their own loss and no one person’s experience is greater or less than another—just different.  Loss is still loss, no matter its form.  That helped me begin to be okay with the extent of my grief and the depth of my feelings of loss with regard to my barren womb.  I realize that sounds harsh and dry and empty.  But, you know what… it is.    I think part of the challenge of infertility loss is that it is not “tangible” in the same way some other things are.  A loss of health or a loved one or a job is something you can readily see the effects of even if you can’t actually “touch” it.  The loss that comes from infertility is often the loss of something (or someone) you never even had. It is letting go of the idea or hope of a person.  And that is perplexing, yet no less painful.  And “hope deferred” truly, as the Bible tells us, makes the heart sick.  Because of Jesus, we can experience joy in the midst of our heartache.  But it somehow does not make us any less heart-sick.  Or at least it hasn’t for me.

While I have been blessed enough to not knowingly experience a miscarriage, (we have some questions about that possibility, but have never been defined as being pregnant and then losing the baby), we have experienced great loss in hope–over and over and over and over.  Believe me when I say that takes a toll on a person—and on a marriage.   Thankfully, my God is bigger than my hurt and my selfishness in the midst of my pain and our struggle through circumstances beyond our control, and has been incredibly gracious and merciful toward my little family.  

It seems I am all over the board today.  It is just there are so many things to say and I feel like they all need to be said “right now.”   Shortly before I (re)started this blog, I read through some of the posts I had written about a year and a half ago when I was in the midst of experiencing the heartache of infertility once again.  That was, after all, the purpose of this blog at the time and how I landed on the name originally.  Infertility is the primary storm I am learning to dance through.  It has been a long and rough ride and I am guessing it is far from over.  I have just learned to be thankful for the days it is less painful than others. 

At the risk of being offensive, it is like the death of a loved one in that way.  The hole in your heart never goes away; you just notice and feel the gaping wound more some days than you do others.  I know this through first-hand experience, too.  And I would bet many of you can testify to its truth.

Here is an excerpt from a journal entry of how I was experiencing my infertility in September 2010.  I wrote it while I was in the middle of reading the book I referenced above and God was stirring many emotions in me.   Please be warned that I have not edited it and it is perhaps more honest than some can handle.  If you wish to skip over it, I completely understand. But I share it with the purpose of bringing greater understanding to some and perhaps some soothing salve to others:

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(Sep. 2010)   “My thoughts are haphazard right now–a train wreck of emotions really.  My heart hurts for all the kids out there who need a home.  And I am sad that I can’t do something to help all of them.  And currently I am also so filled with grief regarding my own infertility.  My heart aches so deeply and completely.  I suppose that unless a person has walked this walk, it is hard to understand the intense grief that stems from losing so much that you never even had.  But it’s true.  I suppose God could decide to let me get pregnant one day.  Maybe the last fertility treatment we tried will work.  Maybe He will give me a peace about trying more.  But I don’t think so.  I think His call on my life is to be an adoptive mom.  And that excites me.  But it also breaks my heart.  The adopting part doesn’t break my heart–the not being able to conceive does.

It’s a strange mix of emotions that come and go and ebb and flow with regard to infertility.  Not too long ago (a few weeks maybe?) I really thought I was okay with it if I never get pregnant.  I mean, after all, I still get to be a mom, right?  Yes, but…  And I got to become a mom in a really cool way.  But it’s not the same.

People joke about the male ego being wrapped up in their male parts.  But I wonder if that isn’t actually more accurrate for women–at least to a degree.  I cannot possibly describe how inadequate not being able to conceive makes me feel.  I really think of myself as less of a person.  (I know that’s not true–in my head–but at my core, I believe it.)  I feel guilty that it hurts so much.  There are so many things in life that are so much worse–how can I have so much self-pity over this?  How can it be so hard to decide that we are finally all done with fertility treatments?  I mean, we went as far as we decided to go.  But should we go further?  Will I regret it later if we don’t “try harder?”  But is it wise to spend so much money on mere attempts when there are so many babies and kids who need a home now? 

It is probably neither wise nor unwise.  I am not sure I think it is wrong to do as many treatments of various kinds as you can bear to live through.  But I think it’s wrong for me.  Because I know at my core that I am called to adopt.  But if I can know that at the deepest level, then why-oh-why is it so darn painful to let go?

I am not sure I ever knew a heart could hurt this much.  At least not and still live.  For some reason my infertility has been such a huge struggle again lately.  I even hear stories of people who have “earned” their babies and it still makes me jealous and heart-sick.  (By “earned” I mean…have experienced their own fertility struggles and after a long time have now been able to give birth to or adopt a baby.  I know—it’s lame—but it’s the honest to goodness way I view life sometimes.)

I just started reading this book call Inconceivable by Shannon Woodward.  I am only 8 chapters in but I have already cried so much.  I think it will be a healing book for me.  And a hard book to read.  It’s what motivated me to write this post.  I am not even sure what I was intending to write as my emotions are all stirred up.  Granted, I have a lot going on in my schedule right now, but I think my emotional volatility right now has everything to do with my desire for another baby.  And another one after that.  And another one after that.  I vascillate between being profoundly sad and being angry.  Mostly, these days, I am sad.

I feel guilty that I am not able to just be purely thankful for the beautiful, wonderful daughter I have.  You know, the one God gifted me out of nowhere that I wasn’t even really asking for at the time.  Not that I didn’t deeply want her. But I just didn’t expect a newborn–not so suddenly, and really not at all.  But I was so thrilled to be blessed by her.  I still am.  But I want to be blessed again.  Is that selfish?  Is it wrong?

I am so jealous of those women/couples who can actually plan to have kids–the ones who can say,  “hmmm…let’s have our kids 2 years apart and then ACTUALLY get to do that!”  Meanwhile, I am wondering if I’ll get to ever have a second, or a third.  Adoption is expensive.  So is fertility treatment.

Speaking of fertility treatment:  I think we are officially done with that.  I say “think” because I find myself having a hard time really embracing that reality.  It just seems so final–digging the grave, planning the funeral.  Truly over.  Unless….  something miraculous happens.  I don’t want to hope that it does, but yet how can I not?

Why is there always, always, always that unverbalized and unlikely “what if” that dances in the back of my mind—taunting me with hope I am not sure I can emotionally bear—even in its smallest, least likely form.”

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And that last sentence pretty much sums up one of the hardest struggles (for me) with regard to a journey of infertility.  Without fail, I always hope that this month just *might* be different.   It is just that some months I am more invested in that hope than others.  But every time that turns out to once again be a “hope deferred,” my heart is newly sick.  Sometimes I am “over it” in minutes or hours, or can just roll my eyes at myself and move on.  But sometimes it still brings tears to my eyes and takes days or even weeks to work through the renewed sadness that comes with that biological reminder that I am indeed NOT pregnant—again, or still.

So why am I sharing this?  I don’t really know.  The thought of actually posting this makes my stomach churn, but I am pretty sure I’ll do it anyway—if not for you, then for me.  I think maybe I need to.  I have been pretty private with this particular hidden hurt, even among those with whom I have shared more openly,  but I am not so sure that has really been good for me—or for others.  If there has been one thing that has been most lacking for me as I have processed what I have too often viewed as my “failure” as a person (aka my infertility), it is the opportunity to know that someone else has felt the same way and experiences it similarly. That is part of why Shannon’s Woodward’s book was so good for me.  It is full of the raw emotion I have so often felt and sometimes put words to those feelings I could not otherwise describe. 

Maybe this will do that for you if you are on a similar journey.  Or maybe it will just give you greater insight in how to pray and care for those who are.

I’m sure there will be more to come on this topic.  But not today. 

I am sure that for many of you, your storm is different than mine.  But I think it is good we are learning to dance in the rain rather than the sunshine.  If we step out from underneath our umbrella, the water from the sky mixes with our tears and we can tangibly know that God truly cries with us.