"...suffering is one of the universal conditions of being alive. We all suffer. We have become terribly vulnerable, not because we suffer, but because we have separated ourselves from each other." -- Rachel Naoimi Remen

Thursday, January 15, 2015

A letter to someone hurting. You are not alone.

I have a friend out there who's suffering from a loss, really a series of losses and my heart goes out to her.  I have been there -- no, not exactly where you are.  Because the unjust list of reasons why some of us suffer and are not able to have the children we always dreamed of having in the way we always dreamed of having them, are varied.  Whether it be primary or secondary infertility, miscarriage, recurrent miscarriage, chromosomal abnormalities, neonatal death, the list goes on.  Each of these terrible outcomes on one's family planning is devastating in unique ways, and I don't pretend to understand them all.  But I do know a little about the pain you're going through.  And you are not alone.  There are countless women and men suffering like you, usually in silence. 

It is not fair that that which defines a great part of you is kept from you.  True, some women are not defined even in part by motherhood or the desire for motherhood.  There are true career women out there whom I admire and don't mean to undermine.  But a majority of us have a desire, however buried within us that longs for children.  There is nothing like being a mother.  It's a uniquely challenging and beautiful experience that through enough witness many of us know we want to share in. 

Some women know from a young age that they want a family and make it a high priority in their lives.  Some of those women suffer from infertility.  Many of us, however, are ridden with guilt for feeling like we just waited too long.  It's true that female fertility declines with age and since the average age of marriage and first childbirth is rising in America, it's no surprise that infertility is too.  "If only I had met mister right a few years sooner, then we wouldn't be here... if only I hadn't put my career first for all those years... if only we had tried sooner..."

Please don't "if only" yourself.  You did not.  You waited, or maybe you didn't.  Either way, you can't take that back now.  You did not drink too much caffeine.  You most certainly did not worry that baby to death.  One thing I know for sure is that YOU are not to blame that you do not have the baby you've been dreaming of.  I'll say it again, your nest is not empty through any fault of your own.  However hard, the first step is to stop blaming yourself.  Stop blaming your partner.

And then, stop blaming God.  Maybe that's not an issue for you, maybe your faith is as strong as ever.  God knows you're praying more than ever.  Who knows why those prayers remain unanswered...  [I think I know in part - it's because God's plan for your family is different than your own.  But yes, I know the bitter taste of that pill; and it isn't helping right now.] 

Right now, your unmet expectations are only worsened by others abundance of baby joy.  Often people speak about how unfair it is that women who do heroin can carry healthy babies to term, it feels like those women don't deserve their babies.  I don't know how to feel about that.  But I do know that you deserve your baby.  And that feels pretty damn unfair.  For me, and maybe also for you, this worldly injustice makes you feel a little jealous but your faith is strong enough to let you know that the world is just not fair, and you can reconcile that. 

But what can be even worse is when your best friend, maybe your sister or your colleague, is elated with her beautiful bump and you can't even look at her.  The thought of someone you love's baby shower makes you physically want to vomit (I've heard that from so many of my friends.)  Or these conversations that give you phantom kicks and then throw you into a panic attack (oh wait, maybe that's just me).  It's worse when it's someone you love.  They've been blessed with pregnancy or a brood full of babies, and that is good.  You know it's good, you know they deserve it.  You know you shouldn't be, but you are still jealous.  Your jealousy can be consuming, it is raw and always at the surface.  What's more, you don't need to be told that that jealousy is a sin.  You know it, and you hate yourself for it. 

You are not alone.  I've been there, felt that.  It's like a mild version of post traumatic stress disorder and I am so very sorry that you have to go through that.  As if losing a baby or being unable to conceive weren't bad enough, now you have to suffer again.

There are real reasons why you feel this way.  They need to be overcome, but they are real and you should know that.  I wish the people around you could validate that for you.  I am sorry that they cannot.  You grieved your baby, or the loss of the family you once imagined and maybe you even thought you were getting over it.  But then you have to also grieve the loss of the joys of pregnancy.  Nursery decorations, baby showers, ultrasound pictures, the glorious sensation of a baby kicking, maybe even those stretchy maternity clothes.  Yes, these are #firstworldproblems, but they are still very real in our minds and hearts.  We are surrounded by other women who are "successfully" growing their families.  You don't always get the space and time you need before you see a beautiful bump and feel jealous.  That's reality.  And no one, who hasn't been there, seems to understand. 

Nevertheless, you must give yourself the time to heal and give yourself a "pass" on the jealousy for a little while.  If it goes on beyond a few months, then I highly recommend you see a therapist (which I did when my panic began). 

Finally, when you just feel like you are healing, friendly commentary might be getting you down.  It comes from loved ones, some of the people closest to you, or often times from church people.  They mean well when they ask you to not give up hope, tell you that God is good, or insist that it will work out "next time."  They don't mean to hurt you but it hurts just the same.  Your perspective and your perception are all that really matter.  I recall the exhaustion of trying to be nice, when others were insensitive and completely lacking in empathy.  It's tiresome, and I wish you didn't have to deal with it.  I'm sorry they hurt you, even though they don't intend to.  Right now, their intentions don't matter.  You need and deserve someone who will truly listen.  Someone who will let you speak freely, honestly, about your hurts. 

Please don't be ashamed.  Even though all these forces are pushing you towards shame, you have nothing to be ashamed of.  You just need a safe space to be real.  Maybe it's your best friend who just won't listen without interrupting you and telling you how and why you need to get over it.  Just as unlikely, there will be someone who tries to understand.  They won't really understand because they haven't been where you are.  But the gesture of them trying will mean so much.  They might not even really be a friend, yet.  I know they're out there though.  Maybe it's me.  Maybe it's another blogger or maybe it's your spouse.  It could be a friend who just happens to not have any kids yet and you hadn't thought before to ask why.  Maybe she only has one child and is shooting herself up with hormones in the bathroom during her break at work.  You never know. 

Probably no one would be able to guess what's going on in your mind.  You're hiding but you don't need to.  Please find a safe space to truly heal. 

Your heart yearns for more.  You do not need to apologize for that. 

Please do not let the guilt for feeling jealous mount upon the jealousy and grief.  This burden is oh so heavy.  I am so sorry if you are suffering from this burden.  I know I did.  It took several months for me to start recovering and it has forever changed who I am. 

With support, online and in person, and the healing tincture of time, you will start to feel better. 

As I began my blogging journey, one beautiful person shared this video by Brene Brown with me, and I just cried and cried.  I began to feel understood.  I hope you find the refuge you need where you can remember what you're worth and whose capable hands you're in. 

This is a letter to someone hurting.  It could be a letter to myself two years ago.  Please share it if you know someone who is hurting.  Maybe you can't understand this blog, but I bet she will. 

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