Seven months ago, I was in this exact place, doing this exact thing. Sitting in this very chair, at this very desk, attempting productivity and failing miserably. One eye on my work-filled computer screen, the other on my phone — which is and was set to ring at its loudest volume, so I’m not really sure why I watch it. But I do.
Again, something is wrong, and I wait to hear how badly. Again, there is an abnormality, and I wait to understand its gravity. Again, my body is failing me, and I wait to see how severely.
I have been knocked down, again, and I cower, waiting for the impending hit, because I know I’m about to be knocked down again.
This is the story of infertility.
I’ve been scared to tell this story. It’s been there, ebbing and flowing, scarring and healing, but I wasn’t sure how to tell it. I’ve been so terrified someone might look at me and say, “How dare you feel this way?” But I’ve come to realize something. This story isn’t all my own. The details are mine. The timeline is mine. But the pain I carry? It’s so far from being just mine. I wish I had realized that sooner. I wish I hadn’t let the fear of judgment silence me. The details aren’t what matter. It’s the carrying of this pain that matters. It’s that we learn to carry it bravely. It’s that we learn to carry it together.
And so, maybe this post isn’t for everyone. And that’s OK. It’s for the champions of the bathroom floor, for those who choose to stand back up when the devastation of the test-filled trashcan seems more than they can bear.
Last night was the third night in a row I sprung alive, drenched in sweat, overcome with fear. My night terrors are back. I’ve struggled with them for years, but it had been months since I’d had one. Stress will do that.
Stress — did you say stress? That’s terrible for trying to conceive!
Thanks, I know. But in fact, you telling me makes me feel more stressed, and you see, this is all out of my control.
Control — did you say control? Let go of it, honey! It’s in God’s hands!
Oh, how I know this on the deepest of levels. I’m going on month eight of zero control of my own body, so whether or not I wanted to let go of it, it let go of me a long time ago.
You understand now, when I say this post isn’t for everyone, because everyone can’t understand it. Everyone wants you to feel better. They want to say what they can to package you up neatly and leave you with a smile. Oh, I don’t blame everyone — I really don’t. I’m thankful they care enough to say anything at all.
But the truth is that it’s ugly right now, and pretty words can’t mask the mess.
Life, it moves, and it sort-of feels like you’re standing still, watching. The places and people that once held shared dreams now hold a dichotomy: dreams fulfilled in tiny, new exhales and dreams halted in long, slow inhales. There’s a wedge now, where you once shared hope — two bellies, one swelling with life and the other swelling with emptiness. Two bellies, born of the same hope — how can they look so different?
You wish for moments of ignorance, for blocks of time where you could forget. But there’s a toddler laughing in that shopping cart and a fertility bracelet advertisement on your computer screen. There’s a stroller pushed past your window and a screaming baby in that church service. And you wish these things were inconsequential to you, the way they once were. But the toddler’s laugh feels like a punch in your gut and the baby’s scream feels like a knife in your heart.
You wish you could blot out the ache and pour all your attention into life’s positives. There are so many, after all, and day after day, you thank God for them. Thankfulness changes you, without a doubt. But you’ll still come home to another medical bill and wake up to another one-lined rejection. You’ll still “keep your hopes low this time,” and you’ll still cry on that wretched bathroom floor all the same.
You’ll gear up for another month on this road, garnering strength and hope, again, only to feel them fade, again. You’ll watch disappointment paint across the face you love the most, and you’ll hate yourself for putting it there. You’ll remind yourself that you didn’t put it there, really, but you’ll never actually shake the feeling that you did.
You’ll visit the doctor, again, and sneak glances at the other women in the waiting room. Do they feel this way, too? Or is just you? You’ll extend your arm, again, the black-and-blue crease a reminder of the time before, and before that, and before that.
Your eyes will all-at-once be drenched for days, then dry for days, just as your heart will feel pierced for days, then numb for days. You’ll order pregnancy tests more than you order takeout and check your fertility app more than you check your social apps. You’ll feel isolated, in this strange world of hidden pain.
But you’ll carry on with your life, day after day, even when the new medicine makes you feel sick and the two-hour doctor appointment leaves you working at night. Because that’s what you do. You keep going. You keep walking. But it won’t be long on this road before you realize something.
You aren’t walking alone. You never have been.
The specks of his faithfulness dot this sorrowful journey. Where you find hurt, you also find hope. Where you find disappointment, you also find provision. Where you find pain, you also find strength. And I beg you to pay attention.
Because this road isn’t one way or the other. It’s both. That’s the heartbreaking beauty of it.
I fought it for so long. I didn’t understand how the two could coexist. I thought hope and joy and peace were supposed to take all of this pain and wipe it out. I thought I was supposed to walk in these things and leave that ache behind. And to that, I said, “I can’t!” And to that, Jesus said, “You don’t have to! I will show you how to walk in both.”
Let me be clear — He’ll be showing me forever. This isn’t something I’ve mastered. I just understand now, that it’s something. He doesn’t disregard this pain. He doesn’t want me to pretend it isn’t there. In fact, I think, he’s in heaven crying with me. He’s a God of deep mercy, not indifference. He knows this world is broken, and he wants to show us how to walk in the messiest, ugliest parts of it.
But it’s important that we pay attention — that we look for where he is and where he’s been. That we cling to the story of his steadiness when our future feels shaky.
It’s important that we treasure the random surges of hope, because we will, undoubtedly, feel the pang of grief again. It’s important that we speak the unchanging truths of Christ, because we will, undoubtedly, hear the lies of defeat again.
For so long, I believed this story needed a happy ending to be beautiful. Now, I understand there’s beauty here in the trenches. It’s a story as old as time, I think — a story that will be told again, and again. We find ourselves believing that God only lives in the beauty, only to understand, all over again, that he is the king of suffering. That he’s promised to meet us here, and that if we pay attention, we might know him better than ever here.