I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how the experience of infertility has shaped my understanding of who I am and who Christ is. In my last entry, I wrote at length about how tenderly and literally the Lord emphasized His abiding presence with me at a particularly trying stage in this always trying journey. Here, I pick up the thread of that being-with-ness in light of something that isn’t talked about much, especially in Christian circles: how categorically bizarre the grief involved in infertility is.
Grief itself is always difficult to talk about because it’s intrinsically tied to death, and no one really likes thinking or talking about death. Whatever the loss involved, grief reminds us of the simultaneous beauty and transience of the here and now in a uniquely intense and inescapable way. It’s one of the few emotions that can truly be called inexorable. There is just no stopping it. The only options are to attempt to stave it off temporarily with distractions or to weather its stages for however long and in whatever order your heart needs to heal. The latter is the sanest option, of course, if more painful in the short term.
Infertility, however, has the dubious distinction of adding repetition to the intensity and unavoidableness of grief. It’s the Groundhog Day of grieving, but with no Bill Murray to spruce up the hard slog of healing with light relief. For a couple suffering from infertility, every month is a fresh loss of the same loss – a complete re-wounding of the same wound – with no appreciable time to heal from last month’s grief. The cumulative effect of these months and often years of repeated injury can be devastating physically, emotionally, and spiritually. It certainly was for me.
As I wrote in my last post, the reproductive condition I’ve had since thirteen makes it exceedingly improbable I will ever conceive. In the words of one blunt OB/GYN, “if you get pregnant, some Blessed is definitely getting canonized.” However, the hormones I had to take for many years frequently mimicked the symptoms of ovulation and conception. That pharmaceutical quirk didn’t happen every month, but it happened often enough and for long enough that it made the grief of my infertility inescapable. It began to seem less something I was experiencing than an actual part of my identity. I was an infertile, seething, exhausted ball of grief first and me only a distant second.
The medication that I take now is not as quirky, but there are still times when I lose sight of myself in the face of my infertility. Good counseling has been an enormous emotional help, and Christ frequently comforts me in prayer with the story of the widow of Nain in Luke 7:11-17. This widow encounters Christ in the throes of mourning her only son who has just died. In a culture where tragedies like the loss of a child were ascribed to personal sinfulness and where childlessness coupled with widowhood could well mean impoverishment, her grief and terror must have been extreme. The raising of her son usually gets top billing in homilies I’ve heard on this passage, and for good reason. But lately, her resurrection that day is the one that moves me, because her grief so clearly moved Him: “And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, ‘Do not weep’” (Lk 7:13).
I don’t know the future resurrections the Lord has in store for me. I don’t know what shapes His continual restorations of me to myself will take, and frankly that sets all my control-freak alarm bells ringing. I don’t know whether we’ll foster and/or adopt other children and/or whether some obscure Blessed will be raised to the altar because I suddenly conceive. But I do know these resurrections will come. They’ll come because His being with me in this grief is literally a suffering with me – a compassion that moves Him now as much and as powerfully as it did for the widow of Nain.
Clare Kane is a writer, business owner, and foster mom. She and her family live in Ridgefield, CT.