Note: I find that there are “easier” days, and “harder” days while struggling with the cross of infertility. This reflection is one I wrote on one of the more difficult days. My intent is simply to express some of the emotions of celebrating my birthday, without offering a solution or “quick fix.” I pray that if you’ve ever felt this way, you know that you’re not alone!
The date of this post is my birthday, the third birthday I’ve had since becoming aware of our infertility. Maybe it’s my melancholic nature, but birthdays for me have always been a little bittersweet. As a kid, they were mostly sweet – the excitement of being the center of attention (a rare moment for a middle child), parties with my friends, and cake and ice cream ruled the day. As I’ve grown older, birthdays have taken on a nostalgic character, reminding me of the temporal nature of life. I am more aware of how special each moment of life is; children grow up, parents age, people move, and relationships change. But birthdays still bring some excitement, and plenty of joy: a surprise visit from my mom across the country, my husband baking me a cake or taking me out for my favorite meal, a call from a dear friend I haven’t spoken to in forever, or the sweet voices of nieces and nephews singing to me through FaceTime.
Infertility, though, has brought a new and unexpected kind of sadness to my birthday. You see, I love my parents very much and am blessed to be very close with them, and my birthday is inextricably linked with their love for me. Over the years, they’ve told me many anecdotes about my birth, like eagerly awaiting my arrival on that hot summer day, our babysitter “sneaking in” my sister to the hospital to come see me, and the large strawberry on my forehead. These stories could once generate a smile or a happy chuckle in me, and they’ve always reminded me of how much I am loved by them in a way that only parents can love a child. Now, though, these stories produce a lump in my throat and bring a tear to my eye. I am reminded that I once believed that one day I will experience this joy too. I am reminded of how much I want to love children the way my parents love me. I am reminded of what I lack and long to give. In short, my birthday has become a part of my grieving.
I know I am not alone in this. For many struggling with the cyclic nature of infertility, birthdays are a reminder of the passing of time; while others’ families increase in number through the years as pregnancies are announced and children are born, ours remain stagnant. And for others, carrying different crosses, birthdays (or anniversaries or holidays) can be hard too. I’ve found that the more I open up about my struggles to others, the more I realize that the specific type of cross is not so important; but by carrying it, I can help others to carry theirs, too. And the more I reach out to help others, the more I realize Christ is working through me, and turning my sorrow into a surprising and deep joy. Maybe it’s not the same joy that I imagine would accompany an early morning rush to the hospital maternity ward, but it’s equally special. It’s the joy of ministering to others, and of recognizing Christ’s love for each of us.
Lord, please be with all of those who are struggling with infertility and other loss on birthdays, anniversaries, and other difficult moments during their grief. Transform their sadness into gratitude for the life you’ve given them, and help them to find the peace you long to give them amidst the suffering they endure. Help them to know that you love them even more deeply than a parent loves their child, and that you long for them with an even greater intensity than they long for the deepest unmet desires of their hearts. Help them to see that you willed their very soul into existence, and that you have a beautiful plan for their life.
Allie is married to her husband of three years and writes from Texas.