The infertile Catch-22

Apparently this is the day that I get caught up on life.  And I realize that I dropped the ball forever ago when I left that lovely post nice and wrapped up (ahem, hardly), riiiiight before I moved thousands of miles away.  So here are some other thoughts.  Though in the meantime these lovely ladies have followed up with some wonderful additions to the conversation!

A little more about if that bond is actually severed or not

Most (I won’t say all, because I have met people who deal with it differently, but I will include myself in this group because this is how i dealt with it) infertile women want to read and get support from other people currently dealing with it too. Its almost like a hunger, because that is literally the only thing that “makes it better”.  Knowing that there are other people out there and that you’re not isolated or abandoned. Because we women find strength in community, having this support of friends is literally the only thing that can make the burden feel lighter.

Other infertile/sub-fertile women.

Yes, I would flip and love it when a woman with children left a comment on my blog (which would happen regularly) or said something to me in person (would happen rarely) to acknowledge my struggle and how it must be difficult.  To acknowledge pain that you have no personal experience with really did wonders, so please, if this is you, please continue doing this.  And sure, maybe seeing people “leave the island” gives a glimmer of hope that its possible, but it doesn’t ease the burden.  Its a different thing.  A glimpse into a future that may be yours that may give one hope that it may not always be just like this.

So here’s where the horrible irony, the infertility “catch 22” comes in, at least how I saw it: literally by having this prayer answered in the way I prayed for, it has inherently removed me from being able to support others who are holding this cross.  From what I’ve thought about, in no other life circumstances is this true.  Young moms are always looking to older moms for ideas, advice that is gets easier/better.  My husband Mike made an analogy about people who go back to do prison ministry (that’s Mike for ya).  People in college look to advice for people who’ve graduated and gotten a job to help give them perspective that it does end and we should be prepared for the future. However, with infertility it seems to be different.

(Most) infertile women long for the support and company of other women IN the trenches, anyone else is just “someone with hindsight”   There is potentially room for exception for women who you’ve formed a friendship with that transcends infertility, but generally speaking this becomes most women who eventually have kids and/or adopt.  And this has been incredibly hard for me to accept personally and on a bigger level to answer the “how can we help infertiles?” question, since really, infertility had such a large impact on my life and all I want to do is remember, and educate and support, and it feels so hard now.

But I just came out of my room today* and realized the catch 22 of having and making infertile friends, its literally so simple, but I was finally able to put it into words instead of just cry when I think about it (which I tell you not to garner attention or pity  but to translate how deeply this affects me): To finally get what we want and ultimately are praying for will make it that much harder to support the same people who supported us most when we were suffering with that cross. And that is hard to accept.
Yes, we can pray for them and ask how they are doing and that means a lot. And it is probably the best I can do right now. But as the numbers decrease, as Rebecca points out, it is a bittersweet thing to see that there are so few bloggers/women dealing with infertility left.  Because it means that that path is that much more isolated, rare, and potentially marginalized against.  Practically, it means there will be that many fewer people at the picnic without kids to allow the conversation to not continually dwell on what cute things everyone’s kid is doing.  It means the reality of being different will be that much more difficult.

Yes, I think what Hebrews writes here is spot on:  Their pain is not about me.  Heck that is so true about so many things in life, this self-conscious, insecure girl should print that out and put it on a banner in my mirror! But I know infertility is still different in a sense, because we don’t earn our way out of it to graduate with honors and be able to give advice to those still “in class”. In fact, that’s the quickest way to NOT support those going through infertility.  We kind of get plucked out of oblivion into a different world, and it sort of feels random even.

For example, how hard is it for the burden of starting infertility support groups, talking about this in public, to purely fall on the people who are suffering the most from this cross? 

But then we who’ve crossed over try to help, it can be seen and written off as someone who doesn’t get it right now? Even my mom asked me if people hate it that I have a child at the infertility group.  Ugh.

Its difficult, not in a woe is me way, which I’m sure that is how this is coming across but more importantly in a how do we actually do good to help way.  It is no wonder people are paralyzed with fear to end up doing nothing at all. I got SO upset before when people would say “there’s nothing we can do, infertile women just want to be angry” (because I was a really angry infertile woman of course!) when really, the fact is that because only a minority of women have this cross, few people understand how deeply it affects your identity and faith,  and that is exacerbated by people not understanding and recognizing it as a continual grieving process.  I know, great thesis statement, huh? I understood that no one was going to “make it better”, no one can make it better.  Its a highly individual cross, no matter how much support we get from others. Maybe I knew that before, but I only know that now. In hindsight of course.  Everything is in hindsight once you have child.

I do believe that a little compassion could go a long way, that and, not to be undersold, prayer.  The way we help, our responsibilities perhaps, are different depending on how what stage we’re at.  I love that wording and expression again, in the previous posts I linked to at the top.  Its taken me quite a while to figure that out and to come to accept that this infertile Catch-22 may be the most frustrating thing once you’re on the “other side” but its helped me immensely since then.

*I started these posts a few months ago, so it wasn’t actually today that I had these thoughts.  But I sure am glad I wrote them down when I did, or I surely would have never blogged again.