Over the last couple weeks, I have been wondering what I would tell the Kristin of four years ago about what it would be like to face infertility. What do I wish I had known? But that’s kind of a stupid question because of course I wouldn’t have learned what I’ve learned if I had known what I do now…. Despite the faulty logic, I came up with a few ideas.
1. Find a purpose. For a long time, I was in the dangerous position of assuming that I would become pregnant at any time. This led me to not being as invested in a job or career as I might otherwise have been. I always structured my work and decisions around being “ready” to transition to a motherhood lifestyle. Had I known I’d be waiting this long, I would probably have chosen different ways to use my time. It was when I finally realized I needed to get BUSY that I pulled out of the funk I was in for far too long.
Whether it’s a new job, a hobby, going back to school, or something else, just start DOING stuff. Not only does it provide a distraction from thinking about babies, it gives you a sense of purpose, of working toward something. And it makes the days and weeks go by faster. This purposefulness is so important so you don’t fall into the trap of feeling that your life is meaningless for not having a baby.
2. Be vulnerable with your pain. Sharing your stuff forges connections with others. Because guess what? They have stuff too. And you’ll both feel better when you’ve offered empathy and real love to someone else who is struggling. Infertility has given me opportunities for conversations with other women about deep and meaningful things, about our different kinds of hard things. It gave me a way to understand pain — and because of that, understand others.
3. Get a pet. I’m not kidding. You need something warm and cuddly that you can shower affection on and cuddle with and be loved by. I recommend kittens.
4. Get over self-pity. Infertility really is such a hard thing. But wallowing in your pain and feeling sorry for yourself doesn’t do you any good. Worst of all, it drives the people around you away just when you need them most.
5. Prayer might start feeling pointless but do it anyway. You can only plead with God in so many ways for the same thing. Consider letting your prayers be a time to sit with God and be renewed with strength and faith rather than a time to lament. (Though there’s always time for lamenting prayers when you need them too.)
6. Open your heart to babies, kids, and mothers. At just the time when I was trying hardest to avoid being around anyone that reminded me of what I didn’t have and most wanted, I got called to be Primary President for our little student ward. I did not want to do it. But then… I got to know those kids. And now my hour in Primary each week fills the baby-shaped hole in my heart. Sometimes I sit there and look over at the kids singing their hearts out so earnestly and just can’t wipe the ridiculous grin off my face. I LOVE those kids. I didn’t know love could crowd out the sadness like it does. But come on, there’s just no room for anger, frustration or heartache when you’re face to face with a joyful four-year-old.
It’s risky to keep choosing an open heart over a closed one and it does hurt sometimes to be reminded of what you still don’t have. But gosh, those stabs of heartache are a small price to pay for the way your heart can be filled.
7. Let people help you by being sad with you. Usually the people you share with won’t be able to do anything about your problem, but they want to help you. When they say they wish there was something they could do, let them know that sometimes you just need someone to be sad with. This is such a gift because not many people can do that without trying to “fix” things or offer advice.
8. It’s okay to steer clear of baby showers. And definitely avoid the baby department at Target. Don’t smell the baby powder, don’t stroke the minky blankets, and avoid the newborn-sized onesies. (If the shower is for a close friend or a relative, refer to #4 and #6 and just suck it up and be a good friend!)
9. Don’t be offended by people making silly/thoughtless comments. 98% of the time, they have no clue that what they are saying might be hurtful. Don’t look for reasons to be offended. If you’re comfortable with it, you can always gently respond with “We would love to have kids whenever God gives them to us.” Again, see #4.
10. Let the hard things bring you to God. Infertility has brought and continues to bring me to God, asking for change, strength, and patience. It reminds me of my utter dependence on Him and reminds me that whatever He is doing with my life is better than what I would do, even though its a whole lot harder.
Infertility also taught me to love the scriptures — which is saying something because for my entire life, reading scriptures had been a STRUGGLE. But as I read about barren women in the Old Testament, especially Hannah, an excitement and love for what I was reading began to take hold. I can’t believe I’m saying it, but I finally see how the scriptures can literally be a daily source of strength and peace.
11. Stop believing that all you need to be happy is a baby. I still catch myself thinking this way. But one of the most important things I’ve learned is that happiness is not dependent on circumstances. It just can’t be, otherwise we would never be happy longer than a few hours or days at a time. Find daily happiness by practicing gratitude, doing nice things for people, finding something meaningful to work towards or accomplish, and cultivating relationships.
Yes, infertility is so hard. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, but I also wouldn’t trade it for what it’s given me. It continues to affect my moods and my daily life, but doesn’t define who I am. It’s an undeniable part of me, but it isn’t me. I guess I’m trying to say that we are bigger than our challenges. A good life right now is truly possible, you just have to choose it.