Hope Beyond Our Dreams
By Cara Jakab
My journey of secondary infertility has been painful. But in the midst of my pain I have found comfort.
When I was a little girl, I dreamt of having several children of my own. I was close to my three sisters and parents and loved the activity of six people in the house. Yet ten years after my husband George and I married, we are the parents of only one child, a four-year-old son.
Like many families, my husband and I are what you might call “conceptionally challenged.” We struggled to get pregnant the first time, and after Isaiah was born, we struggled to get pregnant again. For a year and a half, we actively tried to have another baby. After months of testing, the doctors discovered that my eggs were “too small” to be fertilized. Who knew that eggs come in different sizes? Oh, the things we learn…
And let’s think about the phrase, “We’re trying.” It’s not a phrase I particularly like. To me, it’s inviting people to ask about my sex life. So I have been searching for other phrases to use. During a final appointment with my gastroenterologist after an attack of colitis, I wanted to ask if it was okay if George and I started “trying” again soon. Determined to creatively coin a new phrase, I said something like, "I would like to make a baby." My poor doctor thought I was propositioning him! On that day, I decided that the phrase "we’re trying" is just fine.
Testing, trying, testing, trying … the journey of secondary infertility is painful. There are challenges to overcome. But there are also unexpected blessings and comfort in places I never thought I would discover.
Challenges for “Trying” Moms:
Failure. Each month of “trying” without getting pregnant can feel like a personal failure. After all, how hard can this really be? Other women get pregnant right away! What’s wrong with me?
A common question when moms get together is, “How many children do you have?” When I say I have one son, I often hear, "Just one?" "It’s time for another." Other moms have actually told me, "You’re not a real mom until you have two kids." Do they know how much I would like to, or how their words make me question my worth and see my perceived failure?
My own pain of failure was taken to a deeper level when we had a miscarriage after Isaiah was born. We had tried for fifteen months, and then we lost the dear life. I couldn’t help thinking, "I can’t get pregnant and now I can’t even carry a baby. I’m a failure as a woman."
Advice. It’s amazing how much advice “trying” moms get when people know that they desire children. One person said to me, "You’re not pregnant yet?"
I tried to nonchalantly answer with the standard "we’re trying,” to which he responded, "Well, you’re not trying hard enough!"
Without thinking, I said, "Every other day last month." Oh, the things we confess! A couple of weeks later a well-meaning friend suggested, "Maybe you’re trying too hard."
Not hard enough – too hard – or better yet, stand on your head after sex; no, don’t move for a half an hour after sex. Eat more pears, drink more herbal tea … the list goes on and on.
Misplaced Hope. It’s amazing how hopeful I became about pregnancy every month, and how consumed I became with my cycle. If I was even an hour late getting my period, I’d think, "There’s still hope."
The trying phase is long and disappointing, so I began to place my hope in the next phase of life. "We’ll have a newborn on next year’s camping trip." Or “This will be Isaiah’s last birthday without a sibling." Well, his birthdays came and went, and we weren’t even pregnant.
Comfort In the “Trying” Times
My Worth. My worth as a mom doesn’t come from how many children I have. Even more importantly, my worth doesn’t come from being a mom at all. My worth comes from the fact that God tenderly loves me.
New Dreams. Life is full of opportunities to pursue new dreams. In the movie A Beautiful Mind , a phrase jumped out at me. “I have to believe that something extraordinary is going to come out of this." I don’t want to let a lost dream be the end, but the beginning of a new dream.
A Thankful Heart. Through this struggle I’ve become extremely thankful for what I do have – my amazing husband and wonderful son. I had a dream of being a mom, and I am! I’ve realized to a deeper degree how precious that really is.
My own struggles have made me more aware of other women struggling with unmet expectations – others who have a hard time getting pregnant, single moms whose hearts ache to get married, women waiting for adoptions to come through or those who are raising a child with special needs. Whatever makes our hearts ache, we wonder if we can handle it all. But in the midst of my pain I have found comfort.
I have learned a lot about hope. My hope can’t be in the next stage in life. My circumstances won’t satisfy my soul. A big family will not make my life complete.
No, “big” may not be the word to describe my family today; instead, we are full. Full of thanksgiving, dreams, and hope, because God’s tender love satisfies and fills our home.
I Don’t Want to Hear…
Wondering how to help your friend or family member who is experiencing infertility? Here are a few examples from Lois Flowers, author of Infertility: Finding God’s Peace in the Journey, of what doesn’t work:
- Medical advice and fertility folklore. If you’re not a gynecologist, please don’t tell me to relax or to take an herbal remedy. It will likely have no effect on the cause of my infertility. Don’t offer unsolicited opinions – pro or con – about infertility medical procedures. Those choices are between me, my husband, and God.
- Pat spiritual answers. Don’t try to tie things up in a neat little box. Infertility is messy. Every case is different. You don’t know that God is going to give me a baby or that it’s God’s will for me not to get pregnant. Please don’t tell me to pray harder, trust more or have more faith. It’s not that simple.
- Anecdotes about other people. Infertility success stories are wonderful, but this isn’t about the people you know; it’s about me and my life. You disregard my sadness when you rush to tell me about others.
- Negative comments about pregnancy. Please don’t try to console me by pointing out all of the “unpleasant” aspects of pregnancy I am missing out on. I would gladly throw up every morning if it meant in seven or eight months I would give birth to a healthy child.
- Solutions to the problem of childlessness. “You can always adopt” fails to address all of the painful questions that not being able to conceive brings up in a person’s life. As wonderful as it is, adoption does not erase the physical brokenness and emotional distress that infertility causes.