I have never struggled with infertility or loss, and at times I have taken my womb for granted. I didn't really think about it much, until one by one, I was surrounded by infertility, the 1 in 8, those with empty arms, and those whose journeys to motherhood were costly and came after many years and tears shed.
Infertility and the cost of selfishness
I remember when I was pregnant with my first, I was one of those people who just "didn't get it." I didn't love pregnancy and when friends who were struggling to conceive would ask me how I was doing, I would blurt out how uncomfortable, in pain, and sick I was. I wanted so desperately for someone to notice and care about me, and in exchange for my selfishness I hurt those around me. One friend even took me aside to tell me how hurtful it was, and I still didn't understand. I was indignant. Didn't I have the right to feel how I did? I stammered an apology, but thought, "How dare she hold up a mirror to me!" Since that moment I have wished many a time with a broken heart that I could go back and say, "You are right. You are so right. I am so sorry. I shouldn't have complained like that to you." I wish I would have hugged her and cried with her, and gotten off of my pedestal of self-importance to meet her in her pain.
It took me a long time before I was able to let go of being so absorbed in myself that I couldn't see what was going on around me. I had such a complaining spirit. I loved my children, but I struggled with motherhood, with depression, with anxiety, with chronic illness and exhaustion. My pain was very real and valid, but I failed to see how the way I spoke came across as total disregard and ingratitude to those around me who would give anything to be struggling with MY problems if it meant that their arms could be full, too. I spent so much time fretting about getting pregnant again and not being able to afford it right now, as if a full womb was the worst thing that could happen to me, as if the blessing of another child was the one thing that was going to do me in.
I watched a woman hold my baby and sob and it hit me: I will never know that pain. I will never know that emptiness, that deep, primal, guttural cry that comes when everything in you screams to be a mother, but no baby comes. I was convicted of my complaining, of the times that I resented these beautiful gifts. I looked at both my children with renewed gratitude that night. I hugged them, I kissed them, and I felt the fullness in my own arms and allowed myself to feel a little of the pain of others. I cried, alone, but with them and for them. Yes, my struggles matter, but I can choose places to put those struggles that do not add to the pain and compound the grief of others.
No, I don't have to savor every moment, but I can choose to be grateful. I can choose a different perspective. I can remind myself that these temporary sleepness nights, the push and pull on my sanity that is being a mom, the times where I long for a moment's peace... those are still gifts. They are my gifts and I can choose to see that my blessing far outweighs my burden.
If you are struggling or have struggled with infertility, I want you to know that I see you. That your pain matters. I see the sacrifice you make of your bodies, your dignity, your pride as you search for answers. May you always find safety with me, a warm cup of coffee, a place where I put myself aside and meet you as you are. You are loved and you are cared for. Thank you for what you have taught me about motherhood.