Kiss Your Miracle

motherhood after infertility

Sensitivity May 27, 2009

Filed under: Faith,Infertility,Others — Linnea @ 12:42 pm

There’s something to be said for not assuming things. It’s not a good idea to look at every childless couple and jump to the conclusion that they’re trying to get pregnant. Not everyone wants children. But for us, the fact that we didn’t chat about our infertility at every barbecue and picnic led some people to assume we just didn’t want kids yet, and they felt free to ask us about it. At large social gatherings casual acquaintances would throw questions at us without warning. When do you plan to have kids? How many do you want? Sometimes they were slightly accusatory – Why don’t you have kids yet? Those usually came with a bonus remark like – When I was your age I already had three! I always wondered how those particular people wanted us to respond. With an apology? With detailed information about my reproductive issues? In the moment, I’d feel like I had some explaining to do. Later, usually on the way home, anger would surge up inside me and I’d think of all the things I should have said in response.

Adam would listen to me rant and rave and then gently remind me that people didn’t mean anything by their questions. “They’re just curious and we should try to take them lightly,” he’d say. “No one intends to be hurtful.” I knew he was right. “Still! You never know what someone’s dealing with,” I’d tell him. “People should be more sensitive!” I really struggled with the flippant comments. Sometimes in my low moments I’d hear their words again in my mind and I’d feel like even more of a failure. I knew God wanted me to forgive and let go, and that my identity should be in him. I tried, but it was always a major effort.

Then one day during that time I was at a Bible study and the topic of depression came up. Someone mentioned a friend who might go on medication for it and I said I hoped that meds wouldn’t be necessary. Later that night the leader pulled me aside and said, “Linnea, so-and-so (person in the group) is on medication for depression right now. Please be careful when you talk about that, okay? She resists being on meds in the first place, but they’re helping her and she needs to stay on them.” I mumbled a weak “okay” as I left, and headed out to my car feeling misunderstood and defensive. I hadn’t said it was wrong to be on meds for depression. Several people I love have benefited from medication and I felt like I’d been very supportive of them.

I kept thinking about the discussion as I drove home. Then I asked myself a question. If I had known beforehand that the woman sitting next to me in the circle was on depression medication and that she felt conflicted about it, would I have said the same thing? And I had to admit, I wouldn’t have. Suddenly I made the connection between what I had said about depression meds and the casual remarks I’d been so wounded by myself. I thought about the way my comment implied that it’s good not to be on medication, that coping without it would somehow be better. I could have simply said I’d be praying instead of injecting my opinion into the discussion. I thought again about my Bible study friend and wondered if my comment would replay in her mind the next time she sat down to take her medication. And I began to get that sick feeling I always have when I regret something I’ve said.

I made a decision that night. Anytime I found myself in a group and a sensitive topic came up – infertility, depression, alcoholism, abortion, marriage problems, anything painful and personal – I would talk about it as if someone there was in that specific situation. It’s not that I planned to assume things. It’s just that we all have struggles and plenty of them are kept private, even in Christian circles. Especially in Christian circles.

It’s been almost three years since that conversation at Bible study and I’m sure I’ve said the wrong thing many times since then. I’m a talker, which can be dangerous. But at the very least I’m paying more attention. There is a verse in Psalm 141 that I often pray: “Set a guard over my mouth, Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips” (v. 3). I don’t think I’ll ever regret being too careful with my words.


Pity May 8, 2009

Filed under: Faith,Motherhood,Others — Linnea @ 11:12 am

When the doctor first diagnosed my fertility problems, I made Adam promise not to tell anyone, not even his parents. I said it was because I didn’t want to get a lot of unsolicited advice or have to hear people’s thoughtless comments. And that was true. But there was another reason. I hated the idea that anyone might feel sorry for me. The thought of people pitying me, pitying Adam because he’d married a wife who couldn’t have children, was too much. It made me angry. So angry I couldn’t even think about it or figure out where it was coming from.

Adam was gentle and patient. He kept our secret. Eventually, I agreed that we should tell his parents. But it wasn’t until after we’d tried IVF without success that I had to absorb reality; infertility might be part of our lives for a long time and I wouldn’t make it without support. I began to see that leaning completely on Adam wasn’t fair. I allowed God to show me a few things and it finally hit me that my anger was coming from pride. I wanted everyone to think I had my life together. But God wanted me to be honest and share our pain with family and a few trusted friends. Whatever people chose to think of me was between them and God and really shouldn’t concern me at all. I decided I would work hard not to care. It was a huge effort at first, but it got easier with time. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with keeping infertility private. But for me, opening up carefully over time was best. The more I shared, the less I fixated on what people might be thinking.

Mother’s Day is coming soon and this year my thoughts are mainly on my friends who long for babies they don’t yet have. I have a running list of these friends in my head and I try to pray for them often. The other day I took Skylar out for an early morning walk, planning to pray as I pushed her in the stroller. Mother’s Day and my friends came immediately to my mind and I began to think about them, remembering how hard the day was for me in years past. I looked down at Sky, who sat in the stroller chattering away in her own language, and a wave of sadness for my friends washed over me. Ten minutes later I realized I still hadn’t started praying. I was just feeling bad. Suddenly I heard myself two years earlier, saying I’d rather have people pray for me than feel sorry for me. Empathy is important. God calls us to bear one another’s burdens and the first step in empathy is taking the time to imagine what someone might be feeling. But simple pity can slip into “I’m glad I’m not in your situation” thinking, and I don’t want to be that kind of friend. Being a Christian means believing that in all things God is working for our good. I want to be a person who walks by faith, both in my own pain and with my friends in theirs. Empathy shouldn’t begin and end with feelings – it should be the catalyst for faith-filled prayer.


Advocate April 28, 2009

Filed under: Infertility,Motherhood,Others — Linnea Curington @ 1:01 pm

Mother’s Day is coming soon and this is my first year with a child. I actually got to celebrate last year because I was seven months pregnant at the time and my family showered me with cards and presents. But this will be my first official Mother’s Day. It’s a strange transition to go from dreading this holiday to enjoying it. It’s wonderful. But I can’t help thinking about my friends who are still longing for a baby, unsure if it’ll ever happen.

On Mother’s Day a few years ago, Pastor Colin Smith began his sermon by mentioning that Mother’s Day is not entirely happy for everyone at church. He pointed out that a person might have a difficult relationship with his or her mom or a mother who is no longer living. A person might be struggling with infertility or a past abortion or a miscarriage, all of which might be emphasized by Mother’s Day. I honestly don’t remember the rest of his sermon, but I will never forget how I felt when I heard those words. Infertility is painful and lonely, and hearing him acknowledge that someone like me might be struggling that day made me feel understood instead of forgotten. Even though Adam and I hadn’t told anyone about our infertility at that point, I felt like that church was a safe place where my feelings were valid even though they weren’t happy.

This morning I sent an email to the pastor of our church here in Florida, asking him to consider including a sentence or two on Mother’s Day for those who are struggling. I don’t think a simple acknowledgment like that takes any honor away from the mothers at our church – if anything it’s a good reminder for us moms to be grateful for the children we have. Even though one in six couples in the US will face infertility, almost no one in the church talks about it, and that can make it even more isolating. Those of us who’ve dealt with infertility in the past are in a good position to speak up. I’m not sure if my pastor will see the value in mentioning painful circumstances on Mother’s Day. If he hasn’t dealt with infertility or a miscarriage himself, he might not understand. But if he hasn’t thought of it, at least I put the idea in his head.