When you wake up in the morning, I know there will be a lot of things running through your mind. Maybe you’re already trying to stifle the tears that come so easily on this day. It seems like everyone else in the world is celebrating being something that for some of us is out of reach; and has been for a long time.
This is the 8th time my barren womb will feel more like a sign emblazoned on my forehead than a broken part of my body hidden from view. It’s true that I have foster children and they have changed this day for me immensely. I love them dearly and I do get to enjoy them on this day. Someday soon I hope to have my name on their birth certificates when we complete this long journey to fully and legally belong to each other. But, there is still an emptiness and an unresolved longing for me on this day. I still want to carry and give birth to a child with David’s eyes.
It can be agonizing. It can be heartbreaking. It feels like failure. It feels like being picked on. It’s made me ask so many questions of the Lord about why He would leave me here in a wasteland of lost hopes after giving me this sincere desire.
Three Mother’s Days in a row my period started literally at church, leaving me to wonder how to discern the difference between honest faith and wishful thinking. I would walk out of the bathroom to see mothers glowing in the sunlit windows with their beautiful babies after being denied that gift again. And again. And again. Why the irony? Was it on purpose?
Last night I cried again scrolling through Facebook. I’ve really gotten pretty good at celebrating with others. The majority of posts about Mother’s Day don’t even hurt anymore. But this was a post from a formerly barren friend about the baby she and her husband had last year through IVF. She had written to say she had not forgotten those of us still in this struggle. During this special weekend, she thankfully held her baby close, but still thought of me. She thought of us. She prayed over us. And there went my mascara.
We are a special group of people. We are the ones who have yet to see and know whether God will answer this cry of our heart that comes from the deepest place inside of us. Some of us have suffered loss. Some of us have never tasted. Some of us are desperate to once again hold a baby in our womb and in our arms, but it’s been years in the waiting. Some of us are paying a lot of money for answers and receiving little hope in return. Some of us are on crazy hormone treatments as if it’s not hard enough already. Some of us are past the point of no return and the door has been forever closed. Some of us will be surprised by God in the end and have the desires of our heart come to perfect fruition.
Tomorrow as you go to your church (if you go), I know you will feel many things. I know you're trying your best to understand and reconcile and be brave or be present. But in all of it, please don’t feel SHAME.
Shame is not, should not, cannot be allowed to take root inside of infertility. It doesn’t grow flowers, it only grows thorns. Whether you are ashamed because you woke up feeling apprehensive, bitter, defeated or dreading, do not feel shame. Whether you decide not to go this time or to avoid a special meal, or you don't know how you will respond when you see a dear friend or family member with a new baby, today is not about shame. Take thoughts about not being strong enough, spiritual enough, or mature enough to handle a day like today, and throw them out the window like an exboyfriend’s old t-shirt. What’s hard is hard and there’s no shame in it. You cannot be more spiritual than your pain.
Flowers and fruit are born from pain and sadness. Strength, dignity, compassion, and a wealth of understanding come through pain. God draws near to the broken-hearted and displays His grace and comfort, even though sometimes it doesn’t always feel like it in the moment. There is a place in our spiritual life and in our personal growth for sadness and genuine pain, but there is no place for shame. Not tomorrow.
When you wake up tomorrow, give yourself a break. Take deep breaths. Enjoy the moments you can and get through the ones that make you want to throat punch the person on the platform that said something insensitive without meaning to. Thank the well-wishers. Be gracious to those who hug you because they know you are aching. Try to be relieved for those who have not had to walk the road you’re on. But do not be ashamed if you can’t go. Do not be ashamed if you go, but you struggle THE. WHOLE. TIME. Do not be ashamed if you have to leave early. You can still honor your mother and God and the saints and choose not to be somewhere you simply cannot be.
At one church where David was on staff for several years during our infertility, the pastor used to ask those of us who wanted to be mothers but had not yet been able to, to stand for prayer. The whole church would look at you and collectively pray for you. While I really appreciated the sincere thoughtfulness for the barren on that day, I also dreaded that moment for months before it came.
It was always my fear that if I didn’t go or didn’t stand, maybe I was missing out on a blessing or a miracle. Those "what ifs" are a strong motivator, so I always went and the whole church always got to watch me ugly cry. One year I stood alone because David was singing and I shook with sobs, my face in my hands while it felt like everyone watched. I always fought shame; whether from my lack of faith and taking a pass on this special opportunity for prayer, or for the fact that I publicly displayed the depths of my unbearable sorrow.
Tomorrow as you go (if you go), do not be ashamed of where you are and how you feel. You are not alone. You are loved. You are not forgotten. I don’t know why we are going through this, but I know He is good. Do not be ashamed of yourself. He is not ashamed of you.