The other day I was driving along, thinking about our fertility situation. And I realized that the hardest part of the journey has been the comparisons.
Medical Comparisons – I often find myself thinking of friends I’ve known going through infertility. We talk and we compare notes and often I will say, “Hmm, I am worse off because I didn’t get that positive result on that hormone test like Betsy, but I am better off because I ovulated unlike Suzi.”
Situational Comparisons –Sometimes Frank and I will say, “Why is it that we can’t get pregnant but XYZ high school student got pregnant thinking about sex??”
Comparisons as Comfort –I have experienced this, and I have seen it in action. It happens a lot when people miscarry – well-meaning friends say, “Well, I know a couple who lost their 2 year old. At least you didn’t lose a real baby.” To someone who is pregnant, that child is a real baby and they are experiencing real grief.
Even still, I found myself thinking the other day, “Well, at least it’s not like I’ve gotten pregnant and lost the baby. I should feel better that at least I just haven’t been able to get pregnant.” It didn’t make me feel better, by the way. It still hurts.
Comparisons as Advice -Or others will try to make us feel better and say, “Our friends Lynn and Gary were in the same exact situation, but then they adopted/stopped trying/did something else, and it worked! And now they have 5 kids!”
I find myself experiencing, thinking or witnessing a lot of these comparisons. I was trying to turn my own attitude around the other day by telling myself, “It’s not like losing a child or a baby.” But it didn’t help because I still felt loss – losing the hope for a child or a baby that month.
Everyone has their own problems and issues. Sure, having babies is difficult for us. But there are so many other ways in which God has blessed us. Others might say, “at least you have jobs” — and they are right. There are so many positive things going for us. I rejoice to God in those things and I give thanks to God for those things.
Even though it is so tempting to compare myself and our situation to others, I have to fight it daily because there is no peace in the comparison. How can there be? I am not Suzi or Betsy or anyone else. God has given Frank and I our path of life because He knows us more intimately and more profoundly than anyone else. He knows how many hairs are on my head (and Frank’s too), He knows all the days of my life. He knew what today would be like before I did. In so many ways, He has graciously prepared this season of our life for us by putting people in our lives that have been down this road, have felt this heartache and have glorified God in the process. What a kind and loving God He is!
Most of my closest friends “get” where I am at and are truly encouraging and comforting and amazing. But on several occassions, I have had to bite my tongue and listen to people say things that they clearly haven’t thought through. I find that I actually have a lot of compassion for those people . It has to be hard to be in their shoes, looking at me and not knowing what to say. I totally get that. As someone who regularly sticks her foot in her mouth (and I have HUGE feet), I often say the wrong thing. And going through this, I feel like I am more qualified to provide a few pieces of advice to anyone wondering what to say to someone like me.
Listen. Really, really listen. Grieve with your friend. Ask questions. The ability to not get pregnant is difficult and every month that we are not pregnant feels like a loss. Only it’s not a visable hurt – it’s a quiet hurt. Don’t cut your friend out of activities or events because children will be there. Your friend(s) will politely decline if it’s too much for them or they have other plans. At least give them the option.
And please, don’t tell them “at least you can adopt or foster.” It’s such a personal decision and it is not a “fix” for not being able to have biological children. Adoption is a fantastic route for starting or expanding a family, especially if you are at a place where your heart is open to it. But you wouldn’t say to someone who lost their spouse, “Well, there are other fish in the sea.”
And hey, I totally know that 99.9% of people mean well. If you see someone hurting, then you try to tell them things to help them feel better. But sometimes part of healing is hurting. And that is ok.