10.08.2009

Walking on Eggshells: The Emotional Side of Infertility

As I have mentioned before, the journey to creating our family was an emotional rollercoaster at times. Okay, most of the time. I also mentioned feeling emotionally unstable when I was hepped up on hormones. Okay, highly unstable.

Before I continue the story of our journey down the fertility highway, I thought I would talk more about the emotional side of it. For me, this part had the biggest impact. And still does. The uncomfortable ultrasound or painful injection only lasts a moment, feelings endure much longer.

This topic is somewhat difficult for me because when I get down to the nitty gritty, many of my feeling were (are) ugly. Along with hope and longing there was envy, emptiness and bitterness. And anger. And confusion.

How do you balance those feelings? How do you share the happiness of friends expecting their own bundles of joy? How do you not become overwhelmed by jealousy?

Y'all. It's hard. Terribly hard.

Sometimes I handled it well, sometimes I failed. I felt like my heart was divided, like I had an equator drawn down the middle of my body. Or maybe I was like Sybil. One side was truly happy for my friends and was able to celebrate their joy. I'd even throw the baby shower. Sometimes. The other side was was truly jealous and consumed with feelings of why not me? Sometimes that side took over and I withdrew. Skipped baby showers. Avoided. I'm not proud of that, but it is the truth.

Thankfully my husband and my friends loved me anyway. At least I think they did (do).

Chances are you know someone that is dealing with infertility and are wondering how to offer support through her journey. First, I'd say let your friend set the tone or even ask her directly how she would like you to help her. Since it is such an emotional issue, that changes day to day, it can be difficult for you as a friend too. Should you ask? Should you give your friend some space? It's a fine line. There may even be eggshells. Let her know you are willing to be a listening ear (that is usually always appreciated) as it is needed. Some days she might want to talk about it, other days she might appreciate a message left on her answering machine or a thoughtful card in the mail more. It was comforting to know people cared enough to check in on me but there were certainly days I didn't pick up the phone too.

If you are pregnant or have had a passel of children naturally, please don't avoid your friend out of guilt or worry that you will upset her. Even though I struggled with my emotions, I loved my fertile friends dearly--and still do.

My close friends were wonderfully supportive yet not smothering either. They gave me space when I needed it and a hug and time to listen when I needed that too. They also prayed with me and for me, that was the biggest comfort most of all.

I firmly believe that our life experiences mold us into the humans God wants us to be, even if that molding hurts or leaves us asking why. If I can be an encourager to someone else struggling with infertility, then that makes my experiences all the more worthwhile.

The rest of our fertility journey coming soon...

7 comments:

  1. Oh Holly-

    I so appreciate you writing this post. This is such a tender subject & I just never know what to say/do. You are helping so many (on both sides) sharing your story. God bless you & your family!

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  2. I can relate to the word picture of an equator drawn - sometimes I'd be sincerely happy for others and other times completely overwhelmed with jealousy.

    I was never really talkative about infertility during the height of it, which isn't like me at all. What I appreciated was the one of two people who consistently asked me how I was doing. They'd see me at church and ask if I wanted to talk and I usually did. It was so nice to not have to wear a mask with them like I was wearing with almost everyone else.

    I remember that time as so depressing...even though I am a pretty upbeat person. But I had to take control over some of my negative thoughts (with the Lord's help) and turn them to positive, hopeful ones. i.e. I started scrapbooking during my infertility, which was a great way for me to have constant reminders in front of me of happier times. The pictures told me "yes, there are things you HAVE that you need to feel grateful to God for." Even though I'd scrapbook with other women who had piles of piles of pregnancy and/or baby pictures with them, I felt good at the end of the night.

    Also, I stopped scrapbooking with those women and sought out single gals :) That was just plain smart.

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  3. Patsy: Oh good! It's my hope that these will be helpful.

    I think saying something is important, even though you might be afraid to bring up a difficult subject. Letting those women know you care and are interested I'm sure would be a comfort to them.

    Anna: Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts. I'm glad scrapbooking gave you an outlet for at least a while. But I totally understand about spending time with friends that did not have children. :)

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  4. I so appreciate your honesty with these posts.

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  5. Thanks for letting us know how to minister to women (and men) who are slogging through the emotions of fertility-challenged. So many times, I have good intentions, but I feel I will say something stupid. So I say nothing. Which is wrong. Thanks for the help.

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  6. Thanks Jill!

    Daesha: Don't worry, you won't say anything stupid. Even just a hug and a how are you doing is a-ok. :)

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  7. I remember one woman, who was supposed to a sympathetic friend, got carried away in one of those sharing of birth stories moments, she said without delay with me a 13 year verteran of infertility, 'there is nothing like giving birth to your own children'.

    I would assume she did not mean to hurt my feelings or make me uncomfortable - but it was disheartening that she said it in this way. Now that I am pregnant after all these years, I still feel that the girl's adoption is the most profound and wonderful moment of my life. I will never forget it and can say in all honesty - there is no difference.

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