Most of the blogs on infertility that I have read discuss the emotional pain that recurs every month. Menstruation is no longer just a fact of life, but an insult, reminding an infertile woman of the passage of time, of yet another failure to conceive, bringing grief over the life that might-have-been. I’ve taken to trying to analyze my own feelings on the matter, hoping that understanding my reactions might give me greater insight into what treatments I want to pursue, what outcome I want to all of these medical issues.
I certainly experience the sense of rushing time; and yet I don’t seem to feel that sense of grief. Disappointment, yes; a sense of failure; frustration over the lack of answers; but not grief. Sometimes this makes me question whether I’m even cut out for parenthood in the first place. On the other hand, it’s more likely that I don’t experience that kind of grief because instead I’m busy battling pain. Physical pain, that is, not emotional. Or perhaps I just don’t recognize the grief because it is subsumed into the physical pain; perhaps not acknowledging the emotional pain makes the physical pain harder to endure.
Whatever the case, I am in pain, without good reason. No blood tests or ultrasounds have shown any physiological reason for the pain. The diagnostic laparoscopy last summer showed very, very mild signs of minimal endometriosis, which might explain some of the pain but surely can’t account for the degree of pain I go through every month. For about seven days out of every month, I’m on narcotic pain relievers and prescription ibuprofen – and even that doesn’t totally erase the pain. It’s so absurd – it’s menstrual cramps, how could it possibly be interfering so significantly in my life! And yet it’s there, and it complicates everything.
I’ve always had bad menstrual cramps; even when I was a teenager I had days where I would end up nauseous to the point of vomiting because of the pain, and I have clear memories of at least twice blacking out entirely because of it. When I got engaged, I finally started birth control, and that helped immensely. For seven years, the pain was at least manageable, and predictable. Then we decided to stop birth control and start a family. That’s when the pain returned. Gradually at first, but increasing in severity month by month, becoming a more serious problem when it became evident that we’d be battling infertility. Because the only real solution to the pain problem IS some form of birth control.
So that’s the dilemma that I confront month by month: would I rather survive severe pain in hopes of having children, or eliminate fertility in the hopes of controlling pain?
What’s the right answer to a question like that? How does one even begin the decision-making process? On the one hand, the promise of possible parenthood; on the other hand, a serious blow to a quality of life that is already negatively affected by hearing loss and by recurrent vestibular migraines.
The one thing that I am clinging to in the midst of this kind of stress is the promise of Resurrection. Christ did not come to offer me spiritual redemption alone, but also redemption of the entire physical world. Someday, I will be able to sing again – to hear conversations – to experience a body without pain and without dizziness and without sickness. Someday, I will be no longer invisible, but present with the One who sees me as I am and loves me; I won’t be still carrying around the weight of resentment that attends invisibility, but rejoicing as one of the Communion of Saints. This belief for me is not escape from suffering, but a promise that suffering has meaning: it is Hope.
Isaiah 54: 1-5:
“Sing, O barren one, who did not bear;
break forth into singing and cry aloud,
you who have not been in labor!
For the children of the desolate one will be more
than the children of her who is married,” says the Lord.
“Enlarge the place of your tent,
and let the curtains of your habitations be stretched out;
do not hold back; lengthen your cords
and strengthen your stakes.
For you will spread abroad to the right and to the left,
and your offspring will possess the nations
and will people the desolate cities.
“Fear not, for you will not be ashamed;
be not confounded, for you will not be disgraced;
for you will forget the shame of your youth,
and the reproach of your widowhood you will remember no more.
For your Maker is your husband,
the Lord of hosts is his name;
and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer,
the God of the whole earth he is called.”