I said something truly terrible to my husband yesterday.
We were discussing the plight of some friends of ours who lost their baby late in the second trimester. My heart aches for them, I’ve shed tears with them, I pray for them. My grief for their baby is real.
But then yesterday – I told my husband that I envy them.
Isn’t that a horrible thing to say? That I’m jealous of a woman who is facing the intense pain of losing a baby?
And yet….she conceived. I can’t even do that. I haven’t even experienced the joy of feeling new life growing inside me, and I probably never will. As devastating and awful and unfair as it is, she at least knows that she is not barren. I don’t even have that.
I still am a little surprised that I can envy grief. What does that say about me? Emotionally, am I as big a failure as I am physically? Allowing for hyperbole, that IS how I feel – like a failure. My body won’t do what it is designed to do. Infertility and hearing loss….cutting me off from other people, isolating me, warping my sense of hope in the future.
Part of my envy is tied to this feeling of invisibility. My friend lost her baby; people respond with an outpouring of compassion and love and support. The few people I’ve talked to about infertility – their response is generally “well, you’re young….” or “well, but you can adopt if you want kids”, or a nicer version of “so what?” The assumption seems to be that because I haven’t hit menopause, I can’t grieve over not having children – “it might still happen”, or “you’re young, you’ll get over it.” As if this is the first major, overwhelming, life-changing medical problem I’ve had to face! As if age alone is some indicator of how I should feel about it! As if I don’t deserve any compassion for this overwhelming feeling of grieving inadequacy!
It’s horrible to think that I’d envy a miscarriage. But I can’t shake the feeling. I am so alone with all of this. It’s such an ugly way to feel – and knowing how ugly the thought is just pulls me farther down into the abyss. I don’t have a functioning body, and now I’m beginning to think that I don’t have a rationally functioning mind, either.
Fortunately for me, my husband didn’t run to the hills when I said this to him. He understands – I think he’s the only person who understands – how difficult it is to continue to get up and stand strong again and again and again and again, as problems after problem gets added to my stack of problems. I get so tired of trying to appear undefeated by these constant storms of life. My only comfort – literally the only thing I can cling to right now – is the first question from the Heidelburg Catechism:
Q. 1. What is your only comfort, in life and in death?
A. That I belong–body and soul, in life and in death–not to myself but to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ….
Without that comfort, despair and envy would rule my life With this comfort, I will – get up and keep going, with my head held up, “bloody but unbowed”.