Infertility is truly the hidden grief. It’s a loss one can carry silently for years, even for a lifetime. It’s not a grief that is tangibly visible by others. Infertility; it’s complicated. I write this as an adoptive mom who has experienced infertility and I write this for those who silently hurt and for their loved ones who wonder when their pain will heal.
The complexity of infertility is that it is really an issue of 2 separate, yet related losses; (1) the loss of being a mom, and (2) the loss of pregnancy and birthing a child created from you and your husband. The first loss, the yearning to become a mom can be healed and restored through adoption. But the second loss, the experience of pregnancy and bearing a child whose biology was created from a woman and her husband is a loss that cannot be restored. I think this is one of the great misunderstandings that so easily comes with infertility. Once a couple adopts and becomes parents, it is easily assumed that the pain of infertility has been healed because they have reached their goal; parenthood. I was once asked after we adopted our son if the years of struggling to get pregnant had been washed away with the joy of my son and becoming a mom. I answered no, because my loss of infertility and the amazing blessing of becoming a mom through my son’s adoption are separate issues. My dream, my life-long desire to become a mom had been fulfilled and I could not have felt more blessed and joyful to call my little man “son.”
But alongside that joy, I carry a sorrow for the loss of pregnancy. It’s a sorrow for the baby I’ll never feel growing inside of me or the experience of birthing that baby into the world. It’s the swapping of stories with other moms about the woes of pregnancy or telling my heroic story of labor and delivery. It’s the special kind of mom’s club of pregnancy and birth that I won’t ever quite fit into. It’s the badge of courage I’ll never get to wear for what I endured to birth my baby. It’s the maternity ward that I’ll always feel a stranger in when visiting friends and their new babies. It’s the pregnant moms I cannot relate to or give advice to about pregnancy. It’s the bonding experience of breast feeding that I’ll never share with my babies. These things may seem so trite in the grand scheme of parenthood but sometimes it is those little things that can cut to a woman’s very soul. Childbearing is a defining part of a woman’s identity. Bearing children is unique and special, it is part of what it means to be woman. And when that unique and special part of being a woman is taken away, it can leave a women struggling to find her identity.
The hidden grief of infertility is that little pocket of pain and sadness a woman carries in her heart for the experience of childbearing that she will never be blessed with. In some seasons that pocket of grief is tucked away unnoticed but then without warning that little pocket opens up with the news of a friend’s pregnancy or while sitting in a circle with women sharing their labor and delivery stories and the pain of infertility surfaces once again.
For me, it has been 6 years since first learning about our infertility. That little pocket of grief has grown smaller over the years and some days I don’t even remember it is there. That is the way of grief, slowly it heals as the Healer calms one’s soul with his grace and peace. I don’t know if that little bit of sorrow will ever fully be healed. But I know where to go when it surfaces. Whatever your story is in your journey to motherhood, whether you have experienced loss through infertility, miscarriage, stillborn, or failed adoptions, may you turn to the Lord and receive peace and healing to the deepest parts of your soul. As one who has been given healing, I pray and encourage you on as you seek the Healer.