Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. As I reflect on things I am grateful for I would like to share the top 5 ways people have shown us grace as we struggle with my least favorite word, moist. Just kidding! That’s my second least favorite word.
My least favorite word, infertility.
At first, and I’m not proud to admit it, I wrote a “Top 5 things not to say to someone struggling with infertility” list but it reeked of ungratefulness and was basically a rant of advice… about not giving advice.
It disregarded all the obvious ways we have been cared for and truly blessed by so many of you in this difficult season. After reading it, my smart and wonderful husband challenged me to flip it around in the spirit of Ephesians 4:29.
“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”
It was a wonderful, transformative exercise to reflect on all the ways we have been shown grace and mercy from our friends and family over the past several years.
So here are the top 5 ways people have “given us grace” as we’ve walked the painful journey of infertility.
You gave us grace when…
1. You asked us questions.
So many of you have asked us questions of varying intensity that have helped us process what we are going through.
From general questions like “What did the doctor say?” to interesting ones like “Can you rank the miscarriages in order of hardest?” each question helped us sort through all our complicated thoughts and feelings (of which there are many). In asking and then listening to our answers you communicated that you cared.
You asked questions specific to the season we were in. When we first discovered our medical challenges you asked questions like “How much does that cost?” and “What is endometriosis?” Gradually that season turned into “When will you know the results?” and “When is the next ultrasound?”
When things got really bad you asked questions like “Have you named them?” and “What would you say to God if he were sitting right here?” And nowadays you ask questions like “What agencies are you looking at?” and “How do you feel about open adoption?”
Each time you took the time to ask a question I felt like you were hugging me with your words. I felt pure gratitude. I mean that. And it’s not just because I am a big fan of asking questions myself.
So thank you for taking the time to ask us questions and listen to our answers. They help.
2. You let us be angry/sad/confused.
The most encouraging text I got after we miscarried the umpteenth time was from my hilarious, Jesus loving, sister in law, Rebecca, and it simply said, “fuck”. It expressed perfectly what I felt inside.
I think because infertility is private it can be invisible to many people. And in this way the suffering and losses associated with it are misunderstood and somewhat minimized. Add to that the way American’s avoid grief and the Christian faith that encourages you to have joy in affliction and long story short, sometimes we felt bad about feeling bad.
It was always a relief to be around people who sat in the crappy feelings with us and didn’t do anything else. No assigning a narrative, no telling a story about their friends sister, no platitudes about God being in control. Just sat in it and let us know you were with us for the long haul. It proved invaluable to be given permission to be honest about the feelings of grief, anger, despair, and frustration.
When you let us be honest and didn’t try to correct or judge these often bleak feelings you helped us deal with reality. Whether you knew it or not, you were actually behaving like Christ, who enters into our pain and is not afraid of our despair. He goes there with us and is not afraid of the hard stuff.
3. You brought it up.
This one might be surprising because in our PC culture people tend to want to err on the side of saying nothing rather than saying something wrong. I battle with this one myself when friends are going through something challenging. Do they want to talk about it? Will I make them mad by asking? So I get the dilemma.
All I can say is, thanks to you, we have learned that it usually helps to talk about it.
That being said, we usually wait for friends (that already know) to ask us about it because it is such a downer of a conversation. And if they don’t ask, we don’t usually bring it up. But that isn’t because we don’t want to talk about it. It’s because there is risk in bringing it up. We risk being vulnerable, annoying, depressing, misunderstood, and getting hurt by people saying insensitive things.
But when you have brought it up it’s like you were saying “I care about you”.
Even though it’s hard to talk about (and I might not want to talk about it in that moment) that was the grace. You are giving us the gift of choosing not to talk about it. As opposed to making that choice for us.
So many of you have demonstrated this grace in action by saying things like “You totally don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to but I’ve been thinking about you and am wondering how are you doing?”
Hugely helpful. So thank you.
4. You let us be involved with your child’s life with sensitivity.
This one is bittersweet.
On the one hand, being around your bundle of joy is painful. That’s just the truth. Other people’s children are a living reminder of what we desperately want and do not have… may never have. Many of your children are the same age as one’s we have lost. So sometimes it is hard to be reminded of all that when we see your beautiful child.
But on the other hand, we love your kid. We love being Aunt Nat and Uncle Ryan. We love the unique person that they are. Your children are the greatest grace to us in this crappy waiting room. We love hanging out with them, holding them when they are born, seeing them grow, quoting funny stuff they’ve said over the years, praying for them, and being a face that they recognize when they wake up from a nap.
Both things are true. It is a decidedly complex feeling being ridiculously joyful in the presence of the thing that also breaks your heart. They are the hurt and the healing. They are ground zero for the choice between being bitter or being grateful. Suffice it to say- it’s weird.
So thank you for when you simultaneously let us be a part of your kids’ lives and appreciated how it was challenging to do so. Thank you for inviting me to your baby shower but being understanding when I declined the invitation. Thank you for asking if we would rather not be around your baby given a recent loss. Thank you for sharing your challenges with parenting but never complaining about it to us.
Your sensitivity to this inner battle has been truly helpful.
5. You remembered us.
Infertility is super lonely. Sometimes it seems like we are the only people on the planet who are in this situation. When you remembered us you made us feel way less lonely. Here are some of the ways we felt remembered by all of you.
Months after a miscarriage, you texted “I love you and I’m still sorry”.
- You continue to pray for us.
You immediately called my husband after he sent you an email explaining some of our bad news.
You let me know you noticed me in a situation where everyone was talking about their labor stories and I was really quiet.
You (miraculously) deduced my situation at that birthday party even though you hardly knew me. Then you reached out to me, offering your support.
You gave me a heads up when I was going to be at a party where some lady was going to be super pregnant.
You sent me a note saying a bunch of really nice, loving things when yet another Mothers Day came and went.
- You gave me a long, loving hug and cried with me after that party where everyone was showing off their newborns.
You thanked me for coming to your baby shower even though you knew it was hard for me.
You brought us a meal after another loss.
You expressed anger that God said no to your prayers too.
You chose a quick moment at a busy gathering and whispered in my ear “I heard and I’m so sorry.”
You offered to get me drunk after we lost another one. (ha!)
You sent me that book that helped you through a tough time.
You have sent us flowers every single time we lost one. That had to be expensive at this point!
You listened to me with total empathy even though you struggle with having a house full of kids:)
- You made sure I wasn’t alone that night we had the sad ultrasound and Ryan had to be on a flight a few hours later.
I could go on and on with the ways people have shown us kindness through these last 4 years but I’ll stop there. I am overwhelmed with gratefulness for each and every one of you.
And to those of you that I don’t know- I hope this post has given you some idea of how to encourage people you love that are walking a similar road.