Navigating painful reminders when you’re struggling with infertilityWritten by Marlo Schalesky
What's inside this article
It had been a hard day. Despite yet another trip to the infertility clinic, I wasn’t pregnant. Still. So, as the sun slipped behind the horizon, all I wanted to do was forget – forget about cradles and bibs, diapers and rattles, everything that had to do with the baby I couldn’t seem to have.
But life conspired against me.
An invitation to a friend’s baby shower sat on the kitchen table when I got home. The church newsletter reminded me of baby dedications the following Sunday. Even my favourite TV show flaunted not one but two commercials for diapers. It just wasn’t fair, especially when the email came from a family member telling me of her unexpected pregnancy.
I might have been able to stand it if I hadn’t been to a birthday party just the night before where an acquaintance innocently asked the most painful question of all: "So when are you two going to start a family?"
I couldn’t escape the constant reminders of what I hoped for and didn’t have. Why did it seem that every other couple was able to experience the joy of bringing a child into the world?
I wrestled with that question for months, until I discovered a startling fact: millions of women in North America struggle with infertility. The (U.S.) National Center for Health Statistics reports that 7.3 million women of childbearing age have sought infertility services, and 2 million women are still unable to have a child.
So how do these women navigate a world filled with children? Is there any way to turn the reminders of pain into something good? Surprisingly, part of the answer came to me over dinner at my favourite Mexican restaurant.
My husband and I were squeezed into a small table for two. And, of course, at the next table sat a couple with their newborn baby. The baby fussed. The mother tensed. The baby cried. The father squirmed. The baby yowled. The mother leapt up and snatched the baby from the car seat.
"See, we’ll never be able to go anywhere again," she said as she rushed for the door.
I crossed my arms and scowled. "They don’t know what a blessing they have."
My husband looked at me for a long moment.
"No, they don’t," he said, "but we do. We should pray."
After swallowing my shock, I realized he was right. Our infertility allowed us a deep and unique understanding of what a blessing a child is. A baby is a miracle.
Over the years, as other reminders came, I embraced the fact that I had a choice: I could allow those moments to be about me – my loss, my disappointments – or I could ask God to bless each child and help his parents realize what a wondrous miracle they have.
A simple answer
I also learned that I didn’t have to go to every baby shower and attend every children’s event. I knew that I was responsible for protecting my emotions and keeping myself from dwelling on disappointments. For close friends and family, I attended, but for others, I prayed and sent a gift. That was enough.
Even before my husband and I were blessed with our own children, I came to realize that we were already a family. Whenever I was asked that painful question about when we would start a family, I could confidently answer: "We already have. We just don’t know if God is going to add to it."
Thankfully, He did.
Marlo Schalesky, author of Empty Womb, Aching Heart, lives with her husband and five children in California. Her first four children were conceived with the help of fertility treatments.
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