On Christmas Eve, friends of mine who had been trying to conceive for eight years lost their very unplanned miracle at 14 weeks. They had planned to tell their families on Christmas Day. Instead the wife ended up in the hospital for four days with complications. They had stopped all NaPro technology and trying in June. This baby was a total surprise in every way. My heart breaks still for them.
Molly of Molly Makes Do is a multiple miscarriage survivor and has suffered with infertility and subfertility. She has written a blog post about some of the difficulties of her situation and she identifies an ugly side of women who cannot move past the loss and harbor bitterness, resentment and guilt.
But there is another side not addressed. A side my friends have found most painful in the past few years. Rejection.
While it is true that we should not allow our sadness or desire to consume us, it certainly can be compounded when we are rejected by family, friends and even strangers by our ability or inability to bear children. The wife of the couple had told me a few years ago that she and her husband were the only siblings (on both sides of the family) not to be selected as Godparents. One of her brothers had told her his wife and her family had strong feelings that Godparents should be parents themselves because they would need that experience in order to raise the child if the parents could not. I remember sitting in silence wanting to ask of what I had heard was what I thought I had heard. One of my children’s Godparents is a priest. He will physically never be a father of biological children. That thought never entered my mind in selecting my children’s Godparents. Probably because the church does not specify that Godparents must be biological parents. I cannot imagine the pain it caused my friend and her husband to hear that and realize it could be why none of their other siblings had asked them to be Godparents. They didn’t bother to ask anyone else as they really did not want to know (they continue to operate under the assumption that there were/are other valid reasons that they were not chosen).
They also relayed many times that friends no longer invited them to events they had previously (think Christmas parties, lunch dates etc) because most of the assumed my friends would no longer have interest in these events because children were now present. Some of that assumption, when unpacked, was from a sort of “survivors guilt” where people know how badly you wanted a child and feel like including you is flaunting their success in some way. Some of it was discomfort at having friends unable to conceive in the presence of their family. I realize that taking someone’s feelings into consideration is done with best intentions and truly there are some things that maybe it wouldn’t make sense for my friends to be invited to, but I can tell you from experience, shutting people out because you are afraid to hurt their feelings? That only leads to more hurt and resentment.
Then there was “the incident.” At the urging of his father, a few years back, my friend’s husband volunteered to be a baseball coach at a local youth league. He was assigned a team and made calls and was very excited to start. The night before the first practice, he got a call from the Sports Director who told him he was being asked to step-down. When asked why, they told him: parents wanted someone with parenting experience to coach their childrens’ team. Turns out in one of the phone calls a parent asked him if his child would be on the team, when he said no, he didn’t have a child yet, that parent called other parents and together they questioned his intentions for wanting to coach children. I have no words. None. Other than to say, I doubt these same parents would have protested a single or childless teacher in their child’s classroom.
Feelings of rejection are all over when you’re enduring infertility and miscarriage. Your body rejected your baby. Your baby rejected you as a parent. And sadly, that God rejected you as a prospective parent. They aren’t true (although some anatomical or medical issues can cause miscarriage or infertility if not treated) or rational, but they creep up into the minds of many women and men going through these trials. It is difficult enough to get birth announcements, pregnancy announcements etc and try to stay positive and thankful for the blessings you do have. But when others let you know your lack of success is a problem for them, well, it can be a true slap in the face. I’ve been blessed that no one hurt me in this way. And I would like to think most families, friends and organizations are not like that. For those that are suffering through this additional rejection, I will say prayers for you and whomever is perpetrating the rejection.
If you have a friend, or family member suffering through infertility or pregnancy loss, please, don’t shut them out. Don’t stop including them in your lives or disqualify them from anything. If you are afraid of hurt feelings, invite the person but let them know, if you don’t feel like coming it’s okay, but if you do, we’d love to have you. Your kindness, your love, could be what something that tips the balance between embitterment and sorrowful gratitude.