Somewhere, somewhere, deep down inside I have a sense that God loves me and that what I am going through is for my good. It’s like a small flame inside me that glows while I kick and scream and throw a tantrum as my life goes in a direction that I never intended. For five days, I have been depressed. I have been depressed perhaps five times in my life of a kind called situational depression where as a normally contented and resilient person, external factors become too great to bear and I can’t fight off the dark cloud alone anymore. Another word for it might be difficulty coping with an objectively difficult situation. I imagine myself in a battle where, having thought better of myself than I should have, I went to fight an enemy that I was too weak to fight. I feel that right now this is where Christianity becomes a communal religion, because I feel like I can hardly lift my sword anymore and need the prayers and strength from others to continue. I need reinforcements.
Inside, I oscillate between thinking that what I am going through is “not that bad” and “too great to bear” all at the same time. And what is the issue? We have been trying to have a second child for a calendar year now – that momentous marker where the word “secondary infertility” comes to play and hopes are dashed of ever having a second child. (Not an “Orthodox year” yet, if you know what I mean, but a “calendar year” is still a long time.) I know there are plenty of people who would deal with this situation better than me, with enviable grace and dignity, or wouldn’t even feel like they were having a hardship, especially considering I already have a child. However, for some reason, things like this are hard for me and harder for me than they are for other people. Part of it is because of my intense INFJ personality type where I experience the world through my emotional feelings and not my rational and objective brain.
I have this irrational thought inside my head that I have had enough suffering in my life and do not need or want more. I realize how insane and irrational that thought is for an Orthodox Christian, but it’s how I “feel” and with what I am struggling. Any struggle with infertility, or not being able to have a child exactly when one wants one, seems like it should be reserved for people who had wonderful childhoods and have intact families and need a good dose of reality. Though, I know this is not actually true. We are all sinners and have intense struggles with ourselves, other sinful people, passions, and health issues – we all just get a different mix and amount of suffering in life.
All that to say, I did have a difficult, painful childhood, and even early adulthood, which I won’t go into detail on, and still struggle deeply with why it happened. And since it did happen, I am struggling with letting go of the idea that I deserve a perfectly happy and large family after the fact, with children coming exactly at my desired intervals. Deep down inside, I believe that the sun shines and the rain pours on everyone and that I don’t actually deserve anything, but like I said, I am still in the mode of kicking and screaming and am working towards letting go.
I am struggling with the idea of never having another child, of having an only child, and what this means for my family. I used to wake up every morning filled with excitement at the coming day, believing this was precious time to spend with my son, before the next baby would inevitably come and change everything. Now, I am struggling with the idea of doing the same thing for sixteen more years (I plan on homeschooling). I am struggling with being the only mom that is never busy and always up for a play date while for my friends with large families, weeks go by, and they hardly notice. Struggling with the idea of my son being lonely and him wondering why God would not give him brothers and sisters. (What will I say to him? I’m sure by then, I might have an answer.) Struggling with why people who hardly want more children get pregnant on accident or at the first try, etc, etc. Struggling with how I have my MBA from a good school and could be earning a high salary and have a “nice worldly life”, but I gave it all up because I love being a mother and discovered how much I love children and that there is nothing else comparable or fulfilling to me – yet another child does not come.
There is one common thing some people say to someone struggling with secondary infertility and that is something to the effect of “at least you have one,” or “you should be grateful for one.” I realize that my life would be infinitely harder if I was completely barren and I am very grateful that through God’s mercy He did not have me endure that. I think my son is amazing. I am very grateful. On most days, I secretly feel like a princess I feel so blessed to have an amazing husband, an amazing son, a great place to live, and the ability to afford healthy food. Sometimes I feel very overwhelmed by how blessed I feel…honestly, I do. However, I am still quite sad. This is still a trial. Trials are hard, and they are sad, or it would not be a trial. And when people imply there is a lack of gratefulness all they are doing is negating the current trial, whether they intend to or not. If I have my left arm, I will still miss my right arm if it gets cut off. If I have ten cookies, I will still be sad when one drops, even if I still have the nine left. Trials are trials. Gratefulness is a tool and a valid coping mechanism, and ungratefulness is a sin, I believe, but being sad because of trials is not because of ungratefulness, it is because life is hard, sad, and full of pain and suffering. Of course my amount of gratefulness can improve, I am of course guilty of sinful discontentment and ungratefulness like anyone else, but that is not WHY I AM SAD and saying those things does not help, at all. It just shuts a door to a further conversation where the root of my pain could be addressed. I am sad because I WANT TO KNOW THAT GOD LOVES ME. I want to know for sure that even though this is so painful and that I am embarrassed of my inability to cope properly, that He will still love me. Because through all this pain and confusion, I am forgetting the theology I used to know. Because book knowledge is not enough when faced with a personal trial. It requires love and strength that is greater, other worldly and derived from heaven or from a heavenly interaction with another human being.
When I interact with my son, sometimes it does help me to have a small insight to how God might be parenting me. (Though, it’s not a perfect parallel since I can explain to my son why I do what I do but God cannot explain to me, at least not directly, or at least I need someone to explain to me how God explains things to us.) At lunch today, I told my son, if you want any of my apple, you need to finish your eggs. My son currently loves apples and they are a good, healthy thing, but somehow my instinct is to make him finish his eggs first, the thing he wants less…so he can learn patience and gratefulness. I realize that I have a huge weakness in that area of patience when it comes to trials that involve love, or perceived deprivation of love, while on earth (waiting to meet a husband, waiting for the first kid, waiting for the second kid if he or she ever comes). I acknowledge that this trial might be good for me. However, I am also honest in saying that I don’t like it, I don’t really want it, and I can’t wait for it to end, and I am struggling to “feel” the love. I am struggling to deal with this trial with peace, grace, and dignity, but somewhere beneath the tears, through enough prayers of others, it can be done or it would not have happened to me. I am struggling to find a coping strategy that is not sinful and that does not include mental exercises such as “Well, I will just have the best one child you ever saw and he will be way better than your ten kids!”
I told a friend today that I needed to process through my sadness and get my “second wind.” A year ago, I told another friend that I thought it would take a year to get pregnant. Well, it’s been a year and now I have to brace myself for trying for another two years or so before we can psychologically close the door on having more. The picture I had in my head of my son playing with his close in age sibling will never happen. I will not hear giggles and glee in my home as two siblings play in the backyard and stumble over each other. I will not have two highchairs and a messy snack time in my kitchen. I am my son’s only constant friend, all day, every day, and if we are lucky enough to have more, he will be old enough to help with diapers. (Which makes it harder to have a bad day, especially when coping with this – I am all he has so I better snap out of it).
Well, that’s all for now. As soon as I got the idea of writing about my feelings, I started to feel the cloud lift a little bit. I have always needed a writing outlet when faced with a hard time.