But more than that, you are a mother to your very own child who is not yet with you. However they come, if you still believe they will, then we still believe with you. And if you need us to believe it on the days when you just can't, well we're here for that too. The beauty, the purity, the agony with which you long for them has already made you their mother. Motherhood is nothing if not subjecting yourself to being unspeakably flattened by love, and you're already doing that.
We don't always know what to say to your pain. You are stronger than we've ever had to be. But there are a few things you need to hear, even if we can't say them as well as you deserve.
Your suffering is real. You suffer in secret, or around a very select few. Most people don't know the deepest longings of your heart. Many even make ignorant assumptions or ask insensitive questions. You bear a grief that is largely unseen by the rest of the world, and you bear it for years. You don't even get to work through the stages of grief, because it is never final, never done. It is an ongoing cycle of hope and pain, and you never get a break from it. You are so incredibly strong, my dear. So incredibly beautiful.
Strength doesn't always look strong. Sometimes your strength lies in knowing when to take care of yourself first. Sometimes it means not attending our baby shower because you've already co-hosted three this year and you know you can't bear another. Sometimes it means crying on our shoulder even though you feel like you've done it too many times before. Sometimes your strength is in your silence, sometimes in your openness. But it's always there, and we see it even when you don't.
You don't have to want to adopt, and you don't need to "just relax". You are allowed your own journey. This is your story, yours. We do not know better than you what it will look like, and we certainly cannot offer you any advice that you haven't already thought of a million times over. We love you and we want to take your pain away and sometimes we say stupid things. Forgive us.
If you do adopt, you don't have to stop grieving infertility. Some do and some don't, but again, this story is yours alone. If you bring children into your family through adoption, we understand that sometimes you may grieve not carrying them inside of you or not knowing what labor feels like. That doesn't mean you love them any less or that you are any less their real mother. We recognize that, and we are not afraid to hear the hard stuff.
We need your voice. When you're ready to speak, that is. We need you to share your story, we need to gain from your wisdom, we need to change our own paradigm from your experience. We don't want to pressure you and we don't want you to speak until the time is right, but when it is, we desperately need to hear what you have to say. We need to hear that suffering produces character. We need to hear that children are only and ever a treasure. We need to hear that human beings are worth hoping for; we need to hear that life is worth fighting for.
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This is National Infertility Awareness Week. If there are ones in your life who are affected by infertility, miscarriage, stillbirth, or secondary infertility, think of them a little bit more this week. Spend some time in prayer, send an encouraging note, or reach out to them in some other way that would be meaningful to them personally. Not out of pity, but out of recognition that they are bearers of something that you desperately need. If you're not sure what that is, this week is a great time to find out.