To The Childless Mother Suffering from Infertility

4/22/15

For that is what you are.  You are a mother to your very core, and we see it.  We see it in the way you nurture animals, the way you nurture the earth, the way you nurture us through hard times, the way you nurture our children.  You give and you give and you give of yourself and it is not unnoticed, though it may feel that way.  You open yourself wide for love, you pour yourself out for those dear to you; we see it.  And we call you what you are: mother.

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.

*  *  *

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.

46 comments:

  1. Erica Giavasis JarrettApril 23, 2015 at 1:20 PM

    Thanks for this and for putting it so well.

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  2. I wish there was a way to individualize it to speak to every woman's unique situation and pain... this is such a broad stroke on the canvas. But I thought it was better than silence.

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  3. Erica Giavasis JarrettApril 23, 2015 at 2:27 PM

    I appreciate it. I feel like I need to write something but haven't got the energy today. I fall into an odd group as as someone who thought they were headed for infertility and then was given the gift of a baby, but now, not being able to have more is an odd spot to sit in. I am so grateful for what I have but still feel a sense of loss too but then sort of feel guilty saying it because i was able to have a child. overall fertility is such a hard topic, it is so personal and remains so private it can feel really isolating so thanks for your post.

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  4. Absolutely. Thanks for sharing that here. I know it's an awkward thing to comment on because you really can't do justice to it in such few words, and it is so incredibly personal. But i really appreciate you offering your journey. xoxo


    (oh and from time to time I read a blog called Molly Makes Do- she's in a similar situation so you might be interested in checking it out.)

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  5. That's my girl right there.

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  6. After having struggled over the last couple of weeks to find the words for my own blog after another chemical pregnancy (very early miscarriage) I finally managed to write something today. Then a link to this page came up on my FB feed and as I read what you'd written I just cried. Thank you for putting into words so much that I couldn't.

    I've shared it on a couple of Facebook IVF support groups and the comments from so many people just shows how well you've captured what can be such a unique journey for everyone. Thank you for sharing such beautiful words

    https://www.facebook.com/pages/One-Almighty-Journey/391895980960914

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  7. Debbi, I am humbled and honored that you feel my words have done justice to your story. I was a bit intimidated at the idea of writing this- feeling completely inadequate and having no firsthand experience- but my desire to offer something, anything, trumped my timidity in the end. There have been times in my own life when I am so deep in the thick of the pain that I simply cannot put words to it, and I have taken great comfort in reading the words of others instead. I can't tell you how thankful I am that I have (at least somewhat) been able to return that favor for another woman.

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  8. Beautifully put. There is another aspect though , that doesn't fit into this category but hurts just as much. After 3 miscarriages (discovered at the 12 week scans) we tried IVF and was blessed with an incredible little boy who is now 7. But my grieving hasn't ended. I grieve for the babies I have lost, but I also grieve for the ones that will never be created. I am now 44 and feel my chances of another child are gone. As an infertile who has had success, society now feels that I am not eligible to grieve over the babes I will never hold. I should be thankful for what I have, and there is no understanding that I am incredibly thankful for what I have, but that doesn't mean I cannot grieve the other babies I will never have. When I am sad at my friend's pregnancy announcements, it isn't jealousy - I am not sad they are pregnant. I'm sad that I will never have another child. Infertility is something I wish nobody ever had to understand.

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  9. I'm glad you added your experience here, Lisa. I am so, so sorry for your losses. You are absolutely entitled to grief. Hope you give yourself some much deserved TLC today.

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  10. :-) - thanks Shannon.

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  11. I'm right there until the final paragraph. "We need" seems to negate all the previous ownership of the emotions by the childless mother. As a mother of a daughter who will never be able to carry a child, I have a perhaps different perspective - but it's what she needs, not me, that's most important. It's a very private pain.

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  12. I'm really glad you pointed this out, and maybe I should have worded it differently. Absolutely it is what she needs that is most important. I couldn't possibly agree more. My intention with that paragraph was to convey that the world has so much to learn from these strong, longsuffering women. I do realize that it's a very private pain, and I'm sure there are some women who never want to share about it. I just hope that those who DO know that what they have to say is incredibly valuable to the rest of the world. But I absolutely agree with you that that comes down to the individual woman's personal needs and wants, first and foremost. I am truly so sorry for your daughter's pain.

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  13. This is beautiful and so needed.
    Thank you for shining a light Shannon.

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  14. As the mother of adopted children, it's been a bitter sweet experience. Not being able to have my own children was tragic news, I always wanted to be a mommy. All of my children have come from neglected and or abusive homes. one of the kids has R.A.D. (reactive attachment disorder) it is that child that put our family through a living hell, abusing not only me but the other children and later after my husband got sick and had surgery our son abused my husband. I am now a widowed mother with two children still at home , a couple of them have even gotten back in touch with their biolical mothers and i Don't see the often which hurts like crazy. I love all my children no matter what and I wouldn't change a thing . because like every women that wants a child every child deserves a chance and a family.

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  15. Joan, thank you for sharing a bit of your story here. You have certainly seen your fair share of suffering, my friend. I hope that you give your sweet kiddos some extra hugs today. Your saying "the pain is worth it" is so powerful.

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  16. Natasha Jade HindApril 29, 2015 at 5:42 AM

    Reading this has made me more determined to donate my eggs I've always wanted to give a family a gift that will complete them xxx

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  17. I feel completely understood. Thank you, Shannon. Much love to you.

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  18. Thank you for sharing your heart, Natasha.

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  19. This post just reached right in and touch my soul and left me in a weepy mess. This is everything I've needed to hear for 8 long years. I am now miraculously a mother to my son only by the grace and blessings of the universe, God, and his birthparents. "A childless mother" is precisely how I would describe my whole being until I met him 5 months ago. Thank you, stranger on the Internet. :)

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  20. What a beautiful ending to a very painful story, Jen. Congratulations on your precious son!

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  21. That is such a beautiful gesture. Some women like me will never be able to carry a child because of illness. I had ovarian cancer and because of that can never have a baby. I did not know harvesting eggs was an option till it was too late. So, for someone like me, this is one of the most beautiful gifts you can give.

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  22. Dear Shannon, I cannot begin to tell you how your words were like a salve to my heart. So often, I am left feeling like I don't matter because I don't have children (I never got pregnant and then had ovarian cancer and had to have an emergency complete hysterectomy), or made to feel like I have nothing to offer because I am not a "mother" when in my very core, I have the heart of a mother. Thank you for getting it! Thank you for saying it! God bless you!

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  23. Constance AndersonApril 30, 2015 at 1:41 AM

    I have been trying to convince for 7 1/2 years. Doctors cannot tell me why. My husband has been tested his swimmers are great. They tell me to never give up, which was hard at first with no answers. I Am trying to Adopt but the waiting list is 2 years. I have not given up hope! But i can say that every time i hear someone is pregnant i can admit that i stay far away from them as possible. Im tired of people telling me to Keep it in faith it will come, when they didnt have to even try. And for the other women out there like me. I'm sorry for Your pain. Your not alone. Keep your chin up. We all feel this pain. But we will have our chance.

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  24. Please don't take this the wrong way but if I would have known anything about reactive attachment disorder I would not have adopted that child. After my husband was battling with an illness and a major surgery our oldest son son kicked my husband in the Stomach resulting in his death. The child who was 17 at the time was removed from our home by tje judge and placed in a state mental hospital . I miss my husband every day and no longer have contact with our oldest adopted son. He is now out of the hospital tormenting others.

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  25. Ugh, it breaks my heart that our world makes you feel that way. You sound like an AMAZING woman. Truly. You absolutely have so much to offer.

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  26. I appreciate you sharing a bit of your story here, Constance. I can't imagine what you've been through the past 7.5 years. Thank you for encouraging other women in this space!

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  27. Wow, Joan, what a tragic story. That must be a tortuous load to carry. I am familiar with RAD and agree that prospective parents should be meticulously educated on it and extensively trained in it (not that you weren't, maybe you were). It can indeed be a life threatening condition. I wish I had more/better words to offer you, friend. But know that you are on my heart today.

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  28. Sherilyn EdwardsMay 3, 2015 at 3:24 PM

    That is the main reason that when I was a foster parent, the last two kids almost broke me. I almost lost my marriage and sanity. The older child was manipulative and cruel when I was alone with her but charming and sweet when others especially my husband was around. Thank goodness we were not able to adopt them because of the difficulties caused by thrse childten we were seperated
    It took about two years to mend the damage. To this day my husband doesn't believe the behavior I described this child was doing, she was only four and I was afraid of what she was capable of.
    I can't imagine what would have happened had she been with us much longer.

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  29. Sherilyn EdwardsMay 3, 2015 at 3:28 PM

    Shannon, very little is mentioned about RAD during foster parent training. If most perspective parents were well educated and shown stats of adoption gone bad, they would have to cancel it to RUN for your life!

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  30. I truly appreciate everyone's comments here, however due to the sensitive nature of this post I will be moderating comments that stray from the topic of infertility. I have written a bit about adoption in the past, and will much more in the future as this is still a new blog, and I welcome your adoption-related comments on those posts.

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  31. This brought me to tears. I have been trying to conceive for 19 years and it has been so so hard. I have been raising my 4 step children and I love them with all my heart but it's just not the same... I sometimes just want to give up but at the same time I still have this little bit of hope that this miracle will happen..

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  32. Vangie, wow, I can't imagine suffering for as long as you have. I'm hoping for a miracle with you.

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  33. Crystal Elliott RoyalMay 8, 2015 at 8:48 PM

    I just came across this tonight. Mother's day weekend has been difficult for me since 2007 when I was diagnosed with PCOS while experiencing infertility. I had been diagnosed with Endometriosis in 2005, but received treatments and fully expected to be able to "get" pregnant when I was ready. It didn't happen that way and I am still a childless mother. Tonight as I was wading through the various posts on Facebook (Names, DOB, birthweight of my children), some mourning mother posts, I went in search of a way to say there are those of us who will never know the joy of being pregnant, the pain and experience of delivery or the thrill of holding our newborn in our arms. So, thank you for recognizing the pain that it is to live with infertility on a daily basis!

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  34. Thank you for sharing yourself a bit here, Crystal. I'm sure this is a difficult weekend for you and for many, many women in your shoes. You are seen, you are heard, you are valued, my friend. My heart is with you on Sunday, and I hope that some in your life take the time to remind you just how far your motherhood extends.

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  35. Thank you for posting this. As a childless mother, so much of this is dead-on. I have heard everything - if we quit trying it will happen; if we adopt, I'll get pregnant; IVF isn't God's plan; if we're not getting pregnant it's because we aren't supposed to be married and having kids (yes, I have actually been told that). I have been told I am lucky I don't have kids to chase after. I get asked when we are going to have kids.

    I am a woman who has never experienced pregnancy (that also means I haven't experienced a miscarriage which would be a whole different world of hurt). I will probably never know what pregnancy feels like. I will probably never experience childbirth. I have never felt a pregnant belly. It's hard to talk to others because everyone wants to fix it. Sometimes I just need someone's shoulder to cry on.

    I am the last one told about a new pregnancy because people are afraid to tell me. That hurts too; my infertility doesn't define me. I have had to become a strong person. I rejoice when I hear someone close to me is pregnant; I truly am happy for them. I wish people would alllow me to create my own boundaries of what is too much for me (one boundary for me is no church on Mother's Day - I spend the entire service weeping for my mom in heaven and my own grief of having no children).

    Infertility isn't a conversation people typically want to have with me. They can't fix it. They try to change the subject. They tell me their friend's cousin's aunt's friend had a baby after adopting. I get it. I know that happens. I also know it doesn't always happen. It's not my story. This is my story.

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  36. I so appreciate you taking the time to share your experience here, CB. I think a lot of us who haven't gone through infertility get so caught up in worrying about saying the wrong thing to those who have that we end up just not saying anything at all. On the other end of the spectrum are folks who mean well but who make comments, suggestions, etc out of ignorance and misunderstanding. Having women like you speak up is invaluable in helping educate others about what its like, what you need, and what you DON'T need. I am thankful for what I've learned through women in this combox, and I hope many others are too.

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  37. I definitely realize that those who do say something mean well and do my best with it. I know they don't mean to hurt me (amd if they realized it hurt me, it would hurt them as well). I've dealt with infertility now for 11-12 years and most days I can handle it well. Thank you for bringing up a topic that is so frequently avoided.

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  38. shannon! someone sent this to me and it's so fun to see your pretty face and hear your words. THANK YOU. as someone who has struggled (and is struggling) with infertility for almost 6 years....thank you.

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  39. Wynne! So fun to see your name pop up here! Thank you for the sweet encouragement. :)

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