As told to Brandi Lytle
Carol, the oldest of six, is a PCOS survivor, who has known about her infertility condition since she was a teenager. While she prayed that her sisters would not have to endure the pain this condition causes her, watching them have littles has still been difficult. (Trigger Warning)
As I read Carol’s story, I realized once again how important it is for us to allow others to see our pain…
What difficulty were you struggling with?
My worst adversary of my life has been fear. Not the rational kind, but the kind of fear that comes of imagining various situations that never occurred except in my own mind.
Why had you lost your joy?
I have 5 wonderful younger sisters: Sarah, Katie Joy, Laura, and April. My sister, Laura, gave birth first in May 2012. As Laura carefully placed her son in my arms, I fell in love with my nephew. But there was also sadness in my heart, as I remembered all my prayers for a son of my own.
As the years passed, Laura tried to reach out to me, but I refused every invitation. She wanted to include me in her children’s birthday parties, but I never wanted to attend. My sister, Sarah, tried encouraging me to open my heart to Laura. My irrational fears flooded in, and I refused to follow Sarah’s suggestion. So, I pushed Laura away.
When Laura had her fourth child in March 2017, I refused to congratulate her. All I could think of was my reality–my childless marriage, my infertility pain. I couldn’t find a way past my grief to be even slightly happy for her. And my irrational fears were intense as I thought of all the awful things Laura could say to me if I dared be vulnerable.
Some months later, I admitted my selfish choice not to congratulate my sister in reaction to a post in a childless group. One of my friends rebuked me kindly, but firmly. My friend had suffered infertility longer than me and had found a way to make her life joyful and relevant. So, I couldn’t exactly get upset at her.
What good thing (no matter how big or small) helped you to start focusing on the positive?
I was finally ready to communicate with Laura and be vulnerable. So, in October 2017, I wrote her a 4-page letter. It included congratulations on the birth of her son, as well as news of my infertility journey. And then I waited…
Laura messaged me a few weeks later. First, she said that she saw a lot of courage in my choice to open my heart to her, and she admired me for that. Secondly, she said that she had seen sorrow in my expression lots of times, but until she read my letter, she didn’t know why. She didn’t want to ask me why I was sad because she worried I might see that as her being disrespectful of my sorrow. But she knew I was hurting, and she wanted to find a way to comfort me.
Laura went on to say that she can’t imagine how painful it must be to want a child and not be able to have one. But if there was anything she could do to ease my sorrow, she would do it. She told me that she admires me for the woman I am, how I am not bitter over my infertility or hateful to her. She said that she wants me to be as involved with her children as I feel comfortable, but she understands when I don’t feel up to it.
What would you like to say to others who are going through the same struggle that you have overcome (or are in the process of overcoming)?
I thought that because Laura is a mother of four, my pain wouldn’t matter to her. I was wrong. She is very compassionate, so willing to try to show me love.
I would encourage other childless women to be open to friendships with mothers – women like my sister Laura exist, compassion and love in their hearts. They can offer support and blessings in ways childless women generally don’t expect.
Please, don’t be afraid to be selectively vulnerable – sometimes that’s the only way a woman like my sister can begin to understand infertility’s anguish, even if it is second-hand. Of course, we will always have acquaintances who are parents that show little or no compassion for our situation. Seek out the ones with compassion. They will be gold in your life.
Beautiful one, like Carol’s story shows, even mothers can support us on our childless journey, if only we’re brave enough to be vulnerable…
Will you be brave and share Your Good Things Story? You never know who you will inspire…
Photo Credit: Xochi Romero on StockSnap.io
This is a lovely ending. Seeking out those who are compassionate is what I have done. My point too is that those children that you hold – whether they are nieces and nephews, or children of friends – are not the children that you wanted to have. Loving them isn’t a betrayal of the children we never had. And as childless aunts (I’ve written quite a lot on this), we can play roles in their lives that cannot be filled by their parents, or their other aunts/uncles with children. It can be a special relationship, and can bring us joy. It’s not the same as being a parent, I know, but embracing these relationships can help heal us.
Wishing you well, Carol.
God bless you Carol.