I have heard it many times from women who are past the age of fruitfulness in the womb, who have never been given the gift of children: “I often feel that I am not the person that most ladies going through the thick of the infertility journey want to hear from, since I represent the person who no one wants to wind up being!”
“But I want to hear from you,” I usually whine. “What you say comforts me!”
So, indulge me a little and read Joanna’s joyous account of what life is like “on the other side.” I think you’ll find yourself cheering and rejoicing with me in God’s good gifts at the end:
I’ve realized a few things with age. As I look back on how my experience of infertility has changed with the years, I want to let you in on a little secret from further on down the road: In God’s mercy and timing, it does get better. While you’re in the throes of waiting for children (or waiting for more children), life can seem somewhat brutal. But when the door of fertility finally closes without any living children, the world doesn’t end. In fact, here are just a few of the many ways I’ve found that things got better; actually, much better after fertility passed:
I stopped putting life on hold
I spent the vast majority of my earlier years putting my life on hold while waiting for children. Don’t get me wrong: I was walking with God, and trying to do my best to profitably fill my days, but there was a part of me that was just, well, on hold. I wouldn’t consider taking a professional position because I thought I might get pregnant and would need to quit. I remember a period of about 10 years when I wouldn’t take an aspirin if I had a headache, or a cold remedy if I had a cold because I thought I might be pregnant and would hurt the baby. I planned my days around “What if’s” instead of “What is.” When the fertility door closed, I found that there is a whole new freedom to fully engage in the life that is, and not in the one that was only hoped for. And it’s a great place to be!
Friendships became much easier
When I was younger, the world seemed to revolve around having babies. My friends were having them, and I wasn’t, and it made me feel very left out of the loop. I remember one year I helped hostess eight baby showers! Conversations at social gatherings inevitably revolved around pregnancy and birth stories, and I never had anything to say. Then, once the initial flush of pregnancies were past, the women begin to coalesce around their children. Their lives revolved around play dates, and then soccer games, and quite frankly, I never could really find a way to fit in. But it has gotten better. Once my friends’ children began to leave home, they began to come back to an equilibrium. They may be moms, but that started to no longer be the center of their days or their perceived identities. They have more time, and we have begun to find we have more in common. In the meantime, though, I learned to cultivate single friends, and older friends, both of whom are a source of great joy to me!
I’m free from the constant hope/disappointment cycle
If you’re an infertile woman, I’ll bet you’re intimately familiar with the scripture that says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.” (Prov. 13:12) The desire I had for children was never fulfilled in the way that I hoped. It may sound really strange to say this, but finally being free from the hope of having children is liberating. Why? Because when you’re not constantly hoping for something, there is no corresponding disappointment. I’m free to thankfully enjoy my life…just the way it is.
I’m free from obsessing
After the fertility door closed, I was finally free from obsessing about what I should or shouldn’t be eating; about whether or not to try this or that fertility treatment; about whether or not to adopt; about what I might be doing wrong. And I was free from constantly being on the lookout for a way to fix whatever was wrong. What a relief!
People stop intruding
In my experience, when you hit your forties, people kind of stop intruding. You stop getting the “When are you going to have kids?” questions. You stop getting the “Why don’t you adopt?” questions. You stop getting the “If you would just relax/adopt/try-this-or-that-home-remedy/pray more/have more faith, you would get pregnant” advice. I still get asked whether I have kids, and I still get asked why we chose not to adopt, but other than that, it eased up a lot.
My personal life went back to being personal
Let’s see, how to say this? Your marital relations come out from under the microscope, and go back to being the loving expression of intimacy that they were meant to be. ‘Nuf said? 😉
I realized that fruitfulness and fertility are not the same thing
“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)
“For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Pet. 1:5-8)
In the kingdom of God, being fruitful is not equivalent with being fertile. Being fruitful is simply an outgrowth of abiding in Christ, and it’s available to everyone. Fertility can be an expression of fruitfulness in Christ, but it is only one expression. Being fertile doesn’t guarantee that you’re fruitful. Only abiding in Christ brings fruitfulness. And the fruit that we bear in Christ will remain for eternity. I think I always knew this with my head, but now that my fertility is past, my heart has begun to really grasp it, and let me tell you — it’s a very good place to be!
My relationship with God changed
When the door of fertility closed for me, my relationship with God changed. It stopped being so much about me trying to find ways to get Him to do what I wanted, and it became more about me trying to find ways to do what He wants. I still have a long way to go in this, but it’s very freeing to begin to live life on His terms instead of trying to get Him to order my life on mine.
So what did I find on the back side of the infertility door? Depression? Emptiness? Loneliness? Despair? Heartache? Actually, that’s not what I found at all. By God’s grace — and in His timing, I found joy, peace, laughter, love, life, and fruitfulness. Do I occasionally feel wistful about what I haven’t been given? Sure, there are times when I do; but most of the time they happen because I’ve decided for some reason that I want myself to feel that way (and I’m guessing I’m not the only one who’s ever done that). The overwhelming majority of the time I feel incredibly thankful for what I have been given, and filled with anticipation at the wonderful adventure that God has laid out for me each new day in the second half of my life! The Lord is good!