Saturday, June 20, 2009

Broken Vases

I'll always be that infertile woman. I'm sure that won't be last time you hear that from me. I'll say it again sometime. It doesn't matter that my biological son will be three next month. I'm still the girl with the lump in her throat instead of her womb. I'm still the one who cringes when someone announces that she, "doesn't even know how this happened." I'm still the girl who almost chucked cheese through her kitchen window. I'm still cracked, ever so slightly.

I offered to go to the infertility clinic with a woman in our church. Her husband couldn't go, the procedure is a bit painful and definitely less than fun, and I thought she might need my support. She was extremely thankful that I would offer to go. I was worried that she would get upsetting results and that I would be called upon to hand out some wise words about how life would go all likelihood...even though she felt like total crap inside. In the end her results were great, she was thrilled, and I got a Chai Tea out of it as a show of her appreciation, although it was completely unnecessary. It was tasty and delicious but, really, if my journey through infertility got me nothing but the ability to share the experience and bear the burden with others (and, of course, Reason #1 and Reason #2) then I am thankful to have walked the road.

She opted to have me stay in the waiting room so I prayed for her and had the opportunity to read. (And contemplated whether they might let me sit in there for an hour a day just to get a little peace and quiet. Good night! You could hear a pin drop in that place.) She later said that she thought about coming to get me so that I could be there with her. You know, so she wouldn't bolt right off of the physician's table and swear off reproduction forever. I would have been thrilled to have been able to support her during the procedure but, more than that, it would have allowed me to escape from the ache I felt inside my chest. Empathy seems like too weak of a word to use to explain how I feel in a fertility office. People come and go. Occasionally a woman will enter by herself but, more often than not, men and women walk in together. I've spent enough time in fertility offices to categorize these people simply by the looks they wear on their faces. If the government ever needed Intel to analyze the infertile, I'd be their girl.

The men generally fall into two categories. There are the morbidly horrified husbands and the apathetically resigned. Either these men are humiliated to be discussing their reproductive organs or they've been taking time off work for so long that they're totally over it, resigned to the fact that they will be chatting about the finer points of their sperm with the reproductive endocrinologist. Either way, it has to feel degrading. They must be wondering how they pulled the short stick.

There are several categories of women but all of them (except for a very rare few who wear their hearts adhered to their foreheads) have this look that says, "I'm holding my life together by a thread but I'm pretending that I am a pillar of stability. Please don't look directly at me for any length of time because this cool exterior is only moments away from cracking." Infertile women almost always look like they have it altogether. I think it's an attempt to make everything on the outside look vibrant and productive when everything on the inside feels barren and shattered.

It breaks my heart to watch these people. The men are usually almost ridiculously supportive. He has learned to handle his fragile wife with the utmost care. Gently, he touches her on the small of her back, as though she is a porcelain doll, dangerously close to toppling off the edge of the shelf. He has learned to discuss reproduction in ways that men without medical degrees are just not meant to do. He has learned to live with the horror of it all--and take it like a man. A man, anyway, who is being forced to discuss baby-making with a third party. The women, often, are vases that have been broken and glued back together. Upon first inspection it looks just like a regular vase but if you fill it up with water, well, it starts to leak. She is somehow emotional and subdued--all at once. Her chest constricts with each breath as she waits on the precipice of hope and despair.

I know that only 12% of you have a clue what I'm talking about and the other 88% are all, "Shut up about infertility already. You have two kids. Stop whining about it. I'm not even kidding. If I have to read one more post about dramatic ovaries and sperm counts I'm never visiting this blog again!" But the gut wrenching thing is, in a fertility office, that 12% becomes 100%. Everyone is infertile. Everyone has a story. Everyone just wants a baby. Everyone has a lump in the throat.

I swallowed my own lump down. I wasn't there looking to get pregnant. I have long resigned myself to the fact that that isn't happening again. And most days I'm sure I don't want it to. Most days I'm sure my family is complete. I was there to support a friend. I was there to remember just how blessed I am to have my boys. I was there to feel overwhelmed by the tragedy that wraps its cold, hard, plastic fingers around so many people in the form of ultrasounds and catheters and needles and medications. I was there to remember, as I identify myself as That Adoptive Mother With The Hideous Court Battle, that I was first That Infertile Woman Who Would Do Anything To Have Children...Yes, Even Endure A Hideous Court Battle.

Infertility is nothing new. My heart will always break for it. I rejoice in plus signs on sticks when one of these couples has victory over the demon. Though I will never be the vase that I was before infertility, I don't want to be. The lessons learned as the Lord painstakingly pieced me back together are vital to who I am as a person. And, when I watch my sons sleep, it appears that a broken vase can hold water again after all.


  1. Thank you for sharing this. While I put myself in the infertility category I don't share my entire story with many - because like you I am a broken vase that has been put back together - and I have one of my very own too. It's so good to read your words on this.

    On another note - I happened to find myself in the reproductive endocrinologist's office for the first time a few months ago. We aren't sure the path we will take for more children, but I was there for a just a regular old visit. And it's true - I sat in the waiting room over an hour watching people come and go and you hit the nail right on the head with your description of it.

    Thanks again!

  2. When it comes to infertility should you really be talking about men and short sticks in the same sentence?

    Seriously, that was beautifully written.

  3. I have 3 children. All of which I carried myself. However it took us 2 and half years to have our first and that was after losing two to miscarriage. I can relate so well to your entry. I know other women who read this will be able to do the same.

  4. That was beautifully written.

    I, myself, have never struggled with infertility but know many who have/do. You gave me such an insightful look into the pain that these women around me are experiencing despite their outward appearance of "having it all together."

    I pray that because of your words, I can understand a little bit better what they're thinking and thus, be a better friend (and pastor's wife!). Thanks for your transparency on this topic and be assured that we're praying for all that your family is enduring, too!

  5. All I can think is, 'beautiful.' I think you've been holding water well, even when you haven't felt like it.

  6. You've captured it so well. Thank you for sharing this.

  7. As one of the 12%, very well written! Don't forget ovulation predictor THAT was fun. My fertility baby just turned 21. But I still remember all of the ultrasounds, HUGE needles (usually in the backside...ouch!), the hope turned to disappointment yet again each month. The ups and downs of it. We got so sick of talking about it that we finally lied and told people that we had stopped trying for awhile. I guess it's the feeling that you're somehow "broken", not quite complete. Those of us who have been there usually don't ask a couple when they're going to have a baby. We know that they just might already be trying and would really rather not talk about it.

  8. I will always listen - because while my vase is not cracked due to infertility - we are all cracked vases due to something and our reliance on God to piece us back together and the struggle we forge through to get there is an understanding we can all relate to.

    Well written my friend.

  9. Hehe, you said, "short stick." I love that all these comments are serious, and Mom and I make a comment on the short sticks. Do I get my ridiculousness from Mom?

  10. thanks for this post...I am the one who tries to look like I have it all together at "that" office...thanks for reminding me that I am not alone, and that He is in control!

  11. I am yet again awed and amazed by not only your skill of writing, but by the way your heart shines through the words you choose. Your character is something that women should aspire to attain. My dear, you truly amaze me. I get the heart wrenching, kick-in-the-stomach feeling every time you see a baby or someone asks when the next one will be on their way. Your cheese throwing post highlights that pain quite perfectly. You see, even though you have another child, even though I'm pregnant again, it doesn't mask hurt from the past. Infertility, miscarriage, trying & trying with no results and every period is like a funeral. You're right, some people won't get it and they won't until they've experienced the pain.

    Thank you for sharing. Please know that I am astounded by your courage and one day would be honored to meet you in person.

  12. Yes, wonderfully and sincerely written. Thank you so much for the frank window into your heart.