Thursday, September 1, 2011

Hope for a Baby - A Bad Thing?

I had another session with my therapist last night. I feel like we've only scratched the surface of my plethora of issues, but already I have gained such valuable insight and tools to help me plunge deeper into this time of my life. The take home message of the evening was: "Don't squander this time... don't squander this sorrow."

Before I spoke with him, I had been thinking all day about hope.
I have not come forward with a little piece of information that I was given about 5 or 6 months ago, for several reasons, but mostly because it was so deeply personal and has been my source of hope for a baby throughout the majority of 2011. (Otherwise, I really don't think I'd have any left at all.) This piece of information involves a dream that another blogger had about me. I'll give you all of the details sometime soon, but I don't want to focus on that right now. (I also hope the other blogger doesn't mind that I am posting about this.)

Suffice to say, if this blogger had not confided in me about her dream, and the circumstances surrounding it, I likely would not have any hope left for a baby. I was contemplating this yesterday... is it a good thing that I still have hope, or should my hope be completely and utterly in heaven and in giving glory to God??

Am I selfish to be holding onto this hope, even though I have come to a place where I understand that my ultimate hope is not about getting what I want? Is it too human of me to still believe from cycle to cycle that perhaps I will conceive, or that maybe I will be able to adopt or foster someday?

I struggled with this thought during the day, because my conscience was telling me that it was ok, even GOOD for me to have that hope for a child.

I reasoned with myself that the hope is what keeps me moving in the right direction - in other words, my long-term focus remains on God, while I go through the daily trials and tribulations of infertility - but my short-term hope is that I may become a mother.

If I were to give up that hope (which was just about to happen when I received an email from said blogger about her dream), then what suffering is there to be used for God's glory? It always used to make me upset when I saw other infertile women praying that God would take away their desire for children - I knew in my heart that the desire was God-given, and even if it were never fulfilled, it was a crucial part of this cross of infertility and childlessness. Yet, this year, I reached a point when I was almost praying for the exact same thing. And it frightened me.

It reminds me of how Jesus taught the disciples to love their enemies. They had been living in a world where it was the norm to love your friends and hate your enemies. Jesus posed the question, that if you love only those who love you, what reward is there in that?

That's how I see infertility/childlessness. If you carry the cross, even to the point of embracing it, but you lack the desire to have a child... what reward is there in that? It is the intense suffering of those who desire parenthood SO MUCH and yet cannot attain it which transforms the cross into a source of redemption.

At the end of our phone appointment last night, I asked my therapist for his input: "Is it still ok for me to hope for a child?"

Without hesitating, he repeated the truth I knew in my heart: "Yes. Denying yourself hope for a child is a form of protecting yourself from the suffering. You should continue to hope!"

He went on to tell me that in days like today, when my period is imminent, I should fully go through the suffering along with my body. I told him that there were times when I felt peace in the cross, but that I was worried about its source; is my peace coming from having endured the suffering well, and now seeing glimpses of peace IN the sorrow, or is it just that I have become numb to the suffering, or worse, that I am avoiding or ignoring further suffering that comes my way? (For example, the endless text messages from my pregnant sister-in-law in which she complains about how she has to do the 2-hour glucose test and drink that "nasty sugary drink," or how her "arm is about to fall off" from all the poking and prodding they did to get her bloodwork.)

The therapist said he is looking forward to bringing me deeper through the suffering so that there will not be any confusion about where my peace is coming from. I'm tentatively excited about this. I can't believe I'm actually saying that, but it's true! I guess I just feel like I'm already so close to completely surrendering, and that there has been so much suffering already, and yet I'm still here, and I'm ok. Better than ok.

I know I can do this. Let it be done unto me.


Megan said...

You are amazing! I am keeping you in my prayers, and I will pray that your sister in law will learn to be more sensitive... I can't believe she would complain to you about pregnancy related things. :( I'm sorry you have to deal with that. Your therapist sounds phenomenal. So glad you have him!

Hebrews 11:1 said...

Wow. You are incredible. And so is your therapist! I think I do that--pretend not to hope so that it doesn't hurt. I guess I have never looked at it that way!

Sew said...

There are times when I think I'm unworthy to be your friend.

This is one of them.

No I didn't say all the time!!


JellyBelly said...

All I have to say is that I love you and I am so blessed to be your friend!

ps How about we hope to be pg together? That'll get me through the next few months!

Rebecca said...

What has already been said and more.

You are amazing. You are incredible. I do feel at times unworthy to be allowed to 'know' you. I am blessed to be allowed to 'know' you.

Hope - it is an amazing, wonderful, scary thing, isn't it?

Rebecca said...

Forgot to subscribe *facepalm*

Amazing Life said...

You can do this!!

Lea said...

I think it's very important to hold onto hope. I will share with you that a few months before I conceived my husband had a dream that something good was going to happen on "Monday, Oct 19." He didn't know the month nor the year but was very confident. He described a feeling of complete elation in that dream. I may not have been as confident in his dream, but it did give me a glimmer of hope when I had reached rock bottom in my infertility journey. Just a few months after that dream, early Monday morning, October 19, 2009, I got my first positive pregnancy test after nearly 5 years of trying!!!! God certainly was telling us through my husband's dream to hold onto hope and now I tell you the same thing!!

some how, some way, some day said...

You are amazing and you have no idea how much this post will help me. Go ahead and email me what you wanted to say to me. I need to hear it and I know it will help me in the long run. God bless!

the misfit said...

This is really interesting. Your therapist has amazing insight. But I'm sort of troubled by the idea that we should continue to hope for things, not because they're objectively good, or because the desire for them is God-given, but because it pains us to do so. By that definition, we should work on hoping like crazy for any assortment of things that will never happen - just because it hurts. This strikes me as akin to the difference between voluntary mortification and accepting the crosses we're given. Some people are called to take on voluntary mortifications, but that's an area in which Christians should tread carefully and with the guidance of an experienced spiritual director. Its an area too prone to error and excess. Accepting the crosses we're sent (instead of trying to fight them off) is different. God sent the cross, so embracing it is not disordered. It may also be right to fight it; or not, and again a spiritual director is helpful. But if one of us should discern that God has not called us to motherhood, then it makes sense to pray, "God, take this desire (which you will not fulfill) away, because it pains me; but if You desire that I should continue to suffer, then I accept Your will." This seems to me akin to a person called to the religious life praying, "God, take away my burning desire for marriage and children." God can leave the desire there to mortify the soul for a time, but in the end, the vocation will be undermined if the desire never leaves. I don't see how one can embrace fully God's plan for doing His work in this life if one is permanently plagued by the burning desire to live a different life. We can live forever with crosses, but as far as I understand, in the long run, peace in accepting God's will is one of those prayers He has to answer, or He isn't God (like praying for an increase in virtue or a closer relationship with Him).

None of that indicates whether YOU should pray for an end to your desire for children - I just think there is an error in concluding that it is appropriate to embrace a continuing desire for something (believing that it will not be fulfilled) SOLELY BECAUSE the continuing desire produces suffering.

WheelbarrowRider said...

Wow! You are going to get so much out of this therapy if that is how you got started. I am so very happy for your insights and hope!

Sarah said...

Your posts are just amazing and your therapist sounds amazing too. It's interesting because another blogger's post today had me thinking about how, if we didn't feel that sting of a dream deferred or denied, then where would the cross be? At first I was sort of worried about my thought-process, but you articulated it so beautifully here. That hope and desire is a good thing, especially when put in proper perspective of our greatest Hope and Desire.

On a similar vein, it used to really get to me in my single days when I would get the spiel about how I shouldn't desire/hope for marriage.

Second Chances said...

I don't think it's wrong to stay hopeful at all. Seeing as how having children is one of the two ends to marriage, it's a healthy desire. You're not praying to switch vocations, you're praying to be able to live your vocation fully, which is a good thing.

imusthaveprayedforpatience said...

I think you should absolutely maintain hope. I think hope in infertility is sort of like the passage in Luke 5:
"While the crowd was pressing in on Jesus and listening to the word of God, he was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret. He saw two boats there alongside the lake; the fishermen had disembarked and were washing their nets. Getting into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, he asked him to put out a short distance from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. After he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, "Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch." Simon said in reply, "Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing, but at your command I will lower the nets." When they had done this, they caught a great number of fish and their nets were tearing."

Often, I might feel like, Lord, I have done all this and "caught" nothing, but if you say so, I will keep trying this or that, whatever Dr. H prescribes, and trust that you are guiding his hands and mind, and that one day my i will have more children that I ever hoped for. Yes, Lord, bring it on!

Anonymous said...

I learn so much from your posts and they make me think a lot, although I have to say I'm leaning towards agreeing with what misfit said here. (and she said it better than I could have so I'll just quote her).

"I don't see how one can embrace fully God's plan for doing His work in this life if one is permanently plagued by the burning desire to live a different life."

I think that some pains never go away and are never 'better', and infertility is one of them, but I do think a lot of people stumble upon infertility, realize they can't have children, and make it their life goal to fight that rather than consider the options/their vocation (not you, I'm just saying in general). Suffering is good, but following God's will wholeheartedly is also good.

As usual, I draw on my own experiences which of course are anecdotal, but the idea of suffering has consumed these past two years. when I literally woke up pregnant 10 days ago, I realized that suffering had been lifted. should I go seek out something new to suffer about? but is my life useless now that I have no suffering? it will find me, I'm sure. how do i live for joy in Lord without partaking in this suffering as I've defined it for myself? as always, He knows best I guess. I think the key is to offer up what you've been given, but like misfit said, that doesn't mean we should go out of our way to look for crosses.

meg wrote a post about this and I didn't understand it when I first read it but it makes a lot of sense from where I'm at now.
sorry for rambling.

E said...

I of course agree you should continue to hope. The opposite of hope is despair and well, that isn't good, nor what God wills for us.
I don't think that Dr. D is telling you to run out and acquire more suffering, but to embrace the suffering you have, willfully and with grace.
Those religious that have the desire for family life are sacrificing for the Lord, and we all benefit. In fact, what sacrifice would it be if they didn't?
Dearest A, you are on the right path and just keep your eyes on Christ. He will heal your heart. His yoke is easy and burden light. Without suffering, you may never find peace. Prayers for you. :)

Amy @ This Cross I Embrace said...

I don't see it that way at all. What I took away from what he (the therapist) was saying, and from my own conclusions I had come to earlier in the day is that as long as you're not consumed in trying to get pregnant and trying to adopt, the natural hope for children is an inherent good thing. Suffering naturally goes along with that desire in women who are infertile and women who choose to take vows and offer their fertility to God. It's not the other way around - it's not that a woman should sit around thinking, "OK, what is it that I most want that I know I cannot have right now... I will put all of my hope into that, because then my suffering will be greater."

Does that make more sense? I always tend to oversimplify when I write - I think everyone's in my head and sees it just as I see it ;)

I also agree with Second Chances, that the hope for children is not a "different life." I am not pining away hoping for a career as a neurosurgeon, knowing full well I don't have the money to go through med school or the time to devote to it... while that desire may also be "good" it's not what this is about.

The therapist also talked a lot about humiliation last night. The humiliation in this unique suffering of childlessness is what has been killing my pride, slowly but surely. (And trust me, I started out with a ton of pride.)

By making myself vulnerable, God is better able to enter my heart.

I see giving up on hope for children as a way of hardening your heart... and a hardened heart is much more difficult to penetrate, pierce, and let bleed.

barbie said...

Oh TCIE you on one your WAY! I'm so VERY excited to see you on this road. I have to say personally that surrendering to the pain is what brought me the most peace. I totally agree that giving up hope is hardening your heart but surrendering to it is the way for God to work wonders in your life,heart and soul.

you are beautiful.

Little JoAnn said...

Such a mystery. Hope is everything. Everything.

Keep it. I heard recently from a non-Catholic pastor, "If you can't have hope for yourself, ask someone else to have hope for you."

I thought, wow, that makes sense.

Just the crying out to the Lord, not our ability to have hope or our degree of having it, is what matters.

You give me Hope.

The Skirts said...

I've been letting this just sit with me for a couple of days, and I agree with you completely. I think that in some ways Hope has been the most challenging aspect of infertility for me. At least as far as spiritual growth goes. I think I had half confused myself in to thinking that continuing to hope for a baby was somehow contradicting the greater Hope-for-Heaven. It looks so stupid written down!

And, as regards the argument over suffering, I agree with you. It makes it easier for me to grasp if I think about how Christ approached suffering. He was no masochist; He did not seek it out. But He didn't deny it, either. Even He hoped/asked for deliverance from His suffering the night before He died, and that very hope made His agony, and therefore His triumph, greater. (And no, I'm not saying that He hoped just so that His suffering could be greater. I think He hoped because it was natural to do so, as it is with infertility. It seems unnatural not to hope.)

I'm not so sure how much sense I just made. But great post!

Infertile Catholic said...

I really like what you wrote about not succumbing to asking God to take the desire of children from our hearts. Very true that it wouldn't be suffering anymore if that were the case. And...I like what your therapist said about continuing to have hope in having a baby. Very insightful!

Catholic Mutt said...

Your last two posts are so amazing. Words I need to hear and lessons that I am so grateful that you are sharing.

Julia said...

"By making myself vulnerable, God is better able to enter my heart.

"I see giving up on hope for children as a way of hardening your heart... and a hardened heart is much more difficult to penetrate, pierce, and let bleed."

This is what I was thinking as I read your post. I love your insights.