Back by popular demand - originally posted 3-8-2011:
Since Lent begins in, oh, an hour or so, I figured it was time to get these thoughts down on "paper."
As I was meditating on the Sorrowful Mysteries in my car a couple weeks ago, it struck me suddenly how each mystery was very similar to a portion of the infertility journey. Now, I say this as a way of helping those of us who have walked/are walking the infertility journey become closer to Christ in His suffering, but in no way mean to imply that the suffering of infertility comes anywhere close to the suffering Jesus endured during His Passion. Just wanted to make that clear upfront :)
But, if you think about it, it really is a beautiful thing to be able to align your suffering with Jesus, and be able to relate on an even deeper level to what He is going through. For many years, I've heard my mother, my grandmother, and my sister talk about how their relationship with Mary grew so much stronger when they became mothers - that they could relate to HER suffering on a level they couldn't have before they knew the bond of mother and child. I can't describe how that comment pains me to my core... to think I don't know, CAN'T know, MY MOTHER in the same way that mothers in general do... ouch. Yet, with this new realization of the parallels between infertility and the Sorrowful Mysteries, I think that women with infertility can relate to Jesus on a new level, and maybe on a level that those who have not gone through infertility cannot. Maybe.
Here are the parallels I've noted:
The First Sorrowful Mystery-
The Agony In The Garden
Before we go to Dr's appointments, get testing, go through a treatment, go in for surgery, start a new diet, etc., we have a level of anxiety similar to that which Jesus felt in the Garden that fateful evening before His crucifixion. We don't know what to expect, but we know more often than not, it's not going to be easy, it will require MUCH stamina, and while the desired results are completely worth it, we can't know for sure we'll actually get there. In fact, all we CAN do is pray that God's will be done, and this we pray again and again, in the attempts to melt away the fear of the unknown. These are examples of the "agony" we go through fairly frequently on our infertility journey, but then there is also the more general BEGINNING to our journey of suffering, like the Agony in the Garden was the beginning of Jesus' Passion.
When we first come to the realization, whenever it may be, that we. are. infertile. We're not just stricken with horribly bad luck in timing of lovemaking, and we're no longer in denial that maybe we just have to "relax." It hits home - we have a (or several) medical diagnoses which need to be addressed: what will our future be like? Will we be open to certain treatments, and if we aren't, will it take much longer? How long WILL it take? Will we EVER have children? Do we need to get a new or a different job to either stay busy and/or help pay for treatments and medications that may cost thousands of dollars? Will the treatments we go through hurt us physically? Will the emotional pain we're beginning to feel now last continuously, or, dare we wonder, get even worse with time?
The Second Sorrowful Mystery
The Scourging At The Pillar
Jesus was severely beaten, almost to death, hours before he was Crucified. Clearly this was very physically painful, but I also personally believe that this was the beginning of His death - LIFE was beaten from him, and after He was scourged, He had less energy, less strength, less life inside of Him.
Through infertility, there are numerous occasions where we are beaten and bruised, both physically and emotionally. Some, no actually, all of the most painful things I've endured in my lifetime came because of infertility. Tests/treatments like the endometrial biopsy, the HSG, the ovarian wedge resection recovery, the "cervical scraping," the uterine washes, the botched midline catheter IV placement, were just a few of the physical experiences I would love to forget. And some of the most hurtful things that have ever been said to me were only hurtful because of my infertility (whether the person meant to be hurtful or not). We have scars from these wounds which are repeatedly opened with each new cycle, just as Jesus had scars to bear from His violent beating. With with each fresh new wound and each re-opening of old wounds, a little bit more life is taken from us.
The Third Sorrowful Mystery
The Crowing With Thorns
It was at this Mystery that the parallels first dawned on me. When I meditate on this Mystery, the biggest insults that come to my mind are the MOCKERY and the HUMILIATION of Jesus when the soldiers crowned Him with thorns and placed a robe around his shoulders. It is often too much for me to bear, and I usually have to switch from reciting the decade aloud to reciting it in my head at this point. Jesus, Our Lord and Savior, being degraded in such a way... and then paraded about in front of the crowd for all to see.
To me, this is VERY similar to the feelings infertility can evoke. Often, I feel mocked and misunderstood in many different ways- for example, how many Lifetime movies portray "infertile" women as baby-crazed murdering kidnappers who will stop at nothing to rock a baby in their arms and call it "their own." It's not just the media - many people in real life who have not been personally touched by infertility (and I mean either themselves or a loved one) really don't see the "big deal," and mock and minimize our pain, which is, again, unlike other sufferings, a CYCLICAL pain. We are mocked silently every time we see a happy mother walking with a stroller, every time a large family sits in the row in front of us at church, every time a drug addict on the streets becomes pregnant AGAIN, every time an older Mom jokes about what they would do "if they got pregnant again," every time a mother walks into an abortion mill. And along with the mockery comes the humiliation. We are humiliated to have to admit, for the 5th time that week, that, NO, we don't have kids, YES, we do want them... and then basically needing to spell out for the not-so-bright that we're as barren as a brick, wondering in the end if it would just be easier and less humiliating to have our husbands wear a "I'm With Barren" t-shirt wherever we go. We are humiliated to realize we can no longer count on one hand how many people aside from our husband have seen our lady business on a pretty regular basis, we are humiliated when our Dr or ultrasound tech says things like, "Wow, you have a lot of bowel activity going on in there,"* (*Note: I have never, and will never say this to women when I give them ultrasounds, because I still remember how beet red I turned when my Dr said it to me... but also Note: it is completely normal for ALL women to have "bowel activity" and "gas" in their pelvic region, and it does make it difficult to visualize ovaries, which is why it is often talked about during an ultrasound.), we are humiliated to admit to some of our diagnoses, we are humiliated to be given very personal, unwelcome advice by people we just met, we are humiliated to be amongst a group of parents and be "outted" as the only one/s who are childless,... the list goes on and on.
The Fourth Sorrowful Mystery
The Carrying Of The Cross
Clearly I've made a point on this blog to show that my journey through infertility has been a cross not only to carry, but to embrace. And really the entire journey can be viewed as the cross, as we carry it daily, but I think there are more specific parallels between facets of infertility and Jesus' actual carrying of His cross.
I believe we carry our cross when we acknowledge it - whether that be a public acknowledgement or an acknowledgement to ourselves. When we recognize that we have limitations, and that when our period arrives, we need to preserve ourselves and our friends by perhaps NOT attending that baby shower or that birthday party - we are carrying our cross of infertility. When we make choices to join that book club we always wanted to join, start a support group for others, plan a much-needed vacation to reconnect with our spouse, ask for prayers from our friends and family - through all of these examples we are carrying the cross of infertility. We carry our cross despite falling once, twice, several times. We carry our cross despite having been beaten and mocked and humiliated. We carry our cross knowing that as heavy as it is, our salvation is found within it. And when we discover this, we may even embrace the cross as we carry it still further.
The Fifth Sorrowful Mystery
The Crucifixion and Death
At a certain point, we can't avoid it, we will be nailed to this cross of infertility. The suffering will be intensified as we come to understand that, like Jesus, we will need to "die" to self, but also when we see that our hope of conquering infertility is NOT what God plans for OUR Resurrection. Now many women do become pregnant after having gone through infertility, and many women adopt, but while these are certainly blessings to praise God for, they are not the end-result of our Dying upon our Cross of Infertility. When we get to the point of Dying on our cross, we need to truly accept that God knows what is best for us, that HE WILL PROVIDE WHAT WE NEED, and that our hope and joy comes from Him alone and our desire to one day be with Him in heaven. And suddenly, dying on our cross is not as scary as it once seemed.