Between Ash Wednesday and the First Sunday of Lent, I remember praying and telling God that I felt like I wasn't offering enough. The sufferings that are ongoing in our lives, and even the unexpected sufferings, were all quite easy to handle, and I just didn't feel very connected.
And, as if in response to that prayer, Lent just kicked it up a notch.
After a super exhausting and longer-than-anticipated shift at work on Friday, I got pulled over and given a ticket on the way home, then had to rush to get dinner together before Stations (with an additional dose of guilt and reeming from the in-laws for not attending a 9th birthday dinner party for my niece), followed by waking up Saturday at 5:00am to drive 2 hours both ways to an all-day workshop, catching up on phone calls and emails on Sunday and receiving the birth announcement of married-same-time-as-me ex-best friend's 4th baby (yes, fourth... and there are more than 18 months between all of her kids, so this isn't a "pregnancy every year" situation, I've just been infertile that long), I then proceed to wake up this morning to start the work week, shower, go downstairs, all the while bemoaning how exhausted I feel and how dark it is outside (must be raining??)... and while preparing breakfast, notice the oven clock says 1:30am. Yes. I woke up at 1:00am, after falling asleep around 11:00pm, and SHOWERED.
At least now I have some better opportunities for offering it up, right? ;)
I also had a Moment last week. A Moment when the pain of childlessness choked me, catching me by surprise. Hormonally-charged, perhaps, but mostly a throwback to "Infertility Year 2." It was bad. It was ugly. It was everything we know that infertility can be, at its worst. And it offered no hope or beauty or grace.
And while I didn't expect to meet it, the Moment was manageable because I've gone through them before. While the pain was suffocating, I remembered not to fight against it and gasp for air, but rather to go through it and breathe long and slow.
These are the lessons you learn as a veteran. I may not be a pro at working through the pain of labor and delivery, but I think in much the same way, I am seasoned at managing the pain of childlessness, even when it appears unannounced like a premature rupture of heartstrings - the strings of love that are grown and cultivated with hope, and rupture unexpectedly in a moment of lost hope.
The analogy is a labor of its own - a labor of love are both. The blessings and graces obtained at the end are tangible in one, intangible in the other, and yet equally powerful and real. It is in recognizing this that we are better able to heal after the pain of an Infertility Labor; we are better able to open our hearts to conceiving those strings of love in our heart once again. And perhaps, with time, carry that fruit in our hearts longer and longer with each conception.
I don't know when next I will go into Infertility Labor. But one thing I do know... I'll be ready.