It began one dark and stormy night. We had just left a friend’s house, and it was raining as only November can in Seattle. We missed a tricky turn in the road and our hearts froze as the right front hubcap slammed into the curb. The side road makes a sharp curve to the left as it meets the main drag, and with no markings, and very little visibility, we fell right onto the curb. There was enough damage to make us cringe, but at least we could carefully limp the car home.
That was the first holiday season of waiting. Sure, it was great to enjoy wine with friends and, especially, with family, but we had hoped to be in an Advent season of our own. Instead, I learned to expect nothing more than another cycle of bad news. Weeks went by, the car needed even more attention, and the storms shifted inward. When it wasn’t the car, something else would come up. We got quiet, and it was difficult to celebrate other people’s joys.
2013 was a difficult year for a great many folks, so we knew we weren’t alone in that regard. But we didn’t know anyone else who was facing this. Shit, we didn’t even know what this was. We told a few people about our struggle. They listened, and I know they’ve been praying for us. It seems everyone knows someone who has had a difficult time. But, as the story goes, after x years of waiting, they started to adopt, or maybe it was after the third IUI that did it; after they had completely given up, then it happened. And they all live happily ever after. I know these stories are meant to encourage, but when going through the black hole of infertility, they may as well be set somewhere over the milky way. Any glimmer of hope flickers and dies each month. Meanwhile, every time I walk outside, inevitably I pass at least one pregnant lady, two strollers, and a guy with the baby front-pack. My husband didn’t believe me when I swore there was a higher number of baby/pregnant lady sightings than previous years. Maybe he’s right, perhaps I’m a bit sensitive to the whole thing.
When I first started to learn about infertility, the stats said 1 in 8 couples; the other day I saw 1 in 7. Maybe more of us are dragging our sad feet into fertility clinics to be counted. After two years we finally went to one. Four months later, I started acupuncture. Numb desperation continues to propel me towards…God knows what.
We decided early on not to go through major treatments like IVF. Even after learning that my insurance would cover one round of IUI or IVF, the most we’ve done is diagnostic work with a few rounds of Letrozole (an alternative to Chlomid). When my husband went to the clinic for his part he was acutely aware of how distressed the women seemed, particularly as they came out of the treatments, and he couldn’t bear the thought of putting me through such an ordeal. Infertility is becoming as much a part of the medical industrial complex as, say, cosmetic surgery it seems. (Not that those two are on par.) Medical science knows next to nothing about unexplained infertility, but once you enter the clinic doors they will loop you in further and further—one more round of x, another shot of hormones—until your body obeys, or caves. When that doesn’t work, we end up at the Asian medical clinics. Thousands of years can’t be wrong, right?
Quite deliberately, we have not tried everything. Is that evidence that we don’t want a family of our own ‘badly’ enough? So be it. From the beginning, I have prayed for God’s faithful timing. I waited a long time to meet the man I married, so miracles do happen. I have no doubt that God is the ultimate source of life. I have also been plagued with thoughts of ‘am I doing enough?’ But that’s part of the black hole of infertility. I could spend the next three months catching up on all the literature on infertility and be no more enlightened. I have not worked closely with doctors in part because that quickly gets expensive. While Asian medicine addresses aspects of our health that Western medicine doesn’t see, Western medicine can check (albeit somewhat uncomfortably) for more overt blockages and issues. Trying to make a decision about which one to go with, and when, seems to be dictated just as much by finances as anything else.
But here’s where I get hung up: supposedly, I have an ‘in’ of sorts with the God of the universe, the Creator and Source of all Life. So, what does one do with that? Obviously, Christians suffer like anyone else. To think otherwise is to build a set of hubris wings and start flying closer to the sun. But the question I’ve been trying to formulate this whole time has to do with how belief in / a relationship with the Creator and Triune God orients my husband and I in the midst of all this. Will a turning towards faith conversely be a turning away from medical solutions? What does faith in the God who heals look like? Unlike other emotional challenges, infertility isn’t something where we can put together a plan for healing and growth, meet with our counselor or life coach, and measure our progress with SMART goals. Something like that can only happen once the dream for a little person is laid to rest. As we are right now, we encounter grief anew each month.
I share this with you, dear reader, because perhaps you know someone who struggles with infertility, and you are not sure what to say. Or perhaps you are at this moment engulfed in the black hole of infertility yourself. Do not recite platitudes of empty hope. I think, I believe, we must dig deep into the grief, the loss, the desire for new life–that is where our hope lies. Desire for new life, and the accompanying ache when it goes unfulfilled, brings us very near to the heart of God who creates, sustains and restores. The God of the universe longs for the day when all things will be made new. The black hole of infertility allows us to share in that longing. This is a mystery.