Monday, October 05, 2015

Dear mother of the infertile woman,

Dear mother of the infertile woman,

I write this to the mothers. But it really is for fathers too. It's just that mothers are usually the ones more directly involved. They are the ones privy to the personal details. They are the ones called upon when the tears cannot stop flowing. They are the communicator to their spouse of the most recent information: a failed cycle, a failed adoption, another cycle that signifies pregnancy did not occur.

Your daughter is infertile. Or maybe a daughter-in-law that you love greatly.

Your child ... is childless.

Dear mother of the infertile, your role is so important in the life of this barren woman in your life. She is grieving something monumental, and unless, by chance, you grieved it once too, you truly cannot imagine the depth of this pain accurately.

In addition, her grief is also for you. She longs to see you hold their baby and spoil their baby and hear their baby call you grandma. (Or Nana or Oma or whatever other name you always thought you'd be called.)

And she can't give you that.

No matter how hard she tries.

And you are left wondering, questioning, pleading, begging for a happy ending. Your prayers are rampant but feel unanswered. You want, more than anything to help this wonderful woman in your life in any way that you can. 

I am going to help you do this.

But be forewarned. This will be tough love. I will not mince words. I will shoot you very straight. And it might be hard to hear because you will hear me tell you not to do something that you have been doing.

Or you will hear me tell you to do something that you think is unnecessary. 

But please hear me.

Infertility is not dealt today the way it was dealt with in your day.

And for that, I am very glad. Women of the current generation are grieving this properly. They are being allowed to grieve. They still grieve in different ways, but this is no longer a quiet disease that you push down into the recesses of your soul. In addition, our social media has brought other people's personal lives hard and fast right into her face day in and day out.

She has to watch people announce their pregnancies, detail their pregnancies, and share way too much about the pregnancies as if she had a front row seat.

Each detail of a baby's life is photographed and splashed right in front of her face.

Every day.

She is grieving. Hard.

And you must let her deal with this her way.


How do you do that?

Tell her that you love her. Tell her that you are praying for her. Listen. Say, "That sucks" as many times as it needs to be said. (That stinks will also suffice.) Be present. Do not offer advice. Just offer your ear. And your hugs. And your heart. Respect her feelings even if you don't think you would do it the same way.

But more than that, you must give her an exceptional amount of grace and freedom to grieve this the way she needs to grieve this loss. 

This is especially important if you have another child who has children or is having children. You may feel that your infertile daughter should act a certain way. You may think she needs to be present at baby showers and christenings and baptisms and birthday parties. You may be embarrassed that she is in the bathroom crying while the gender reveal party is going on.

But you don't feel what her heart feels. 

Not even close.

This pain is monumental and all-encompassing and completely suffocating and beyond anything you could even attempt to understand. And you going on and on about your other grandchildren or telling her that she should be happy for her sibling who just found out she was pregnant is not fair and truly, none of your business. Let your daughter work this out with her sibling in whatever way she needs to work it out. 

In other words. This is not about you.

I repeat.

This. 
Is. 
Not. 
About. 
You.

This is about your daughter. Or your daughter-in-law and her spouse. This is about the way she is processing it. You may think she should process it differently. You may think you would have or did process it differently. That may be true. But how she is processing this is how she is processing it and it is okay.

Do not ...

  • ask your daughter if she has thought about adopting. She will bring it up when she is ready. 
  • complain about not being a grandma or nag her to get a move on.
  • give unwarranted advice about treatments they are pursuing or decisions they have made.
  • think she should be sharing more.
  • think she should be sharing less.
  • expect her to do things the way you think you would do them.
  • expect her to be able to be happy for her siblings.
  • discuss God's providence.
  • suggest she relax or stop trying so hard.
  • start any story with, "I know someone who ..."
Instead ...
  • Recognize that not being able to have a child is the loss of a dream. 
  • Pray for her.
  • Send her an email or card on a big day (like an attempt with an IUI or IVF.)
  • Understand that she may want to talk about this all the time.
  • Understand that she may not want to talk about this at all. 
  • Spoil her.
  • Put her in touch with other women "in their situation."
  • Invite her to all events but give her a huge option to "opt. out."
  • Read books that will help you understand.
  • Listen.
  • Tell her you love her.
  • Say "I understand" even if you don't.
  • Hug her. (If they are a hugger.)
  • And say "that sucks" when news is bad.
You, dear mother of the infertile have the ability to serve your daughter during this time. How you choose to handle this can define your relationship for years to come. It can bring you together or create a chasm in your relationship that even years later, after her life is filled with children (or not), you can't seem to cross.

How you handle this will define your relationship.

You can do this.

Get your game face on.

Go!

3 comments:

Donna Forcier said...

My daughter went through 3 years of treatment (from initial diagnosis, to several retrievals, 3 chemical pregnancies, 2 mock cycles so they could biopsy her uterus to determine best day to do an FET). She is currently pregnant and due December 1st. My other two children (sons) have children. One has 4 under 7 and the other just had their first 6 months ago. She was a trooper during all the baby things but we are very excited about this baby.

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Anneli Tre said...

My mamma in Sweden did everything the right way to support me during our IF trial. i do not know what she could have done differently. I praise our Lord for her and how she accompanied me in all when I needed it. And she let me deal with things in my way...
She has never ever made me feel guilty because she didn't have any grandchild although I know how much she dreamt of having several (she has only one).