There she is. Do you see her? She sits quietly at the table in the back with her purse perfectly placed in her lap and her arms neatly resting on top. She smiles on the outside, but on the inside? On the inside her heart is breaking and her soul is crushing as she looks around at the other women in the room. Their arms are not empty, but full. Their laps are not filled with purses, but rather giggly toddlers. And as they talk about the joys of motherhood, her womb begins to ache. And tears begin to form.
She didn’t want to come. But it was her best friend’s baby shower. She didn’t want to play the games. But everyone else was. And she didn’t want to answer “the question.” It’s the question that makes all women struggling to conceive upset and uncomfortable even if it’s for a second. It’s the one that makes her ashamed as her heart races, palms become sweaty and her stomach hurt. It’s the question in which she will have to answer, “No. I don’t have any children.” And so with each glance she makes around the room, with each child she sees curled up in a lap, with each question she reluctantly answers, and with each story she listens to about motherhood, she feels different. She feels alone.
She is 1 in 8.
Or look over there. Do you see the woman slowly walking by the baby aisles, casually touching the newborn onesies with her gentle fingers and delicate heart? Do you see her staring at the tiny shoes and itty bitty socks? She is longing for the day in which a life is growing inside of her. A life that has her eyes and his nose. She is dreaming of the moment she can watch her husband’s face light up when he feels their miracle kick for the first time. She fantasizes about the hour a newborn baby is placed on her chest and she frantically counts their tiny fingers and wiggly toes. And while she stands there, dreaming and fantasizing, she looks up and sees a mother with two precious little ones trying to find a spot in her cart to place the diapers. And as she stands there watching and hoping for the day her dreams come true, she feels alone. She feels alone despite standing in the middle of a crowded store.
She is 1 in 8.
But wait. Don’t leave yet. Because I want you to see the sweet woman standing in checkout lane number three. Watch as she grips her cart a little tighter. Notice how she glances at the woman holding the hand of the adorable four-year-old but then quickly looks to the ground. And did you see the tear that fell from her cheek? Did you see her slowly turn her cart around and go to another line? A much longer line. I want you to know that she feels like the only one in the store without a child to call her own. She feels like the only one who struggles with the thought of being unworthy to hold the title of mommy. She feels like the only one who becomes jealous in these moments. And she feels like she is the only one who even has these thoughts. And so she feels guilty. And she feels alone.
She is 1 in 8.
There is also the woman behind the closed bathroom door. She has been knocked to her knees from yet another negative pregnancy test. She is hopeless. She is scared. And as she sobs with deep and painful moans, she shakes her fist to the heaven’s and screams, “Will this ever end?!” She isn’t alone in this moment. Because there he is…her husband. He is trying to pick her up, hold her close, and whisper hope into her ear. He is trying to tell her it will be okay. She will be okay. Together they will be okay and it won’t always be this hard, this overwhelming or this stressful. He tries to tell her there is always next month. But his words? They are like band aids. They cover the wounds but do not actually heal. And so while she isn’t alone on the bathroom floor, she feels alone. And even though she doesn’t realize it because he is trying to be unbreakable and strong, just like a superhero, he also feels alone.
They are 1 in 8.
And finally there is you. I see you wiping the tears from your eyes as you read each word because you know each emotion expressed. You know firsthand the pain infertility brings. You know that it is a disease; yes a disease that makes you feel like a leper, an outcast from the rest of the world. You know that it causes you to feel insecure with each question about why you don’t have children. And often times embarrassed when you explain the reason. You know that it makes you feel forgotten as you beg, plead, and cry out to God only to continue each month with broken dreams. You know it makes you wonder if you are being overlooked as everyone around you seems to be blessed with children while your womb remains empty. And you know it causes you to feel alone. Alone in your thoughts. Alone in your feelings. And alone in this battle that you must fight to win every day. A battle that is exhausting. And a battle that at times, you fight alone. Because you feel alone.
But the truth is, you aren’t alone.
Because the mother you saw putting the diapers in her shopping cart? They were conceived using a surrogate. And the woman sitting with you at the baby shower? The one you overheard say wasn’t ready for children when she was also asked“the question”? Well…she is. In fact she has been ready to wipe noses, kiss boo-boo’s, and read bedtime stories since she was a little girl. But she is also 1 in 8. And me? I am the woman you saw in checkout lane number three, holding hands with a precious four-year-old and talking her out of the ring pops, sour worms and Slim Jim’s. She is my foster child.
And I am 1 in 8.
And for years I felt like you. I felt alone and so I flew alone. But after a while of my heart aching for a child who would have my blue eyes and my husband’s pudgy nose, my wings that once enabled me to fly solo, became limp. And my blemish free wings? They became bruised when well-meaning people asked me why I didn’t have children. But because I was too afraid to tell them I was 1 in 8, those wings then became crushed when they would joke around that I needed to hurry because my clock was ticking. My wings also became torn from feeling isolated and different from my friends and family who have children. They became scarred from the failed treatment cycles my doctor assured me were the answer to my prayers. And they became so broken after my devastating miscarriage following an In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) treatment cycle that I thought at one point, I might never fly again.
Yet even with my bruised, scarred and sometimes broken wings, I have still managed to keep flying. And despite the hurt, I have still been able to carry hope. Carry joy. And carry my dreams….
But how? How can I with these wings? It’s all because one day I finally decided to share my story. I finally stopped hiding behind my shame. And broken smile. I finally took off my mask so that others could see my heartache. And I finally decided I no longer wanted to fly alone, but together. Because people need people. They need others to help carry some of the weight so that they are free to soar high above their circumstances. High above their hopelessness. High above their fears and doubts.
In fact, Galatians 6:2 tells us that we are to carry each other’s burdens and stand shoulder to shoulder to ease the load that we might be carrying around so that we can be empowered to keep flying. To keep hoping. And to keep carrying our dreams. The dreams that God has purposefully planted inside that soft, fertile soil of our hearts. Because friends, those dreams that He planted? He wants to not only water them with the tears that we shed when we cry out to Him, but He wants to cultivate them through the faith, support and words of encouragement from others so that they can grow. Because let’s be real for just a sec. Is it not sometimes easier for us to hear the voices of others and believe the words they speak before we hear the voice of God and believe His Word? Or maybe it’s just me.
Because can I be honest? I can read all day in God’s word to be anxious for nothing (Philippians 4:6) and that He promises to give us the desires of our hearts (Psalm 37:4), but the second someone whispers encouragement into my ear in the form of a card? Or a hug? Or a prayer? I seem to grab a hold of it faster. And I run with it longer. And I am sure some of you are the same way. And it’s okay. God knows this about me…and you…which is why He begs and pleads for us to share our story…
He doesn’t want you to feel alone. Instead, He wants to place people in your path to mend your broken wings so that you can fly a little bit higher. And soar a little bit longer. He wants you to tell your story so that He can give others the opportunity to provide you with the strength and the momentum you need to keep hoping that things can change. To keep believing that they will. And to keep flying until it’s time for you to land with your dreams no longer in your heart, but safely in your arms.
So sweet sister, the one who might be fighting alone and feeling alone, don’t be afraid to reach out. Don’t be afraid to allow your casual chats to turn into conversations. Conversations that help educate others about the stress and devastation of miscarriages, failed treatment cycles and doctor appointments. Don’t be afraid to turn brief hellos with friends and family into moments of ministry as you ask for prayer, encouragement and support. Don’t be afraid to share your heartache with others.
Because while this path of infertility has unexpected rain storms and high winds intended to knock you out of your nest and send you to your hands and knees scraped and bruised, beaten and scarred. There are thousands of others on this same journey, or even a similar journey, ready and willing to pick you up if you fall. They are ready to remind you that you are not forgotten when another prayer seems to go unanswered. They are ready to hold your hand as they whisper the truth that there is nothing to be embarrassed or ashamed about because it’s not your fault. And when you feel alone and like a leper, an outcast that no one, and I mean no one understands, they are there to wipe away your tears and remind you that you are not different or alone. Because those feelings you have? They have them too. Those thoughts of jealousy? No one is immune. And those moments that knock you out of your nest? Have knocked them out too. You are not alone. And you don’t have to travel this journey alone.
Together, we are 1 in 8. Together, we are strong. And together, we will fly high with our broken wings.