That’s a clue for my answer to some complex questions that came this weekend from Silent Sorority readers. The ideas and emotions contained in their questions were remarkably familiar — so much so they could have come straight out of my own head a few years ago. I guess, by now, I shouldn’t be startled by the depth of the shared infertility experience. I’m sure they’ll evoke deja vu for you, too. The questions pose the ultimate test for those who don’t succeed with conceiving much desired children or are in the wake of IVF loss — overcoming anger and finding peace.
First came this email:
“I’ve been having a rough go of it lately and have been pretty messed up.It’s kind of the kick off of the fun family/kid centric holiday season and I know it’s always really hard for me. Something you wrote about in your book and talk about at times is an issue that I’m dealing with. How did you move beyond the resentment of people who do have children? I absolutely hate feeling this way. I’m even starting to resent my dr. and therapist, not good. I just see everyone with kids as having something I can’t, won’t. On some level, I understand it is the way it is supposed to be. On the other hand, I just want to isolate myself from all those with kids. So frustrating,and impossible too! Does it just fade away?”
This query was followed soon after by this one:
“I attended my first Resolve support group meeting for life after IVF (childfree) and just finished your book. My hardest struggle has been my Faith. I was raised in the ole time religion (southern baptist environment) then into Pentacostal all before the age 10… but since going through this ordeal, I find myself asking if there really is a God because all the things I was taught, like if you do this, righteous, the Lord will bless you…blah blah blah. If you can speak a little on this I would appreciate it. Am I the only person who is so angry with God, that I lost faith? Have any of the other infertile women ever shared anything similar with you?”
I mulled over how to respond. This wouldn’t be easy, especially since I’m far from an expert on the whole God thing. I could pull out the usual cliches ( cue the “we each have our cross to bear” statement), but these burning questions require more than existential rationalizing, and thinking happy thoughts.
No I needed something more. I searched for a metaphor, another way to make the point that anger and resentment are not simply the domain of infertile women. (We get a bad enough rap as it is — no need to add more fuel to the fire.) What other character could help by association? And that’s when it hit me. Salieri from the movie Amadeus. The movie is loosely based on the lives of the composers Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Antonio Salieri.
I saw the film again not long ago and found Salieri a kindred spirit of sorts. He believes Mozart’s music is divine. He wishes he himself was as fine a composer and musician as Mozart. He can’t understand why God favored Mozart, an ingrate who takes his talent for granted, to be his instrument. As described on a movie website, “Salieri’s envy has made him an enemy of God whose greatness was evident in Mozart.”
Like old Salieri there was a time my heartbreak and anger at God, the universe, the fertile world, was seriously corrosive. It was eating me up inside. After intense amounts of reflection I finally decided that I didn’t want to live my life with such resentment and pain coloring my life. Now what to do about it? It was not the least bit easy mind you, but I took myself out of the equation and studied the situation like a dispassionate observer. I realized that most fertile folk would be aghast to learn how badly they had hurt me with their careless comments and gestures. It allowed me to see their ignorance and insensitivity in a new light. I decided to imagine what it would be like to forgive them.
Much like in the opening scene of Amadeus — fortunately I managed to avoid the mental institution — I got into a new groove generously forgiving all who crossed my path. I was downright benevolent — quietly absolving everyone of their sins and transgressions — sometimes even while it was happening. The thought bubbles over my head bordered on epic, “You know not what you do …”
I’m not saying people don’t continue to test my mettle in a big, big way, but the high of forgiveness became a reward in itself. Do I miss the adrenaline rush that comes with wanting to punch someone’s lights out? Sure. It’s not always easy being the bigger person (well, it is if you’re just a smidge under six feet tall like I am), but when it comes to character, I aspire to be big not small.
I’m sure I’m not the only one who has found a path to peace in the post-apocalyptic infertile disaster zone. Others care to share?
November 2, 2009 3:05 pm
Great analogy, Pamela!
I’m not sure I ever reached a point where I started actively forgiving people… but I did find a certain weariness taking over me. For the most part, it just takes too much effort to stay mad at the world forever. I guess I came to the realization that my life, while not exactly the way I had pictured it, is still a pretty good life nevertheless, when all is said & done. There will always be a few idiots who will bug the cr@p out of me (avoidance is a good strategy in these cases…!), but for the most part, I try to realize that most parents are just proud of their kids & have no idea they may be being insensitive.
Also, I can’t be too upset with other people’s kids themselves — they didn’t ask to be here & if their parents don’t have a clue as to the anguish they have caused me, the kids sure don’t. They deserve to be enjoyed on their own terms, not as symbols of what is lacking in my own life.
November 2, 2009 3:11 pm
I know how it feels to be without faith and must say I still struggle with it. I really am on a day to day basis. It always came back to what did I do to be left behind by God. I now take everything moment by moment with my faith. I still believe there has to be some faith in everything we do and say to get us through the day.
November 2, 2009 6:22 pm
I still really struggle with this. I was raised in a family that, somehow, presented the idea that anything someone else had (toys, praise, affection, love) was something that i COULD NOT have. It was hard then & it is so hard now, especially as i know my husband & i could have an emotionally healthy family.
What is harder, too, is that i’ve medical issues that are much, much worse than 2 years ago & i know that even if we had a child, i doubt i’d have the energy to care for him/her.
But knowing these things doesn’t make it any easier.
What i’ve begun to do – & have been doing it for some months now, is to say to myself, “This will not come to you. We will not be having this.” Said it to myself over & over yesterday in church of the darling 2 mo old boy in the pew behind us. “We won’t be having a family. This will not come to us.”
But both hubby & i struggle with the idea that “children are a blessing of the Lord” – & therefore we are not blessed. (And i get the admonition, sometimes, “If you don’t have kids don’t ‘blame’ God – there are lots of kids out there who need a family.”) And, i’ve always kind of believed that if i did “the right things” to support a pregnancy & had patience it would eventually come to us. But evidently it is not to be so.
The conclusion i’ve come to (& had as a child) is that God cares for us, loves us, but doesn’t get actively involved in causing or preventing things. How else can we explain all the horrific things that happen in the world?
So, we are struggling to accept a childless family. My husband & i are content, happy, even at times joyful. We have been blessed with so much. But we have never know the ecstatic joy that we had in those few weeks of pregnancy. We have never had such joy & hope for the future. It looks like we will not.
But, as far as being a Christian, that doesn’t change for me. It isn’t “all about me” or my happiness, tho i wish it were. Lots of folks don’t get what they’d desire. I still trust that God will work it all out even tho i don’t like where this seems to be going.
November 2, 2009 8:28 pm
I think my friend’s new baby opened up a lot of stuff for us. Hubby and I talked about it and I realized that he’s still pissed. Pissed that even in the midst of adoption, we are still struggling every step of the way. We don’t dare do this or assume that. For the first time, I see how scared he is. Scared that it won’t come true. We have planned and sacrificed and schemed and scraped up every spare dollar. I resent that this hunger took over my life, changed who I was. Changed who we both were.
And I hate that. I hate that so much. The isolation,the being on the other side of the fence. We have been waiting for so long and sacrificed so much and though people seem so happy for us now, we can’t feel an ounce of joyful anticipation. It’s a little like when you put those frozen eggs in, pay the bill and everyone at the clinic says good luck! So that’s where faith steps in.
For me, I’ve worked very to get back my faith. I lost it, I admit it. I’m still struggling. And if by some chance, we don’t bring home a child, we’ll deal with it. On vacation.
I don’t begrudge people with children, not at all, I never did. I just couldn’t relate. I didn’t fit in. So I never felt the need to forgive them – maybe avoid them. I don’t think I’ve forgiven myself really.
November 2, 2009 9:27 pm
Re — our feelings towards people with kids — it is what it is. Excruciating. And I don’t think we need to judge ourselves for having those feelings.
I think if the parent world even KNEW we were out there — with all our various paths to not having biolical kids — it would help a great deal.
I wish people with kids wouldn’t cause a big guilt-drama if we decided to do something on our own for a holiday, or chose a social event with a friend over the dozenth kid birthday party this year.
I wish they would understand that for a childless single woman, like my friend, a trip to Brazil to visit a friend at Christmas was what she needed to do with her holiday and hard-earned money — not the usual one-way present fest to her several neices and nephews. If they would just understand we need to nurture ourselves with other bonds — it would be much easier to not be resentful.
As for me — it gets easier when we all get older. I’m glad to be invited to my friend’s kid’s Bar Mitzvah next month, and another friend’s kid’s welcome home party from the military.
It makes no sense, but I’m glad to be included at this point — but when it was about little ones — it was excruciating.
November 3, 2009 4:41 am
Yesterday my husband and I took a walk around the lake. It was a gorgeous, crisp fall afternoon. WE couldn’t have asked for better weather or scenery. As we walked, we started talking about infertility and how much it has changed us and come to define who we are, even now that we are no longer pursuing treatment. For a few minutes, maybe half an hour I felt like I was not so alone in this.
As we ended our walk, we had a choice to walk the short way, through a playground with lots of moms, dads and toddlers playing on the swings and in the fallen leaves. The longer way around would have spared us that and taken maybe 5 minutes longer.
As my husband led us through the playground he was smiling at the kids and with the parents, and suddenly I felt all alone again. I don’t want to be angry and hurt but it is everywhere, everyday. Even on a perfect Sunday stroll around the lake.
November 3, 2009 5:14 am
Great post and timely too.
I have struggled with the overwhelming force of anger – rage – and have not found a resolution to it. I think I’d call myself a Christian even though my faith doesn’t look anything like what my family thinks a Christian faith should look like.
I find it really hard. I previously wrote that I was in the ring with God, demanding answers. But now, I wish He’d just piss off and look somewhere else cause it feels like every time He looks at me something goes terribly wrong.
I too am lost – my faith is in shreds, at one level – at another level I still acknowledge God as the author and sustainer of life, and LIFE is still pretty f*&king amazing, even if my life isn’t. I still believe that love is the only force with power to create and sustain life. So therfor, somehow God is still love. (I just wish he loved me).
I think I will struggle with this burden of rage for some time. It’s pretty ugly. I acknowledge that. But I am not ready to lay it down. I hope that one day I will be.
November 3, 2009 7:46 pm
As always,I appreciate your blogs and your insight. The Creating a Family radio show we did together has been very popular. The Fertility Clinic Funnies were great as well.
November 3, 2009 11:22 pm
I talk to God often, but Sunday church is hard. There’s a lot of babies there…I tell myself God understands and I try to offer my love to him in other ways. When I hear about a child who is abused by their parent, I give the heavens a very stern look and say “Your will be done.” It comes out more like a question than a statement.
This blog has really helped me with my growth of acceptance. I choose not to spend a lot of time with mothers. I try to find friends that have other things to talk about than their kids. I think I’ll always be hurt by the way society treats our circumstances. Infertility is not on the list that initiates sympathy. At work, we show sympathy for sickness, death, unemployment-as we should. However, our ‘living with grief’ is never acknowledged. It’s a very lonely path.
I feel better because of my internal dialog.
*Infertile couples have minimal divorce rates.
*Vacations…Yes, I’m going on another one.
* Convertible-I’m driving one now. It’s not on a wish list for the future.
PJ mentioned to make a new yard stick.
November 4, 2009 12:59 am
My solution about the whole God thing – finally realizing there is no such entity. I don’t understand why we look at an unlikely string of events with a good ending and call it a miracle, but we don’t do the same for an unlikely string of events that end badly.
To me, it just makes sense that believing in a god is a way to pretend there is good and reason in the world when it is really chaos.
Still, if people want to believe in a higher power or a controlling force or whatever, more power to them.
About the financial end – I am thankful our RE helped us have a kid (maybe two) but sometimes I am still bitter that we spent nearly all we made for 2 years while he lives the life of luxury.
November 4, 2009 6:16 pm
One book that may be helpful is “When Bad Things Happen to Good People” by Harold Kushner. It kind of takes the same viewpoint that Katherine espoused above, but it’s interesting and helpful to read the argument. Harold Kushner is a rabbi, but I think the book is helpful for anyone who struggles with the role of God in difficult life situations.
I sometimes describe my coping mechanism as putting something into the “Life Sucks Sometimes” box and leaving it there — meaning that life sucks sometimes but it also rocks sometimes, and all you can do is do your best to get through the sucky times so that you can realize and appreciate the non sucky times when they happen.
November 4, 2009 8:45 pm
Thank you for being here and for your posts. Reading your stories confirm I am not alone in this journey. I am angry and have not yet accepted this “barren” situation. I have lost a sense of who I am and I miss the person I once was. I look forward to connecting here and seeking help to resolve this very painful feelings. Thank you all, and I know you understand and know how it feels. That in itself is comforting.
I can relate to many of your comments. I have found myself crying in church watching all of the children with their moms and dads. I have a lot of work ahead of me but I am glad that I am here.
November 4, 2009 10:43 pm
I don’t dislike or envy those with children but I will not judge myself or anyone else for the feelings it invokes. I was at Thanksgiving last year and wasn’t thinking about being childless but in walked my niece (who is 3 years younger than me) with her new born twins, plus 2 other children. Almost instantly, I was ready to go, my entire mood changed, it was down right ugly. I hated that everyone was trying to get me to hold the twins and I was 2 seconds from snapping and making it a holiday no one would forget. I brushed it off saying they were too tiny. No one could shake my mood, (not even my mother) actually they were clueless.
I really appreciate the comments here; they have helped me so much! More than you all will ever know. I feel like, I’m not the only one with little/no faith. I once believed. Here’s what I took from each of you
@ loribeth, it’s to hard to stay so angry/mad, hey I don’t want early wrinkles
@ Bonnie, to just take it one day at a time, (that’s hard to do sometimes)
@ Kathryn, I took that God is Love and that’s all I should expect. THIS WAS BIG FOR ME! THANKS
@ deathstar, I like your honesty, I lost it too and good luck.
@ Christina, I’m headed on vacation and will not explain my actions when I do. Here’s a thought, we should have a Childfree Cruise (I’ll be on a cruise with family in about a week, and I cringe at knowing all the new moms and children that will be there)
@ Mary, wow, even when you least expect it, it’s everywhere. So I will take the long way (equate to other areas of my life),
@ Barb, that makes 2 of us, my faith doesn’t measure up to my families’ view of a Christian either, and yes life is f’ng great.
@ steppingup, I now avoid church on Sundays. What color car did you get?
@ Kami – did you come to that conclusion after IFor did you once believe?
@ Danielle, I hope my box does not get to full that it hinders me from appreciating the non-sucky times.
I hope to see more comments. This is therapy, keep them coming!
November 10, 2009 6:46 pm
I think you’re approach is so right. Resentment destroys YOU, not the object of your resentment. It’s such a negative thing.
But it’s one thing to know that intellectually, and quite another to be able to put it into practice. You’re amazing.
November 13, 2009 3:53 pm
Sometimes I’m glad we don’t have kids, because I’m free to pursue my writing and blogging dreams! And sometimes I’m sad we can’t have kids, because I think it’d be incredibly cool to share a child with my husband.
For me, acceptance is about realizing that there are times when it doesn’t hurt hardly at all…and times when it hurts like hell. I celebrate the times it doesn’t hurt — it’s so free-ing, like when a headache vanishes and you feel so healthy and good. I bask in those times!
And when I feel bad, I let myself feel bad. I don’t ruminate, but I don’t suppress those feelings.
I like your idea of forgiveness, Pamela…thanks. Even forgiving ourselves for feeling bitter or negative or angry is good; forgiving ourselves and accepting our humanity.
December 13, 2009 1:11 pm
This rings a bell with me because Ive got to the stage where I’m so angry with every pregnant woman and those with children. I just feel they are personally out to rub in my infertility to me, and they are so happy and blooming and I’m so barren and miserable. of course they are not out to annoy me deliberately but that is how it feels to me.
June 20, 2010 11:37 pm
i was raised a catholic, but in time, i became an atheist.
to sum up: i understand the need of the religious to find in God (of any kind) the answers to their questions.
I’m just comfortable not having all of my questions answered.