Hope and Help For Those Struggling With Infertility
When the professional advice isn't enough, and you've had your fill of well-meaning comments from those who haven't experienced infertility, Marlo Schalesky wants you to know you are not alone. The true stories she tells of couples who share your hopes, fears, frustrations, and the comfort only God can bring will encourage your heart.
Infertility strikes at the core of what it means to be a woman or man, tests marriages, and shakes faith. The honest, open, and emotionally resonant first-person stories in Empty Womb, Aching Heart will touch your lifeas you "cry in the diaper aisle," wonder if you "are less of a woman," ask "How far should we go?" or whisper to God, "It's not fair."
|Publisher:||Baker Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.50(d)|
About the Author
Marlo Schalesky is a frequent contributor to Today's Christian Woman and Discipleship Journal, as well as a minister in the Church of the Nazarene. Marlo and her husband live in California.
Read an Excerpt
Crying in the Diaper Aisle
Megan, age 37
I am a reasonable woman. I don't cry at weddings or at the movies (Titanic didn't even do it for me). But the diaper aisle at the grocery store? Well, that's a different story. The first time it happened, it took me by surprise.
I strolled down the aisle, pushing my cart with the squeaky left wheel, while my eyes scanned the shelves for the brand of toilet paper that was on sale. It wasn't Northern, or Angel Soft. Charmin. Ten cents cheaper for a four-packdouble rolls! I snatched two packages from the shelf and tossed them into my cart. Then I turned, and my gaze caught sight of a baby with eyes as blue as my husband's and hair the same color as mine. She was staring at me from a package of Huggies. My hands clenched the cart handle. My throat tightened. My vision blurred.
What was happening to me? Tears pooled in my eyes and began to trickle down my cheeks. I grabbed a tissue from my purse and dashed them away, while thoughts, unbidden, unwanted, raced through my mind. Our daughter might have looked like her. That baby could have been mine. When will God bless us with a child? Will God ever bless us? And how can I bear it if he doesn't?
Desperately, I fought back the tears as I hurried from the diaper aisle. I glanced around, hoping no one had noticed my awkward breakdown. It was silly, crazy, unseemly to cry over a package of diapers. What was wrong with me? Maybe I hadn't gotten enough sleep last night. Maybe it was hormones. Or maybe ... I was losing my mind. I sighed, and rolled my cart to the checkout.
The checkout clerk pulled the cartthrough and then looked at me. "Hey, are you all right?" One long red fingernail pointed at me as her other hand grabbed a pack of Charmin. "You don't look so good."
I managed a watery smile. "It's nothing. I'm fine. Just allergies, I guess, that's all."
"That's too bad. February's a strange time for allergies."
I didn't answer. Instead, I pulled out my credit card and swiped it through the machine. As I walked out of the store, I told myself that my experience with the Huggies was a one-time occurrence, a fluke. It wouldn't happen again. I wouldn't let it.
But it did happen again. And again. And again. When I saw a mother strolling her baby down the sidewalk outside my dining room window, when I walked past a young boy being photographed at Sears, when all the little kids paraded up to the front of the church on Sunday to sing a special song about God's loveeach time those unexpected, undesired tears clogged in my throat and smeared my mascara. And every time I fought them back and wondered what was wrong with me.
My husband wondered, too. Sometimes I saw him watching me, a strange look in his eye, as I reached for the tissues that I now kept handy. I knew what he was thinking. Where was that solid-as-a-rock woman he had married? And who was this unstable, wet-cheeked woman who had replaced her?
I asked myself the same questions. But found no answers.
Tim and I had been trying to get pregnant for five years. At first, I denied there was a problem at all. I told myself that our timing was off, that I must have ovulated early, or late, this month. Somehow we just didn't "hit it" right. I assured myself that we'd get pregnant in the next couple of months, but those months passed, and still nothing. My OB/ GYN kept saying that he couldn't find anything wrong, that I was sure to get pregnant soon. But "soon" never came. Eventually we went to a specialist who diagnosed me with severe endometriosis and found that my husband's sperm were, well, less than perfect. I remembered my anger, my frustration, when I discovered that we'd been wasting our time. If only we'd started trying to conceive as soon as we were married; if only we'd gone to the clinic sooner; if only we'd sought help from the beginning. But we hadn't. And now, only now, as I began to suspect that we might never conceive, did these strange surges of grief wash over me.
And every time they did, I wondered if I'd ever feel normal again. "God's timing is perfect," my friends would say. "God knows what's best," my pastor assured us. "Get a hold of yourself," my mother urged. "Christians are supposed to be happy. Remember, all things work together for good to those who love the Lord!"
Maybe they were right. Did my tears show a lack of faith? Did these sudden outbursts reveal that I wasn't trusting in God? What kind of witness was I, with my long face, and tears in the diaper aisle? I did believe that God loved me and that he was in control. Yet despite my beliefs, the tears still came at the most awkward times. And I didn't know what to do about them. Gone was the sensible woman I had always been. And in her place was a woman with emotions strong enough to raise the stock of the Kimberly-Clark Corporation.
It took lunch with Debbie, a friend who had recently lost her father, to help me to understand what was going on inside me.
We'd just finished our meal at a local café, and were sipping tea and nibbling pastries, when the conversation turned to Debbie's father.
Debbie sprinkled sugar into her tea and stirred. "I don't know what's wrong with me," she said. "I'll see a picture of Dad, or some trinket he gave me, and the tears come again. It's awful. I don't know what to do about it."
"Why do anything?" I asked. "It's normal to grieve when you've lost someone you love. A few tears are to be expected."
She shook her head. "Yeah, but it's been more than three months. I thought I'd be over the crying stage. And besides, Dad was a Christian. I know he's in heaven. Shouldn't I be happy about that?"
I poured more tea into my cup and remained silent. Somehow her words reminded me of something else, of someone else, but I didn't yet realize that someone was me.
"I know I'm supposed to be content," Debbie continued. "And I feel like I should rejoice that he's gone to be with Jesus; but, well, it still hurts. I miss him." Her voice lowered. "You know, it just feels so unchristian to cry. We're supposed to be happy. But I can't seem to help it. The tears come anyway."
I watched as Debbie's eyes became watery. She looked away. Calmly I reached across the table and laid my hand on hers. "It's okay to cry," I said. "You've lost your father. Just because he's in heaven doesn't mean it shouldn't hurt. You have to cry; it's part of the grieving process. And besides"I paused, and squeezed her hand tighter"even Jesus wept."
She glanced at me. "That's right, when Lazarus died."
I nodded. "Even though he knew that he was going to raise Lazarus from the dead, he still wept; he still felt grief. Crying isn't unchristian. In fact, sometimes it's right to cry."
As I drove home that day, a brightly colored ball bounced out in front of my car. I stopped as a little boy, not more than four years old, scampered after it. A little boy with his baseball cap on sideways and bright suspenders holding up his pants, a little boy so much like the son I longed to have. I blinked rapidly, fighting to hold back the tears. Then my own words came back to me: Sometimes it's right to cry. Were those words true, even for me?
As I thought about it, I realized that, like Debbie, I too had lost someone I lovedthe child I longed for, but didn't have. Why did I think my loss was less significant, less painful? Why did I believe that I didn't need to grieve? Perhaps, like I'd told Debbie, it was okay to cry. After all, I reminded myself, even Jesus wept.
All this time I'd been fighting the tears and telling myself I should trust God and be content, I hadn't allowed myself to grieve. I thought crying was a sign of weak faith, but maybe it was a sign of God's attempt to bring healing to my heart. If that were the case, I needed to stop fighting the grief and accept it, just as Jesus accepted it. I needed to allow the tears to cleanse me. I needed to switch to waterproof mascara.
These days I cry when I need to cry, without feeling guilty. And lately I've discovered that as I allow myself to fully experience grief, the tears come less often. I can look at the baby on a box of Huggies and I can listen to the children sing at church without having to dig in my purse for a tissue. But if the tears do come, I don't try to stop them. I've come to realize that God understands my tears, and that they don't fall to the ground unnoticed.
Infertility is a hard road, a painful road. Sometimes tears are needed to smooth the way. Sometimes it's right to cry.
Empty Womb, Aching Heart
Copyright © 2001, Marlo Schalesky
Published by Bethany House Publishers
Used by permission. Unauthorized duplication prohibited.