by Lisa Braunius
If you had told me when my husband and I decided to start a family that our journey would take place over six years, I would have laughed an uneasy laugh, leaning towards denial of the truth. Or, I would have questioned whether I wanted to move forward on this journey. As it turns out, both reactions have a place in our story. Dealing with infertility is a complicated, lengthy journey.
As a woman, when you decide to have children, there’s an unspoken expectation: you will get pregnant in a few months and a baby will join your family. My husband and I began to dream of whether our child would be a boy or girl, started making a list of names, and picked out the theme for the nursery. After the first three to four months of seeing the negative test, I started to feel a bit disappointed. Then as more months passed, I began to search the internet for answers and ask questions of my friends who have been successful in getting pregnant.
After thirteen months, despair set in. In my mind, my body represented failure
My disappointment turned into doubt about myself and my body. Why was I getting a negative test every month? I continued to read, research, learn, and try with no success. After thirteen months, despair set in. In my mind, my body represented failure. It was unable to do the function that made me a woman, to produce a child. This “failure” seeped into other areas in my life where I felt inadequate. Failure became a constant. Out of that failure came depression, which was another barrier to living and functioning in daily life.
Thankfully, my husband was with me on every step of this journey. I call it a “journey” because attempting to become pregnant is not a race that has a hard start and end. Battling infertility calls for all your emotions, senses, and body functions to come together for the goal of getting pregnant. My loving, supportive partner would stand with me as I read the tests and hold me as I sobbed.
My family and friends tried to understand my deep despair and sense of grief. But oftentimes the words “just relax,” “take a vacation,” and “trust in God’s plan,” caused more pain instead of offering comfort. This caused cracks in my relationships because I could not give them the response that they seemed to need. My journey helped teach them, too. They began to understand that their words hurt me, and they gained sensitivity in communication and offering support.
Words like “just relax” and “trust in God’s plan” caused more pain instead of offering comfort.
A turning point in my journey came when a friend created a space for me to lament, which is the act of mourning, crying out, and expressing pain and sorrow. This friend sat with me in a coffee shop and gave me a safe place where I could express my sorrow and mourn the loss of a dream. It allowed time for me to sit and cry or even just sit silently together.
This friend, along with my husband, formed the foundation of an excellent coping tool that I have long used during challenging times: walking and talking. I learned to use walking as a time to talk with my friend or my husband about whatever was on my mind. They did not need to say anything. Their presence offered the comfort that I needed.
As the journey lengthened, I also became stronger at not feeling like I needed to hide my emotions. To be clear, I was not always walking around sad or crying. However, there were many situations, like attending church for Mother’s Day or baptisms, where I would sit with my husband in the back of our church and the tears would flow freely. I began to be able to explain to friends that had babies why it was difficult for me to spend time with them or to attend their baby showers.
Our story has the ending we had prayed for. Out of my lamenting came my two beautiful children, Petra, 20, and James, 15. I am grateful for their lives while I also hurt for couples who have not been able to have their journey end this way. Along the way, my husband and I learned to communicate differently and how to support each other through many demanding situations in our life.
I pray that my story might equip you to love and care for others on a journey of infertility as well.
About the Author: Lisa Braunius is a chaplain and care coordinator for a Michigan-based hospice organization. She lives in Holland, Michigan with her husband.