Coming out and open about suffering is difficult. They call infertility a silent struggle. If you know me, I’m like “Silent’s” loud middle sister. I think part of me hoped if I shared about infertility openly then I would suddenly become fertile. I could be like “Whoops, guess we weren’t really infertile!” What that caused was me sharing with people at around 1 year of unsuccessfully trying to conceive. And as I shared with some people about our infertility, I got brushed off and minimized—my pain was not recognized, not counted worthy yet. And I partly can’t blame them.
In hindsight, that year was the hardest year to date of our infertility journey. Lots of different circumstances caused that pain, but mostly I hadn’t yet trusted God, I hadn’t yet learned what it meant to walk by faith, I hadn’t yet learned how to grieve and have anger and take it honestly to Jesus.
Over those next couple of years, among the MANY lessons God taught me, one that keeps resounding is to not compare pain. There is such pain in this world. There is such joy in this world! But when we start comparing pain only 1 of 2 bad outcomes can result. We either encounter people who are walking through seemingly more difficult circumstances and we feel stupid for feeling so bad about our own circumstances. Or we minimize someone else’s pain and become even more of a victim in our own.
We try to make ourselves feel better by saying “I should be so thankful that is not our story!” The problem with that is that it puts us in a place that feels like we shouldn’t call our pain suffering. It feels like we aren’t allowed to be sad about our circumstances because “things could be so much worse”.
Well at least I’m married, being single would be so much harder!
Well at least God has given us finances to pursue fertility options!
Well at least my husband is open to adoption, oh how painful that would be if he wasn’t!
At least we don’t have a major diagnosis that prevents natural conception!
Or we make others feel minimized in their pain and carve an even deeper hole of sadness for ourselves.
Well at least they already have a child they can give their love to!
They’ve only been trying 1 year, they could get pregnant any month!
They don’t know what it’s like to long for children with the love of your life!
At least they’re already parents through adoption!
I’m guessing one of these hit a nerve with you, they do with me. Do you see the problem with comparing pain? Oh how sick and twisted it is. At first, mentally calculating whose pain is worse seems comforting. We make ourselves the greater victim, and sometimes that elicits a similar response from others. (Side Note: Why does people feeling bad for us feel good? Gross.) Then we realize that all we’re doing is trying to decide in our mind if the other person is allowed to suffer or not. Equally gross.
Somewhere along the lines, someone said to me “The most painful thing is the thing you’re going through.” I love that because it acknowledges my great pain, and also helps me acknowledge other’s great pain. I’ve seen women in great grief from secondary infertility, I’ve seen women in utter sadness as they wait for a spouse, I’ve seen women be almost crushed under the weight of marriage difficulties, I’ve seen women be completely laid low by waiting on their children from another country, and I’ve watched from afar others silently grieve the ache of a full-term belly and no baby in their arms. Suffering is suffering. How dare we make each other the victim to God’s good plans for our lives or minimize where he is doing hard work in us.
This new perspective was like a glimpse of heaven at a dinner table a year ago. Joey and I had dinner with 2 other couples who have also walked through great and very different suffering from ours. We were able to look across and around the table and say, “God has counted each of us worthy of this suffering, what an honor!”
Mother’s Day in particular, let’s recognize that all of us, mothers or not, walk through life with different difficulties, not better or worse, but different and altogether God-glorifying in their own respects. Cheers to that!