24 June 2011

Why is there SHAME?

That day, several years ago, when my doctor told me that I would never have children ...that day was devastating in more than one way. Yes, I WANTED children very very badly, but it was more than that. There was something missing. There was something I should be that I couldn't be. And I was filled with shame.

Women are beautiful creatures with beautiful bodies and amazing abilities to be tough and tender. And at the same time we are usually take on the impossible task of being a cook, maid, and counselor to our husbands while in most cases also assisting with the financial burdens of the family by either working or managing finances. But we are meant for more than just being beautiful and succeeding at the impossible list of things Proverbs 31 tells us to do.

At some point in her life, a women feels a burn to bear a child. It is something I didn't understand until I felt it. So when you are told you cannot bear children, or when you try and try and don't get pregnant, there must be something wrong.

For me, it was clearly my body. But it was more than that. There was something wrong with ME. I wasn't as much of a woman as my friend who couldn't stop getting pregnant. I was broken or defective in some way. I had lost some worth as a woman, and I was ashamed.

What man would want a defective wife who couldn't help him reproduce? What would happen when all of my friend had children and I didn't? Would they exclude me? Would I eventually end up single, friendless and alone?

To add to it, my boyfriend at the time had already had his grandmother's diamond ring resized for me we I got my news, and he decided to break things off rather than propose. So the rejection was beginning already. I was embarrassed, ashamed, and afraid to tell anyone because I didn't want them to reject me.

After getting married, and when we were ready to officially work on getting pregnant, I was afraid. I started pushing to start fertility meds almost immediately because I didn't want anyone to ask why we didn't have kids or weren't pregnant yet. Stan was not on board with fertility meds yet, so I just tried to avoid the topic.

Why do people ever ask young couples "When are you guys gonna figure out how to have chidren?" or other similar questions when they haven't had a child after a couple years of marriage? Questions like that can pierce an infertile woman's heart with more force than a train. It would take me weeks sometimes to recover from comments like that. I even had someone once ask me if I was waiting until I was secure about our marriage...

When I was desperate to get pregnant and after our first loss, it was hard to be around people with children or pregnant women. And it wasn't jealousy. It was a deep hurt that God had not blessed me, and a fear that there was something wrong with me or that I had done something wrong that disqualified me from motherhood. But when you decline an invitation to a baby shower or skip a function involving lots of pregnant women or mothers, people assume it is jealousy. It makes it very easy to alienate yourself.

The hardest experience for me was seeing what I judged to be 'bad' mothers. I remember one day in a Publix parking lot where this mother of four beautiful stair-step children was barking at them with such anger and disgust in her voice. I stalked them through the store because I wanted to imagine myself with four children, and I checked out and followed them out. When they got to the minivan, one of the children, probably around 3 years old wasn't climbing into the van fast enough, so she smacked him to the ground. This women obviously didn't want four children, and she resented having them and having to take them to the store. I climbed into my minivan, which we bought in faith that we would fill it up, and I wept.Why would God allow that hateful woman have four children when I wanted six and couldn't have them? Why was he allowing me to hurt so much?

For Christians, we are supposed to have faith, which is "the assurance of things hoped for, he conviction of things not seen." according to Hebrews 11:1. So when a Christian woman prays for children and doesn't have any, there are people in the church that say that it is because they lack faith. I can tell you from experience that that was not the case for me. I believed with all of my heart and soul that I was pregnant every month, and I would continue to believe that I was pregnant even after the negative test, and then even after I started bleeding. But I wasn't, no matter how much I believed that I was.

After we lost Angel, I had a renewed shame with a side of guilt. It was a different kind of shame though. I was broken, and my broken body had killed my child. That doctor who told me I would be negligent to try to get pregnant was right. I was not only not qualified to be a mom, I had caused the death of my child. I must have not had enough faith, or I had a negative thought or fear about my pregnancy that caused my child's death.

I was sure that it was because of my uterus shape and because I missed my prenatal so often and I had eaten ice cream and McDonalds a couple of times. At the the appointment, the nurse asked a series of questions including "Have you had intercourse recently?" all of which implied that I may have caused this somehow. And no matter how many doctors, friends, and eventually counselors told me that it wasn't my fault, I still held guilt that it was somehow my fault. I still feel that guilt sometimes.

I think this is why so many people won't talk about miscarriage and infertility. There is so much shame and embarrassment and guilt. The problem is that people not talking about it makes it seem like it should be shameful.

After our miscarriage, I was shocked how many women I knew who had also had miscarriages that I never knew about. I know that it is painful to talk about. Trust me, every time I talk or write about it I weep. But I wish I had known that so many women had also dealt with it so I wouldn't have felt so alone.

So many women don't tell people they are pregnant until they are 12 weeks or beyond, and I understand that now even though I don't agree with it entirely. After our miscarriage, I was still getting congratulations because I had just posted my pregnancy on Facebook the week before. I tried to avoid everyone because I was so ashamed and I was not sure what to say. With each pregnancy after Angel, we have told some friends and family immediately so we can get people praying as early as possible. My take on it is that if something bad happens, we are going to tell them so they can pray so why not get those prayers earlier.

Why is it that when a women has a failed IVF or loses a baby, people don't respond the way they would after the death of a close family member? It is actually the loss of a child with the added physical challenges of recovery. The woman or couple has lost a child, and I believe that the church or friends and family should respond.

Why is there shame? Why do we feel shame when God has not blessed us with children? Why do we feel guilt when our baby dies?

Struggling with infertility and pregnancy loss is a HUGE issue for women and men, and there are so many of us dealing with it. We don't have to be ashamed or embarrassed or feel guilt.

It is NOT your fault.

It is NOT my fault.

1 comment:

  1. Hannah... this is so beautifully written. My heart aches for you, and for the babies I have lost also. I dont speak of mine very much because it hurts. But, I do when it could possibly help someone else. Your blog is doing that... you are helping others and possibly yourself at the same time.
    God loves you Hannah... and me. I cant wait for the day when my angel babies meet me at the Golden Gates and I get to hug them at last. That is a day I will look foward to all the days of my life.