The Bitter Infertile
I can’t remember where I first heard the term “bitter infertile” but I remember that the term seemed to kind of slap me in the face. What an unfeeling way to refer to a woman who is struggling through infertility! But the more I have pondered that term, the more I realize that it’s an ugly term because it’s an ugly thing to be. Bitter. Harsh, disagreeable, antagonistic. Who wants to be around that? A better question - who wants to be that?
But then, that’s so easy to say. “I don’t want to be bitter.” Honestly, I don’t think any woman who has waited years to have a baby looks in the mirror and says, “I want to be a terrible, mean, harsh person that no one enjoys being around.” So how does it happen? I have met lots of women this past year who have spent time battling infertility. And I have seen just a few who have become bitter.
What does a “bitter infertile” look like? Perhaps the more accurate question is, what does a “bitter infertile” sound like?
“Why does she get to have a baby when I can’t? She’s fifteen, for goodness sake. She doesn’t even want it!”
“Everywhere I go there are pregnant ladies or ladies with infants. I can’t even go grocery shopping without being slapped in the face by how fertile everyone else is. It’s not fair!”
“I can’t believe she invited me to a baby shower. Does she even know how painful that is for me? She should know better!”
“Why does God hate me? The only thing I want in this world is the one thing I can’t have!”
Now, before you get all judgemental on me, I’ll admit, I have thought some of these things before. It’s hard to see an unmarried woman or a teenager “accidentally” get pregnant and complain about having to “deal with” a baby when they weren’t ready. It’s frustrating to read about the soaring abortion rates while desperately trying to conceive or carry a baby to term. It’s difficult to go to baby showers and even more difficult to try to explain why you just can’t handle going to a baby shower to someone who doesn’t understand what you’re going through. But there is a right and a wrong way to handle those frustrations. That’s where my favorite phrase “a better blessing” comes in.
How do I avoid becoming the “bitter infertile?”
1. Focus outward, not inward.
“How can I be a blessing to someone else?” This was one of the first things I realized when I decided that my “curse” could be a blessing in disguise. I have said it before and I will say it again, when you’re feeling down, one of the quickest and easiest cures is to do something kind for someone else. By lifting someone else up, you are lifted up with them!
2. Count your blessings.
I know it sound cliche, but it really does make a difference. You choose what you focus on. As my pastor said this morning, if there are both flowers and weeds in the garden, you decide whether you look at the flowers or the weeds. If there is a single rain cloud in the sky, you have a choice whether you look at that or whether you look at the blue skies around it. You can’t erase your pain and you can’t cure your infertility. But you can choose to thank God for the life He has given you, even while you continue to ask Him to give you a child.
3. Know your limits.
If you can’t handle a baby shower, don’t go. If you can’t even find a way to explain your absence, then don’t. Simply say, “I’m so sorry; I won’t be able to make it this time.” If you’ve suffered a recent loss and helping in the church nursery is just too much for the time being, simply say that you need to step away for a few months. Find another ministry to pour yourself into instead.
4. Don’t push people away.
I hate to say it, but if you have struggled with infertility, you will know that this is true. Sometimes, fertility struggles mean losing friends. The truth is, some people get uncomfortable, they don’t know what to say, so they start to avoid you. Then before you know it, you’re not even hanging out anymore. But your true friends will be there through it all. They will want to spend time with you. They will want to listen to you and be there for you. Let them. Pushing them away will just leave you alone and miserable. Allow them to be your friends. Let them know what you need. Call them when you’re having a tough day. Don’t rob them of the blessing that they want to be to you!
5. Trust God
It’s so easy for me to say “Trust God.” But what does that mean? I used to think it meant that I should trust that He would give me a child. But then I realized, I didn’t know if He ever would. What I did know was that He knew what was best for me and He knew my path. Trusting Him meant believing that He had my best interest at heart and knowing that my journey in infertility was supposed to happen - it was supposed to make me a stronger Christian and bring me closer to Him. When I realized that, then that’s exactly what started to happen - I started growing and changing into a better person than I was before. That was a better blessing than I had ever expected.
6. Talk to God.
Stop whining and feeling sorry for yourself. Talk to God about it instead. It’s okay to tell Him exactly how you feel! (He already knows anyway!) Tell Him that you’re frustrated, hurt, anxious, and sad. And don’t stop asking Him for that baby that you want so badly. Remember the parable Jesus shared in Luke.
And he said to them, “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything’? I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will rise and give him whatever he needs.
Jesus reminds us here that persistence often pays off. Who knows what God is waiting for? There is a purpose to His timing, but He doesn’t want you to give up. He may not answer “yes” right away, but don’t stop asking and believing that He can do a miracle for you when the time is right!
I am not going to lie and tell you that I have never struggled with bitterness. And it’s so easy for me to give “advice” when I’m on the other side of my struggle. (Well, almost on the other side.) But I have tried it both ways. I have sulked and whined about how hard it was to wait, how difficult it was to say goodbye to baby after baby, how frustrated I felt with my body for failing to produce a child, how impatient I was with God. And then, I realized that I could use my struggle to grow and to reach out to others. I promise you, it’s better to climb the mountain than to sit at the bottom of it crying.
I will pray that you (and I) can keep a right focus even in the middle of trials, that we can trust the Lord in all circumstances, and that we won’t waste the hard times in our lives, but rather use them to glorify Him! I hope you will pray the same with me this week and in the weeks and months to come.