As a writer who openly and honestly writes about motherhood, I get a lot of flack. A lot. Definitely not anywhere close to the amount of amazingly positive feedback, but it's there. I can ignore a lot, but when I read e-mails and comments and messages from infertile women who are appalled that I'd have anything to "complain" about when it comes to motherhood...well...it breaks my heart. Sincerely. Because I totally get it. Maybe not to the extent that others have experienced, but I've been there.
Since there are thousands of new faces around here, I wanted to take one post to introduce you to my greatest struggle and my greatest blessings. At one point, my life revolved around my inability to conceive children. I lived it. I breathed it. It consumed my heart and my mind. My infertility was the lens through which I viewed everything. I was angry a lot, bitter a lot, continuously living in a state of envy. Anytime I hear someone say something negative about being a mom, my first thought was, "Well you're lucky you even GET to have babies. I wish I had those problems to deal with."
I thought infertility was hard before my first child was born, but when we couldn't conceive for the second time, it almost killed me. Depression consumed me. I thought God was punishing me. I hated everything. I wanted to escape my life. I hated where I was and who I was and it was just ... it was really hard.
And then it wasn't. I realized that my pain was no one's responsibility but my own. That while the body of Christ is called to bear my burdens, they aren't called to pretend they don't have their own. When I used to get mad at other women for voicing their struggles in motherhood, I would think of the verse where Paul says to refrain from certain things if it causes someone to stumble. Didn't my friends realize that their motherhood and their complaining about it was causing me to sin? Insensitive jerks. So I distanced myself from them and kept to myself and refused to look at their motherhood or listen to their struggles. And then I realized that I was the jerk. So I stopped being pain centered and started supporting and loving my friends and my family whom God had blessed with the gift of life. Because if they were called to bear my burdens, I was called to bear theirs, even if it was singlehandedly the most painful thing I'd ever have to do.
I think when women who cannot bear children hear women who can complaining, the assumption is that they are naive and ungrateful. I've been accused of taking my kids for granted, my womb for granted, for being insensitive and selfish and clueless. That I don't know what pain is, what loneliness is, or how much I truly have.
I can assure you, none of those things are true, and if I feel nothing else, it's guilt for being able to walk away from infertility with a baby in my arms. It's easy to get caught up in the struggles of motherhood, but never once have I taken my children for granted. Infertility is a dark and lonely season. It's isolating and terrifying and the pain hangs over you all the time like a dark cloud. Even when you're smiling, it's there. Even when you're not thinking about it, it's there. It's raw and it's real. 24 hours a day. Very few people understand it and very few people feel comfortable talking about it.
Perhaps that's why, when an infertile woman has a baby, it's so easy to forget what those days were like. My infertile days were dark, to say the least, but when the tests showed positive, everything changed. Color was back in my world, the clouds had lifted and life had meaning again. I didn't want to remember the pain, the loneliness, the jealousy. I didn't want to access those memories to write about them or talk about them. I wanted to tuck them away with all of the other unpleasant memories and never open them again. That season was over and a new one began.
In this new season of life, I struggle in different ways. I struggle to love my children. I struggle with feelings of inadequacy and thinking maybe my kids would be better off without me. I struggle to be present with them, to discipline them, to teach them, to raise them. I struggle with balancing my role as a mother and my role as a wife. I struggle with loving my husband as much as I love my kids and giving him the attention that he needs and deserves. I struggle with making decisions for these little humans that can't decide things on their own, and I struggle with forgiving myself when I make a mistake. Motherhood is a beautiful, incredible, ridiculous struggle and we were never meant to walk it alone.
When I was walking the infertility road, I found strength in friends who understood what I was going through and were going through the same thing. We complained, we cried, and we walked together. Just because I'm no longer infertile, does not negate the fact that I still need support. Mothers need support too. So we walk together. We complain. We laugh. We struggle. I'm happy to be the voice of real motherhood. The ugly stuff. The stuff no one wants to talk about lest we be accused of not loving our children or being thankful for them. Please don't ever try to silence someone's struggle, even if you think it's smaller than your own. Especially if you don't know their story.
I'm Kristen. I have ovarian cysts and two beautiful children and I struggle through motherhood. What's your story?