Wednesday, January 23, 2013

the burden of hope

So it' s 4:38 in the morning, which is not normally a time I would choose to be awake and blogging, but it is what it is. Once you've been laying in bed for two and a half hours unable to sleep, things that otherwise wouldn't seem wise start sounding pretty good. Not to mention, when you've been filling the sleepless hours (not just tonight, but many nights recently) with Deep Thinking, at some point you think maybe if I just write it all down, get it all out, maybe my brain can rest

So in recent weeks I've heard comments (or been asked questions outright) to the effect of "you are dealing with infertility so well lately...how do you do it? How do you stop letting your life be consumed with infertility, or are you just really not talking about it anymore?" And it got me to thinking...oftentimes in the middle of the night, obviously...and here's what I've come up with.

It's been a long time since I've posted a link to this article, but it's been one of my favorites for quite a few years now. It does an excellent job of describing the cycle of hope and despair, which to me is the essence of infertility. A constant, endless cycle of hoping and despairing. An exhausting, draining cycle of hoping and despairing. As a Christian, I feel like there's even MORE pressure to do the "hoping" part really well-- because our hope is in Christ, right? And so tack on an extra fifty layers of expectation onto your 'hope' end of the cycle-- because maintaining hope is practically tantamount to your salvation, right?, and to indicate a lack of hope would seem to indicate that you don't believe in God or something. So the cycle goes on and on....HOPING!!!!! and EXPECTING!!!!! and sure, despairing a little when you once again discover that all that faith-filled hoping didn't amount to anything. Again. And again. And again, times four years and countless hopes and even more countless hours of despairing.

And one day you wake up and realize that you cannot handle this cycle anymore and so you stop hoping, because if you can stop hoping, you can stop despairing. Or at least despair less. And even though it sounds terrible to 'stop hoping,' when it feels like your current Life Trajectory is pointing you toward either clinical depression or alcoholism and you'd rather skip out on both of those...jumping off the hope/despair cycle seems like the best option out there.

Now here's the thing. I haven't given up hope in general. I still have the hope and dream and goal of being a mother someday. Somehow. When I think about 70-year-old Erika, she absolutely has kids and grandkids surrounding her. So I haven't given up the hope of children in general.

I've given up the burden of expectantly hoping in each week, each cycle, each year. I've given up drumming up enthusiasm and optimism that this could be my month!!! This is my year!!! because years and years of experience have taught me that no, it probably isn't...and it will be a lot easier to deal with that disappointment if you haven't gotten yourself all worked up about the possibility that maybe it is. Do I still hope and pray that I will have children? Yes. Do I expect that it will be now, or soon, or by such and such a date/event? No. Because you try telling yourself year after year that "NEXT year on Mother's Day/Christmas/our TTC anniversary/summer vacation it will be different! We will be pregnant or have a baby FOR SURE!!!" and have your friends agree with you and hope with you as well and then hear a song on the radio and think it is a sign, and someone tearfully whispers something in your ear at church and it's a sign, and then the squash that were dead start growing again in your garden and it's a sign, and then you watch those days- Christmas, Father's Day, and the rest- roll by and by and by and have to remember that hope and confidence you once had...and tell me that anything isn't better than that.  

I had to get off the cycle of hope and despair because the burden of hope was too much. I am not strong enough to despair like that any longer.

And so here I am in a cautiously neutral-ish-optimistic emotional place. I desperately want children, more than anything, more than you can imagine. I am actively working toward that goal in as many ways as I know how and can afford. I believe and trust in a God that will use everything-- all of my life, including these four 'wasted' years of pain and infertility, including the four that could be to come, or the ten, or the lifetime...He can use it ALL to His glory. I do not doubt that at all. But that doesn't mean that every month (or three weeks, as my cycles tend towards now-- FUN TIDBIT!!) I have to start over with drumming up fake enthusiasm and hope that this will be my month. It's easier to expect nothing, because then when you get it...well, you were expecting it anyway. Sound depressing? Not compared to the alternative.

So there's my insider tip, friends. Tired of hoping and despairing? Then get off the crazy train (or Ferris wheel, as the case may be). Only it isn't that easy and I know it. I had to ride that train for years and years. I couldn't just stop hoping because some random girl on the internet said so, because a) that sounds sacrilegious and b) how can you stop hoping? I guess it's one of those things- like so many other aspects of infertility- that you just have to live through to understand. And maybe your experience with infertility will lead you in a different direction. But it's what's working for me, for now. I'm not at all sure I'll stay here forever...because obviously, if you're in the midst of fertility treatments or an adoption, YOUR HOPE IS GONNA SKYROCKET. And that's good. I think that needs to happen. But not for this month after month after year after blasted year of whatever it is I'm doing. A heart can only bear so much. And for me, the burden of constantly drumming up expectant hope was too much

So now that I've had the most productive middle-of-the-night hour of my life, I'm gonna try to rest my eyes before my alarm goes off. Thanks for listening, for supporting and encouraging me, and for holding out hope for me when I cannot do it on my own. 

26 comments:

  1. You're wonderful, and one of the strongest & loveliest people I know.

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  2. Erica, I went to Evans, and know your brother.

    I am adopted. My mom has often told me about her 9 year struggle with infertility. She was hopeful. Then she had despair. And finally, with the decision to adopt, she had pure joy bringing my older twin brothers home.

    You are strong. I hope for you. Conceiving would be amazing. However, I hope that the thought of adoption stays in the background. I met my egg donor, as I call my biological mother, and realized how fortunate I am for adoption. I used to blog about it a lot.

    Thinking of you. You WILL be that 70 year old grandma one day, no matter how it happens.

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  3. I can totally relate to this... especially to the guilt people would put on me if it ever seemed like I was "being negative" or giving up hope. Thankfully, God always met me where I was and never gave up on me, as He'll of course never do to you. And good news, even when hope is too burdensome for you to bear, that's when friends can step in and do it on your behalf :)

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  4. Surprise: I agree with Amanda! When the hope is too hard to keep up, that's what we are here for :)

    This is a great, honest post. So next time you are not sleeping, go ahead and crank out another one, because I'm sure countless people will be able to relate to it. I hate that these are the things you are thinking about in the wee hours of the morning, and I will just continue to pray that one day soon you will be up in the middle of the night for very, very different reasons...

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  5. Thank you for sharing this. I so want to get off this crazy train, too. Hope within a journey of infertility certainly is burdensome. And the despair that tends to follow is too. I totally get where you are right now. And I'm just glad that you were able to move away (as much as you could) from the awful cycles of hope and despair and that you're doing what's best for YOU right now in your journey. Thank you for being so honest with your thoughts and feelings, especially at 4:30 am!!! Hope you're not too much of a walking zombie today ;)

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  6. Thanks for posting- this is EXACTLY what I've gone through with hoping for healing (first of Anna's leg, than her allergies). I know it's totally different, but for a long time I constantly hoped, believed, acted as if she would be healed, and of course there were all these 'signs' and then the constant disapointment and after years of this...watching her suffer.... I realized that I'm just going to go ahead and be unspiritual, and stop hoping for healing. Or expecting it, like you said. Because otherwise I will wind up seriously hating God. So even though it's a totally different playing field, I appreciate your perspective. Being a Christian makes going through tough things 10 times harder sometimes. Wait, can I say that? Isn't it supposed to be the opposite? lol. Thinking of you and so sad that you have to go through this :(

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  7. Absolutely loved this post, Erika! You make such excellent points that I really want to take to heart. I am going to keep it up on my computer and look at it throughout the day, especially when I'm going full speed on the crazy train... :)

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  8. I am continuing to pray for you Erika. And I am holding out hope because, as others have said, when you can't do it that's where we step in. Thank you for sharing so honestly about where you are at. My heart hurts, and hopes, for you simultaneously.

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  9. Great post, I can totally relate!

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  10. You so perfectly captured EXACTLY what that cycle feels like. Last Halloween, we got a phone call that there was a hospital call and they were *pretty* sure it would be us taking the baby home. My heart exploded with joy. "A Halloween Baby! That is SO perfect!" We rushed around. We cleaned up the nursery, which always sits vacant, like an empty, sad building - and then waited, practically bursting with hope. Then the call came. The mother had picked another family. We were devastated. I cried. He cried. In seperate rooms, because sometimes dual grief is just too overwhelming together. Later, we held each other. But in that moment, we needed to grieve in the privacy of our own hearts.

    Two weeks later, we found out that after the other family had taken the baby home, that the birthmother had a "change of heart". The child was taken back. Now I feel blessed that God spared us what would have been a much bigger heartbreak.

    Your advice here was so sound. I do feel myself thinking "At Easter, we'll have a baby. At Christmas. For summer!" I've actually TRIED very hard to stop that sort of thinking, especially after this Christmas.

    Your midnight musings were very heard here in the Rocky Mountains. Also, I have a present for you!

    I'll mail it next week, hopefully.

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  11. I can relate to this on several levels. First with our own journey to our family, in my relationship with my mom and now with the road we are on with Xander.

    I confided in a friend once that I didn't think my faith was strong enough because I had these feelings. She smiled and told me that God is big enough to take us not always being hopeful and also our disappointment and even anger. It meant a lot to me. For so long, I felt guilty because while I hope in Christ, sometimes my day to day, minute by minute isn't so hopeful. He knows. He created us. And we are all human.

    Hoping for you!

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  12. By the way, I was up around the same time. Interesting, I was praying and humming His Eye is on the Sparrow (see my facebook post!)

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  13. I love this post.

    And I don't think you've given up hope...you've just moved it from an expectation of an outcome to putting in who Christ is (not that I think it's bad to hope for outcomes...it's natural and sometimes we are called to it.) But ultimately, we can always rest and put our Hope in the one who never fails us no matter what.

    And that being said, I hope for the outcome of you being a mother every day....like I seriously think about you at least once a day. I gladly will help you carry that burden.

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  14. Thank yo so much for sharing. Thispost was insightful and very honest. I really like how it helped me think about how I handle hope and IF. When I was first diagnosed, I was on this ferris wheel for a few months, hopeing my Doctors were actually idiots and I did not actually have POF. When I accpeted that I did have POF and started looking at donors, I got off the ferris wheel. It was a really good few months. Very calm, like you seem to be. Now that our cycle is imminent, I am back on teh crazy ferris wheel. Thank you for shairng your thoughs and reflections!

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  15. I am a blog creeper. I've been reading your blog since your letter to new moms on emyselfandi.com. It was a huge comfort to me when I was struggling with infertility. Your post today makes so much sense, and you have such a gift with words. It may seem weird, but I do pray for you and hope your wait comes to an end soon.

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  16. I love this. I can really resonate with the need to get off the roller coaster for the sake of my sanity. I feel like I've got one foot on and one foot off. Which is a pretty dangerous was to ride a roller coaster. : )

    I think 2012 was the year of hope for me. I stated clomid and thought, "this is it." Then we moved onto an RE, and I thought, "surely she'll know what to do. It's her job to get be pregnant." And even when we weren't cycling we were always anxiously waiting for something… waiting for cysts to go away, waiting for appointments. It's so much easier to hope when there's something going on. But to hope in the midst of nothing, to hope based on the 1% or 5% chance, each and every month. You literally start to lose your mind.

    I wish I could just get off the stupid ride. I've ridden it enough; there are no more secrets or thrills in store. I don't want to give up hope completely, but like you said to to give "up the burden of expectantly hoping in each week, each cycle, each year" gives you your life back. It may not be the life we would choose. It may not look the way we thought it would, but it's better than staying on the crazy train.

    I love your attitude in the midst of so much pain, and suffering, and hopelessness. Honored to say I'm in the trenches with someone like you.

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  17. Like Kristina, I too think about you all of the time. I am praying and hoping for you daily! Thank you for being brave, raw, and honest to the blog world!

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  18. Thanks for sharing such a deep personal part of yourself. Which ever way you choose to cope with your heartache of infertility, is the right way. You will know deep down when it is time to change. I promise.xx

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  19. Ugh. Hope... the "H" word. It can be such a double edged sword. Hard to find that fine line between hopeful and hopeless. I'm totally with you. When we feel weak, helpless, hopeless - He is strong. He must be "superman" strong by now.

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  20. This says it all. I was in that "despair" zone last week and wrote a three page diatribe about how this hope-despair cycle is like the stages of grief every month in my diary while crying. Maybe I'll be brave enough to post it someday...

    You are seriously amazing, Erika. Thanks for always being so honest and brave.

    Hope you were able to get some rest after writing all this!

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  21. aw. thinking, praying and hoping for you Erika.

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  22. Beautiful. This journey is not in vain, I just know it. God has big plans for you and your future. :)

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  23. What a wonderful post! Thank you for sharing this.

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  24. Love love love this. Thank you, too. I relate completely. I got off the crazy train myself. Probably will jump back on before this is all over. One day we'll be moms. ONE GLORIOUS DAY. But yeah. I'm 35 next month. I really really hoped i wouldn't still be dealing w/ this at 35. And, here i am. We've only been trying for 2 years though (I got married at 30...seems i'm late in everything!). ;)

    Love your blog & the way you write!

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  25. My heart aches for you and understands completely, too. I'm not gonna lie...infertility has shaken my faith to the core. I've had to accept God's answer of "no" to my hopes and prayers of children. It is a battle, but my life is filled with blessings and many, many fulfilled dreams and promises. My prayer for you will be the one I prayed for myself for years...persistence, patience, and peace. Come to think of it, I still need to pray for that for myself. :)

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