On Secondary Infertility

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We had a pretty intense lesson this Sunday in Relief Society.  We started out discussing a talk from the conference edition of the Ensign about understanding the Spirit.  A sister mentioned her frustration with not receiving answers about why she has only been able to bear one child.

Oh boy.

We have such an amazingly supportive and loving group of women in our branch.   No one said anything offensive or judgmental or just plain stupid.  There were lots of tears and tissues passed around.  Many of us felt that we had something to contribute to that topic.  One sister lost her firstborn at 18 months.  One sister's firstborn died within a few hours and she had 6 subsequent still births with no living biological child - she was able to adopt.  One sister's smallest child was killed in an accident.  I also suffer from secondary infertility.  All of us have gone through excruciatingly painful  bouts of doubt, self-loathing, anger, frustration and despair.

Infertility is painful.  Loss of a child is excruciating.  For an LDS woman, infertility or the loss of a child can feel like a condemnation, or even rejection from the Lord.  We entertain thoughts like these:

Am I not good enough to bear children?

Will I damage them in some way if I have them?

Maybe I am being punished for some sin that I cannot possibly repent of.

Why are other women who aren't ready or who don't want children allowed to have them when I can't.

My husband would be a great dad, maybe he would be better off spiritually/happier/more fulfilled if I left him (or if I was dead) so that he could marry someone fertile.

I am not worthy of the Eternal Family that I desire.

Many years ago, I asked a dear friend for a blessing before Bry went away for a particularly long training trip.  I was just getting my post-post-partum depression issues under control and I was frankly terrified of being on my own with Molly for so long.  Partway into the blessing I began hearing some very unexpected things about my family and my worthiness.  I was reassured that my infertility was NOT a judgment or condemnation but was a result of living in an imperfect world where my body was subject to natural laws.  My family (and I) were acceptable to the Lord just as we were then.  There is important work for me to do, even if that work never involves bearing another child.  That was so reassuring and, considering my depression issues, has probably saved my life countless times.

 Really, if you consider the biology of conception, there is so much that can go wrong and so many factors that have to be just right that it is truly amazing that any babies are ever born.  Ovulation has to occur - which in itself requires a pretty complex balance of chemical sequences.  The man's tighty-whiteys can't be too tight and he has to have a protein key to unlock the egg.  Mom and dad have to have time to actually get together now and then.  The woman's ph balance has to be just right.  Once fertilized, the egg has to undergo astoundingly rapid and complex developments as it is swept toward the uterus.  It has to reach proper place to implant at the proper time.   Teeny tiny tubes have to be clear, hormones have to shift just the right amount at just the right time to allow that zygote to implant in the lining of the uterus.  Incompatible bloodtype issues have to be resolved (neg vs pos) and the woman's immune system has to be convinced that this zygote is a welcome guest.  Once safely implanted, development has to proceed correctly - both mom and embryo experience rapid and unusual changes.  etc . . . etc .. . .

Considering the mess we have made of our environment & our culture and the impact these have on human biology, it is amazing that any babies are ever born at all anymore.

Can the Lord reach in and fix everything - presto! - in order to provide a family with a child?  Absolutely.  Two of our dearest friends are grandparents because their daughter was very clearly urged by the Spirit to  leave work and do part of her fertility treatment early.  The Lord knew her timing better than all the doctors and scientists who had developed the treatments.  She has a beautiful baby.

Does this happen for all righteous, infertile women?  Nope. 

Some of us spend years and thousands of dollars and religiously keep a calendar with basal body temperature graphs and other information no one else wants to know about and obsess over ovulation hormones and torture ourselves with needles and hormones and uncomfortable positions only to take test after test after test that always come back with one little line across it.  No plus sign, no addition to the family, no positive reinforcement and reward for all of our hard labor - just a great big FAIL.  Again.  And again.  And again.

I was really feeling my sister's pain on Sunday.   I didn't have an answer for her - I don't have an answer for anyone.  I know that I feel peaceful with my family as it is now.  I know that if I had borne more children, I wouldn't have gone looking for Maxx.  I know that things are right - but it took me a long time to get here.

Hang in there, Sisters.  

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