When Silence is Broken

There’s a bubbling going on in my soul again lately. It tingles of that central, urgent need I’m carrying to keep on giving a voice to the voiceless. To give in to that indignation that rises up within me against the hidden and the shadowy side of infertility.  To put it back in its place rather than have it creeping around after me and other women similar to me, like a looming dark elephant in the room.

I need to shine a light on the shame and the guilt that keep couples who are going through infertility silent and locked in a false, fearful sense of who they think they are in the eyes of others.  Shame and guilt are not entitled to a place here.

My veins pulse with a passion to see women on emotional and spiritual lockdown freed from their pain and soaring on the currents of what they’re living through not knocked to the ground again.

I know that for some women infertility is simply too raw to talk about beyond a very, very tiny circle. Friends don’t understand. Family try and say the right thing but usually say the wrong thing. There’s no room in the busyness of life to unpack this stuff.  Everyone else is struggling with their own problems.  The thought of admitting to anyone of having help to fulfill such a natural, hard-wired female function is humiliating, pride-bashing, identity-wrecking kind of stuff.  The emotional journey to just be ok and in this is exhausting.  It can be a battle to admit to oneself, share with one’s partner and pray about, let alone release to the outside world.

I understand that for women who experience infertility there is a yearning to be “normal”, to just be like any other woman on the quest to getting pregnant. To not be categorised by the NHS as a certain someone who needs special attention or help. To not be put through medical intervention and hospital visits. To not have a different kind of fertility experience. To not have to walk past the ultrasound rooms and the maternity suites towards the Reproductive Medicine department and a different set of ultrasound rooms and tests and letters.  To just be the same as everyone else. I get it.  I’m in it.

And yet – I find myself here wanting to call out to women like me who are still in this and those who are out the other side of this, that you are unique and beautiful in the midst of the silent struggle.  You are strong and courageous in the face of sorrow and uncertainty. You are, in fact, normal to those of us who understand what it is like to go through this.  And you’re totally unique – because that is how God made you and me and everyone else. Comparison tries to take away all the wonderful things that we have each been given by telling us that it’s not enough or not good enough. The truth is that you can come just as you are and find you are absolutely enough, loved completely and totally uncommon in the eyes of the One who made you and that His designs on you are to richly bless you even in the midst of suffering and despair.

I understand the call of our own self-preservation which encourages the need to share sparingly. I have experienced many times the offended feelings that clueless people have cultivated in me when they say dumb things. Choose to shrug it off and love them anyway (and maybe avoid spending too much time with them for a little while if it helps.  Yes, that’s allowed!).

I understand the desperate desire for infertility not to be the reality you’re in. The deep-rooted longing each morning as you wake which pleads that it is all a big mistake. For the Groundhog Day effect to be broken for good. For the cyclical nature of this wretched and continual hope and disappointment rollercoaster to be shattered with a glorious ending NOW.

But while you are waiting for this time to shift into new can I encourage you to choose to speak rather than stay silent.  Can I share with you that I have found that there is freedom in naming things for what they are and putting an end to negative thoughts which have been allowed to whirl and twirl in my mind for far too long.  As I hear my voice say aloud (in private or in company) what my heart is thinking, the rubbish I have been believing about myself and my situation is somehow magnified.  My ears hear what my heart has been basing its day-to-day life upon and sometimes those ears are incredulous.

When silence is broken, there is power.  When silence is broken, the world around you shifts.  When silence is broken, blessings pour forth. When silence is broken, situations change.  When silence is broken, truth is invited in.

For those too frightened of the reactions of others or too lost in the hurting today I want to speak over you a better word so that you know that there is no condemnation of any kind on you in this journey.  There never has been and there never will be.  There is no shame.  There is no guilt.  I would like to gently remind you that you are fearfully and wonderfully made regardless of how your body and your emotions are performing today. And I absolutely believe and want you to know that you have purpose, gifts and so much to offer especially in the midst of this time in your life not in spite of what you’re walking through. 

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Interview on Premier Christian Radio

Following the decision to ‘go live’ with my blog on the internet and social media I was contacted by Premier Christian Radio and invited to be interviewed live on the Woman to Woman show on Thursday 8th October 2015, hosted by Maria Rodrigues.  Maria asked me about our infertility story – the ups and downs – and the challenges of feeling that infertility can end up being a ‘secret’ subject that couples find difficult to talk about.  The interview can be found here.

interview

That Giant called IVF

ivfThe time we had hoped would never arrive is here and we are as rested and prepared for this unknown quantity as we can be.  I pick up the phone to call the NHS clinic to request IVF treatment. It occurs to me in the days leading up to this next bit that some insider info might be useful just in case it’s not quite what we’re expecting and I’m grateful for a couple of friends’ advice, but the phone call still throws us. We had thought from the wording in the letter we have received that we would start treatment straight away but we are warned by those in the know not to get our hopes up and that treatment starts after one more cycle because we need to learn about the medications and how to use them first. I am struck again – why is this process never ever clear?  How does it get so lost in translation?

I call and am told to expect a call back within 72 hours. An anxious seventy-two hours comes and goes and I receive no such phone call. This doesn’t bode well. Our most precious desires and commodities are in these people’s hands and they don’t even lift the phone to us.

When the telephone finally rings I am spoken to in a medical language I don’t understand by a woman who doesn’t slow down to explain what she means. I am asked questions that she should know the answers to – the answers are on my notes in her office and I don’t have a copy. I am grateful that the thread of what I can glean from her echoes what my friends have told me so we can now adjust to a final month before IVF may begin (perhaps there is still hope even now?) and I am told to expect another phone call to confirm an appointment for our drugs lesson.

But I am already weary from this new fight which has barely begun again. It frustrates me, angers me, rips me up that this quest to become a parent is back to being a battleground and that we have to struggle to be heard and helped by the people trained and qualified to lead us through this difficult journey. This beautiful, natural, mysterious, wonderful road to conception is transformed to engaged phone lines, medical jargon and hurried explanations using acronyms that mean nothing to our naive minds. I come back to where I started, “Don’t make me go there, Daddy.  This is not how it’s meant to be……….”

It feels bad enough that we’re steeling ourselves for the rounds of scans and blood tests; the pin cushion effect of more injections, internal examinations, pessaries, emotional upheaval, potential side effects from medication and stress over parking and driving and never-ending appointments. But to have this experience further intensified by poor communication and lack of time makes my blood boil and has me in danger of throwing in the towel and walking away before we have even begun.

And yet – where is my grace, where is my compassion for the over-worked, exhausted nurses who stay late to finally make that phone call to me and who hold my hand when we attend our drugs appointment and repeat over and over that they are here for us and no question will be treated as silly?  Afterwards I reach for the biggest box of chocolates I can find at the supermarket and mark it for the staff for our first treatment appointment.  I claw back my frustration and choose to take the opportunity to pray for each member of that team who see anxious face after anxious face and who are kind and tender in reality even if this consideration is lost in translation down an overloaded phoneline.

And I take a good, long look at what is really going on in my mind – because that is where the battle is really raging.

It’s only in the midst of facing this new phase that I realise how frightened I really am.  I attend my parents’ church and cry my way through a sermon on faith verses fear.  I am a mess of anxiety and tears. I dot-to-dot across a page of options and can’t seem to work out which one I really want to follow.  I just want to run away.  And of course I can run away, but is regret harder to face than fear……?  Would I always wonder, “What if?”

I can’t help feeling that the shadow that has been following me for so long has at last emerged.  Goliath has finally stepped out from behind his mountain and suddeny I see IVF for all it is to me – a huge giant that I cannot possibly go out and fight.  I search through my faith reserves and fret that they are looking a little sketchy.  I wonder about my hope in successfully undergoing the treatment and find her cowering in the corner with her hands over her eyes.  I look about for courage for I find I have to step out by myself – beyond the hand holding it’s only my body that will be put to the test.  What if I’m not actually tough enough to get through this?  What if I am ill on the treatment and am hideous to be around?  What if I lose who I am and start to crack up?  What if the panic attacks and palpitations come back?  What if I can’t sleep?  What if it’s all for nothing?  What if God isn’t actually in this after all?  What if I can’t find Him?  What if it doesn’t work?

imageAnd then I remember David’s words of defiance and faith as He squares up to Goliath on the battlefield in 1 Samuel 17, ” I come to you in the name of the Lord Almighty – the God of the armies of Israel…..Today the Lord will conquer you…..and everyone will know that the Lord does not need weapons to rescue his people.  It is his battle, not ours”.

It is His battle, not ours.

The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still (Exodus 14:14).

Helena, when will you learn to stop trying to do this by yourself?  When will you stop fighting and striving in your own strength?  When will you stop carrying what is too heavy for you and lay it at the cross that Jesus suffered for you? When will you remember by heart that your hope is not in doctors or IVF or positive test results but in an Almighty God who sees and knows all things and who is limitless in power.

My heartbeat slows down as I come back to calm.  His strength in my weakness; His pathway for my life; His rest in my striving.  I come back to a place of peace.  God knows the outcome of this next bit and all I have to focus on, all I have to do is choose how I will walk this path.  And I choose to walk it with Him.

God’s way is perfect.
All the Lord’s promises prove true.
He is a shield for all who look to him for protection.
(Psalm 18:30)

A Study in Hope

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I’ve been meaning to write this post for a long time.  I’m learning, sometimes far too slowly, how important it is for me to keep revisiting specific themes and verses in God’s word, allowing them to soak into my heart and my bones so that on the days when doubts try their best to rob me of peace of mind I have quick ammunition with which to shoot them down.  God has reminded me again this week that He has an especial desire for me to hold onto hope when I am shaky and afraid.  In fact, he tells me, I am a carrier of His hope in this barren time and she needs to be shared, so here is a long overdue little study on hope.  My desire is that by the time you get to the bottom of this collection of what God speaks over you in the Bible, your heart will be full of courage for what you’re facing today and you will know that divine hope knows no limitations.

Then you will know that I am the Lord; those who hope in me will not be disappointed – Isaiah 49:23

And now, here’s what I’m going to do: I’m going to start all over again. I’m taking her back out into the wilderness where we had our first date, and I’ll court her. I’ll give her bouquets of roses. I’ll turn Heartbreak Valley into Acres of Hope. She’ll respond like she did as a young girl, those days when she was fresh out of Egypt – Hosea 2:15

Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see – Hebrews 11:1

And so, Lord, where do I put my hope?  My only hope is in you – Psalm 39:7

But as for me, I will always have hope – Psalm 71:14

“For I know the plans I have for you”, declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” – Jeremiah 29:11

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope – Romans 15:13

We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure – Hebrews 6:19

Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord – Psalm 31:24

Know also that wisdom is like honey for you: If you find it, there is a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off – Proverbs 24:14

Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not be faint – Isaiah 40:31

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer – Romans 12:12

For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope – Romans 15:4

Show me the right path, O Lordpoint out the road for me to follow.  Lead me by your truth and teach me, for you are the God who saves me.  All day long I put my hope in you – Psalm 25:4-5

Blessed are those whose hope is in the Lord their God – Psalm 146:5

You are my refuge and my shield; I have put my hope in your Word – Psalm 119:114

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love, but the greatest of these is love – 1 Corinthians 13:13

Wait with hope for the Lord. Be strong, and let your heart be courageous. Yes, wait with hope for the Lord – Psalm 27:14

Hope in the Lord and keep his way. He will exalt you to inherit the land – Psalm 37:34

Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him – Psalm 62:5

The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him – Lamentations 3:25

But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently – Romans 8:25

I wait for the LORD, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope – Psalm 130:5

But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit – Jeremiah 17:7-8