Badges of Honour

We wear our years of trying to conceive as a badge of honour, proudly displaying to our fellow infertility comrades for how long we have endured the hardship; keen that none should forget how deep the scars run, how much we have sacrificed, and for how many months or years our arms have remained empty. We can’t help but to compare with each other, some more subtly than others, just how tough our time has been, just how heavy the burden we’re carrying.

I don’t know why, but alongside this monthly score, I keep a list of babies born since we started trying to get pregnant. So far I have recorded forty announcements over the last four years, and that’s only of friends and family, for there have been many more social media status updates along the way. Forty babies conceived and born since we started trying for just one of our own. Forty cards or gifts or hot meals or congratulations offered alongside the strain of waiting for our own.

I am always in awe of those who have been trying for longer than us – wondering at their tenacity, bravery and determination, whilst secretly hoping I never reach their rank in the army of women who know this particular fight.

But there is also an uglier, less gracious flip-side, for I find at times I judge any woman who has endured fewer months of trying to get pregnant than me, or who now has a healthy child even as she looks to conceive the next. I give in to the bitter cheapness of thinking how little she must know of what it’s like to be in this. It’s not the same, I tell myself. It’s not the same as what we have endured, how horrid it has been for us, how much longer we have had to keep going and keep believing.

And it isn’t the same. Every story is different. Every medical complication, every bump in the road, every yearning looks and feels different to each mother-in-waiting. But in reality, pain is pain. Whether it has been three months, 12 months, 48 months or many more lived in the trying to get pregnant – and whatever the biological rollercoaster or triumph of conceiving has looked like along the way – the waiting is an agony and the cycle of hope and disappointment seemingly never-ending.

And why am I – or you, if you’re like me – even comparing? I know full well that there is a lonely, isolating, envy-inducing weariness that comes as month after month drags on and on. It does not benefit from the sin of comparison. Hasn’t infertility taught me to be more aware of another’s pain and want to speak life into each situation I encounter? Haven’t I felt another’s loss almost as keenly as if it was my own? Haven’t I wondered at how Hannah endured the taunts of Peninnah in 1 Samuel and been so grateful that I am not ridiculed for my lack in this way? Wouldn’t I choose to eradicate barrenness from the world so no other woman ever had to endure it?  Aren’t I already declaring over every little girl I come across that “No woman shall be barren”?

But being totally honest with you now, the truth of the matter is, I am fearful. I am fearful not just of every other woman ‘beating me to it’ and getting pregnant before me, but I am fearful that I may never carry a healthy baby to full term. And as much as we huddle together in our shared distress, or the brave endurance of the Two Week Wait, or as we ready ourselves for medical tests, so too are we constantly bracing ourselves for the impact of a fellow trier sharing her good news with us and leaving us behind – again. Perhaps for forever.

Perhaps I’ll never, ever get out of this boat…?

And in this way, I forget the gifts of choosing solidarity. When I see myself once again as a victim, I forget that each story is unique. It escapes my attention that every miracle healing or unexpected pregnancy is a testimony which I am allowed to claim for my own life too. When I see these sisters as adversaries I fail to remember that when God’s goodness touches their wombs, hearts and dreams, it shows that it can happen for me too. Envy, jealousy and judgment are poor companions to choose in this time. They are thieving little grease-balls that talk a good line and are quick to stick close, but they blind us to the opportunity for growth, favour, generosity of spirit and maturity.

Despite us wondering, “Why her and not me? Again” and “When will this ever end?”, He has not forgotten us. Your story doesn’t look like hers or mine because the impact of your testimony is as unique and wonderful as you are. When we compare ourselves with another mother-in-waiting, we devalue the power of that which God is unfolding in our own life.

Our Daddy in heaven values each one of our hearts as His most prized possession. He tenderly runs His fingers along the fading ridges of our timeworn scars. He massages the newest hurts that are only just healing. He grieves over the deep, open slices of longing that have pierced us.

We don’t have to prove ourselves to anyone in this place. He sees it all. And He is determined to bring the fullness of His glory and goodness to pass in your life. And in mine.

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