The battle against infertility has been one of the biggest challenges that I have faced in my life. The inability to have children affects thousands of people – and even causes stress rates comparable to the levels of stress in cancer patients – and yet it is a battle that most couples fight privately. Now that I am on the other side of the fight, I find myself looking back in thankfulness at the lessons that infertility has taught me about the hardships of life. I wouldn’t wish infertility – or any ailment – on anyone, but I wouldn’t take back the devastation I experienced as an infertile woman. Through it all, I learned five amazingly important life lessons that can be applied to any aspect of life – and I hope to use what I’ve learned to encourage you in whatever challenges you face in your life.
As much as we like to think we have a handle on things, the truth is that we are not in control. You can make all the right decisions, you can arm yourself with knowledge and wisdom, you can make plans and see to it that you follow through on them, but inevitably, life throws us curve balls. We can’t always prevent bad stuff from happening to us, many of those tragedies in life are just part of the messed up world in which we live. My husband and I married at 24 and 23 years old, with plans for when we would start having children. When the time came to expand our family, we did everything we could to make that happen. It didn’t happen. We saw doctors, tried different fertility plans, we tried all sorts of tricks and techniques – nothing. As time passed without a child in sight, I began to realize that there was nothing I could do to make my body work any faster. I had no control over when or if I would ever be able to bear a biological child. All I could do was take care of my health and continue to seek a treatment that would work. The rest wasn’t up to me. If you are in a hopeless situation, continue to do the best you can. Continue to make the right decisions. And although the final outcome may not be up to you, don’t ever give up on striving for whatever it is that you are working toward.
I studied and worked with children and families during my entire battle with infertility. One of the things that I kept noticing was that the people who didn’t seem to want or love their children were the very ones were able to have them! This used to really make me angry. Why did parents who had no idea what to do with a child so easily procreate? Why were parents who abused and neglected their children so freely gifted with three or four of them? At some point, I realized that life is not about fair or unfair. All of us have been on the receiving end of both good and bad experiences. All of us have participated in both good and in evil. We don’t always get the rewards we deserve, and we don’t always get the punishments we deserve. Instead of constantly asking why others had what I thought I should be able to have, I began to accept the fact that this is the life that I have been given. Suddenly, I started concentrating on making the most of my situation. I began to feel less like a victim, and more empowered to use my pain to contribute to the world in a positive way.
This empowerment gave way to overwhelming feelings of gratitude. No matter what you are going through, there is so much to be grateful for! Gratefulness doesn’t mean that you won’t be sad or angry about the things that are going on around you, but it does help you to focus less on what’s negative in your life and more on what you can do to be a help to others whose situations are worse than yours.
It is also through this empowerment that I learned to view trust in an entirely new way. I had to learn to trust God. In the past, whenever someone told me to trust God, I always thought that it meant I would eventually get my desired outcome, if I trusted God enough. Through infertility, I learned that trusting God means that I am awaiting His desired outcome – and I am trusting that His desired outcome for my life will always be better than the outcome I could have imagined for myself.
Finally, infertility helped me to gain a fresh sense of compassion for others. I have always been an empathetic person – able to put myself in the shoes of others and truly feel what they are feeling. However, it wasn’t until I went through infertility that I really began to understand that we live in a world full of hurting people. All around you, there are people who are lonely, depressed, sick, and struggling to fight personal battles that we may never know about. It is important not to get so caught up in the black holes of our own lives that we miss the chance to save someone from being crushed by theirs. Whether the hardships you are going through are visible or invisible, every bit of pain you feel in your life is supposed to be used to help someone who may be going through the same thing.
No one likes to deal with struggle, hardship, or tragedy, and yet at multiple times in our lives we will all have to do so. Cherish the pain you’re in for the wisdom that you can receive from it, push through the pain you’re in for the character that it will build in you, and most importantly, redeem the pain you’re in by using it for the good of others.