This article looks at the different dimensions of suffering regarding infertility from the perspective of the couple burdened with this cross.
Only those who have lived through infertility, know how tangled the web of pain can be. The throbbing wound of desiring a child (or more children) with all one’s being becomes worse as the years pass, more sensitive, more raw. The desire intensifies, the helplessness increases as doctors seem incapable of resolving the issue, nay perhaps even of diagnosing it. The attempt of letting go of stress – since that supposedly is bad for conceiving – only seems to make it worse. It increases with the suffering, and the panic mounts as the years go by and the biological clock ticks ever more loudly.
Others seem to forget or to have put one definitely in the category of the childless or those who will never get beyond one or two children, this small family-size that one would so much like to see grow. One wants to break out of these walls that one’ own hopeless and that of others have built up. The clumsy comments of friends or family, their increasing impatience of not “finally getting over it”, one’s supposed egoism at not being able to attend baptisms at all or without tears in one’s eyes add layers of new pain, making the lightheartedness in which children are generally conceived impossible. A false sense of guilt is added, since one cannot shake off the suffering and ensuing stress which would – one believes – open the way to the desired child, it seems. Or real guilt surfaces: that of having waited too long for the wrong reasons, of having used means to prevent or eliminate life that would so desperately be welcomed now.
It becomes too much pain for one person, for one couple to bear. The abyss of suffering in this life seems infinite at times, swallowing up everything else that would give joy. Not everyone reaches rock-bottom. Not everybody experiences infertility in such a radical way. But some do, and feel crushed – as do all those undergoing tragedy of some kind in their lives.
The devil in Mel Gibson’s movie “The Passion” tempts Christ by asking him if it is not too much for one person alone to bear the sins of the whole world – and one would like to add, “and the sufferings of the whole world”. And yet this is exactly what Christ is willing to do together with Mary whose heart breaks with ours when we feel like giving up, or when we settle into the bitterness of angry rebellion: they carry our pain, make that burden lighter and show us that it does not have the final word in our lives. But Mary does more: when we are willing to surrender to her this tangle of pain and smarting wounds, she can unravel its knots. She will help us to find some peace and joy again, forgive those who have hurt us, and allow these wounds to become a fruitful path for God’s love rather than a place of revolt. And perhaps there will even be children at the end of the journey….
Prayer: Our Lady, Undoer of Knots, pray for all infertile couples, give them peace and grant them the gift of children.
Marie Meaney, 23.2.2018