As Father’s Day approaches, Project Pomegranate invites you to walk beside those who grieve infertility, miscarriages, and infant loss – and to tend to the ways in which your congregation can provide support. Thank you to our guest bloggers who offer insight and wisdom from the depths of their own experiences. We also invite you to share our book of devotions, Though the Darkness Gather Round: Devotions about Infertility, Miscarriage, and Infant Loss! This book is an excellent resource.
I want to be a good dad. I really do. I am blessed to be the father of two precious little girls and when I consider what I most want to accomplish in life, being a good father to those girls is right at the top of the list. I want to be present with them at every stage of their life. I want them to have the confidence that comes from a parent who unconditionally loves them and unwaveringly sees them as beautiful. I want to do the hard work of building a lifelong relationship that will change with time, but will be consistently important and special, growing with depth and richness through the years.
When I reflect on how I will achieve this lofty goal, I can honestly say that struggling with infertility may have provided me with the greatest opportunity to actualize this desire. Infertility has a way of sticking with you and becomes a part of your identity, even if you are fortunate enough to receive children after enduring it. My wife and I struggled with infertility for approximately five years. After many tears and many years of medical interventions, we conceived our first daughter on our 4th attempt at IVF. Approximately a year later, we unexpectedly became pregnant with our second daughter through the good old-fashion way. Now that I am a father and I have this desire to be a good one, infertility may be the greatest teacher I have. I offer these reflections should you be in a place of needing hope that the suffering may mean something and that life really can come from death.
When I think about infertility being my teacher, I think about three different ways the season of suffering is impacting my parenting.
- Infertility enhances the truth that life is a gift. Life is fragile and comes with no guarantees. It also moves fast and it feels like we are constantly bombarded with pressures, difficulties, and concerns that overwhelm and consume our thoughts. The challenge is to be present in the moment and live with gratitude and awe at the simple fact that all of life is a gift. Because of infertility, when I look at my girls I am often struck by the fact it is a miracle that they even exist. After so many years of struggle in conceiving our first daughter, we never imagined that we could get pregnant without medical intervention. Becoming quickly pregnant with our second daughter was a shock and we gave her the middle name ‘Grace’ recognizing that she is an undeserved gift, and this is a deep truth about all of life. More often than not I am caught up in the rigor of life and I miss the beauty of the moment. However, I am convinced that because of infertility, I have many more of those moments where I am aware that life is a gift and I am flooded with gratitude.
- Infertility helps to keep parenting in perspective. Parenting is not for the weak. During the heights of infertility I had times when I wanted to believe the myth that life would be perfect if we could just have kids. It is not. Parenting brings with it entirely new ways of suffering. Especially during the early years, it requires more physical, emotional, mental and spiritual energy than it feels like you have to give. We have a toddler, and I resonated recently when a friend described parenting a toddler as somewhat like dealing with a terrorist – they are volatile, unpredictable and will consistently make unreasonable and illogical demands. And it is gut wrenching to see your child suffer knowing that you will not be able to shield them from the pain of life. Not too long ago our toddler had an infection in two of her teeth that ended up being pulled. Her physical pain was accompanied by our emotional pain of having to witness it all. Infertility helps to keep the difficulty of parenting in perspective. During rough parenting patches, it easier to pull out of self-centered misery and recognize that it could be worse (i.e. not being a parent at all). It is a mental tool that can make a difference during the dark days of parenting.
- Infertility stretches you and increases your capacity for empathy and love. Infertility takes your emotions and stretches them to the limit like a rubber band. It has the power to break you and your relationships. If you survive it and receive healing, you recognize that you have an increased ability to empathize with others who are in pain. When you hear other stories of pain, you are able to tap into a reservoir and connect with the person in ways that would not otherwise be possible. This ability can translate into an increased ability to empathize with your children. You can also have a higher capacity for love because you have explored the depths of your desire to have children. Something I often say to my girls is that ‘we wanted you more than you will ever know.’ It is powerful to say this and mean it with a great deal of weight behind it.
I am not suggesting that only those who have gone through infertility can be good parents. Plenty of people who never struggled with infertility are amazing parents who are grateful for their children, keep a balanced perspective, as well as empathize and love their children with great passion. A universal truth is that no one is immune to pain and suffering found in life and death. Pain and suffering comes in different forms and has many different names. Our pain and suffering happened to have the name of infertility. Part of being a good parent is moving through that pain and suffering and allow it to be your teacher. With the gift of time and distance, I recognize that infertility has become mine.