Thanksgiving is right around the corner (at least here in the US) it is. Each year we have the opportunity to conjure up things that we are thankful for. Some years I have thought about this in depth, and other years I have let it slip to the wayside.
This year I am taking a class at my church and our homework assignment for this week is to reflect on gratitude.
What does this mean?
According to Oxford Dictionaries, it means “the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.”
This year I am thankful for something taboo.
Something that’s not talked about as often as it should be.
Something that took me to hell and back.
Something that is a painful existence to millions around the world.
Something that will live in me forever.
Yes, I am grateful for having been diagnosed with infertility.
Why would anyone be grateful for THAT?
Let me count the number of ways.
- Infertility demonstrated that I wasn’t in control; no matter how much I thought I was, and desperately wanted to be. We make choices, but we are not ultimately in control. This took a long time to comprehend, but life has been easier since I learned and accepted this.
- Infertility allowed me to become more empathetic to those who are going through challenging times. Those who are in the midst of a divorce, those who have health challenges, those who are lonely, those whose worlds have been turned upside down for any reason whatsoever. I know what it’s like to experience physical and emotional pain. I am a better listener, and therefore a better empathizer.
- Infertility allowed me to be grateful for what I DO have. I am grateful for living in a non-war torn country. I am grateful to have supportive friends. I am grateful for my family. The list goes on and on.
- Infertility allowed me to create a meaningful career path. Prior to being diagnosed, I had a full time job as a counselor in a field I wasn’t passionate about. I also had a small private psychotherapy practice on the side. My clients came to me with a variety of life concerns, none of which were infertility related. I enjoyed my clients, but did not feel passionate about my work. Infertility opened the door to specializing in infertility and loss in my future practice. I am thankful that I can easily empathize with those who experienced something similar. I can be a safe harbor for those who are struggling.
- Infertility led to a 12 week miscarriage. At the time I was not grateful. For obvious reasons. I am still not “grateful” per say. It’s painful knowing that my son or daughter would have turned 3 last month. I often think of him or her when I’m alone in my car, listening to music. I find it hard to breathe while crying tears of sorrow for someone I was not able to meet. However, had that not happened, I wouldn’t have been diagnosed with infertility, and my 14 month old son would not exist. Words cannot express how grateful I am for the son that I now have.
It is easy to express how grateful I am for all of the above now that I am on “the other side” as we refer to it in the infertility world. I have my children. My family is complete.
Would I be grateful for infertility if this was not the case? If treatments had failed? If I didn’t have any children? If I was able to have only one child?
I can say with assurance that the word grateful never entered my vocabulary during the dark days. The days I wasn’t able to get out of bed. The days I didn’t think I could go on.
So is it easier for those of us who have been “successful” to be grateful?
However, if those who are waiting for their babies/children can find even the smallest bit of gratefulness for what they do have in their lives, the pain will ever so slightly lessen.
It will not be easy. Not at all. But it will hopefully open the heart and let light in where there was only dark.
A passionate infertility advocate, Jen Noonan destigmatizes the shame and guilt surrounding infertility and miscarriage. Her debut memoir, In Due Time, can be found on Amazon at amzn.com/0996308601