There I was, in the cold exam room. My toddler in her stroller in the corner, watching tv on my phone. The tech began the ultrasound exam, only this wasn’t an exciting adventure of an ultrasound, checking to see a tiny human growing safely in my womb. No, there weren’t any heartbeats to hear today.
“Now, here’s your uterus”, she said, moving the wand over my empty womb.
“Now, your ovaries”, as she moved to first one, then the other, taking pictures and making notes. And clear as day, not a tiny life taking root, but the telltale “string of pearls” on each ovary, the confirmation of a disease I already knew I had.
I’ve had a lot of ultrasounds in my life, but never one like this. Sorrowful, yes; the one when we learned our first baby had died. Joyful, yes; the one when we saw Maggie for the first time, and every time after. And now, now, humilation.
The humiliation of seeing proof positive my broken body. Confirmation of this cross I tolerate, but have not embraced.
I managed to make it to the car before the flood of tears came. Sitting there in the minivan we bought when we thought our family would soon be growing, I wept. I looked in the rearview mirror and wept for all the empty seats, taunting me in their barrenness. Empty, like the uterus I just saw on screen.
Infertility is humiliating. It’s blood draws and ultrasounds. It’s medications taken to make your body do what it should do on its own. It’s trying to walk that fine line between enjoying sex with your spouse and turing it into a science experiment.
It’s the humiliation of plastering a smile on your face for the 20th pregnancy announcement in a row, and then crying for an hour on the bathroom floor. It’s the humilation of knowing that at the same moment you are trying, some drunk teenagers in the back of a car are co-creating new life, a life which they will promptly distroy. It’s the humiliation of hoping month, after month, after month, even when you know it can’t be true.
The hope is humiliating.
It makes me want to drink. It makes me want to eat everything I shouldn’t. It makes me want to shop, to buy things for this one child, this miracle, the likes of which may never pass this way again. On a good day, it compels me to the cross, to the apex of humiliation itself. But I have to honestly admit, those days are usually few and far between.
I recently prayed a novena to Our Lady Undoer of Knots, because I had heard it was a powerful one. Atticus and I prayed it together, that any knots keeping us from conceiving would be untied. In the weeks since that novena, I don’t know if much has changed physically, but spiritually, I have seen something stirring.
On two seperate occasions I was prompted to think of this humiliation as an opportunity to grow in trust.
First, I received a “virtue” for the year from my women’s group: trust in God’s infinite goodness.
I laughed out loud and almost cried when I saw it. You win this round Holy Spirit.
It’s hard for me to remember this simple truth: God is good, even when it hurts. God is good because He is goodness itself and because He stands with me in the very heart of my sorrow and doesn’t flinch, not because he has to, but because he wants to. The creator of the universe wants to hurt with me, because that’s what love does. When my tiny human heart can grasp this, just a little, peace rushes into those broken places.
My humiliation in this cross is an invitation to trust in God, his goodness and his plan. The second occasion was a wonderful book I recently read saying, “It takes humility to assent to follow God even when he refuses to install flood lights on your path or tell you where it will lead.”
This humiliation of infertility is an inviation to grow in humility, because it forces me to realize that I can’t do everything. That we can’t do everything. That control is an illusion. I can’t make myself pregnant; we can’t make it happen just by willing it. In our, “you can do anything if you set your mind to it and work hard enough” culture, it’s humiliating to admit that, no I can’t. I can’t do this one thing that doesn’t exactly require rocket science to accomplish.
Ever since Eden, we humans have struggled with saying, out loud, three very powerful words: I need God.
Infertility forces me to see, to accept, that I need God. It challenges me to answer a challenging question: Is God trustworthy?
If the answer is yes (and it is), then what is there left to do other than to let go, surrender to humilty through humiliation, and trust that His goodness is enough for me, for us. On a good day, I’m learning to do just that.
Our example of humiliation and trust in the Father
How is God inviting you to cultivate humility and trust? How do you answer the question: Is God trustworthy?