Saturday, January 12, 2008

Empty Arms

One of my readers posted the link to this beautiful video in my last post's comment section. I think it aptly portrays those who have been through multiple years of infertility. I have posted it in the past, but it has been a while, and I find it to be worth re-posting. It might be a good link to send to friends or family who might be having a hard time understanding your struggles. Think of it as a way to share your burden with others who might not understand but who want to support you.

There is once section I really struggle with in the video. It is the part about not attending events that are hard reminders of our infertility, things like baby showers, dedications, etc. I have turned down invitations to these events in the past because it was just too painful to attend. I would definitely understand someone doing that because I have done it a few times. But, where the video (and many others, myself included) called it "self-preseveration," not to be confused with selfishness, I wonder if self-preservation is the godly response of believers who are infertile. I mean, what is the right response? I feel that God has used the past 4 years to teach me to truly rejoice with others instead of withdrawing as I would like to do when I see them living out my dream of parenthood. I lived for FAR too long in selfishness but justified it by calling it "self-preservation". It threatened my relationship with Christ, my marriage, my friendships. It was something I had to be rescued from because I was drowning in it. Praise God for He pulled from a depth of selfish despair I do not care to revisit ever again.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this, especially those of you who are professing Christians who are also dealing with infertility. What has been your experience? What do you feel God expects of us?

(Eleven days until my appointment at the Infertiliy & IVF Clinic.)



Amanda said...

this is a hard question to answer. I often feel I am being selfish for not attending occassions where children are involved. Just recently someone in my office had a baby and I felt the fakeness of my smile as I heard the news. It sometimes becomes hard to bare and I feel I must protect myself from getting hurt. I also know that when I am at my lowest, feeling sorry for myself and not finding the good, these are the times I am not listening to God. These are the times I have let the sadness overcome and have not let Him take care of me.

I hope someday I understand why I was chosen for this journey.

Best wishes to you and your appt in 10 days. Praying for you.
Amanda x aka Baby Roulette

andrea_jennine said...

Good questions! My approach to things like baby showers, newborn hospital visits, etc., has been to seek to apply 1 Cor. 10:13 - God will not tempt us beyond what we can bear but will always provide a way of escape from temptation. To me, that means that God will give me grace to attend those events that require me to "rejoice with others" - and even to attend without sinning in jealousy, self-pity, etc.! It often takes a lot of work to prepare my heart, to renew my mind with Scripture that can help me in the moment. But it seems to me that if I am to truly love others as myself and consider their interests above my own, I should make that effort. Now, I'm sure there are exceptions, and maybe sometimes the way of escape that God provides is simply not to attend an event. But I have erred on the side of being present at those things and begging God for help; he has always provided it!

Allison said...

LOVING the countdown ticker!!!!
as for all of your internal questions -- i totally feel ya. and ask myself the same ones....

you're in my prayers DAILY!!!

Fertilize Me said...

I have had your post up for a day now. I am trying to figure out the fine line between self preservation and selfish, self pity. I have struggled with the term self preservation ever since I heard it. I have applied selfishness as self preservation at times and ended up feeling completely horrible about it, then then there are times that self preservation has been perfectly beneficial. In attempts to make this not a long winded comment - I think it's your attitude behind the term. I (try to) check my motive and attitude before I make a decision or conclusion on is this self preservation or is this selfish. Sometime, i find that my attitude mandates those outcomes and sometimes i find myself asking for forgivness and other times, I am rewarded

Excellent Post!

Heather said...

Hi Glenna,

Thanks for your comment on my blog! I appreciate seeing new faces around. Thanks also for the support...

K - that's all... (note: this comment has nothing to do with your's too early for me to do that justice.)

Anonymous said...

Those are good thoughts, and you are brave to put them out there! :) All I can tell you is that I think God meets us where we are. Maybe I was too easy on myself, and maybe I want to be too easy on you, but I DO think that when you are going through suffering, sometimes you do have to withdraw a little. One other side to this...even when I went to baby showers and was able to be really happy for someone else, I often felt like they were a bit uncomfortable with me there. Do you know what I mean? They felt so sorry for me, even though I was being brave and being so happy for them. I don't like making people uncomfortable, so that wasn't a good situation for me. Then I also had friends who didn't invite me to their showers and such because they thought it was too hard for me. That was honestly the worst. I felt like people were treating me like a fragile little bird! All I can tell you is that sometimes I think we can be way harder on ourselves than God is, if that makes sense. I am here for you. Love, Missy

Allison said...


Glenna Marshall said...

I know, Al. I'm kind of getting freaked out. :)

Steph VG said...

I was part of an infertility forum for a time, but I found myself so focused on my empty arms that I was (a) neglecting what there was to do right in front of me, (b) struggling with loving those who do have children, and (c) making children an idol of my heart. I had to stop spending time at that site; I had to "preserve" myself from sinning.

I think there are occasions where sending regrets for a baby shower is possible...but as a fellow pastor's wife, I understand that where others can, we can't always. :-| Truthfully, there is no real call for self-preservation in Scripture, except in cases of personal, physical danger (use wisdom and don't do stupid stuff) and to preserve oneself from sinning against the Lord. Every single command that relates to our brothers and sisters in Christ heads back to love, giving to/for them. Encourage one another, serve one another, love one another, rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. I notice when I read the last one that it's a simple "do this" command. There's no, "Rejoice with those who rejoice as long as they weep when you are weeping."

This is all fresh in my mind because I just started a series in Romans 12 for my Sunday School class. I taught verse 9 last Sunday and got kicked. in. the. pants., especially on the first command to let love be without hypocrisy. I read this fabulously convicting definition of agape love, God's kind of love:

Agape is God-like love motivated & energized by God (Ro 5:5, Gal 5:22) and which loves regardless of the circumstances, a deliberate love that decides it will keep loving even if it is rebuffed, and a love that centers on the needs & welfare of the one loved and will pay whatever personal price is necessary to meet those needs and foster that welfare.

That's how God loved me. Oh, may I share His love for others, by His grace!

Sorry I've written a book, but this is an issue I've wrestled with recently, so all this is fresh in my mind.

Thank you for your site, Glenna, for your honesty, for your transparency, and for your hope in the Lord that tempers the despair that surely comes (and gets comfortable, ready to stay a while). I'm praying for you, and for your family.

Michael and Carrie said...

Glenna, I just wanted to let you know that I'm praying for you all as you prepare to go to your appt. this coming week. I pray that God will lead you all as you determine what additional tests need to be done and that He will lead you as you make important decisions.

By the way, I can relate about sometimes not feeling you can handle certain baby related events. It is not that you don't support these people; it is just that sometimes it is so difficult emotionally that your feelings of loss and desire for a child seem magnified after these events. This is so hard, and I have missed some showers and get togethers with some of my closest friends based on feeling that I could not handle being around babies and mommies when I so wanted that to be what was going on in my life.

I just want you to know you are not alone in having these feelings.

Hope said...

I have to believe we are only given as much as we can handle. While I do not stand in judgement of anyone, who choses not to attend these type of events, I have always been in attendance. I will not let my infertility become who I am, only a part of who I am. I may never be blessed with children and along my journey, difficult as it may be, I want to share in the joyand struggles of my friends and family, and want them to share in my joys and struggles. I have had my share of bitterness and pettiness, but realize I need to enjoy and live in the moment I am in, right now. Empty arms is a beautiful video and I can so relate in so many ways. Thoughts are with you.

Anonymous said...

I have struggled with secondary infertility for 5+ years. I have dealt with friend after friend getting pregnant over and over again. And still I have my "only" child. I am forever grateful that God has blessed me with him~my true miracle boy, but it does not change the hurt. On top of that I have had 2 miscarriages in 2 years. I have practiced ALOT of self-preservation. I have found that it's like a carousel. Some days I can deal with baby showers, baby announcments, etc. Last year at this time SIX of my good friends and family members were pregnant. Those announcements and births were the hardest times so far. I really, really had a hard few months. During my 2 miscarriages I missed a few baby showers. I felt that they would definitely understand. I feel the same for infertility in and of itself. Hopefully, people understand if you can't make it. But I agree with the other posts about "rejoicing with those who rejoice." It takes a lot of prayer and meditation on His Word to get yourself ready sometimes. But I have done it on more occasions that I care to think of. And I always live through it. God is good even in the "waiting" room. Amy

Glenna Marshall said...

Amy, thanks for your comment! I definitely understand the reason for practicing self-preservation. Like you, I have done it more than I care to remember, and I think people DO understand if you don't make it to baby showers. I think if I had had a miscarriage(s), I would struggle all the more.
Thanks for your thoughts. You are in my prayers today.