Overcoming infertility trauma
The devil is so cunning, isn’t he? Satan takes elements of truth and twists them in such a way that we suspend our free will because we are convinced of the great lies. Perhaps there is another side to the story; a truth that is still being written on our hearts. What if your trauma can make you a stronger, more compassionate, more resilient person? I have come to believe that what God asks of us in times of difficulty is to see our reality as He sees it: to see that we are His beloved.
“Your scars are where the light shines through.” Switchfoot
Trauma may be a part of your story, but it does not need to define you. If you have a negative reaction to a trigger, it means that something is going on inside that God wants to heal. We are not merely victims of our circumstances but rather pilgrims on a journey. As such, each step, each turn, each moment is an opportunity to realize that we are closer to our healing than our infliction wound. That healing process happens over time like driving a car through a desert landscape. When focusing on just the road itself, you become unaware of your surroundings but if you take a moment to look at your GPS you would be surprised just how far you’ve come.
A wise counselor once shared with me the concept of the “observer effect”: that physical matter can be altered merely by the act of observing it. If you can review your experience from an objective view, you can begin to rewrite your relationship with it. Being aware of the mind and body that God gave you, you can regain a function that has been damaged or inhibited by hard events. Over time and with the right support, your brain can heal. You will recognize your true self - as an individual separate from the fear reflexes and traumas. Catholic psychologist Dr. Gregory Bottaro offers some wonderful practical exercises to help you through this process in his book The Mindful Catholic.
When I was a child, I witnessed a horrific event. I watched in horror from my kitchen window as a train struck a woman who was trying to cross the railroad tracks behind my house. For years, I could not hear the sound of a train whistle or watch one pass by without reliving the experience. It took time - processing the grief with a counselor, praying for healing and for the soul of the woman who lost her life, and journaling - for me to come to a healthy relationship with the traumatic event. As I was sharing this with my counselor, she helped me understand that I had now fully processed the experience. No longer do I shudder at the sound of a train whistle. I can go to the train bridge near where I live and have a healthy respect for the power of the trains, while admiring their strength as they go by.
So here’s the thing: anything that keeps us distant from God and stuck in an existential crisis of self is not from God. Obtaining the object of our longing is not what will make us whole: “only in and through the Eucharist” will our healing be found (paraphrasing Peter Kreeft’s Making Sense of Suffering). Making sense of the longing for a child means wrestling with some really tough questions. Are we asking the questions that will lead us to truth and holiness? The truth is that God loves you, He planted the seeds of longing for a reason, and that purpose is a journey: not a destination. It is an anchor within the storm, not the absence of the clouds. It is a whisper, not a loud boom. It is a peace beyond understanding (because it doesn’t always make sense), a love which overshadows all fear. It is a shedding of attachments so that you can cleave to the one who created you and your marvelous soul! His resurrection is proof that you are worth it.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” 2 Corinthians 5:17
I have come to recognize healing from my infertility trauma. At one time during adoration, I invited God to reveal to me how He sees me. I was surprised at what I found. His tenderness and love was unlike anything I could have ever imagined. He saw my soul - in his beatific vision - no longer broken and infertile, but whole and flowing with abundant possibilities!
In time, I started to recognize that I no longer felt dread when I received a baby shower invitation, listened to details of a difficult pregnancy, or heard other women exalt the wonders of breastfeeding. I can’t pinpoint an exact moment or experience where I suddenly felt healed like waving a magic wand over my experience. Instead, it was like a slow trickle, a journey of self reflection, and periods of realized grace. I am grateful for who I am and what I can offer in this life, the one that God HAS given me. This moment is your path to heaven and there are beautiful, gorgeous flowers waiting for you to discover in this life!
In the end, there is nothing more beautiful that we can do for ourselves than to choose responses to our circumstances in light of what we can do, rather than being frozen in fear of what we cannot. Be not afraid to invite the Holy Spirit to strengthen you through this fire. Let Him renew you no matter the outcome, no matter the cost. Do not let the devil tell you that the experience of infertility will tarnish you forever, for you are truly God’s delight, His precious one. He wants healing and strength for you. “Future you” is waiting for you to climb the mountain of your fears and to overcome them with honest and open reflection. May this Lent be a time of reawakening, that by God’s grace and your response to it you may reclaim your identity as a beloved child of the loving creator, and kiss the tears of sweet relief!
Questions for reflection
What lies has the devil told you relating to your infertility? Ask the Holy Spirit for the grace to confront them.
God made us body and spirit. What can you do to support your physical and mental well-being?
Have you ever asked God to reveal your true self as He sees you? Ask for the grace to embrace this new creation He is working within you.