We wanted a large family. Felicity was born, and within eighteen months she had a brother. Shortly after Duncan's first birthday, we found out we were expecting another baby. Our family was growing. We were happy. We were proud. We congratulated ourselves. And then the dream fell apart when I miscarried our 3rd baby.

I miscarried the next baby, and the next and the next… I acquired a new label: secondary infertile.

Whenever I announced I was pregnant, friends didn’t know whether to congratulate me or not. They didn’t really believe I was going to have a baby. Despite my excited announcement, I didn’t believe either.

At that time, I was a breastfeeding counsellor. All counsellors had to learn something about grief counselling. One day a bereaved mother came to speak to us of her lost baby. As I listened, the tears seeped from my eyes. I slipped from the room and stood outside sobbing quietly. The mother’s story had opened wide my own wound. I was grieving, not only for my four babies that had died far too soon, but also for the future. I was grieving for the babies I’d hoped for but believed I’d never have. I was facing the fact that my dream of a large family was only a dream, it might never become reality.

I felt certain I would never hold a baby of my own in my arms ever again. My baby days had been so short- several years and they were all over. They were finished before I’d realised, before I was ready. I’d hoped for so much more. I wondered if I could adjust to this new idea of what my family looked like.

And then just as I was coming to terms with all these difficult feelings, God blessed us with another baby who, this time, grew and was born and joined our family. Eventually eight more babies were conceived, five more were born full term, and four more came home with us to be loved and nurtured and grow up within our family. Seven living children… God blessed us with that big family after all. No one looking at our long line of children would guess I’d once thought my family would be small.

But I still haven’t forgotten that time when I had to face the fact that two children might be all God intended to give me.  What would it have been like if I’d never brought another baby home? Would I have learnt to be grateful for what I had? But would I still have yearned for more despite this thankfulness? That yearning might have remained very strong and might never have quite disappeared, a bit like grief. Actually, I think living with infertility, both primary and secondary, is grief. It is real suffering.

Today I am praying for all women who had dreams of large families but had to accept that this is not what God intended for them. Some of them are my friends. They are courageous women. They smile. They are joyful. They are generous in their love and support of me and my larger family. They are women of great faith and love who probably hide away great sufferings. These friends are blessings in my life.

As I have been writing, I realise I have worked my way back to that old question: "How many children do you have?" 

And maybe the right answer, for both large families and small, is, "As many as God intended me to have."

This post is linked to the Catholic Bloggers Network Link-Up Blitz
Labels: ,

Post a Comment

  1. *is crying*

    Though I've never lost a baby, I grieve the ones I never got to conceive. I am so thankful for my two... but it breaks my heart to know I'll never be pregnant again, or hold my own new baby again.

    God bless you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Susan,

      I wish we could share a hug. I know not being able to have more children is a huge suffering and you grieve. You grieve like I grieve for Thomas. Yes, that yearning for our babies, born or hoped for, never quite goes away. You have been such a support for me, and always encourage me in my writings. Thank you! You are such a blessing.

      God bless you!

      Delete
  2. Love this post and I love you, Sue. Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Beate,

      And I love your comment. A warm feeling of joy spread through me when I read it. I feel loved! I hope you do too because I am glad to have you as my friend.

      God bless!

      Delete
  3. "And maybe the right answer, for both large families and small, is, 'As many as God intended me to have.'"

    Sue, this is so true. We never know what people have struggled with and should not assume things about people because of their family size (whether we think it is too big or too small). Beautifully written, as usual.

    I hope you are having a wonderful new year! : )

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Stephanie,

      I seem to have got a bit caught up with the question, "How many children do you have?" Suddenly found myself writing part 4!! I keep thinking about how we can judge a family by its size. You are right: we do tend to make assumptions when numbers don't really tell us anything.

      Thank you for always reading my stories. Your kind words are appreciated.

      I also hope you are enjoying the new year. God bless!

      Delete
  4. "As many and God intended me to have" ... wow that sentence just soccer punched me! You have a beautiful gift for writing and understanding. Love you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Lisa,

      I sat and wrote lots of last paragraphs to this post, and then suddenly that sentence came, and I thought, "Yes, that's what this story is all about!" I am glad it spoke to you too.

      I am sitting here feeling like the most fortunate woman in the world. I am surrounded by beautiful loving friends who take the time to stop and write encouraging words to me. Thank you. I'm sending you love and a huge hug back across the water! God bless you.

      Delete
  5. Thank you, Sue. Not being able to bear or even conceive any children has been the greatest suffering of my life. It still burns like an unquenchable thirst. Yet, I know your beautiful answer, "As many as God intended..." is the right one, and the only one which brings me peace. So the right number of children for me is one, my one, precious adopted son who is recently married, and has brought a "daughter" into my life. He was chosen for our family..God's perfect gift to us.

    I still wonder why it had to be this way, but with all my heart I know God would not permit such excruciating suffering without an incredible, remarkable, outrageously glorious reason...and I can't wait to find out when at last, I meet Him face to Face.

    Meanwhile, I find great joy in observing large families like yours...seeing people like you respond to God's command to give life, and what could be more beautiful than children?

    God bless you wise and kind Sue! xo

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Patricia,

      We can come to understand that God's will is all that is important and He has the perfect plan for each and every one of us. We can accept that but at the same time, we can still feel pain. I used to think the pain would automatically disappear when I whole heartedly accepted a suffering. I was so disappointed to find out that's not what happens! For some reason God allows us to continue suffering though it is easier to bear with faith and acceptance. Maybe this is what you've experienced too.

      "I know God would not permit such excruciating suffering without an incredible, remarkable, outrageously glorious reason" Yes! I am imagining you meeting God face to face one day and knowing 'everything'. I often imagine meeting God and Thomas. At that moment I will realise suffering is over. Surely then we will be glad we had the opportunity to suffer for God.

      Patricia, you and other friends say such beautiful things to me but I do feel a fraud at times. I look at you all and think I have hardly suffered. You are so full of faith, and love for others who have what you'd hoped for. You are very generous. Could I be as loving if I was in your position? I look at how greatly God has blessed me. I am thoroughly spoilt.

      What wonderful news of your new 'daughter'. She will a very special person in your life. My mother-in-law once told me she'd hoped for daughters, had only sons but was then blessed with me. Isn't that beautiful?

      Thank you so much for stopping and sharing. Have I written another letter length reply? So easy to do when chatting with friends.

      God bless you and your family!

      Delete
  6. Sue, I too used to wonder why it still hurt. Didn't I really accept the cross? But, it was still so painful. Then God helped me to understand that suffering obtains so much. Jesus still felt every shred of pain, even though He accepted His Father's Will perfectly. His suffering redeemed the world. And ours, united to His, can obtain so many graces for ourselves and for others. And, our faithfulness to God throughout these difficult, almost unbearable trials expresses our fidelity, our trust and our love for Him...and He is so pleased. As our Good Father, He is overcome with joy, when we don't understand, yet still believe..still love Him.

    Sue, you are hardly a fraud! I have read your posts about Thomas. You know suffering..and you know its depths. God love you! I would not be generous, if it were coming from me. But, God is so good that although the pain remains, He gives the joy of sharing the happiness of others who do have what we ourselves have hoped for. And that is truly a miracle of grace. And in that beautiful exchange that only God can make, I must say that seeing large families with their precious children actually lifts my spirits and enlarges my heart, even though I may still shed a few tears..but they are somehow cleansing...and God keeps them all in His Heart.

    It sounds like you have an awesome mother-in-law! She is blessed with you! My precious daughter-in-law lost her mom to cancer, when she was only 14. I can't take her mom's place, but I hope that through the years, we will grow very close. And..I'm looking forward to grandchildren ASAP.

    I love your "letters"..and I write them too :) Over the weekend, I wrote a post on a movie, and I felt like I was writing e-mails to everyone who commented. It was great fun! :)

    You're a special lady, Sue, and you always touch my heart. I think I feel a kinship with you because you have shared your suffering in your grief posts, and, although mine is different, it is strangely also similar...unspeakable loss. But only in this life! Rejoicing in the next! See you there? xoxo

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Patricia,

      You explain the reason why we continue to suffer so well! "Didn't I really accept the cross?" Yes! I used to think that if I genuinely accepted God's will for my life, I would not feel sad but rather rejoice. No reason to sorrow if I truly believed God had everything worked out perfectly for me. But we still grieve while we trust and love...

      Maybe we both know the depths of suffering but God has certainly worked miracles of grace. Without this, I am sure I could never have written that I hardly suffered. I would have been so bowed down by sorrow and hopelessness if it wasn't for God's help. Yes, He has truly blessed us both.

      My mother-in-law and I never got on very well, until the last time we spent time together. (She came to stay with us before and after Thomas' died.) We had our first deep conversation in years. I'd always thought she was disappointed in me, not being Catholic when I married Andy, so this affected our relationship. Then she told me how she regarded me as the daughter she never had. Sadly I never saw her again after that visit. She lived in England and has since died. But I am grateful we ended up real friends. I am sure you will not waste time like me. Enjoy your 'daughter' and look forward to grandchildren. Maybe your love for children will be fulfilled when you are a grandmother. God is good!

      Patricia, suffering is universal. And grief... we experience similar feelings despite our individual situations. When I was struggling to accept my suffering, a nun I know was involved in a serious car accident. Her cheerfulness in accepting her situation encouraged me so much. I wanted to remain in the suffering club with her! (if you understand what mean!) I am glad you and I are both members of this club and can share.

      Certainly I'll see you in the next life! Whatever it takes, I want to be there.

      God bless you!

      PS Another long reply but no one can delete it. That's the fun of having my very own blog!

      Delete
  7. Oh Sue...you are always so honest in your posts when it comes to loss and the grief and suffering that accompany it. You are a real blessing to those of us who suffered through infertility, miscarriages, or the loss of a child. Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Mary,

      I used to worry about being honest. I'd write a post and then hesitate before pressing 'publish'. What would readers think? But I have connected with so many wonderful women through my experiences (including you), I no longer worry. Everyone is kind. We all suffer. It is good to be able to share our feelings and experiences so that we feel less alone.

      Mary, we have talked about family size and grief before, and shared our experiences. I always appreciate your encouraging words. Thank you.

      God bless!

      Delete
  8. Did you know how much I needed this post Sue? I thought about you all of Tuesday due to my own fresh grief because I knew you'd understand. Thank you so much for this post and for your understanding. I love you for it. You really have a way with words on the subject of grief. I just wrote a post about mine...I wished it was as eloquent as yours. God Bless You. XO.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Elizabeth,

      I am so very sorry to hear about your recent miscarriage. I really wish you weren't in need of an understanding post.

      Sometimes I think about what it would have been like if I'd never suffered the grief of child loss, and not known this sorrow. You know, I wouldn't change the way things worked out. I belong to this exclusive club of very special mothers like you. I am glad I know the depths of pain and can cry with my friends. Real friendship and love come from sharing difficult experiences, and helping each other. I wish I could be there with you and hug and listen. You are not alone. Would you understand if I said I think God has given us an important mission in life, and that He has blessed us? (Even though it doesn't appear that way.) He does give so much grace in return for our sorrows. Keep trusting!

      Elizabeth, I am hopping over to your blog to share your post again. I read it quickly before starting this comment. It seems to me that honesty makes a post eloquent. When something is written from the heart, it has the power to connect with others. And your post comes directly from your heart.

      May God bless you and may He heal your pain. I am keeping you in my prayers.

      Delete

Author Name

Contact Form

Name

Email *

Message *

Powered by Blogger.