Empathy, a Silver Lining of my Infertility

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To have my son, we spent 4 years of our lives, close to a hundred thousand dollars. When we finally were able to get pregnant we lost our first two pregnancies in a row. During that time, I was a warrior goddess trudging through the depths of hell, but I didn’t feel like that. It felt terrible. I don’t wish this on anybody and do not recommend it for learning life’s lessons. But, sometimes we do not choose what happens to us. And, there are often silver linings. Learning about empathy while trying to have my son, was definitely just that.

Throughout my journey with infertility I’ve learned so much about empathy. I’ve learned that it is a phenomenal quality in a friend and I hold this now in such a high regard when I choose who to spend my time with. I’ve learned to be more empathetic myself and I believe that has made me a better mother, friend, wife and person.

I often am complaining about the things people say to people struggling with infertility.  Like “it will just happen”. Or, “be positive.” Or, “relax”.  Or, “baby dust.” (which I learned along the way can be very upsetting to people who have had their angels cremated). But, I do believe the people saying these things all mean well. And at least they are there and trying to say something to help. So, I want to be gentle and kind to these people and be grateful that they tried. I also know that when people know better they do better (RIP Maya Angelou).

So, here I want to focus on some of the people who were so beautifully empathetic toward me during my journey that they were a warm comfort in some of my most painful times. I am so grateful for these people.

During my struggles I have learned how important it is to accept my negative feelings and let them pass through me. I do believe in being positive but in times of real struggle, I also believe, we have to accept our pain and process it or it will cause all sorts of subconscious issues in our life. De Nile is not just a river in Egypt. Denial is real and it is a real problem for our growth as humans. Sometimes we cannot just tell ourselves we are happy or smile for others just to make them comfortable, I often wonder at this point in my life if I would be better off never doing this.

Empathetic people not only allow you to feel your pain but they will connect with theirs and be by your side in your time of struggle so you don’t have to feel it alone. The people who have been most empathetic to me during my hard times have not only helped me and warmed my heart in the darkness but they also have helped me so that I can do the same for people in my life. The juxtaposition of learning through accepting love during a painful time and turning around and helping someone else through a painful time is a heart bursting concept that I am so grateful I have experienced. It truly has enriched my life. 

Credit Arletta Charter for Randi Baird

One of the most empathetic people I met was my dear friend who I would speak to regularly because of something I was involved in at the time.  She has a big beautiful family but shared with me that she also had personal experiences with miscarriages before her children were born. 

She would often ask about what I was going through, listen and genuinely feel my pain. One day, we had breakfast and she was expressing how much she had been thinking of me and how sorry she was that I was enduring this struggle. She started belting out tears, real tears, for me. They were the tears that I often wasn’t strong enough to muster for myself. I couldn’t bring myself to connect with the pain and was often numb to it. But, this kind soul was feeling for me. No one had ever done that for me before. I am still so touched by this experience. 

This friend also offered to be a surrogate for me. My husband and I were mind-blown by her families generosity towards ours. It was right after our miscarriages and it gave us so much hope and comfort. It was an unbelievably generous sentiment. It was such a bright point in our long dark struggle. We luckily were able to have our son so we didn’t need to take her up on the offer. But, our hearts will always be larger because of it.

Another friend’s family, told their aunt who is a nun and we received a blessing in a beautiful card signed by all the nuns. It was so lovely we could feel all their love and support.

That same friend, called me after every appointment and would just check in every-once-in-a while to make sure she was up to date and offer support. She had been through IVF and works as a therapist so she was an unbelievable resource and support through the process. 

These people listened and sent their love and prayed for us. The phrases that they used included phrases like “Oh dear Natalie, my heart is breaking for you,” “I am praying that your next round is your round.” “I am so sorry you are going through this just so freaking sorry.”  The phrases were said genuinely and I could feel the love that I was witnessing. 

Many times these friends and others who I am blessed to have in my life simply asked “How are you?” and reminded me that they had been thinking of me. Prayers were often sent. But, they never asked me to relax or put my emotions away. They were comfortable sitting with me in my pain and they truly made one of the saddest times almost bearable. And I do prefer my unbearable pain with a side of warm, thoughtful empathy.

These amazing people have also made my life so much better because now I have been able to pay this empathy forward on many occasions. I would have never thought that I could connect with someone and cry with and for them. But, now that I have had these experience I have found myself welling up and letting tears flow with my friends who are struggling often. I know I cannot take the pain away. But these connections are to me so special. They are such a gift in life. 

These wonderful friends and angels have also helped me to be a better mother to my son. Being a young child is often difficult and these experiences have taught me to be able to sit with my son in his hard times of tears and tantrums and not try to shush his feelings away.

I am just so grateful for empathy.

 

Natalie Stanton is an ex-licensed real estate broker and ex-practicing attorney although still a member of the New York State Bar. She writes at www.nataliesnuggets.com about her struggles to bear children to help heal herself from the trauma and to help others struggling.  She also blogs about things of a more delightful nature. She enjoys tennis, fancy dinners, spa days, beach days, laughter, spiritual conversations as well as creating and enjoying beauty, love and joy in her home and beyond. She recently moved from Manhattan to Connecticut and is very much enjoying her new country life. She is grateful every day for all her blessings, especially her immediate family and miracle son.