By Danielle Ripley-Burgess © 2011
I woke up, somewhat foggy, to my parents gazing over me in my hospital bed. The good news: no cancer discovered on this second surgery. The bad news: the surgery itself, performed to save my hormone function before pelvic radiation, made me medically sterile.
My mom looked like a ghost had walked by. My dad looked guilty. The doctor insisted my surgery meant life or death; she focused on my life. My ability to create future lives was null. My parents’ eyes swelled with tears, but my 17-year-old self perked up with gratitude to be alive. Parenthood was so far off my radar.
I lived with this perspective for many, many years. Even when I married, my husband accepted infertility. We viewed our situation as special and unique. I thanked God for a great testimony and story of survival. We told others of our plans to adopt; we “high-fived” over the fact I’d never be pregnant. It was our special treat, until it started to hit me one day.
When we researched adoption options, I noticed many agencies addressed the emotions tied to infertility: mourning, loss, depression, jealousy, and many other monsters. Because I knew early on that I was infertile, we skipped the years of “trying” with no result. I considered myself exempt from the pain. But with the growth of our personal family tree, along with more babies popping up in our church’s nursery, my understanding of the stories I once laughed at in adoption orientation meetings applied to me, too. No infertile woman is immune to desperation and grief. Comments like “She looks like you,” or “When are you due?” or “Do you feel him kicking?,” will never be guided my way. And while my infertility may never be recovered; thankfully, it can be redeemed.
Sinners become free when they accept Jesus and recognize their sin. Alcoholics become sober when they recognize addition. And as an infertile woman, I’ve found much healing in identifying and recognizing one big word: LOSS. For so many years, I posed as Super Woman, blocking all threats of grief or pain. But, I can’t be bullet proof toward everything. Neither can our families. I’m sure not having the blood line passed down isn’t easy for them, either.
Even through the pain and unrecoverable loss, I’ve come to realize that Christ offers great blessings for a barren woman. A woman who can look beyond the immediate circumstances and see a life that’s unconventional, yet divinely planned, has great things in store. Because of my infertility, I get to be a mom to a child who’s future is bright now. I get to share my life struggles with other infertile women, and point them to Christ to find peace. I get to experience the supernatural spirit of adoption.
There’s no pretty bow to put on a story of infertility. Like all of the other spiritual lessons, it’s a process. Some days it’s a joyful celebration of God’s blessings that wouldn’t have come any other way. Other days, it’s a funeral. But while infertility may be a battle I always face, I have confidence that just like physical scars, the pain associated with it will continue to fade over time.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Danielle Ripley-Burgess is a two-time colon cancer survivor first diagnosed at age 17. Danielle's written numerous posts and articles related to cancer, infertility and adoption. She's a spokesperson for national nonprofit, The Colon Club, and was featured in the 2009 Colondar as Miss October. (www.colondar.com) She's currently cancer-free and resides in Kansas City with her husband, Mike, daughter Mae and two dogs, Joey and Lindley. Read more at her blog, www.semicolonstories.com.