The Terrible Gift

Infertility as a giftSometimes we may have even given them, either on purpose… or worse, by accident. We’ve also received them on purpose… or worse, by accident.

Several years ago, knowing my brother was very much an avid hiker and camper, I bought him a present that was both utilitarian and stylish. The gift was comfortable and when you put them on, you looked like you were ready to tackle Mount Everest without breaking a sweat. I knew he would love them. In fact, I was a bit reluctant to give them away.

Yet, when my brother opened his present on Christmas Eve, for the first time, I saw the gift through his eyes… he didn’t view them as the thrilling gateways to adventure and exploration. All he saw was socks. Wool socks. Green, with red stripes.

At that point, I could almost read his mind…. Is this a joke? What are you kidding? Thanks, brother. What’s next year’s gift, underwear?

The fact that he later wore the socks, liked the socks – loved the socks – did not (and to this day does not) stop him from reminding me that this was possibly the lamest Christmas gift he ever received.

Of course there are worse gifts (in the eye of the beholder), both accidentally and intentionally:

  • For a full year, for all occasions, people saw fit to give me unicorns. I got two more today.
  • My friend, Kip, received ladies underwear from his brother Danny.
  • My buddy, Doug, got a magenta (his word) hand-painted Elvis.
  • Our embryologist, Shan, got a Heineken indoor grill from a cousin who got freebies through his work at a distributor.
  • Nicky, our andrologist, got Mariah Carey’s “Rainbow”.
  • Jeff Scotchie (Jessica’s husband) got stuck with “Don’t Hassle the Hoff” from Shan’s husband, Neal.
  • My buddy Ted received a used Chinese wok.
  • My friend Andrew got a $5 check from a great-great aunt with instructions to purchase a new “bonnet”.

So What’s the Point?

It was once said of James Michener, author of epic best sellers like “Hawaii,” “Alaska” and “Tales of the South Pacific,” that it took him 50 pages just to say hello. If you’ve read my blogs before, you know I sometimes take a while before I get to the point.

Well, here we are again at the Christmas season, possibly the worst time of year for most patients suffering from infertility. They face this season knowing that they won’t have the opportunity to buy a toy for a child and to see the happy expression that toy brings or even the disappointment a bad gift brings. They fear they never will have that chance.

This year, I want to focus on the terrible gift of infertility. It is terrible because it ushers so many opportunities for sadness and a sense of loss. It is the loss of a life that never was.

It is terrible because the feelings it brings are often inescapable and frequently come without warning. It is terrible because it makes others frequently feel like they can’t speak to you about all the joys they experience with children and family – it can make friends censor themselves around you.

But I want to remind you of just one thing. Though terrible, infertility is still a gift. Only people who have been through war together know what kind of bond that can bring. While the war may have been terrible, the bond is the gift.

Infertility may or may not be what is intended for you for the rest of your life. But it is a gift for now. It is a gift because it is an opportunity to build a bond with your spouse, and to help you understand those who are suffering with greater clarity.

I remember back when my wife and I had failed several IVF cycles. We could not get pregnant because of an issue with her fallopian tubes. I remember a time in my greatest sadness, thinking that if only, if only, if only…. If only I had married someone else, this curse would not have befallen me.

I remember rolling that thought around in my mind, kneading it and shaping it until I finally realized that my love for my wife was so much greater than my need for a child. This terrible gift tested and strengthened my devotion to my wife.

Though terrible, it is also a chance for you to deepen your understanding that we live in a broken world. While there is great joy, within the world and our own community and even amongst our friends there is often great suffering and tribulation.

Final Thoughts

We all know the world is not fair, but we don’t live like we understand that. Really the best we can do is to make the best of the gifts we receive, no matter how terrible they are.
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