Hannah Bunker »

Waiting for Grace: The Attack on a Woman’s Identity

As a woman, infertility plays games with your mind. There are some days where I’m perfectly fine and so focused on other areas of my life that I don’t have time to think about the issues we’re going through. Other days, I feel like my womanhood is being attacked.

One particular day four other girlfriends and I decided to spend a Saturday shopping. Within the previous week I heard the news of four, FOUR, people I know who made the announcement they were pregnant. One of these announcements was made that very morning of our shopping trip. Initially, when I was told that this couple was pregnant, I immediately became dizzy, a symptom of most pregnancy announcements since we started trying to have children. After trying for so long, every time I hear the news that another person is pregnant, the painful feeling that sweeps over me is barely describable; I start feeling dizzy and a wave of nausea crashes into me, my heart pounds out of my chest, and anger, despair and depression hit me all at once. I should be excited about this new, precious life but instead, I feel as though I’ve been punched in the gut because it’s a reminder that I’m not there yet. From what I’ve observed, this is a common symptom of most infertile couples when they hear news of others’ pregnancy.

When I heard the news on this particular Saturday that this couple was expecting, jealousy started raging, but I decided to try and suppress it in order to keep a brave face for all my co-shopping friends. After all, it caught this particular couple by surprise. We all have different challenges we have to face. One of mine and Aaron’s is infertility; maybe this couple’s challenge would be raising a child when that wasn’t in their plan. That was what I tried to focus on to make the news easier for me to swallow.

My suppression worked. I was shopping and genuinely enjoying myself until everyone decided to make a stop at Victoria’s Secret. I wasn’t interested in anything so I just stood around smelling the different perfumes and looking at all the pretty lingerie. When we are alone is prime time for the devil to sneak into our thought life and alienate us from the rest of the world. In the middle of Victoria’s Secret my thought life came under attack and my mind started dwelling on the newly pregnant friends and family members. I began to feel even more alone and alienated. My upbeat attitude immediately began to melt into depression and anger – like wax melting in a fire. My mind and emotions began wilting until I wanted to do nothing but crawl into the fetal position, all in the middle of Victoria’s Secret.

The beautiful lingerie immediately started taunting me. There is a lie that infertility plants in your mind that you are less of a woman because you can’t have children. No amount of lingerie in the world could make me sexy enough to make me feel like a woman when the idea of never carrying a child has stolen that away. There isn’t a lacey bra, or g-string, or v-string, or thong sexy enough to make me woman enough to get me pregnant. In a crowded mall with people all around me, that’s what was screaming at me as I was standing among mountains of mocking lingerie.

I had to get out. I began to feel physically sick and I started to cry. I had to talk to Aaron. I stood in the middle of the mall and called my husband who was quick to say all the things I needed to hear – the things I know he truly believes; that whether or not I’m ever able to get pregnant would never change his view of me as a woman; that it’s a lie that infertility diminishes womanhood; and that he thinks I’m the sexiest being on this planet. I needed to hear these things from my husband, the other person on this marriage team and in this infertility battle with me. I found comfort in his words. I know he will never leave me, he will never use barrenness as a hurtful tool, and the ability for me to have a child isn’t a deal breaker for him. I trust him with my whole heart in this situation. From the very beginning we both had in our hearts that no matter whose “fault” it was that we were reproductively challenged, we were a team and would never hold it against one another. I trust that Aaron loves me and wants me just as much as I would him if the tables were turned.

Infertility ties your womanhood to a pole in the town square and beats the every-living crap out of it. As a matter of fact, there are times where standing knee-high IN crap would be more womanly than the emotional whipping we receive from infertility. This, THIS is why I feel a part of me dies every time I hear another woman is pregnant. It’s reminding me that MY ovaries didn’t do their job, or MY eggs didn’t drop this month, or that MY progesterone wasn’t high enough, or MY womb is a hostile environment. It’s saying, “You must not be WOMAN enough to get pregnant, grow, and carry life!”

Society through the ages has determined the value of womanhood based on the ability of whether or not a woman can carry a child. Think about it; women were murdered because they were unable to produce an heir to royalty. Wow, that’s harsh. Society has based womanhood on motherhood and that is a completely unfair comparison.

My feminine validity is the battle that constantly rages in my mind. I’m normally a very secure person but dealing with this issue brings me to my most vulnerable and insecure mental state. Are you struggling with these issues? On what should we base our womanhood? Fertility? Popping out six kids? Infertility? Cat calls? Feminine style? Pampering regimens? High heels? Short skirts? The makeup we wear? Our husbands?

No. No. No. NO. NO…to all of these! I have the answer but in our pain it’s always so hard to remember! Above all things, we should base our opinion of ourselves on the One who created us.

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Psalms 139:13

Finding who we are in Christ is the only constant source of hope and encouragement and should be the primary place we retreat when these emotions start to overwhelm us. If God created us in his perfect image, to think less of ourselves would be to think less of God.

You, as a woman, are beautiful and you were created for a divine plan and purpose. God created us women in all of our feminine glory, no matter what our biological circumstances may be. He must must have thought we were valuable enough to send his only son to die on a cross before we were ever even born and before we ever even began this struggle. Why would he do that? Because he loves us. And he loves us just the way we are. He does not base our value on what we are capable of doing. He does not base our value on whether or not we are able to carry a child. So why should we use barrenness as a scale on which to base our value as a woman?

We shouldn’t.

Does anyone else besides me need a BRAIN TATTOO of this concept?


  • lesli westfall - Tenderly exposed, bravely expressed is your heart and many identify with it. Thank you.

    Preach it, Sistah! ReplyCancel

  • Kyla - All of the posts you have written on this struggle have been well-written and touching, but I found this one to be particularly poignant. I can't fully fathom what it must be like for you, because I haven't been in your shoes…but this made me feel (what is probably just a tiny fraction of) how you were feeling in that particular moment. I'm SO thankful that you have a wonderful husband like Aaron and that the two of you are so supportive of each other. ReplyCancel

  • Allie - Hey!

    Thank you so so so much for sharing. I read your guest post on Julina Morlet's blog and loved it so I've been over here reading some of your posts. This is so well written and such a good glimpse at what you must be going through. I am not even married so I can't imagine what you are going through, but I know if I was in your position I would be struggling just like you with these things. Also, I can really relate to when you said, "On what should we base our womanhood? Fertility? Popping out six kids? Infertility? Cat calls? Feminine style? Pampering regimens? High heels? Short skirts? The makeup we wear? Our husband?" No matter what stage any woman is in, our society tries to tell her what makes her a real woman. It is none of these things! I am learning this slowly but definitely struggle everyday and have to rely on God. I want to find my identity in Him! Not what the world tells me will make me good enough. Anyways, thanks a lot for sharing this was really encouraging and made me think. (As was your article on your 20s) Thanks I'm glad to get the chance to see some of your heart!

    Allie ReplyCancel

  • Christine - Amen, sister! ReplyCancel

  • Kateryn - Thank you so much for writing about all the emotions and thoughts I personally deal with everyday. It's so comforting to know that I'm not the only one who seems to feel crazy sometimes. 🙂 Feeling less of a woman is a constant battle with me. Failure is the word that haunts my thoughts. But I know that God does not see me for my failures. He sees me clothed in righteousness and for that I thank him!!!! Thank you for your words of encouragement. ReplyCancel

  • Tiffany - I know this is an old post, but I feel those exact feelings now. My younger sister is pregnant and I feel sick about being jealous over this. I want to cry tears of joy, but all I can focus on is is my own inability to conceive. What hurts the most is when I hear my mom give my sister pregnancy tips and I feel left out of that bond that they now share of being moms. I usually cry and then beat myself up for crying. Infertility sucks period. I do plan on adopting though and I look forward to being a mommy just like my sister. I usually run to your blog to cheer myself up. Thank you so much sharing your feelings. God bless you and your new family! ReplyCancel

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