Yesterday, I spent hours crying. 2014 has been a horrible year for us and I'm certainly not sad to see it go, but when I tried to imagine 2015, I just couldn't muster up anything but thoughts of the upcoming due dates and first birthdays that will haunt us. (One each in May, June, July, and September make the middle of the year particularly dreaded.) Also, the knowledge that 2015 won't bring us the birth of a child seems to strip it of hope.
But after a few hours of crying for the babies we'll never meet, I felt a bit of a relief and room to think in a more positive light. The past week has been extremely trying and probably even more difficult than any of the days I've actually miscarried or the due dates we've struggled through.
I struggle with depression even during the best of times. Days in which we have nothing but blessings to be grateful for, I still fight despair. So when we have moments of incredible grief and hopelessness, my depression is truly unbearable. Since my first miscarriage, I've also struggled with nightmares which make sleep nearly impossible and anxiety that has only increased with each subsequent loss. Obviously, the few months after each loss are the hardest and then things get back to being very manageable. But I always have to be very vigilant to get have a very regular daily routine, eat well, take my vitamins and minerals daily, (try to) get adequate sleep, and plenty of sunlight.
This past week has been the perfect storm - a recent loss (with both the grief and hormonal instability that accompanies it), the holidays (which make even a more distant loss more difficult), and being away from home which makes it nearly impossible to keep up any sort of routine, eat healthfully, exercise regularly, etc. Just realizing that how I'm feeling is the result of so many outside factors has been such a relief and allowed hope to creep in. I'm very confident that once we get back home and can control several of these factors, that the deep despair I'm feeling will melt away.
Sometimes, at times like this, I begin to blame myself for not trusting God enough, for not being faithful enough, or having a better relationship with God. I read stories of people who've struggled with mental illness or eating disorders or substance abuse who are suddenly "cured" when they come to know God. But I know that's not how it works for the most of us. There are Saints - Saints! - who struggled with these issues all their life, who knew God profoundly and served Him well, and never escaped these afflictions. These issues are real physical and psychological ailments that cannot be healed simply by loving God and feeling His love for us, at least no more than someone with a chronic illness will be healed simply by faith - sometimes miraculous healing does happen, but most often, we're left to nature and the natural weakness of our bodies and minds.
My relationship with God is stronger and deeper than it was before my first miscarriage. Each subsequent loss has brought me closer to Christ. I don't believe that God caused my miscarriages in order to bring me closer to Him or to make me into a more humble person, but that is what has happened. (I thoroughly believe the cause is something natural and God simply allowed it to happen, as He does with most of nature.) I believe that He is able to use all things for good and He has worked in me through our heartbreaking losses. By allowing Him to do so (for you have to give Him that invitation), I am able to be a sign of my children. They may not be visible to this world, but their existence has meaning if I let them transform me into who God created me to be. Obviously, I am no Saint. I have a long way to go. But I am closer to holiness than I was before they were conceived. And so I know that this depression is not a lack of faith, because I have grown in faith even during the most extreme periods of depression I've ever felt.
It is Satan that tries to make me feel like my depression is due to my spiritual failings. And I know I cannot give into him, for if I did, I am sure I would lose my faith. Though certainly I hope that someday I'll be cured of depression and anxiety, I assume that they will be burdens I will carry with me my entire life. And if I were to go through life thinking that if I were only truly faithful to God, if I only really believed, if I only prayed more or did X better, I would be cured, I would go through my whole life feeling like a failure. Nothing I would do could ever be good enough because mental illness is not simply a matter of faith. And at some point, I would break, give up, turn my back on God. But the truth is, it is only God who can free me from this, if not in this life, then in the next, when our bodies and minds will be whole. In the meantime, I need Christ with me to help carry this cross. I need to unite my suffering with His so that it has meaning, so that it bears fruit.
I walk daily with these crosses of depression and recurrent pregnancy loss. Sometimes they seems so cruel. Sometimes I cry out to God, "Why do you allow repeat miscarriage to happen to someone who already struggles with depression?" Because certainly, it's easier to deal with either one or the other. But there are no answers, and as of yet I've been able to cope. I've been given the graces to survive this, even if it seems like I'm only barely surviving. Some days I'm even able to look to the future and say, I can do this again. We can try to get pregnant again and if we miscarry again, I will survive, and not only that, it will be worth it. Other days, I struggle with how to just make it to tomorrow.
Every morning I wake up needing time to pray and to rework through these thoughts. To remind myself that I am strong and that I have Christ beside me. To remind myself that my depression is separate from my faith. To remember that my depression will get better and I can take steps to control it. I think about the children I've lost and how much I love them and how their short lives were purposeful. And I thank God for my husband and daughter and the many other blessings I have in my life. I often have to go through these same prayers and thoughts many times during the day to make it through. But I do. Each day I make it through and it's this very conscious, purposeful reasoning gives me back hope. Faith and reason, right? I need both.
Today, on the first day of 2015, I'm able to count my innumerable blessing, all five of our children among them, I'm able to see the good things that this year might bring for us. Even if this year does not bring us a viable pregnancy, I have so much else to look forward to. Fertility struggles tend to give those who experience it tunnel vision so that the only purpose in life is in another baby, the only thing worth looking forward to or working toward is another child. But my life is so much more than that. Another year with my wonderful husband and daughter is a blessing to look forward to in itself.