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Silent Grief: The Longing for Fatherhood

"Hey Rick, what did you learn in class today?"

Oh, no one was clamoring for an answer to that question? Well, just in case, let me tell you...

I was sitting in my Human Behavior Theory class this morning. For the first hour we listened to lecture on issues related to pregnancy. Some of it was basic biology (genes, chromosomes, DNA, etc.) but it's affect on me was oddly similar to a healthy portion of NyQuil. The professor did make a reference about carrying around a 5 pound bag of flour as a form of pregnancy awareness, and for a moment I was taken back to the good ol' days of 8th grade health class.

But then we started to dive in deeper. We talked about adoption, abortion, miscarriage, birth defects, and infertility. We talked about some of the challenges of pregnancy. We even talked about the changes in hospital policies that now allow men to be in the hospital room instead of pacing in the lobby down the hall, smoking cigars and questioning their life choices. With each passing talking point, I felt the hurt begin to rise from deep inside me, and and at the break, I excused myself from class. I just couldn't sit through it anymore.

I learned how desperately I long to be a father.

I don't know if I fully felt the weight of this longing until this morning's class. But this class was just the crescendo of something that has been building for a while.

I don't always know how to communicate this longing to my wife. In fact, I rarely know that I'm even feeling it. She has often expressed she's felt alone during our journey with fertility and pregnancy, and much of it is because I don't know what to say, what to ask, or even what I'm feeling.

I don't always feel the same yearning that she does. I wasn't born with this deep desire to feel a child grow inside of me. I don't really want to experience the joyful discomfort of a baby practicing karate inside the womb. I do know the pains of post-burrito indigestion, but I've been told these are not the same.

But this morning during class, I felt it. I felt the longing for the announcement from my wife, to pick her up and hug her with tears flowing down our faces. I could feel the desire to tell our fathers and siblings, our church friends and family. I could feel the longing of joy we'd wish to see from our mom's reactions. I started to dream of naming them, holding them, smelling their poopy nastiness (this slowed down the longing a tad), and flooding our Facebook pages with crazy baby pictures of faces that only a child created by my wife and I could make (those who know us well are probably giggling thinking about it).

Every mention in class of pregnancy was a reminder of the future that we struggle remaining hopeful for.

And it hurts.

I felt the pain of not having experienced these and the fear of not knowing if I ever will.

Last week we got the monthly reminder that our latest fertility treatment hadn't worked. We continue to choose to hope, yet we wrestle with doubt and fear. And I think that's ok.

Choosing to hope in the midst of pain, fear, and doubt requires courage and vulnerability. It would be much easier to close our hearts to avoid the pain. But that is not a sacrifice I am willing to make.

So what do I do with this? How do I take this feeling of heartache and longing and use it in a positive way?

1. I share it with my wife

I tell her how I'm feeling. I tell her that while I can't understand the uniqueness of what she's feeling, I hurt too. I reminder that she isn't alone in this, and I make an extra effort to demonstrate we are a team as we go through this.

She is not alone.

2. I share it with God and know that He hears me

The Lord is close to the broken-hearted; he rescues those who's spirits are crushed.

Psalms 34:18

I love the Lord because he hears my voice and my prayer for mercy. Because he bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath.

Psalms 116:1-2

It is only through Him that I can find the courage and vulnerability to love and hope in the midst of heartache.

I am not alone.

3. I share it with you

I can't be the only one who's felt this way. There has to be others out there who can relate, right? Maybe there's someone out there right now reading this who has wanted to express his longing, but never had the words. Maybe this can help you find your voice.

You are not alone.

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