Do you remember reading Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel, The Scarlet Letter? It was somewhere between junior high and high school that I first read the novel in one of my English classes. It’s been over 15 years since I last read it, but it’s one of those novels that sticks with you. In case you’ve forgotten, The Scarlet Letter, tells the story of Hester Prynne a shunned woman living in a 17th-century Puritan Massachusetts Bay Colony. According to Puritan law, Hester had performed a grievous sin-she had an affair which resulted in the birth of her daughter, Pearl. So, what was to be her punishment? Hester was made to stand on the scaffold for three hours, exposed to public humiliation, and to wear the scarlet “A” for the rest of her life. In today’s times, this punishment seems extreme. At no point in my life have I been subjected to public humiliation for my sins. However, Hester is shunned because of her adultery and left to live a life of solitude.
Now, you’re probably wondering where I’m going with this. You’re probably wondering what The Scarlet Letter has to do with infertility. You see dear friend much like Hester was left to spend the rest of her days wearing a blazing red “A” pinned to her dress, infertility leaves you with a blazing red “I” seared into your heart. Some will choose to wear the “I” in public while others will choose to ache in private. Neither choice is wrong. I’ve done both. At the beginning of this journey, I didn’t share a lot and chose to keep my thoughts and feelings to myself. After 5 years, 11 months I was ready to share. Infertility is deeply private and it’s coated with self-shame. Your body doesn’t work the way it was intended it to work. The one thing you want more than anything is just outside of your reach. It’s full of unknowns, what ifs, and will it evers. The world doesn’t no how to respond, people who haven’t “been there” don’t know what to say. But, the fact remains this Scarlet “I” will always remain on your heart. No matter if your journey ends with the miracle you’ve been praying for or your womb is forever closed-you will always carry the “I” with you. You will always remember the pain, the journey. Infertility is not who you are, but it does become a part of you. The balance is not losing yourself in the “I”.
Hester lives out her days in a quiet shame all while trying to redeem herself and her daughter. The social stigma surrounding Hester left her isolated. The social stigma of infertility can also lead to feelings of isolation. So, dear friend, I know bearing the Scarlet “I” is hard. It’s emblazoned on my heart, too. But, dear friend you are not alone. I am not alone. We are 1 in 8. We are 1 of 7.4 million women who are on this journey with us. And, more importantly not only do we have each other, we have a gracious heavenly Father who is with us each step of the way. We do not have to suffer in silence like Hester Prynne. Our Father is able to remove that hurt and fill it with his love and peace. Our future rests in Him.
“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.” –Isaiah 43:2
P.S. If you’re a fellow infertility sister, I’d love to hear your story and add you to my prayer list. Infertility is lonely in a world full of babies so, it’s nice knowing you’re not alone.
P.P.S. If you’re in the midst of a trial or you are in a valley, I’d love to hear from you and add you to my prayer list, too.