Yesterday was my second child’s first birthday, well it would have been his birthday except for the fact that he is in heaven. He shares his due date with J.R.R. Tolkien, a small fact that I love and holds a bit of meaning to me.
It’s hard to be in this position, even though I feel like I am at a place of acceptance and peace about our situation. But the reality is that before summer begins I have another due date and would-have-been first birthday to celebrate. In March we’ll hit the two year mark of trying. The reality is that I have to sit and watch pregnancy announcements, baptisms and all these wonderful milestones of earthly families larger than mine occur while those happen. If yesterday was any sign, a lot of those things will correspond with those sad anniversaries.
The reason I find it comforting that my son shares a “birthday” with Professor Tolkien is that his works and words have brought me a lot of comfort over these last two years. Tolkien writes about many topics in his works; he was a deeply devout man whose faith shines through as he talks about war and hope and death and life. But the most powerful topic he’s written on for me is that of coveting things we desire and what happens to us when those desires rule our life.
You see the them time and time again: Thorin, Boromir, Theodin, Denethor; all corrupted in some way by desire for things and in no character do you see this corruption so completely than in the sniveling, grasping creature Gollum. A thing so corrupted and twisted by “his precious” that he becomes cut off from the rest of world and a twisted, pathetic shell of what he once was.
It is a metaphor that is hard to miss; if we let our desires rule our lives this is what we’ll become.
In my foray through infertility, subfertility and miscarriage I’ve seen some wonderful things. I’ve seen groups of people, family and friends band together to lead the barer of the troubles through their wilderness. I’ve seen great love and sacrifice. However, I’ve also seen an ugly side to it all. I’ve seen women so consumed by the desire for a child that it consumes her every waking moment and begins to change her from the inside out. I’ve seen lovely, caring women slowly turn harsh and angry towards anything that dares remind them of the child they do not posses. I think it’s apt that so many of Tolkien fallen characters hide themselves away from the sunlight; Thorin in his mountain, Theodin and Denethor in their halls and Gollum in the shadows. When we let these things consume us anything bright and lovely becomes painful to our sight.
The pain and trials of fertility problems are a journey through our own personal Mordor; it is a journey no one can make on their own, it is a journey that calls for people to stand by our side and in our weakest, smallest moments – to be carried. But in the end it is our decision: what we’ll do when confronted with that final moment. Will we cast away the thing we desire most or will we fall with it, letting it consume us completely?
Those of us on this path cannot let our desires for a child consume and change us. We cannot let it change our understanding of the precious nature of life, even when it is denied to us. We cannot cast hateful eyes and hearts at every picture of a newborn or every stroller that crosses our path, because that is something evil using us for it’s own devious purpose.
This is not to say that we can not be sad at the sad time or hurt by ill-timed actions or un-thought out words. It doesn’t mean that we cannot hope and pray for children to fill our lives. But we need to remember that a child is not a thing to collect and covet; it is a person of it’s own infinite worth and dignity. It is something we should desire for it’s own good and it’s own worth – not the good it might do to us or the worth we assign it. It is not something we should let rule our thoughts or our lives, because no good will ever come from dwelling indefinitely on what could be and never stepping into the light of what is.
Thank you Professor Tolkien for your beautiful words and your beautiful faith in all things good and bright. Thank you for filling your world with characters who struggle, characters who defend and characters who fall. Thank you for showing the world the strength and sacrifice necessary to do good in the world.
Thank you to everyone who continues to fight this fight and struggle with this weight on their shoulders. Thank you to everyone who knows, as Sam did, that you can not carry this weight for us, but sometimes you can carry us. Thank you to my own Fellowship of friends and family; without you I wouldn’t be standing in the light today.