Infertility + Shame

Hi! I’m Paige Marie. I live in Utah with my husband and my pup. I studied Family Psychology at Brigham Young University and I’ve loved working in the social work field. Since it’s Motherhood Monday, I’ll share my exciting news.. I am pregnant and have an adoption match! After almost five years of infertility, I still pinch myself that possibly TWO baby girls are headed my way this winter. Head over to www.paigemariecutler.com to hear more about my experiences with infertility, adoption, and faith.

I’m so excited to be a guest here today.
Jenny has created a space of honesty and encouragement where I am proud to lend my voice. I love her vision of celebrating women for exactly who they each choose to be.

My story today is intimate and personal, yet it is also a very common tale. It is the tale of a woman hearing messages that she is not good enough. The tale of being subject to shame.

Superstar researcher Brene Brown defines shame as “the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing we are flawed and therefore unworthy of acceptance and belonging.”

Like Jenny, I strive to create a space where all women feel worthy and accepted. Shame is directly hindering this goal and I don’t want anyone to waste another second struggling against shame.

I want you to be able to recognize shame when it attacks you. I’ve found listening to others stories has given me an upper hand in my own shame battles.

So, I’m going to send my soul out in it’s underwear in the attempt to give your soul a bit more armor.


On October 19, 2016 I was on the last day of my “two week wait” for our second intrauterine insemination. Jordan, my husband, and I anxiously awaited the phone call that would tell us if this month was THE month. Soon we would know if we were finally successful after over 4 years of trying to conceive. We had gone to wander target as a distraction. I was anxious, but also excited. Bins of scarves and sweaters indicated that my favorite season was approaching and best of all, maybe I was pregnant. Maybe a tiny life had already sprouted. Maybe in late summer I would have a squishy baby in a tiny bikini.

I left Jordan to use the ladies room when my phone rang. I only remember my response. My head swam and my vision blurred. I tried to keep the tears from my voice as I choked out something like “Oh it’s ok, no big deal, I kinda thought it wouldn’t work this time anyway.”

I felt stupid for feigning nonchalance on the phone. The nurse had seen everything. She knew how often I had missed work and made the drive to my many appointments. She knew exactly how much money we had spent. She had seen our hope on the day of the procedure. She had listened as I begged the doctor to stop when the pain came. She stood by the door when I lay very still on the table and listened to my husband pray for new life.

I wasn’t ok.
It was a big deal.
We had hoped it would work.

My pathetic attempt to play it cool wouldn’t have fooled her.

I quickly hung up and locked myself in an empty stall. My sobs were desperate and wouldn’t be silenced. I didn’t know where I wanted to be, but the greasy silver toilet stall wasn’t it. When I thought I had collected myself, I went to leave.

On my way out a woman asked if I was ok. Dazed, I kept walking towards the bathroom exit. The tears started again and again she asked. Her voice sounded fierce and strong and it frightened me. I felt so horrible for upsetting her. She must have thought I was in danger or someone had died. I hated that I was causing a scene when the world was full of people suffering real problems. I wanted to reassure her that all was well. So I turned around to face her. We stood and stared at each other for what felt like a long time as I tried to think of an appropriate response. Everyone was ok, I was safe, her protective concern wasn’t warranted. Yet, I couldn’t make my face, or my voice, read anything but distress. Still crying, I turned away and left.

I quickly sent a text to my husband saying I would be by the car. He understood what must have happened and he came quickly. We drove home in silence.

I pulled my knees close to my chest and draped my sweater over my body. I shoved my sunglasses on and buried my face in my knees. I tried my best to disappear.

I had expected sorrow, but this was more than sorrow. This was a harsh scolding I gave myself for being foolish enough to hope again. This was a belief I was inadequate. This was wanting to live on a mountain alone because surely I couldn’t contribute to society. This was wishing my husband had a different wife, so I couldn’t disappoint him again with my broken body. This was shame.

I had seen others suffering from shame so often, but it is harder to recognize when it’s happening to you. Slowly, I noticed my attempts to hide and barricade. I stepped aside from my thoughts just enough to notice the absolutes, the untruths, and the harshness they spoke.

We pulled in our driveway and Jordan went inside to grab backup.  Alone in the car, I tried one of Brene Brown’s strategies and said out loud “Pain, Pain, Pain.” This seems silly, but it always helps me remember that shame wounds should be treated like physical injuries. Shame isn’t speaking truths about my worth. Shame is cutting up my heart and I needed a first aid kit.

Jordan came out of the house, plopped my puppy in my lap, and we went on a long drive up the mountains. On the drive, I thought of what I knew about shame. I looked closer at my thoughts and tried to sort them out. What was true? What was false? What was natural sorrow and pain from the failed procedure? What was unnecessary sorrow and pain caused by shame?

Shame: You should be embarrassed both for your “pathetic non-reaction” on the phone and for “causing a scene” in the target bathroom. The nurse and the woman were probably judging you.

Truth: These phone calls are probably the nurse’s least favorite part about her job. It is natural to show emotion after such a disappointment.

 

Shame: Your husband must be so frustrated that you managed to yet again not be pregnant. He is better off without you.

Truth: My husband loves me. He chooses me everyday, regardless of OUR infertility. I am deserving of him. Also, he is in pain too. We will work through it together.

 

Shame: It is wrong of you to feel sorry for yourself for not being pregnant yet. You have a good life and some people have REAL problems.

Truth: Sorrow is natural after a loss like this. Infertility is a real problem. Addressing my own internal world and taking time to heal is the first step to be able to help others in worse situations

 

Shame: You will NEVER be a mother.

Truth: I am not pregnant this month. I may never be pregnant. I can and do have the ability to lift those around me and be a mother to those in need. God has made promises to me and His word is sure.

 

Shame: You are a failure and not a complete woman.

Truth: The fertility procedure failed. I did not fail. It is my divine heritage, not a healthy reproductive system, that makes me a complete woman.

By the time we reached the mountain trail my thoughts were mostly sorted out. I still felt pain and sorrow, but I wasn’t carrying the extra burdens shame tried to pile on my shoulders. Free of shame’s lies, I remembered that I am worth whatever time it may take to heal from this disappointment. I remembered the bond between myself and my husband. I knew together, we could prepare to meet an unsure future.

Clearing my head of shameful thoughts turned a difficult day into one of my best memories. The night wasn’t suddenly fun or easy, but there was peace. Faith, hope, and light replaced the dark spaces shame had occupied moments before.


I hope you can use my story as another tool to be victorious in your own battles with shame.

Remember to stop by www.paigemariecutler.com, or find me on instagram @paigemariecutler for more thoughts on building family and growing faith.

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