Bipolar and Conception: Overcoming Grief with Faith and Family
Nothing touches the grief of not being able to have children of my own. But as I cope, I am finding acceptance, even joy.
By Emily Allen
My morning devotional provides me a moment of quiet and food for thought to start my day.
This morning, the devotional was on limits—grieving and accepting our limits, as well as recognizing that they sometimes can even be blessings. The question to consider was “Name one or two limits God has recently placed in your life as a gift.”
I know—it’s counterintuitive. But limits can be gifts. And sometimes, we find that we are blessed through our pain and grief. Think of a limit you are experiencing: could it be possible there is blessing for you there?
Lately, I have been coming to terms with an enormous limit. Last week, my family and I traveled to South Carolina for a family reunion, where we met extended family who live there, to play on the beach and go swimming (yes, in the Atlantic in February!).
Seeing my nephew and my cousin’s eighteen month-old son, hearing my cousin talk about the second child she is expecting soon, stirred deep longing in me.
I am a 34 year-old woman. I have bipolar, but I also have natural drives and instincts, and the desire to be a mother, to hold a baby of my own, is very strong.
Yet I also know that a pregnancy would be dangerous, both to me and the fetus. I have had one psychotic break—it is quite possible that I could have a second one following the birth. My medications could cause terrible birth defects. Anything—everything—could go lethally wrong with pregnancy and birth.
For this reason, I believe God is saying, “No” to my prayer to become a mother. And believe me, I have prayed!
I also realize that this is a very personal decision for me. It may not be yours. Each of us must follow our own path.
My question in my morning devotional the day after getting home from my family reunion read, “How is God coming to you through the ‘mini-deaths’ in your life right now?”
When I read that, I just started to sob. But I strove to stay with the grief, not to run from it through distraction or to spin it away in denial, but just to experience it. As I cried, I prayed that God would bless me in and through this pain.
Peter Scazzero, in my devotional, “Emotionally Healthy Spirituality Day by Day,” writes, “Good grieving is not just letting go, but also letting the loss bless us.”
Nothing will fill the hole left by the child I cannot have. But many beautiful gifts have blossomed in my life in place of a family of my own, not least of which has been closeness to my parents and grandmothers.
My 92 year-old grandmother participated in this family reunion. She flew on airplanes, walked the beach with us and took a boat ride to go shelling on a nearby island. However, my grandmother is remarkable for more than her longevity—I treasure her wisdom, graciousness, kindness, and acceptance. When she asks me how I am doing, I know she wants to hear the answer—and that she truly is listening. I have done my best to listen to her in return.
When we arrived back in Detroit from South Carolina and dropped her off at her house, Granny, a naturally reserved person, embraced me and tears came to her eyes. “I love you,” she said.
No, nothing touches the grief of not being able to have children of my own. But gradually, I am coming to a place of acceptance, even joy. I am finding blessings in the midst of pain and limitation.
Sometimes, I think I have gotten so many things wrong in my life, but my relationship with my grandmothers is something I have gotten right.
I remember my father’s mother, at age 102. I picked up her oxygen line to hand it to her and static electricity sparked.
“We must be hot stuff!” she exclaimed.
“Don’t we know it, Grandma!” I replied.
I could always make her laugh. She could always do the same for me.
So I challenge you not only to think of a limit you are experiencing and how you might be blessed through it. I also challenge you to think of something you have done right in life, where you have risen to the occasion and shown your best self.
Go into your day holding what you have done right-and open yourself to allow your losses to bless you.