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Coping With the Stress of Infertility

StamenWe have a beautiful six-year-old daughter, for whom we are so incredibly thankful. Our own struggle with infertility is not as harsh as that experienced by many because of her, but it’s a struggle nonetheless. We had some issues leading up to her birth and were so incredibly grateful when we were finally blessed with Ella that we gave her the middle name of Grace (God’s undeserved favor). Since having Ella, we’ve endured an ectopic pregnancy and another miscarriage and have spent nearly six years in the waiting game.

Infertility is hard – no bones about it. I don’t write or talk about it much, perhaps because of my own fear of being vulnerable in such a public way, but I have come into contact with so many people who suffer this plight that I wanted to share in the hopes that my words might educate and encourage someone else.

My own personal journey would have to begin with an acknowledgment of how much I admire and respect my wife. Her pain runs deeper than my own in the sense that there is a mystical connection between her body and her emotions that I can never experience. She’s a great Mom and she and I hurt together over the fact that she can’t be a great Mom to more kids. But we wait, somewhat patiently…

I must say at the outset, if you’ve not struggled with infertility – you don’t know. You might think you know, but you don’t. And that’s okay, but don’t pretend to understand. You don’t have the right words – there aren’t any. Just realize this and allow your presence to be the encouragement you offer.

Some Painful Realities

There are a lot of painful thoughts connected with the infertility struggle and I wanted to share some you might not have thought of before. These are things my wife and I have expressed, or that we’ve heard others express in their own journeys…

The Pain of Uncertainty

Those of you who have been through it know what I mean – month-in, month-out, test after test, disappointment. Another “negative” stares you down and you wonder… why? when? how? Uncertainty can be extremely painful.

The Pain of Cultural Surroundings

This one works in both directions. You’re (rightfully) furious that the world treats the unborn as optional responsibilities and yet you also struggle with jealousy over those families with large portraits full of smiling faces.

The Pain of Isolation

Just as with most painful experiences, there’s the feeling that nobody else knows or cares. It isn’t true, of course, but it feels that way. In fact, as I said before, most of what people say isn’t really that helpful – things like, “you just need to have more faith” to “isn’t seeing a fertility specialist taking matters out of God’s hands?” Lovely.

Some Encouraging Thoughts

There are, in the midst of the pain of waiting, some encouraging thoughts that spring to my mind, especially in reflection upon God’s Words. One story that springs to mind is the story of Hannah. She struggled with infertility. Her husband thought he should be more fulfilling for her than “ten sons” (what a moron). The priest, who was there to minister to her, just assumed her depression was the result of drinking too much. But… God remembered Hannah. (1 Samuel 1) And God remembers you. He feels our barrenness as His very own pain.

Some Helpful Advice

As Angie and I have navigated the difficulties of this month-in, month-out struggle, we have at times broken down (her far more than me, even) but we’ve also figured out some ways to hang on through it all. Here are a few suggestions…

Talk

If you’re married, don’t let it become her struggle or his struggle – you are one flesh now, so face the problem together. Talk it out. And talk to people outside your marriage as well – your Sunday School class, parents and in-laws, good friends, etc. Don’t let isolation take over.

Cry

Don’t feel bad about feeling bad. We carry so much guilt because we feel pain, but pain is a God-given response to a problem. If you ignore it or stuff it, you’ll wind up struggling with bitterness and resentment.

Rejoice

Every time you hear of someone discovering they are pregnant, it hurts a little. Every baby shower is a reminder that you haven’t experienced on yet. Don’t be afraid to express that pain in appropriate places and times, but in the moment, determine to rejoice with the person as a friend.

Serve

Don’t use busyness as a means of covering over reality, but do stay busy doing meaningful things that contribute to the lives of others. It’s an antidote to self-absorption.

Pray

Don’t stop talking to God about it. Remember that prayer is more than just the request, it’s the conversation and expression that runs both ways. Part of our prayer will always be, “Lord bless us with children,” but part of it is also, “Lord, I don’t understand why…” It’s okay, God is big enough to handle it.

Grow

Know how God builds patience into us? By requiring us to wait. How does He build resilience into our lives? By allowing us to suffer. So as you navigate the infertility struggle, remember that somehow God is growing you through the process. Ask Him the question, “Lord, what are you trying to build into my life, and how can I embrace it?”

It’s hard. It won’t get easier. Infertility can be crushing. As a Pastor, if I were talking to you who struggle with it, the words I’d want to say most are “I’m sorry for what you’re going through.” There are no easy answers or formulas. But God is faithful. He remembers you.

Creative Commons License photo credit: alex_lee2001