Supporting those with Infertility

Supporting blog

Infertility is an unwelcomed guest in many homes. Most of us know a couple that have walked through this struggle and we often have no idea what to say or do to support them. In my recent blog post Complete.  I shared our journey with infertility over the last 13 years. Today I want to share some advice from my perspective on how to best support those in your life as they battle with infertility. This is going to be very real and direct! I hope that you walk away with a greater level of empathy plus helpful tips in supporting those you love.

Let’s start with what NOT to do!

1. DON’T BE AN EXPERT

Under this category I would also include: don’t send them articles to read, don’t buy them books, and don’t shower them with miracle stories. Many well-meaning family & friends have positioned themselves as a medical experts and cornered us with unsolicited advice and direction over the years. I believe they care, I really do – but I assure you it is not helpful.

Trust me, most people going through a struggle with infertility have already done ALL. THE. THINGS! We’ve read all the books, seen all the doctors, had all the tests, watched all the documentaries, and we have heard all the miracle stories. When you position yourself as an expert it is humiliating and belittling, it’s as if you are saying they probably missed something or are incapable of figuring this out on their own. Just don’t do it!

2. DON’T FLOOD THEM WITH MEDICAL QUESTIONS

Medical questions are extremely personal and not everyone feels comfortable sharing those details. Sometimes people are in the place emotionally to drudge through all the medical details, and sometimes they are not. When you drill them with medical questions it can be extremely overwhelming and trigger painful emotions. Supporting them through this season means giving them the space to share what they want to share, when they are ready to share it.

3. DON’T SAY STUPID STUFF

Words are powerful, use your words wisely and check your heart! Here are some doozies I’ve heard over the years and perfect examples of what NOT to say.

What’s wrong with you?  Why don’t you have children?

I’d wish you happy Mother’s Day but you’re not a mother.

You must not have enough faith. Or Where is your faith?

Are you trusting God enough? Is there sin in your life?

Listen, I know it can be awkward and at times you mean well but just don’t know what to say. When in doubt, listen and love. Allow the couple with infertility to lead and guide the conversation, if they are ready they will open up. If you must speak, speak life giving words of encouragement and hope.

4. DON’T PRESSURE COUPLES TO FOSTER/ADOPT

To be honest I have a ton of baggage with this one y’all! After 13 years in this struggle with infertility I can honestly say my husband and I are at complete peace and in complete unity with the fact that we will not have children. I’m talking about the kind of peace and unity that can only come from God, it is an absolute gift.

Often we feel enormous pressure from family, friends, and even society to foster or adopt. Listen I want to be clear about something, we absolutely celebrate the beautiful ways God builds families through means like fostering & adoption. We are huge supporters and advocates for fostering and adoption. We would encourage anyone who feels God leading them to foster or adopt to follow His direction.

However, at the end of the day our job is to seek God’s face and follow His direction for our own family. We believe the very best place to be is in the center of God’s will. No matter how good a thing is, if it’s not God’s will then it is not best for our lives. Amen?!? My husband and I have prayed about this over and over again and we are crystal clear that God is not directing us to foster or adopt.

So in supporting those in your life going through infertility, I want to caution you to tread lightly on this subject. It is never helpful or supportive to pressure or manipulate anyone into doing what you think is best. Always encourage people to follow God’s plan for their family.

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Now let’s look at what to do!

1. MANAGE YOUR OWN EXPECTATIONS & EMOTIONS

One thing my husband and I have noticed over the years is that our close family and friends have had to process their own grief and loss over the fact that it’s not God’s plan for us to have children. It can be so real and painful for everyone in your inner circle. Our parents and siblings will not have the grandchildren, nieces, and nephews they so desperately wanted. The picture of our family in their minds looks differently than they expected or wanted. Each of them have had to process this reality on their own and work through their own emotions.

If you are in a situation where a close loved one is battling infertility I would encourage you to prayerfully journal, processing your own expectations and emotions about this situation. Allow the Lord to speak to your heart to bring healing and understanding. Psalms 34:18 says “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted.” I pray that He will be near to you as you work through your own unmet expectations and emotions.

2. PRAY OFTEN

Pray for healing, pray for strength, pray for God’s will to be done, pray for wisdom and direction, pray without ceasing as directed in I Thessalonians 5: 16-18 that reads “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” They say that prayer moves mountains, and I believe God uses prayer to change not only our circumstances but our hearts. Prayer is simply having a conversation with God, and it is always a good idea!

3. BE PRESENT

Last but not least, be present. Without expectations or demands, resist your desire to try to “fix” the situation, and wade into the messy of it all. Be present to listen and support your friends as they have need. You’re not going to do everything perfectly and that’s ok. What matters most to those who are hurting is knowing they have someone who cares about their pain and is willing to be there.

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Thank you for caring enough to read this post! I hope these do’s and don’ts help empower you as you support those in your life who are walking through infertility. I’d love to know which ones spoke to you the most. Or which ones you thought of that didn’t make my list?

Coming up next week I’ll be sharing “When God Says No”…see you then!

Complete.

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On August 13th of 2005 my husband and I committed our lives to one another before God and witnesses. Our passion for family and desire to have children was so absolute that we actually included these vows in our wedding ceremony:

Our mentors read: “Recognizing the present culture war that seeks to undermine the covenantal structure of the Christian family in our society, Do you both vow to uphold a high value of life and family?” To which we emphatically, full of joy and hope replied: We do!

And then we repeated these vows, in unison, in front of God and witnesses:

“Enabled by God’s grace and guided by the wisdom of Biblical revelation,

…We vow to establish and maintain a Christian home

…To receive our children as gifts of God’s blessings

…To nurture and train them in His word and ways

…To honor Christ and the gospel of the Kingdom by doing so!”

Everything about that sacred moment mirrored our certainty that we would have many children. In the depths of my heart I honestly expected to get pregnant on our honeymoon and continue to have children until God said otherwise. We have such a high value of life that it has been our personal conviction to never use any type of birth control but wholly rely on God’s sovereign timing and plan.

God has been writing our story for the last thirteen years and our family looks different than we expected. During our second year of marriage we celebrated our first pregnancy. I knew within weeks that I was pregnant and saved the news as a romantic Valentine’s Day surprise for my husband. Both of us were overjoyed and called all of our family and friends to share in the celebration. By March 2nd, at just 7 or 8 weeks pregnant, I had a miscarriage.

Devastated doesn’t even begin to describe our shattered hearts.

The next few years cycled between anticipation and disappointment. I’m not sure you can understand the agony of infertility unless you have personally lived it. The utter and complete helplessness and despair month after month. It is a grief like no other.

Complete. 2 blogWe did all the things y’all. We saw all the doctors, endured all the exams & procedures, read all the books, prayed all the prayers….but God didn’t answer in the way we hoped or wanted. To this day we have never had another pregnancy. Doctors found nothing biologically wrong and yet God’s answer to our longing for biological children is no.

For years I felt broken and ashamed. I irrationally carried the weight of infertility on my shoulders as if I was the giver of life.  None of this made sense. I was angry and jealous of couples abounding with children. I was so confused and asked all the whys…why no, why us, why not now? Most of all I felt this profound sense of lack as if our family was incomplete while at the same time we knew with certainty God wasn’t leading us toward more aggressive next steps like IVF or even fostering & adoption.

It has taken many years for my husband and I to be at peace with the reality that we will not have biological children. This peace is without question an absolute gift from God. The agony and cycles of despair have stopped as we rest fully assured that we are walking in God’s perfect will for our lives. Our family doesn’t look like the picture we had in our minds when made those vows years ago, but we are complete.

Something struck me recently while studying the first married couple in Genesis chapter 2. God formed the first man, Adam, out of dust and breathed the breath of life into him (vs. 7). God then gives Adam a purpose – to steward the garden (vs 15). God proceeds to set some clear boundaries for Adam – do not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (vs. 16-17). Then God says “it is not good for the man to be alone” and He looks through all His creation but doesn’t find a suitable partner for Adam (vs.18-20). God puts Adam to sleep and unlike the rest of creation He uses a rib from Adam (rather than dirt) to form Eve, God modeled in her forming the oneness and unity He desired for marriage. This section ends with the first honeymoon and my favorite verse, “Both the man and his wife were naked, yet felt no shame.” (vs. 21-24).

God’s precision in creation is astounding. Everything He did, the way He did it, in the order He did it, matters! Let’s face it, He is the almighty star breathing God of the universe – He could have snapped his fingers and created a whole generation of humans in an instant, fully populating earth. He could have modeled the first family as a set of parents with 10 kids and all of history would have followed that design.

Yet He looked upon this first family – a husband and a wife – along with all of creation, and declared them very good (1:31) and complete (2:1).

com·plete /kəmˈplēt/ adjective      1. having all the necessary or appropriate parts.

God declared them very good and complete. Just as they were, a husband and a wife.

God has used this passage to bring so much healing to my heart and to re-frame my perspective on our family. My husband and I have surrendered our lives to the Lord and are walking in His perfect will. We have followed God’s direction are trusting in His perfect plan for our lives. God doesn’t owe us anything. Our family has all the appropriate parts, we are not lacking in anything. We are complete.

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I’m so grateful that in time God has replaced those feelings of brokenness, shame, and lack with a sense of purpose and hope. When waves of sadness and despair visit I sink myself into the truth of God’s word and remind myself that He is trustworthy. I rest in the peace of His will and the completeness that we have in Him.

Have you had an experience where God didn’t give you what you wanted? How have you handled it? What does it mean for you to be complete in that situation?

If you are reading this blog and are going through a struggle with infertility I want to encourage you that you are not alone. You are not broken or lacking or incomplete. You were designed by God for greatness and a purpose, even if you can’t see that right now. Infertility is such a painful and isolating experience and I pray that as I share our journey you will receive a new perspective and source of hope. May God give you the strength and courage to lean into Him, I promise He will not let you down.

If you are reading this blog and you have someone in your life going through a struggle with infertility, please share this blog with them and stick around for my next blog post “Supporting those with Infertility”.