This post is in honor of National Infertility Awareness Week.
This is not a cry for attention, but an honest reflection on the hardships of infertility.
Over the past few years, I have largely stayed quiet regarding our infertility journey. A good portion of my friends, even my close friends, only have a vague idea of our trials. Infertility is not uncommon. 1 in 8 women, and 1 in 6 couples, suffer from infertility. 1 in 4 pregnancies will end in a miscarriage. Therefore, there’s a good chance that you know someone struggling with infertility or with a pregnancy loss. However, because of the nature of the subject, you might never know. People also stay quiet because of the reactions they have received previously, and the assumed fertility of couples, especially those under 35.
In Laura Bush’s memoir, Spoken from the Heart, she writes: “The English language lacks the words to mourn an absence. For the loss of a parent, grandparent, spouse, child or friend, we have all manner of words and phrases, some helpful some not. Still we are conditioned to say something, even if it is only “I’m sorry for your loss.” But for an absence, for someone who was never there at all, we are wordless to capture that particular emptiness. For those who deeply want children and are denied them, those missing babies hover like silent ephemeral shadows over their lives. Who can describe the feel of a tiny hand that is never held?”
Kimberly Monroe, one of the authors of the below article, describes infertility: “With infertility, you feel totally out of control. You do what you’re told to do and you hang on for a bumpy, chaotic ride. Sometimes, you almost stand back and watch what happens, as if you are an outside observer.”
Infertility is a lonely place. Even if you do know the statistics and have a support system, it’s impossible to not feel that everyone around you is getting pregnant when you are not. When you’re constantly reminded, when friends and family, and sometimes even your husband, are unable to understand, when you’ve long ago used all your friend’s extra pregnancy tests, you can’t help but feel it: alone.
“Who can describe the feel of a tiny hand that is never held?”
I’ve read so many blogs, quotes, and articles by women who have encouraged and helped me, women who were brave enough to share their stories. Women that I’ve never even met in person have written me notes, sent me care packages, and texted me that they were praying for me. In the last few months I began praying about when would be the right time for me to share. Not necessarily the specifics of my situation, but how friends and family as a whole can help couples experiencing infertility in a tangible way.
There have been times I wanted to speak out, for myself and for others who were also suffering. I have been tempted to share these types of articles before, and believe me, I have read them all: “9 Things Infertile Women Want Women With Children To Know” or “How to Help Someone with Infertility” or “8 Things Not to Say to Your Friend Going Through Infertility.” The temptation would usually come after an insensitive remark, or after I had read my fourth pregnancy announcement of the day while scrolling through Facebook. But I had resisted the urge at the time, either from fear of publicly sharing or the feeling that I was somehow “forcing” others to try to understand my pain.
However, I feel that this piece that I have linked to below, is different. A friend shared it with me a few months ago, and I have read it several times. It is an article aimed for Christian counselors, by Christian counselors. It is written by a couple who also went through infertility for many years. It doesn’t have the tone of anger or resentment that I have picked up on similar pieces I have read. It correctly identifies the specific, and sometimes unique, trials that couples experience, and explains how a God-honoring response can be possible, from both the infertile couple and those who want to support them.
If you know someone going through infertility, have a heart for those suffering through infertility, are experiencing it yourself, or would like to be prepared on how to best support someone when you inevitably know someone suffering from infertility, then I would encourage you to read this article. It’s long, and hard to swallow, but it’s worth reading. And although I believe you cannot understand it until you have experienced it yourself, this is a step in learning how you can best minister and support someone who’s life has been changed by infertility.
I will focus on one area of the article. Near the end, Kimberly says: “One day I thought, God has so many promises for us. But one thing He didn’t promise. Nowhere in Scripture did He promise me a baby. He has not let me down. It’s good to desire a baby. But I cannot demand it of Him. Children are a blessing, but they are not promised to us individually. You do not receive blessings because you’re a good person or because you earn them. They just come.”
I have recently started wearing a necklace that says, “And if not, He is still good,” based on Daniel 3:17-18. It’s a simple reminder to me that God is merciful, and just, and has the best plan. Simply put, if God does not grant Caleb and I’s desire to have children, then He is still good. Our job is to obey and trust Him. I wear it because I struggle with this truth on a daily basis, sometimes hourly. I can’t tell you how many times I have cried out with bitter tears, asking God to fulfill my longing. I don’t know if He will. Or He may fulfill it in a way I cannot yet understand. In Persuasion, a novel by Jane Austen, one the main characters, Wentworth, sums this up in a letter he writes by saying: “I am half agony, half hope.” In the article, Kimberly goes on to say: “God is glorified by relieving our suffering, and God is also glorified by not relieving our suffering. In either case, God is always seeking to bestow His greatest blessing upon you: Himself.”
To my friends who have experienced infertility, both known and unknown to me, place your strength and hope in Jesus. Surrender your desires to Him. Every day.
“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” Romans 8:18
The Bible and the Pain of Infertility by Kimberly Monroe and Philip Monroe