Are You Struggling With Infertility?
During engagement you talked about having children…how many…when…how you would parent, etc. You got married and at some point, started working on becoming parents, but nothing happened. You kept trying. Months turned into years. You decided to see your doctor, and you heard that word that changed everything: “infertility.” Now your family plans have become family hopes and prayers.
The Crisis Of Infertility
Infertility isn’t a disease. No-one ever died from it. Yet, its diagnosis is almost as painful as if it were. That is probably because it deflates one of your greatest longings as a human: the longing to procreate, the need to bear and raise children. Not being able to do that, or having difficulty doing that, strikes at the core of who you are. Your connection to your spouse and your extended family, your values, roles, goals, and dreams are tied up in your ability to have children.
When that ability is impeded, it impacts every aspect of your life as a couple. It impacts your relationship with others. It impacts your health, your self-esteem, your walk with God, and the list goes on. You feel a sense of loss, not just of a baby and a family, but a loss of control over your lives, over your body, and over your future. This can cause emotional distress with feelings of disbelief, anger, anxiety, sadness, depression, guilt, and blame. Basically, you feel constant grief. Every time you try and fail, or every time you have another miscarriage, you grieve all over again. And it’s difficult because it’s invisible to other people, but to you and your partner it is a bleeding wound.
The Consequence Of Infertility
As you have gone through this journey of infertility, you may have found yourself experiencing these intense emotions alone as a couple. Most people don’t know how you feel. There is an isolation to it. And yet as isolated as your emotions are, your private life – your sex life and your body – have suddenly have become the business of well-intentioned, trained medical “strangers” on whom you are relying to help you with the most personal event of your life. And the expense! The embarrassment! The extremes! With no guarantee of a baby at the end of it all. Not to mention the hopeful grandparents, hopeful aunts and uncles, asking, “How are things going in the baby department?” Talk about stress!
The Cry Of Infertility
You, like millions before you, have voiced your stress and disappointment and grief. You are not alone. In the Old Testament, Jacob’s wife Rachel, after suffering years of infertility during which the other wife Leah rubbed her face in it while popping out baby after baby, finally cried out, “Give me children, or else I will die.” (Genesis 30:1) Hannah was so consumed by grief over being childless that she stopped eating and finally went to the temple to pray about it. She poured her heart out in despair and wept so deeply that the priest Eli who saw her thought she was drunk because she had totally lost her composure. When he confronted her, she said, “No, my lord, I am a woman oppressed in spirit.”
The Bible talks a lot about the struggle of infertility and takes the pain of it seriously. There are over twenty accounts of infertile women in the Bible story. Among them are none other than Abraham and Sarah (Genesis 17), Isaac and Rebekah (Genesis 25), Jacob and Rachel (Genesis 29-30), Manoah and his wife (Judges 13), Hannah and Elkanah (1 Samuel 1), the Shunammite woman and her husband (2 Kings 4), Elizabeth and Zachariah (Luke 1). And not once did God ever reject a woman because she was infertile. He never condemned barrenness or rebuked the expression of grief over it. In fact, those who shamed infertile women were the villains of the stories. And God intervened in those cases and used infertility as a part of His unfolding story of grace and redemption.
God is not afraid of grief and pain. He is near to the broken-hearted. He is near to you. And He does not see this as an interruption or an ending of your story, but as a part of your story and an important part because pain is one of the most powerful tools that God uses to change you for the better. Romans 5:3-5 says, “…tribulation brings perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”
If you go back and look up the references to those infertile couples in the Bible, it’s interesting that more space is given to the story of their struggle with infertility than with their lives after finally having a baby. If you are struggling with your infertility, remember that God has a habit of taking the lives of people who have great struggles and using them in amazing ways in His story.
Coping With Infertility
So, how do you cope with your infertility and the emotions that it brings? I offer these suggestions:
Trust In A Faithful God.
We live in a fallen world where things like infertility, disease, suffering, and death are a part of the scenery of real life. God doesn’t wrap us in bubble wrap when we become Christians so that we never feel the sharp edges or hard bumps of a sin-cursed, often cruel world. Even God’s greatest servants felt suffering and injustice. But in this fallen world, we have a faithful God. Life isn’t fair, but God is good. And He can be trusted. He has a plan and He is in control. Lean into Him. He says that if we draw near to Him, He will draw near to us. Because of our humanness, sometimes we have to fight constantly to remember that God is good and see Him as good in spite of our circumstances, but that is a fight worth fighting.
Pray In Faith.
1 John 5:14-15, “This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him.” That’s the trick, of course…praying according to God’s will. That’s what Jesus always did. He prayed, “Not My will, but Thy will be done.” That’s why Jesus’s prayers never missed…He always prayed according to the will of God. So, pray first for the will of God. Pray to know the will of God. Study God’s word to find it. Seek it. Ask for wisdom, which God says He will generously give if we ask. And once you have it, pray for it boldly. Pray for that miracle or pray for the strength to accept and walk out God’s plan for your life, which might be different than your plan.
Even In Sorrow, Rejoice.
In 2 Corinthians 6:10, Paul described our walk as believers through this life as “sorrowful yet always rejoicing, as poor yet making many rich, as having nothing yet possessing all things.” That is the irony of the Christian walk: we are overcomers, but we walk through a world of pain…and it tends to get on us. Yet, we rejoice and are more than conquerors because we have hope that this is not all there is. There is a reward waiting at the end of this race that sorrows are not even worthy to be compared to.
Take Every Thought Captive.
When your emotions start driving your thoughts, instead of listening to yourself, talk to yourself. Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 10:5 to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. All those worries and scenarios: “What if I can’t get pregnant? What if I miscarry again? What if I can’t afford treatment?” Those thoughts bring the negative emotions, which bring the stress and all the rest. There are also the thoughts: “If God really loved me, He’d give me a baby, My husband/wife is to blame for me not having a baby, I’m going to let the next person who asks about our baby situation a piece of my mind.” When you have those thoughts, ask yourself, “Is this true, is this honorable, right, pure, lovely, of good repute, excellent and praise worthy?” (Philippians 4:8) If the answer is no, take it captive and bring those thoughts into subjection to Christ.
Janet Marfisi is a Licensed Professional Counselor with Christian Counseling Associates. She is taking new clients in the Plano office.