Focus on the Family

Mothers In Waiting — Healing and Hope for The Pain of Infertility

We know how our bodies are supposed to function, which amplifies the pain of infertility when a much-anticipated baby is seemingly withheld.

What is wrong with my body?

Meghann asked herself and God the same question as the pain of infertility increased with each passing month. Why couldn’t she do the one thing that a woman’s body is supposed to do? Surrounded by pregnant friends and often the recipient of baby announcements, she felt happy for others but very alone in her question.

Celebrating the expanding families of her peers, Meghann signed up to help with meals when women in her church welcomed their babies. The topic of infertility is not typical girlfriend conversation, so she joined a local support group. Yet her feelings of inferiority and sadness only grew. She attempted to hide her disappointment, but the pain of infertility didn’t go away.

The Pain of Infertility

Our bodies and our reproductive systems are intricately designed. “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well,” says Psalm 139:13-14. We know how our bodies are supposed to function, which amplifies the pain of infertility when a much-anticipated baby is seemingly withheld.

Infertility is generally defined as not being able to become pregnant after one year of unprotected sex. The Cleveland Clinic reports that one in seven or 15 percent of couples in the United States finds themselves in this category. For half those couples experiencing infertility, says Johns Hopkins Medicine, the male is the sole cause or a contributor to the diagnosis.

The Center for Disease Control estimates up to 19 percent of women in the United States have difficulty getting pregnant or staying pregnant. That’s about 6.1 million women whose bodies work a little differently when it comes to having a baby.

When infertility rules a woman’s life, as Meghann understood first-hand, the downward spiral begins. Every day experiences become painful reminders. A trip to the grocery store can bring her to tears as her eyes turn toward women with swollen bellies or mothers with toddlers strapped in carts. She stays home from church on Mother’s Day, and she cringes when she receives another baby shower invitation.

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The causes of not being able to conceive can often be diagnosed. Frequently there is no medical explanation, just a long and lingering question. Why? Why not me? Infertility is a temporary situation for some women, lasting for years or decades. For other women, pregnancy and childbirth is not something they will experience. After five exhausting years, Meghann finally became pregnant and is currently the mother of three beautiful children. Her desire now is to offer hope and encouragement to other women and couples who are walking that lonely path.

Meghann and I have talked with dozens of women and have come to realize how broad and far reaching this problem is, how devastating the emotional roller coaster feels, and how much more meaningful hope is rather than advice.

Does this sound like you?

“I was ready for noise, cuddles, toys, nurseries, diapers, and even messes! We assumed pregnancy would happen naturally, but it didn’t.”

“Those of us who’ve waited month after month, year after year, and remain childless speak our own language. It’s like belonging to a club, but not one we wanted to join.”

“I told my husband that my heart couldn’t take any more pain. I wanted to stop trying.”

Other women we talked to said that they were able to get pregnant, but unable to carry a baby to full term. As one woman shared, “Infertility encompasses so much more than not being able to conceive. For me, conceiving came a little too easily, but I was losing my babies before they drew their first breath. No matter how many times you’ve experienced it before, the loss never gets easier. It knocked the wind out of me each time I saw ‘the look’ wash over that doctor’s face.”

Couples who are experiencing the pain of infertility need the love and support of their family and friends. Here are some ways we can support those who feel alone in their infertility journey. 

Be sensitive

Recognize that infertility is a real and painful experience that many couples face. If a couple has been married for several years and do not have children, there may be a reason. Questions like, “So when are you guys going to have kids?” can deepen the pain they already experience daily.

Validate their feelings

If you know someone who is facing infertility, listen as they share their struggles and let them know it’s okay to feel that way. Some couples feel guilty if they are envious of their friends who have children. Others question why God is allowing this to happen to them. Let them know you understand why they feel that way and that you will pray for them.

Don’t bring up the topic of adoption

Couples who experience infertility are often asked, “Have you thought about adoption?” It’s an insulting question that they get tired of hearing. Obviously, that is something they have thought about, but adoption is not “plan B.” A couple needs to believe that God is calling them to adopt a child, and it’s not an easy process.

Include them

Even though it’s hard to be invited to baby showers and birthday parties, invite them to join the event, but also let them know you understand if they don’t feel like attending.

Have a kid-free lunch

Playdates are for moms with kids, so have coffee or lunch with just the ladies, and invite those with no children to join the fun. Leave kids at home with hubby or a babysitter. This will allow plenty of time to chat without being interrupted. Keep the topic about women and marriage issues rather than mothering issues. This will benefit you as well as your friends who don’t have kids.

Don’t give advice

Couples who have difficulty getting pregnant are hurt and insulted by unsolicited advice from others. They hear everything from “just stop trying” to “go on a vacation.” If it were that simple, they would have figured it out already. Unless you have walked in their shoes, refrain from giving advice.

If you have walked that lonely road, you know that advice is rarely helpful, but your story and understanding can be good medicine for a hurting heart. Give a safe place to share their story and offer to share yours. The pain of infertility is a reality for many women and couples. Our love, prayers, and support can let them know they are not alone on their journey to having a family.

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