I feel compelled to start this post about infertility with a much needed, “I’m sorry.”
I’ve requested stories of women who’ve struggled with infertility, and I’ve heard many stories of pain, loss and hardship with miscarriages, SIDS, and infertility. This post is specifically for those who’ve struggled with infertility, but before I move on to the subject at hand, I want you to know I hear you.
I have not experienced infertility, but someone I love deeply has, and my heart aches for her. I did suffer a miscarriage and let me clarify, this is not a comparison. They are not the same at all.
I think it’s important to state that fact because when I empathize with someone, I’m essentially going into her deepest place of pain and darkness. I’m saying, “I know how you feel and it hurts.” Yet, even with the strongest empathetic bone, I actually don’t know how it feels. Only those who’ve struggled with infertility know how it feels and everyone grieves differently.
One thing that was said to me during my miscarriage that I will forever cling to is, “What’s happening to you isn’t fair. It’s OK to be angry at God.” I would echo that statement, but I also challenge you not to stay angry.
Without further ado, in no particular order, these amazing women have shared their feedback.
Here are some ways you can stop ‘helping’ a hurting woman who is experiencing infertility.
This list is comprised of actual ‘encouragement’ these women have had to endure. I reiterate that because when your jaw drops at times, I want to remind you that these things were actually said or done in an effort to ‘help.’
- Don’t try to ‘fix’ them by suggesting medication, sexual position, relaxing, treatments, etc. etc. etc. Most women who’ve struggled with infertility are keenly aware of the diversity of options to ‘fix’ them. There is something deeply embedded in our culture that desperately wants to remove pain usually via the art of a quick fix, a Band-Aid so to speak. I know. Being a square peg/round hole kind of person my whole life, people have attempted to ‘fix’ me for years. Is it possible I am not broken? Or even more probable, aren’t we all in some way or another broken?
- Allow mourning. Most of the women I spoke with felt some measure of failure as a woman. One said, “I felt like I mourned every single month when my cycle came.” Another said, “In my mind I was unable to provide a natural womanly life event.” Yet another stated, “I would be so full of hope for a new life only to find out I failed another month.” While there may not be flesh and bone to grieve the loss, there is the loss of the possibility of life.
- Adoption doesn’t fix infertility. While adoption may be an option to heal the longing and pain long-term, it isn’t the salve to alleviate the pain of the open wound. Adoption does not allow what could be created in your womb to look back at you, wide-eyed with that feeling you’ve seen those eyes before. Adoption also doesn’t address the uncertainty these women feel, like: Am I supposed to have children? Did I do something to deserve this? Why am I different than other women?
- Stop asking young moms or even older moms when they are going to start trying. I know this one is an assumed natural transition from marriage to family, but we just don’t know a person’s story.
A question like, “What plans do you and your husband have on the horizon?” allows for deeper conversation without assumption. It also allows women struggling with infertility to speak to hopeful future plans, instead of the dreaded “When are you starting a family,” which can take them right back to failure.
- Do not be offended if the woman struggling with infertility does not make it to every pivotal event in your child’s life. She really does love you and your kid/s, it can just be an incredibly painful reminder of something she longs for but can’t currently have.
- Do not, on any occasion, tell a woman she cannot conceive because of a sin in her life that needs confession. I recently found this incredible blog that reflects quite the opposite belief, rooted firmly in biblical truth.
I went to an amazing women’s retreat recently where an empowered leader, Sandy Ross shared five areas women in particular really struggle with:
If your ‘helping’ includes any one of these five themes, take a long breathe and pause and perhaps don’t say whatever well-meaning thing is getting ready to come out of your mouth.
In strength we can come alongside our friends who are struggling with infertility, allow them to mourn, allow them to share, allow them to be angry, and instead of ‘helping,’ we can simply love them unconditionally.