Keeper of His Home

by Chelsea McCafferty

When a Loved One Struggles with Infertility

on May 6, 2014

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photo credit: Stephan Geyer via photopin cc

There’s nothing easy about being a woman who struggles with infertility, whether it be primary or secondary. Only those who have experienced the pain of this struggle can fully understand the depth of hurt and longing that a barren woman experiences day by day, for years and years. It is impossible to comprehend her pain without having to experience it yourself, and yet so many woman have dear friends or family that are going through this struggle, and I know you want to be there for her. You should be there for her. She needs you.

The problem is, without understanding the pain, there is a chance you could say or do the wrong thing in an effort to bring comfort. As a woman who struggled with primary infertility and now secondary, I could share many stories of times when friends made careless comments or had advice to give that was anything but what I needed to hear at the moment. It wasn’t their fault. They were trying to help. They didn’t know the pain they were causing or tears I fought back. They had all the right intentions, but without having experienced infertility, one just doesn’t comprehend which comments/actions would be comforting and which would only add to the pain. As a help, here are a few ways you can minister to a loved one who struggles with infertility:

1. Pray. Pray for your friend as often as you can and with a fervent spirit. Prayer is powerful. We acknowledge that it is the Lord who opens and closes wombs. Pray for your friend’s womb to be opened. Pray boldly. Pray also for her aching heart and for her to be filled with comfort and peace. Pray that she will be able to accept God’s will, whatever it may be. Pray often and feel free to tell your friend that you are praying for her to conceive and praying for her comfort.

Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.” James 5:13-14

2. Don’t pretend it isn’t an issue. Infertility is a big deal. If you have a friend who wants a child but hasn’t been able to conceive, you can bet that this is something that she thinks about pretty much every day of her life. It is a very big deal to her. Minimizing it or pretending it doesn’t exist does not help her. While it isn’t something you want to bring up all the time, when in private it’s good to ask her how she is doing in coping with infertility. She may be needing to talk about it but feeling too rotten to bring it up herself. Women with infertility sometimes feel ashamed, especially in the Christian community. It makes her feel that she is somehow failing as a woman. This might keep her from opening up to a friend even though she really needs to talk it through. Give her that opportunity and remind her that you are thinking of her and that you care.

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2

3. Censor your tongue from flippant comments. Oh, the flippant comments that I’ve heard! You know, we all put our foot in our mouths sometimes. We are human. We are going to make mistakes. I would just encourage you to be especially cautious around your infertile friend. Try not to make comments like, “You just don’t get what a pain it is to be pregnant,” or “When are you going to get pregnant already?” or “Maybe you’re just not ready to be a mom.” These are only a few common ones. During my primary infertility phase, I had friends and family members tell me that maybe I should take advice on how to get pregnant from this young, unmarried girl who kept having babies. I was told that I was “lucky” I didn’t have to be pregnant. When I was sharing about the idea of adoption, I had a friend tell me “but there’s nothing in the world like carrying a baby in your womb.” Ouch. She’ll never know the tears I cried over that one comment. As Christians, we are to put the feelings and concerns of others ahead of our own liberty. You have the freedom to say flippant and thoughtless comments all day long if you want, but I urge you to put on compassion and be sensitive and thoughtful when it comes to speaking with a woman with fertility issues.

There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” Proverbs 12:18

4. Don’t treat her like less of a wife, woman or sister in the Lord. You may not even recognize that you do it, but I can tell you from experience that woman without children are often treated differently in the church. I was a married woman, not young by any means, and yet people talked to me as if I was a teenager a lot of the time. Women who were younger than me, but who had babies, were treated as mature woman, whereas I felt they treated me differently. The focus was forever on the women having babies. They were building “families” but me and my husband were viewed as a “couple” – not a “family.” Sometimes I felt that people were judging me, or thought that I wasn’t conceiving because I had done something wrong. Some Christians view infertility that way, and perhaps sometimes it is a judgment from the Lord, but we know that it isn’t always that way. I believe God uses infertility to bring about His plans and also to bring Himself glory. Sometimes I believe He closes wombs so that people will look after the orphans of this world. He knows the plans He has for us. Don’t make your friend feel like less of a woman because she cannot conceive. Don’t make her family and less of a family. She and her husband are their family.

The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” Proverbs 16:9

5. Try not to talk about your pregnancy/children constantly when she’s around. Now this is a tricky one. When I was going through primary infertility, it was so incredibly difficult for me to be around pregnant women or women with babies. It just hurt me inside to see them and hear about the joys of pregnancy that I couldn’t experience. I worked hard to fight against my pain and hold it back so that I could rejoice with my friends who were having babies. I fought back tears at baby showers and, with the power of the Holy Spirit, was able to celebrate with my loved ones. The truth is, I was happy for them. I was excited for them. I wanted to be there for them. I was just so overcome with pain that it was very difficult. While you should talk about your pregnancy and children, just be mindful about how much you talk about it with your friend who struggles in this area. Be discerning about when you need to change the subject. Limit your own liberty for the sake of your hurting friend. Don’t minimize the joy and wonder of carrying and birthing babies, but be sensitive to the heart of your friend who is longing so desperately to experience it too. Be wise and be kind.

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another…” Colossians 3:12

6. Walk through the journey with her and be supportive. Infertility is a journey. It starts with a couple who want a child, but for some reason cannot conceive. It starts with years of waiting and wondering and worrying. It usually ends up in a doctor’s office with either an explanation or sometimes no answers at all. From there the couple must make decisions about how to go forward…will it be infertility treatment, adoption or the end of the road? Infertility is a journey, and each step can be painful and difficult. Be there for your friend who is going through it. Pray for her. Hold her hand. Encourage her. Help any way you can. Try not to judge her decisions if you don’t agree with them. Try not to minimize the weight of the choices before her and her husband. At the end of the journey, they may end up with a child, or they may not. Either way, be a supportive and loving friend throughout the journey.

A friend loves at all times..” Proverbs 17:17a

7. Give her hope from the Bible. I believe fully that the Lord God of the Bible is the only opener and closer of wombs. He makes that decision. A woman can use birth control and still conceive if God wills, or a young, healthy woman can be stopped from conceiving by the hand of God. He is sovereign. If the God of the Bible is the opener of wombs, then it is from His Word that our hope and comfort comes. When your friend needs hope, give her the Word. When she needs comfort, encourage her with scripture. When she is angry, sooth her with God’s Word. God does not promise that all Christian women will bear children naturally, but He does promise that a woman will be able to mother children….sometimes that is through adoption, working with kids, etc. Here is a great verse for bringing encouragement to sisters who struggle with infertility:

“He (God) will make the barren woman keep house and be the joyful mother of children; praise ye the Lord!” Psalm 113:9

I hope this was a help to you in how to minister to your loved ones who have fertility issues. Please feel free to share this article so that others can glean from it as well. There is nothing easy about infertility, but the care and love of a good friend goes a long way in bringing comfort in those difficult times. God bless!

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