I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about whether or not I can really be of help to anyone out there. A level of credibility is lost the further and further out you get from each stage in the infertility journey. If one is at the beginning of the journey, they are often shy about seeking help from a veteran of infertility…after all, their short story hardly compares to the difficulties the veteran has overcome. To them, though, this is the beginning of a life changing journey and they still need help. Likewise, those overcoming a long infertility journey may be equally at a loss for encouragement because there are so many platitudes from people who never experienced such a long journey. For example, encouragement from someone who tried to conceive for a year took a vacation and got pregnant really isn’t helpful for someone who has struggled for 10 years and has tried every known ‘cure’ or treatment possible. Are each of the stories important? Absolutely! Are each of the stories relevant to everyone else experiencing infertility? Absolutely not! I am realizing that my story, my journey, is NOT going to encourage everyone. To this fact, I can react one of two ways: I can go about my merry way, thankful for the child I have been given and put this whole messy business behind me OR I can share as much as I can with as many as I can for as long as I can hoping that someday someone will hear something they need at that point in their life. What about you?
To the newly discovered infertile: Your story is important!
When I got married (the beginning of my sexual journey), I had assumed that if I missed a BC pill that we would get pregnant. We were so concerned about getting pregnant too early in our marriage that for the first two years we used both pills and condoms. Then it was just condoms (after all, we wanted to be sure we didn’t have lasting effects of our BC). When we finally started getting careless with condom use, I knew for sure that we’d get pregnant…and I was really excited about that ‘fact’. I was really surprised when it didn’t happen. In the past I had joked that since I was the only one in my group of friends that waited to have sex until marriage, I’d be the one to struggle having kids. When this possibility was becoming a reality I had no idea how to react. This was brand new territory and I was lost. I had a few people offer advice or even offer to get me in contact with someone who has been down this road, but for some reason I just never felt like it was going to be a good fit. If the person had already walked a long journey, then I felt they might be out of touch with where I was at the beginning of my journey…or that they’d think I was silly for being concerned at such an early stage. Really, I just assumed that I was over-reacting and that if I sought help and then got pregnant right away I’d be viewed as a fraud. So, I didn’t seek help.
To me, this was very much like stage 1 of grief: Shock and Denial.
How do you deal with your shock? What is your experience on what to expect during this stage? What are the common pitfalls of the early journey and how can they be avoided? How is the initially shock affecting your marriage relationship and your relationship with God?
To the infertile who has never gotten pregnant: Your story is important!
When we begin this journey of infertility we discover so many new things about ourselves: Our capacity for discontentment, jealousy, resentment and bitterness just to name a few. I was shocked at the level of sarcasm I could muster about those who had what I wanted so desperately. I didn’t know if I would/could ever get pregnant. I believed that God would build our family somehow, but was at a loss for how He would do it. Would treatments work eventually or were we wasting our time? If we couldn’t find a reason why I couldn’t get pregnant perhaps one of my friends who offered to be a surrogate would consider it more seriously. Should we start the adoption process now? I can’t imagine that God would want us to live a childless life, but what if that was His plan? I was confused, but most of all I was hurt by my infertility and the uncertainty of it all. I was sick of my life being on hold and I wanted answers.
This was my stage 2 of grief: Pain & Guilt.
How do you process the grief of long term infertility without any answers? What factors play a role in your decision to pursue or not pursue different avenues to parenthood? Does anything help ease the pain? How is long term infertility affecting your marriage relationship and your relationship with God?
To the infertile who has lost a child: Your story is important!
When we lost our baby I was incredibly angry in a way I had never experienced in the past…and I felt that nobody could relate. Yes, there are books about losing your baby – great books with a lot of information and helpful advice to begin the healing process. But why didn’t they help me? Why after reading so many of them did I feel even more bitter about the situation? With all the talk of God being in control and comforting the hurting, a key aspect was missing for me. My hurt stemmed from the fact that God had finally given me what He knew I wanted most in life at that moment and then snatched it away. To me it was the cruelest thing possible to give me a child that He had no intention of growing. My journey was different from other women experiencing loss. My journey began long before my pregnancy. My journey began with years of prayer for a child. If God didn’t intend to grow that child I couldn’t fathom why He would taunt me in such a hurtful fashion. Even though people ‘encouraged’ me by saying that at least I knew I could get pregnant, I wished that God had never allowed me to be so close to my dream because it hurt that much more that it wasn’t a reality.
Stage 3: Anger and Bargaining. Stage 4: Depression, Reflection, Loneliness.
How do you bring yourself to get out of bed each morning? Are you seeking help…in what way and what do you find helpful? How long has your grieving process lasted (when can I expect to feel normal again)? How is your loss affecting your marriage relationship and your relationship with God?
Note: these stages of grief may come long before and without the loss of a child in the journey.
To the infertile who has transitioned to parenthood (or chosen to live without children): Your story is important!
I remember reading ‘help’ books and as soon as the author mentions how God eventually gave them children I would think “well of course you can write this ‘crap’ now, you already have what you want.” This is why I think it is incredibly important for people in all these stages to share their stories. That said, I really believe that these success stories are vitally important. It is encouraging to read all sorts of ways how God can/will build your family. The options are endless and no one method is right for everybody. When a single story is shared, it can be viewed as pressure to pursue that path to parenthood. When many stories are shared it gives people ideas that couples may have never considered…it gives an opportunity for God to place a burden on their heart that perhaps they have never imagined. Our whole lives we may have planned on being biological parents to a child and then we read something different and our perspective begins to change as we see options for how God may build our family in a different way…or confirm that we want to continue pursuing biological children in some way.
Stage 6: Reconstruction and Working Through.
How did God build your family? How did He bring you to that point? What new dynamics are added to the parent/child relationship as a result of infertility? How has the process affected your marriage relationship and your relationship with God?
To the recovered infertile: Your story is important!
Not only is your story of hope needed, but your story of healing. I have come to find that these are, indeed, separate stages. During my infertility journey I often wondered if I would ever fully recovery from infertility or if my personality would be changed forever. Does a child really heal all hurts? Would I get back to ‘normal’ or live with a ‘new normal’? Now that I have a living child I am beginning to work through these questions…and even more come up. How do I begin to trust God again? How can I use my experience to encourage others? How do I get from acceptance to full restoration in my spiritual journey? I have been longing for spiritual renewal, but all of the spiritual renewal books seem to come from a different place then where I am at today. Many books address coming out of complacency (wake up and get on fire for God) or dealing with grief (God still loves you and cares for you), but what about finding yourself in a plateau of complacency after grief (I know God loves me, but something is still holding me back…I have no more spiritual energy into being able to pick myself up by my bootstraps and climb to the top of the mountain).
Stage 7: Acceptance and Hope
What hurts in your journey took the longest to heal? How did you experience hope after infertility? How has your journey affected your marriage relationship and your relationship with God?
To all the husbands going through infertility: Your story is important!
If you’ve ever had any interaction with the opposite sex, you understand that men and women handle things differently. For infertile couples, the spectrum of these difference can be painfully obvious. There must be more understanding of each other if a couple is to thrive throughout the process.
How has infertility affected you as a man and as a husband…how has it affected your marriage and relationship with God? What are some things you wish your wife understood about you during this process? How can your wife help you during this process?
Last, to the friends and family of infertile couples in all stages: Your story is important!
Oh how I wish there was more information out there for those experiencing infertility from the ‘outside’. Parents, grandparents, siblings and friends all are not only at a loss for how to act toward infertile loved ones, but go through their own grieving process as well. Family dynamics change, friendships are stretched and dangerous ‘encouragement’ lurks around every corner. There has to be more information out there about these things.
Now to figure out a way to gather and spread the information to the masses. Website? Book? My wheels are turning.