10 Things I Would Say to the Woman Struggling With Infertility

10 Things I Would Say to the Woman Struggling With Infertility

Infertility is a topic that is rarely discussed, but that affects one in eight couples. Chances are, if you are not struggling with infertility, you very likely know at least one person who is. This post is specifically written to a woman struggling with infertility. Through my 6 years of struggling with infertility, this is what I would say…

1. It’s not your fault.

You are not broken. God is not punishing you for your past mistakes. He is not against you. You did not do anything (or fail to do something) to cause this suffering. Some form of suffering happens to every human on the planet at some point in their lives because we live in a broken world ruled by evil and sin. But if you believe in Christ, you can rejoice that evil and brokenness will not win in the end.

2. God has not forgotten about you.

With every month that passes, baby shower invitation you turn down, friend who announces their pregnancy and then delivers their baby, it is easy to feel forgotten and left behind. It’s easy to feel stuck in the mud while the world continues to move forward, while you desperately struggle to break free. But you are not forgotten nor overlooked. God sees every aspect of your struggle. He sees every tear that escapes your eyes. He sees every moment you long for this to end. He is with you, always, and in all moments.

3. This is out of your control.

It sucks, I know. But it’s true. You do not have as much control over your situation as you would like to think. No matter how hard you try, calculate, time things, and pour money into procedures, you simply cannot control when or how a life is created. Life only comes from the Lord. As hard as it is to accept this truth, it is also pretty freeing to realize that you don’t have to be the one to carry this huge burden. Trust Christ to carry this burden for you. Your story may not (and likely will not) turn out how you planned, but relinquishing control can also bring so much beauty if you trust the One who is in control.

4. This does not define you.

It’s so easy to label yourself as “Infertile.” Please note I did not title this post as “10 Things I Would Say to an Infertile,” because that is not who you are. You are not defined by your circumstances or your suffering. Your circumstances and your roles in life will most certainly change over time, but your true identity in Christ, as His precious daughter, will never change. But your thoughts are more powerful than you may realize, so take careful effort to be aware of how you view yourself during your struggle. If you view yourself as a victim, as a broken woman, as worthless person, then your heart and attitude will quickly follow. It’s up to you to choose to think differently about yourself, and to choose to see yourself how God already sees you: so precious, worthy, and loved that He gave His Son for you, just so He could call you His daughter.

5. Don’t compare journeys.

I’m sure you’ve heard the expression that “comparison is the thief of joy.” There is much truth and wisdom to this. Comparing your particular journey to another’s will do no good. Please understand there is a difference between relating to and feeling empathy towards others. But comparison occurs when you discount or elevate your journey when thinking of another’s journey. Thoughts like “Well, at least I didn’t have a miscarriage, so maybe I should just get over my sadness about my infertility” or “I’ve had three miscarriages and two failed IVFs, yet this woman has the audacity to complain about not getting pregnant after only a year of trying” only lead to self-centered thinking. Respect the uniqueness of each person’s story. God gifts us uniquely, and He writes a unique story for each of us.

6. There’s freedom in surrender.

If you can accept the truth that you do not have control over your situation, then you have taken the first step in surrendering. But there is another level to surrender: all of yourself. Steve McVey in The Grace Walk calls this brokenness. He defines brokenness as reaching the end of yourself. In other words, when you are trying your hardest to overcome a situation in your life, by your own self-efforts, then you are not depending on the Lord. You are depending on yourself. The moment you realize the futility in this, and choose to depend on Christ instead of yourself, is your moment of brokenness. I can assure you there is much freedom in making this choice. I finally reached a point in my journey where “I Quit” – I told God, for the first time truly meaning every word, “If I never get pregnant, I will be okay, I know You are still good. I trust You.” I finally trusted Him to make us parents however and whenever He wished. It was a very hard choice, but I never regretted making it.

7. Remember to see the heart behind insensitive comments.

It is inevitable that you will hear comments that are hurtful and insensitive. But it is imperative for your heart that you choose to extend grace to these people so that bitterness cannot take root. I encourage you to memorize and recite Ephesians 4:32 for moments such as these. Most people are not trying to hurt you (admittedly, some are, but this is likely rare). It is difficult for people to know what to say to someone who is suffering or hurting with something they have not experienced. But they mean well. They may say something that is the polar opposite of helpful, but their heart’s intention is to comfort and show love to you. If you feel bold, you can kindly take the opportunity to help educate others about infertility and encourage them about what is helpful and supportive to say. But at the very least, remember to give them some grace.

8. This season will end, someday, somehow.

All suffering will end one day because Christ conquered sin and will return one day to restore this broken world. But even before that day, your suffering will likely end or at least change. If you continue to depend on Christ through your suffering, you will not feel burdened by this for the rest of your life. It comes back to realizing where your true identity is found – in Christ alone. As you trust and depend on Him, your suffering begins to take a backseat. Not that you won’t ever feel saddened again, but your suffering will no longer rule your heart and mind. God’s plan for why you are experiencing this suffering may not yet be revealed. Remember Romans 8:28 “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” He is using your story for His good – you just need to keep trusting Him.

9. Actively seek the good in this.

Happiness is a feeling, but joy is a state of mind, or a choice. You can experience both sadness and joyfulness simultaneously. Joy is found by choosing to look for the ways that God is bringing good out of your journey. I promise there is good to be found, but you must choose to seek it out. You may need to start small: being thankful that it’s a new day, that you met a friend who also struggles with infertility. But if you keep practicing and seeking His goodness, your perspective will grow larger: a stronger marriage, a more mature character, a closer relationship with the Lord…all because of your struggle with infertility. Eventually you can reach a point where you are grateful for your struggle because of all the ways you’ve seen God bring good out of it, and you wouldn’t change a thing about what’s happened in your journey.

10. Don’t waste the waiting.

I do not enjoy waiting, and you likely do not either. It is especially difficult to wait for something your heart desires with no guarantees at the end or a time frame of how much longer you have to wait. But this time of waiting for your heart’s desire is every bit as precious as the desire itself. Don’t waste it by wallowing in your suffering. Instead, use this time to grow. Grow in every way you can: in your marriage, in your friendships, with your family, and most importantly with the Lord. When you have a tough day, cry out to the Lord. Lean on Him for all your needs and seek His peace and comfort. My husband has said for many years, “the blessing is not just the baby at the end of the trial, the blessing is the trial itself.”

The Worry Ferrari

worry

On a fairly regular basis I will toss and turn, unable to fall asleep, but also unable to let go of a particular thought that worries me. It could be as simple as thinking I heard a noise and all the possibilities of what it could be, or it could be related to something that happened earlier that day or that I will need to do tomorrow. Either way, I often wrestle with taking my thoughts captive. It’s as if I have a Worry Ferrari inside my head that can go from zero to worried in six seconds (but often less time than that). Isn’t it amazing how quickly your mind can fill with thoughts of worry?

We have all heard that no good will come from worrying, but if you’re at all like me, you probably know how hard it can be to halt worrisome thoughts when you’re cruising down that highway in the Worry Ferrari.

25 “For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? 27 And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? 28 And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, 29 yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! 31 Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ 32 For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 34 So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” – Matthew 6:25-34

So what do you do when you just can’t seem to stop your mind from focusing on those thoughts? I have learned (most recently from The Grace Walk by Steve McVey) that not all your thoughts are your own.

Satan or his demons skillfully study you and know exactly which thoughts to suggest in your mind – but they’re sure to plant thoughts that are in the first person so you may not even recognize that you didn’t think it on your own.

They are very talented at what they do, I’ll give them that. After they plant a thought, I often take the bait and off to the races I go…

“3 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, 4 for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. 5 We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” – 2 Corinthians 10:3-5

So if your thoughts are speculative (worried, anxious), lofty (self-focused), or don’t align with the knowledge of God, there’s a good chance those thoughts are not your own. Taking your thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ – or to put it more simply: abiding in Christ – is the answer. Trying to take charge of your thoughts on your own efforts is never going to work in the long run – you need Christ to do it for you. Seeking Christ in those moments I’m struggling to stop worrying is the surest way to stop driving that Worry Ferrari.

Choosing Joy Amidst Suffering

I cannot count the number of times that I have retreated to the corner of my closet to curl up in a fetal position and sob, snot and all. Whether I was battling thoughts of despair regarding our struggles with infertility, or just needed to stop everything for a moment and face some serious emotions that I had been trying to bury, to my closet I would go. I don’t know why I picked my closet. I suppose it just felt safe and non-judgmental. But most of all, it was quiet and free of distractions. It was a place I could completely bare my inner thoughts, fears, and anguish before the Lord.

Like you, I too know what it’s like to experience suffering. Not only have we experienced suffering in our marriage as two people who sometimes act selfishly try to form a life together, but we have struggled for five years with unexplained infertility. If you’re not familiar with that, it’s a struggle that isn’t often spoken about, but affects 1 in 8 couples. I spent years questioning why God was making us wait to become parents when it appeared to come so easily to most of our friends. After God worked in our hearts and we became open to the idea of adopting, we rejoiced in receiving the call from our caseworker that a birth family had chosen us to adopt their baby. But even with that joyous news, our suffering did not end. My mother-in-law, Lisa, was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer in the fall of 2014, and she died eight days after our daughter was born. A few months later, my nearly 95-year-old Meemaw died of peritoneal cancer. A month later, the long-time friend and man who first shared the gospel with my husband died of brain cancer.

Suffering is inevitable.

Because we live in a broken world – a world with sin – all people will experience suffering in some form or another. You’re not the only one suffering. Believer or non-believer, all people experience suffering because we live in a world ruled by Satan at the moment. Jesus Himself suffered, arguably the most of all.

Though you may be tempted to think otherwise, God does not cause your suffering. Instead, He allows you to experience suffering in the hope that you will trust Him completely.

A wonderful book I’ve read recently (The Grace Walk by Steve McVey) distinguishes between suffering and brokenness. He says that a person may experience suffering, but not necessarily reach a place of brokenness. He says that brokenness is when a person reaches the end of themselves, of their own self-efforts or attempts at controlling their lives, and instead decides to surrender to God and trust Him completely.

Reaching a place of brokenness seems really scary before it happens. But as someone who has experienced suffering that led to brokenness, I can promise you that there is so much peace and joy to be found in that moment.

Because after reaching a place of brokenness, you will never view your suffering in the same way again.

You will begin to see that there is so much good to be found in your suffering. Before you write me off as crazy, hear me out. Reaching a place of brokenness – where you decide to completely trust God no matter what happens – will help you to choose a joyful attitude. Unlike the feeling of happiness, joy is a state of mind. Joy is something you can choose even if you feel sad. You will be able to look at your suffering and focus on what you have instead of what you don’t have. You will be able to see how much God has taught you or how much He has moved throughout your suffering. And ultimately, you will bring glory to God because other people watching you respond to your suffering by choosing joy will be perplexed. Christ will do such a wondrous work through you as you learn to trust Him more and more.