How to Deal With the Grief of Infertility
When you or someone you know is hurting.
My wife and I have been trying to have a child for almost two years and we fear, due to some issues surrounding infertility, we will not be able to. We are beside ourselves with grief and need help—from anywhere. So I’m writing to see if you have anything to offer us. Sorry it’s not a more clear question, I don’t really know what I’m asking.
Normally I’d give the person who asked this question a playful alias just to lighten the mood a bit, but today, that doesn’t seem right. Not with this question, and not with the countless people who will be reading this and hoping—longing—for an answer that provides some respite from the grief.
I bet today and the many yesterdays haven’t been what you expected them to be, have they? Of course not. A few years ago, you and your significant other were eating a lovely dinner at your favorite Thai place. One of you looked at the other one and said, “Hey, do you think we should start trying?” And in a moment, you both realized you were on the road to parenthood. Jitters, fear, excitement, nursery Pinterest boards—it all flooded over your pad Thai and into your relationship. Weren’t those fun days? Wasn’t it nice to have hope?
And then something happened. Month after month, when there was a blue line instead of a pink plus, hope started to fade—and dread took its place. Then one of you said—again at the same Thai place which now feels more like a tragic reminder of some distant happiness—“Should we see a doctor?” So you did. And the doctor said there may be “some complications.” And the walls of the sterile doctor’s office blurred and the words began to jumble. You realized your hope had succumbed to infertility.
It is the worst. Just the worst.
Which leads us to the fundamental question: What can make infertility less terrible? Not, “What can make it better?” because “better” to you, right now, looks like a child in your home. And while I could give you Christian truths and platitudes about how there are many people who, for one reason or another, never had children via biology or adoption and are living happy lives, that’s not helpful for you right now. You want your babies. I understand.
But I would like to submit four quick thoughts for you to hold onto while you traverse the uncertain road ahead:
Let People In
One of the mistakes everyone makes in life is believing if we say nothing, problems will go away or somehow get better. We do it all the time. If there is ever even a distant, faint whisper of shame or embarrassment, we go M.I.A.
Unfortunately, with couples who are having a difficult time conceiving, sometimes shame somehow enters the equation and they silently suffer. Maybe they feel there is something “wrong” with them physically or that God is smiting them for previous indiscretions. Or maybe they just don’t want to be a burden to others. Whatever the case, so many suffer in silence. This cannot continue.
If you are experiencing infertility, you have to tell people you love and trust. Not because it will make it all better, but because you can’t take the hit of a monthly funeral alone. People need to cry with you and shoulder the burden with you. People need to bring you food and help you take your mind off of it for a night. You and your significant other can’t do this alone. Those who love you want to do so not just in thought but in deed. You won’t overwhelm them. They want to be there for you now, and tomorrow morning, and tomorrow afternoon.
Try Not to Strategize
I fear I may be overstepping with this point, but I’d like to float this idea past you. What if you all stopped thinking about tomorrow (as much as is realistic)? The nature of infertility is that you’re making decisions on a daily basis that are massive, overwhelming and life-changing.
However, these decisions are not everything. Ultimately, we have no control over children being brought into this world. The best doctors and adoption lawyers can’t simply will your child into existence. Truthfully, any child showing up in someone’s home via adoptive or biological means is nothing short of a miracle.
So, because it’s a miracle, and because it’s really out of your hands, what if you tried (again, as much as is realistic) to stop. Stop worrying that today’s shot of medication may or may not result in future complications that even further complicate a confusing situation—yuck. Who could possibly know what’s right and wrong? Well, God knows (more on that in a moment). But you don’t, so make the best decision you can for today and accept that you can’t control the entire road ahead.
I acknowledge, even as I’m writing this, that what I’m asking you to do is impossible. You may even be slightly frustrated with me suggesting that you loosen your grip a bit on all the strategizing. But what if for one moment of one day you weren’t as riddled with fear and dread over a decision? I’d love that for you. And I’d love for God’s narrative to take a front seat to your thinking.
Get Real With God
The relationship between those who are suffering (you) and He who is in control (God) can get very complex. To that end, Here are two articles over the past weeks that I hope will fill out this section. In summary:
1. You can get angry with God. For real. You can, and you should. It’s not helpful to pretend that it’s all OK, and it’s helpful to get into a real tussle with Him. Be with God exactly where you are, and trust that He can handle your worst (and love you through it). You’re His child, and your pain is His.
2. If you’re too hurt to pray, it’s OK.Really, it is.
This Isn’t Your Fault
Finally, in the quiet moments of infertility, the darkness creeps in and the reasons for “why” begin to point to you. This is a lie. The abortion, the physical abuse on your body, etc., etc. begin to be the reason for all of this infertility pain (in your mind).
Hear me say this: What you’re going through isn’t your fault. Yes, a doctor’s report may point to a specific issue with someone’s family history or bodily functioning. But really—really—those issues are not what makes or prevents babies from coming into this world. What makes it happen is a miracle. An everyday, common and not at all common, miracle.
Your past has been forgiven by a loving God who cares for you more than you know. There is no curse on you, and you are not the “why.” Truthfully and unfortunately, there is no why—and that’s what makes it unbearable. Because we are a people who desperately long for meaning and reason at every turn. But infertility is meaningless, it is why-less, and it just sucks.
You are not the problem.
So to my friends who are reading this, and especially to the friend who wrote in, may God be with you and know that all of us are with you also. You are not alone.
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