Updated: Aug 1, 2019
As I was preparing to write this series, I began to feel anxious about what I might say. I felt the weight of responsibility. I knew that not everyone would agree with my conclusions or thoughts. I knew that there might be things that I say that rub people the wrong way. And I know that I will make mistakes along the way. And in thinking about all the ways that I could mess this up, I was reminded about why I am doing this. I am doing this so that we can all continue to learn how to love our friends and family members who struggle with infertility.
So many of you expressed not wanting to say things that would hurt or harm those you love who are experiencing infertility. I want to applaud your sensitivity and efforts! It is good and right to want to use our words to lift others up. There is so much that our culture says about women who are childless, and so, in wanting to break those stereotypical norms, you are showing that you believe there is more to this life than the ability to bring forth children. But on the other hand, even with the best of intentions, there will be times when words will fall short.
So, I want to begin this series by inviting you to mess up—because you will, and I will. You may say the wrong thing to your friend who is grieving, and I may say the wrong things when I grieve. We can name those shortcomings, say that we are wrong, and ask for forgiveness. I want to free you from the burden that you are always going to have the right thing to say in the right way and at the right time to your friend or sister who is experiencing infertility. So, consider this a safe space—one where we can bring our questions and things that we are struggling to understand. We can confess that we don’t have it all together—that we don’t have all the right answers or words of encouragement. But what we do have is the ability to sit and listen, and we do have the ability to point to the One who can handle our grief and shortcomings. So thank you for taking a small step toward that today! I am humbled to be on this journey with you.
When I mess up
Through the course of my married life, there have been countless birth announcements, gender reveals, bump updates, and blog posts about pregnancy and childbirth. Some friends have navigated this territory with grace and understanding, while others go on without any regard for others. And to be honest with you, for me personally, I cannot find a consistency in how I react to these instances. For some reason, different pregnancies hit me different ways and I am always surprised.
Sometimes I get emotional when someone I barely know announces their pregnancy. And at other times, my best friend tells me she’s having her fifth, and I barely have to think about being happy, because I just am! I have tried to understand why this is the case, but I can’t. All that to say, there are times when I react the exact way I want to react, and there are times where I feel ashamed for days because of the conflicting feelings that I have.
I have been cold and unloving when friends announce their pregnancies on social media or in a small group. I withhold likes and comments, sometimes out of intense jealously and sometimes because I cannot bring myself to share in their joy. I do not do these things intentionally or maliciously, but I do notice the feelings and I have to stop and confess often. And sometimes that means double tapping that image just to show neighbor love that is outside of my own wants and desires.
I have also gotten angry at friends who don’t seem to understand or want to care to understand what I am going through. There have been many times where I have gone home from Bible study or a birthday gathering complaining to my husband and best friend for the comments that were made about children or pregnancy. Yes, these flippant words sting me, but then I turn right back around and use my tongue harshly in expressing my frustration.
These tensions are hard to hold, and they are hard to write for everyone to see and analyze. And so, I give them to you to hold. I am inviting you into my story. It is one that has many ups and downs, heartfelt emotions, and sighs too deep for words. But we are here, learning together, seeking to support one another. So know that while you might not always feel like you have the right words, neither do I!
When others mess up
There are many times when I think back over the last seven years and cringe at the thought of people’s words. I have had many things said to me that have caused deep wounds, some of them have stuck, and some have fallen away, but they have all caused hurt in one way or another.
Most people have good intentions, even when they say hurtful things. They see infertility as a problem that needs to be fixed, and they want to help fix it. They have probably read a book or an article, or know a friend of a friend who has gotten pregnant after this pill, that shake, or this oil. I remember when I was handed my first book on infertility. It was from a “Christian” perspective and was probably one of the most harmful books I have ever personally read. Coming from Bible school and having an ever-increasing love for theology and exegetical study, I began dismantling the arguments from the book—which was actually great therapy for me! It very hurtfully suggested that my lack of faith was the reason for my miscarriage, and that all I had to do was pray harder and be less anxious if I wanted to get pregnant again. Seems simple enough, right?!
Thankfully, I think through being able to talk about it with people who loved me, I was able to respond as best I could. And in many ways, I am thankful to have read the book so that I could dissect its claims. It was a great practice in identifying bad application and theology, and it gave me a reason to really study and understand infertility from God’s perspective (more on that in the coming weeks).
*As a side note: Please, please be very careful with how you use religion, verses, prayers, books, and articles with those who are experiencing infertility. If you have any doubt about the theology or content of a book, just don’t recommend it. Bad theology and prosperity gospels can be so damaging, and it often takes years to work through the pain they cause. If you have questions about how to choose good resources, don’t be afraid to ask for help. I would be more than happy to look at particular resources with you!*
Let’s do this together. Let’s not be afraid to say, “I don’t know what to say right now” and “I’m sorry”. Let’s not be afraid to sit in each other’s pain and sorrow. And let’s not be afraid to just sit. In silence. We may not be able to hold the tension, but we know the One who can. And He is there guiding us through this life, welcoming and holding the barren far better than you or I ever could.