Struggling through infertility can be a trying time in someone's life.
When a pastor who struggles with infertility reached out to me, I knew this perspective was valuable and one worth sharing with all of you.
Here are words of wisdom about infertility from an Iowa Pastor:
Many people may turn to their faith when trying to comfort a friend or acquaintance in their struggles.
Most of the time, they have only the best intentions.
Sometimes we just don’t know what to say, so we may try to “spiritualize” the issue in an attempt to comfort or reassure.
What many may not realize is that some of those commonly used “religious” phrases don’t always comfort those who are struggling, but may in fact anger or further upset them.
Below is a list of some of those phrases that you should consider removing from your vocabulary altogether.
They are not helpful.
1) “God has a plan,” and, “It’s all in God’s timing,” or, “Don’t play God- God will make it happen.”
You may think these phrases are helpful to tell someone struggling with infertility. They aren’t.
Basically, what you’re telling us is God is waiting for the “perfect time” in our lives to cause us to become pregnant which makes us wonder what’s wrong with us that God hasn’t “allowed” us to get pregnant yet.
We start questioning what we’ve done to deserve this.
Also, if it’s all in God’s timing, then what about all of the unplanned pregnancies, the couples and young girls whose lives and bodies are changed forever because they didn’t want or expect a baby at that point in their life?
If God makes those who WANT a child wait for the “right time,” while those who didn’t want or expect a pregnancy are upset at a pregnancy they weren’t planning for, then that suggests that we have one sick and twisted god.
One of the hardest aspects of infertility is the waiting.
Time drags on forever.
Each month there is a build up of excitement and hope that this month could be the month that a pregnancy is achieved.
If/when it doesn’t happen, the grief hits like a ton of bricks.
The whole process has to be started all over again and the frustration grows.
Some of that waiting may include procedures and medication that may or may not work.
Couples struggling with infertility know the waiting game all too well.
It’s hard enough wondering when or if our prayers for parenthood will be answered.
Many people wait years and years to have a child and every passing day that it doesn’t happen, the whole wait only gets harder and more frustrating.
To think that God is causing that suffering by making us wait for “the right time” is just a bit hard to fathom.
Please don’t make us feel like the reason we don’t have a child yet is because God doesn’t want that for us.
2) “Put it in God’s Hands and Let It Go.”
Couples struggling with infertility already feel like things are out of their hands.
Many couples go through several different kinds of treatments with no results.
It is incredibly frustrating.
Telling those struggling with infertility to give it to let it go and give it to God is not helpful.
Many times women/couples have already felt like they have pleaded endlessly with God to give them a child.
They have trusted that God would hear their prayers and that they would conceive.
When that prayer isn’t answered it can be devastating.
It is not so easy to just “let it go.”
The daily pain of living with infertility is not something couples can just let go.
Every day can be a struggle.
Every test, every procedure, every month that passes with a negative pregnancy test, every comment from a friend or family about when they’re going to have a child…it all wears on couples.
There are many unknowns.
This isn’t something that couples struggling with infertility can just shrug off and forget.
There are of course other options available, but the pain of not being able to conceive a biological child is a pain that will never go away.
Don’t trivialize a couple’s experience by telling them to give their problem to God and “get over it.”
I promise you; it’s not that easy.
3) “God just needed another angel” (for those who suffered a miscarriage or lost a child)
This statement is NEVER HELPFUL.
If a couple who experienced a miscarriage says it; then fine, don’t correct them.
If it gives them comfort to know that their unborn child is resting in the arms of God; then let them have that.
But, please, don’t EVER be the one to say this to a woman/couple who is grieving the loss of a child they will never get to know.
To suggest that God needed another angel more than they needed or wanted a child is suggesting that our God is so selfish that God would rather add to a personal collection of cherubs than give a woman/couple the opportunity to parent a child.
It also points to a God that willy nilly takes people out of this world and causes pain and heartache.
God is the giver of life; the one who created the world and breathed breath into humankind.
God is not a life-taker!!!
4) Implying that the person/couple has sinned and doesn’t deserve a child
I cannot stress enough how important it is to NEVER fault a woman/couple for an inability to conceive a child.
There is already MUCH guilt and shame felt by those struggling with infertility.
There is frustration that our bodies aren’t working the way we want them to. The feelings of isolation and sadness and grief are hard enough.
We don’t need people telling us that perhaps it was something we did that caused the issue.
Some couples never know why they weren’t/aren’t able to conceive.
Sometimes our bodies fail us by no fault of our own.
In the Bible, women were often blamed if they were unable to give a man a child.
If a woman was known to be barren, then she could be replaced by a woman who could bear a child for a man to continue the family line.
Don’t blame the woman/couple.
The grief of not being able to conceive is a lifelong grief that never goes away.
Don’t add to their grief by making them feel like they did something to deserve that kind of pain.
5) The Bible says….(followed by a judgment or condemnation)
Some people/traditions are against any type of medical procedures that helps achieve a pregnancy.
Some believe it is “playing God.” They’ll use Scripture to back up their claims.
Scripture is the revelation of God to God’s creation.
It proclaims God’s love for God’s creation through Christ’s death and resurrection.
It shows us how we are to conduct ourselves in this world as children of God, in service to God and neighbor.
However, many times people try to use Scripture as a judgment or an excuse to point out wrongdoing and condemn a person or their actions.
The Bible is not a weapon.
Please don’t use Scripture to shame somebody struggling with infertility.
There is already enough shame surrounding this issue; they don’t need to feel that God is against them too.
Now that you’ve been given some phrases and hints that aren’t that helpful, here are some ways you CAN support women/couples in their struggle:
1) Let them know that you care and that you are praying for them.
A simple statement that lets them know that you are keeping them in prayer can be helpful.
Infertility is an incredibly isolating thing to go through.
Many women/couples are too afraid to tell others about it because it is either just to painful to talk about or because they fear what people will say to them or think of them.
Knowing that they are being thought of and prayed for might help them not feel so alone.
2) If you feel the need to check in on someone you know is struggling with infertility, ask a generic question like, “How are things?”
This gives them the option to fill you in on their situation with as much or as little information as they feel comfortable sharing.
Asking personal or specific questions can be irritating.
A woman’s/couple’s journey through infertility is really none of your business.
If they want to fill you in on what’s going on with them, they will in their own time and in their own way.
Leave them some space and let them know you are there for them if/when they want to talk, but don’t make them feel pressured to share information with you.
Space and support are much appreciated.
3) “I’m sorry you’re going through this.”
Never underestimate the power of a simple “I’m sorry” statement, especially if you really don’t know what else to say.
Sometimes the worst kinds of comments come from people who feel awkward and feel like they need to say SOMETHING.
If you really don’t know what to say, then it’s probably best to not say anything.
I’d much rather hear an “I’m sorry,” than, “Maybe God just isn’t ready for you to be a parent yet.”
The former will convey support an sincerity. The latter will just make me feel like a failure. It will also probably make me less trusting of the person who said it to me.
National Infertility Awareness Week is April 19-25. This post was submitted as part NIAW's theme: "You Are Not Alone." If you are an infertility warrior and willing to keep this conversation going, please contact me.