So this week is National Infertility Awareness Week, and RESOLVE (an organization which promotes infertility awareness) is sponsoring a blogging challenge. This years theme is: Don’t Ignore Infertility.
I actually feel like what I wrote about last year was in line with this very topic. And as I re-read it, I have had a difficult time coming up with what I wanted to say. I sometimes worry that I harp too much on the best way to approach someone struggling with infertility. I wouldn’t want to seem bitter. Nor would I want to seem like I sit around waiting for people to say the wrong thing. I’m not. I don’t.
I do think that infertility is just one of those trials that is hard to approach. Because it involves a couple’s intimate life, the subject becomes somewhat taboo. For that reason, lots of people don’t approach it at all. This makes it a very isolating experience. My hope is (by sharing my perspective as a woman who struggles with infertility) that I can help others who don’t have to experience this trial first hand know how to reach out to those who do.
Infertility is excruciating. It is so hard to lose the baby you hoped for. It is hard to lose your fondest dream of becoming a parent, of creating a child with you sweetheart. Imagine it: one of the greatest gifts that God has given his children is to procreate. And you are not able to participate.
Along with the obvious pain of being unable to conceive, there are more subtle losses as well. Those who struggle with infertility may struggle with identity issues. I was raised knowing that the most important role I would ever fill would be that of mother. Particularly within the church, parenthood is emphasized strongly and constantly. Rightly so, for there is nothing more important in this life than families. Of course the principles of righteous parenting should be taught frequently. But when you are unable to be the person you thought you would be, it can be difficult to know where you fit in. You are reminded continually that what you so desperately desire is just out of reach. And you worry that no matter how hard you try, you will always fall short of the person you were meant to become.
And there is the loss of relating with your peers. Should you pause and really listen, you might be surprised to note just how often topics such as breastfeeding and toilet training come up when a group of women get together. Naturally these things would be discussed. When you are mother whose world revolves around her children, of course they would be the topic of conversation. I’m not saying that they shouldn’t be. But I am saying, I know what it feels like to sit and smile politely because I don’t have a labor story to swap. I know what it feels like to melt into the background when the conversation turns to how many children to have and when to have them.
Infertility is a lonely road. The kindest thing you could possibly do for a friend who is struggling with infertility is to walk with them. Please don’t ignore them. Please don’t ignore their pain.
Maybe you could remember to give them a hug on mothers day.
Maybe you could tell them in a private, quiet setting that you are expecting baby #3.
Maybe you could be mindful of the blessing you have been given to carry children. I think one of the most heartbreaking things a person struggling with infertility has to bear is listening to others complain about being pregnant. I understand pregnancy is difficult. By all means complain to your husband, mother, and other fertile friends. But please, oh please do not complain to someone who’s infertile about weight gain or morning sickness. I would give anything for that, and so would many others like me. Complaining about being pregnant to someone who struggles with infertility is like complaining of a broken leg to someone who is paralyzed from the waist down.
Maybe you could tell them you are praying for them.
These gestures are simple to offer, but HUGELY appreciated. No one likes to be ignored.