Infertility Awareness Week

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April 24th-30th is “National Infertility Week”. Since I started writing about infertility, women have contacted me and come out from hiding to process their pain. Women who’d rather be at the park pushing their kids in swings with everyone else and are instead sitting in a doctor’s office or in front of a computer trying to figure out “what’s wrong with me”.  Women who are a part of a club they never wanted to be invited to. Women who are sitting in this, silently suffering, through grief, shame, embarrassment, and confusion. Women who are figuring out what it’s like to lean into this, to lean into God, and put one foot in front of the other.

It’s overwhelming when I think about the number of women who have walked this road, and are currently walking it, and still feel like there’s not safe place to bring their pain. It can be isolating, hopeless, and devastating.

And I realize I every time I write about infertility I am making myself vulnerable to the many comments that will come my way. Some that sting, some that soothe, and some that leave me comforting others because they grieve deeply for me!  However, I know that many of you out there are hurting and can never speak up or share. So for you, I’m sharing some things that have helped me along the way.

1. Don’t isolate. It is hard enough going through this, but to go through it alone can spiral you into hopelessness and depression. Find others who have walked this road and meet with them. Have your people you trust to love you and pray for you and share with them when you’re hurting.

2. Choose your community wisely. The whole world doesn’t need to about this either. I sometimes regret blogging about this because it’s opened me up to anyone who’s read my blog to speak into my life about it. It’s healing for me to write, but there are really a handful of people that I share the details with. The ones who know about my doctor’s appointments, treatments, etc. And they’re people who will push me closer to God and pray me through it, not just feel sorry for me or ask how I’m doing to know the gossipy details. They’re people who truly care and truly pray.

3. Go through it together. I made the mistake in the beginning of going to doctor’s appointments alone. The first appointment I had with the fertility specialist, I thought he was just going to ask a few routine questions, instead he had read me the results of my tests, shared my diagnosis and told me as I sat covered in a tissue-paper blanket, I have a 1-2% chance of ever conceiving. The walls started to close in on me. I realized I should never be sitting in those appointments alone after that. So now, even though it’s terribly inconvenient for my husband, we go the appointments together.

4. Give yourself space. I sat down with a friend who has walked this road, and now has 4 children, awhile ago and she was so helpful in reminding me to care for myself through this. She told me the week I’m going through treatment, set aside time for myself. Get a pedicure, take a nap, whatever it may be. It’s physically and emotionally draining and it’s okay to do something for yourself through this.

5. Let Go of Control. Ugh. This is the biggest lesson in all of this. We can’t give way to worry and try to control every little circumstance. It puts too much pressure on our end. I never gave way to charting, taking my temperature, and obsessively taking ovulation kits. We can’t overanalyze and control every little thing through this process. We must be willing to release and surrender, otherwise we make ourselves crazy.

6. Seek Peace. Seek the God of circumstance, not the way out of the circumstance. I had lunch with a friend and she asked me if I have peace knowing eventually this will happen for me and I’ll get pregnant. And I told her no. I don’t have peace from thinking someday this will happen. I don’t know if children are “promised” to me. But I do have peace knowing God holds my future and works in ways far beyond my understanding. I have peace knowing when I cry out to Him, he hears and He comforts.

For friends and family who are walking alongside loved ones going through infertility:

1. Don’t try and fix. This is so hard, and I catch myself doing this for others too. But really, the quickest way to shut someone down who is hurting is trying to give them the answers. I’ve written about this before here and all the suggestions that people have given me, but really we don’t need advice or technique. There is truly nothing to say. We’ve tried everything. We just need a friend who listens and who loves.

2. Pray for them. Don’t just say you will, really, pray for them. And I don’t just mean pray for a baby. Pray for their heart. Pray for their hope. Pray for their marriage! When people ask how they can pray for me, I don’t tell them to pray for my womb. I ask them to pray for our friendship in our marriage. By God’s grace, 3+ years into this, we are still good friends.

3. Give them grace. Usually, if you’re in the season of trying to get pregnant, so are your friends. I have had up to 3 baby showers in one weekend. Another friend insisted that I hold her newborn at a family gathering, and I just couldn’t. I felt so much guilt feeling this way, but there are times we are just going to say “no” and it’s hard, and we feel awful, but please give us grace.

4. If you’re pregnant, tell them privately. During the 3 years we’ve been “trying”, 6 (soon to be 7) different babies have been born out of my small group. I have so appreciated those that have been considerate to tell me privately they’re expecting. This is so hard and so awkward because you are genuinely happy and yet genuinely hurting. Both of you. This is the kind of community I treasure the most, the ones that are willing to face the joy and the pain head on.

5. Ask how they’re doing. I will most likely not offer up my feelings to anyone. But if you ask, I will. Again, this is the kind of community I treasure most, the kind that will just dive right in to the awkward and the painful, and just ask. How are you? Where are you at? Whatever it may be. Don’t ask all the time, but ask.

6. Don’t forget about the husband. This is sometimes the worst. The woman may get more support than the man. He is struggling to lead well, deal with his own hurt, and comfort his wife. I can only imagine how isolating it is for the husband in this process.

There are a million ways you can help or hurt people walking through this. These are just a few I found helpful. There are a few other articles and posts below that may be helpful too.

25 Things Not to Say to Couples Living with Infertility {Huffington Post}

Infertility Etiquette {Dreaming of Dimples}

Is My Infertility a Punishment? {Self-Talk the Gospel}

I so appreciate you reading and entering in with me. If you know someone who is suffering with infertility, please share this post. Bearing one another’s burdens is hard and vulnerable, and messy. But it is truly the best way to live.

“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

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7 thoughts on “Infertility Awareness Week

  1. Mom says:

    Such powerful words and encouraging when we wonder how we can help. Thank you for sharing the lovely gift you have of writing your feelings. I love you and always praying for both of you thru this.

  2. kim says:

    oh my dear miss, love you, your open, transparency that speaks the truth with such love and grace…you are loved ❤ and will be prayed for

  3. Victoria Reynolds says:

    Melissa I am always encouraged by your writings. Your words of wisdom and encouragement for friends and family help us as we help you. God’s goodness and mercy is a never in a shortage for his people! Thank you for sharing your needs and your heart. Praying always for you and Tino. Aunt Vicki

  4. Victoria Reynolds says:

    I Thank God for your heart of surrender and obedience….. Thank you for words of advice to family and friends, it helps to know what “to do” I never want to ignore your suffering. You are both in my thoughts and prayers, always! ……Love Aunt Vicki

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