For a hopeful couple, some of the hardest words to hear are “You can’t have a baby.”
In a moment, the future they’d hoped for of raising a family of their own flesh and blood dissolves. The possibility that comes along with not knowing is ripped from their hands.
And it hurts.
This news becomes a loss that must be grieved. And, as with any grieving process, this will look different for each individual and each couple.
I had a chance to ask Renee Umeda, one of the leaders for As We Wait, Mission Hills Church’s infertility support group, about infertility and how we as a whole can come together and support families journeying through infertility.
The first thing we wanted to stress is that infertility does not change a person’s identity in Christ. If you are going through this, you are no less of a woman/wife/man/husband because of infertility. You are not broken. You have not let anyone down. You are a child of God and he is in this journey with you. However, this truth can be difficult to hold on to in the midst of the struggle. I urge you to not believe the lies that say you are anything other than a beautifully and wonderfully made child of God.
If you are going through infertility, it is easy to feel shame and feel isolated. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help or to talk about your pain to safe people. You are not alone.
How can I support my spouse through this?
As you go through this, try to remember your spouse also lost the possibility and is also grieving. Renee said, “One of the best ways to support your spouse is regular communication. Each spouse deals with this struggle differently so it is important to understand where your spouse is coming from in their own process. Try to let go of your expectations of them and give them lots of grace. Allow them time to ‘not be okay’ and not have it all together. [Much] of infertility is unfortunately grieved silently but make sure you grieve alongside your spouse in the best way you can.” She also suggested that it may help to find another couple going through a similar struggle, as it can be helpful to “find someone else that ‘gets it.’ You feel alone in the journey, but there are many people who understand and would love to support you and your spouse.”
How can the church support couples going through infertility?
Acknowledging the difficulty can go a long way in serving couples. Infertility is a struggle and a lot of healing can happen by creating a space where it’s okay to be honest about how hard it is. “Some of the hardest times at church for a couple going through infertility are the Mother’s Day service and baby dedications,” Renee said. It would also be helpful to learn which phrases make the journey more difficult, phrases such as “you are still young,” “just adopt,” “you just need to relax,” or “it will happen once you stop trying.” These phrases can trigger pain for couples. Rather than offering a fix for their struggle, it’s often more helpful to be a listening ear and say something like, “I can’t imagine what you’re going through. I’m here for you and praying.”
As Renee put it, “Infertility is a process and each couple has to come to terms with how and when God is choosing to build their family.” Every journey will be unique. If you haven’t gone through infertility yourself, your attempts to help may not be what the person you’re trying to help needs. The first step of love is listening.
If you’re struggling through infertility, we want to listen to you. Please reach out to us to learn how you can get connected to our support group, As We Wait, led by Renee Umeda and Kelsey Brooks.
AS WE WAIT
National Infertility Awareness Week happens every April and Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month is October. These are national opportunities to help spread awareness and love to those going through infertility, but the work of spreading awareness and love is not only limited to those times.