In our weekly prayers at Church of the Redeemer our congregation intercedes for families who are experiencing infertility, which can be a heart-wrenching and sometimes lonely journey. In this week’s post, Kim Anderson puts a name and face to those prayers in sharing her struggles with secondary infertility. As Kim tells her story, she stresses that everyone on this path has a different experience. Her goal is not to speak for all of them, but to sensitively share her thoughts in hopes of fighting the isolation that infertility can create.
Mark was 39 and I was almost 37 when we got married. We had minimal issues getting pregnant with our sweet daughter, and we naively thought having another would be fairly easy. Enter the diagnosis of secondary infertility – medically defined as the inability to become pregnant, or to carry a pregnancy to term, following the birth of one or more biological children.
Age plus a blocked fallopian tube have wreaked havoc for us. Each month of trying brings a roller coaster of emotion: we muster up a glimmer of hope that is crushed every month, resulting in sadness, anger, and despair. We keep hoping, even though it is emotionally exhausting. In October, we were devastated by a miscarriage. Not only did we lose a precious life, it also felt like we were losing our dream of expanding our family. This whole experience seemed like a cruel dream, a sort of taunt that our prayers were answered – only to have the pregnancy end. However, we experienced tremendous support from our church community. And we are extremely thankful.
I find myself crying out to God in anger, blaming him for not putting Mark in my life until my “advanced maternal age.” Anger turns to pleading and begging – then guilt, sadness, and loss of hope.
“Please God, my heart hurts. I desperately desire to have another baby.”
“I don’t know why I’m asking for another child as I can’t seem to be a good mother to one I have. After all, I snapped at her just this morning!”
“My heart feels like it’s breaking into a million little pieces, God.”
“Should we give up? Or are we to wait and keep trying? It’s confusing!”
I know He hears me, loves me, and is good, but sometimes I feel like David when he felt like God was not hearing his prayers (Psalm 13). I find myself asking: “Why?”
I believe I can either allow the struggle to draw me closer to God, or to push me away and allow bitterness to set in, which the enemy would love. I choose to lean in to Him, but it’s not easy. Also, like many couples, Mark and I process things quite differently. Through the miscarriage, I was an emotional wreck. Mark shared the disappointment but seemed able to move on more quickly. Now as we continue to pray for wisdom, we sometimes argue because my emotions are so high. Plus, there’s a financial piece. Medical assistance for infertility is extremely expensive and typically isn’t covered by insurance. Such treatments have low success rates, especially when age is a factor. Adoption, though obviously a beautiful gift, is an expensive, lengthy and complicated process.
I find the diagnosis of secondary fertility is an awkward one. I have one child, and I sometimes feel guilty for wanting another. My heart breaks for those facing primary infertility, who long to be mothers but aren’t. I’ve been told that I should just be thankful for the one I have and focus on her. Of course I’m grateful, but I would love for her to have a sibling. Also, because I have a small child, I’m immersed in a world with babies, children, and pregnant mothers. Recently I went to a large children’s clothing sale one day and the Children’s Museum the next. Pregnant mothers were everywhere. Most days that wouldn’t faze me, but that weekend sent me into a dark, sad place.
So how can we support those who are struggling with the pain of infertility, whether it be primary or secondary? Through prayer, listening ,and understanding.
- Pray for the roller coaster we face each month, for grace to handle the emotional and financial stress it can create in marriages, and for God’s comfort and wisdom, and for healing of the grief and loss, whether from miscarriage or the mourning of the dream of a big family. And if you know someone who is struggling, ask them how to pray, remembering that everyone’s journey is different. For me, I boldly suggest: Pray specifically for a baby. We pray for the sick to be healed, not knowing how God may choose to answer that prayer, why not now?
- In addition to prayer, just listening is a precious gift – listening without filling the space with potentially hurtful platitudes like : “It’s not God’s timing,” “Just relax and it will happen,” or “Well at least you have one child.”
Instead, try to communicate by your words and your presence: I am here for you. I can understand why your heart desires another child. I care about you and am praying for you.
- Grace and understanding are also helpful surrounding events where emotions might run high. Understand if women who are struggling need to skip a baby shower or a baptism. But know that emotions are unpredictable, and sometimes mundane things can prompt tears. A glimpse of the tiny baby clothes at Target could set off a wave of confusing feelings. For me, sometimes it’s an innocent question about whether I have other children. It’s not about coddling or tiptoeing around women who struggle, just acknowledging very real (and sometimes raw) emotions.
Our church community is wonderful and extends God’s love, grace, and understanding enormously well, and again, Mark and I are grateful.
Here are some resources that can help further understanding of those struggling with wanting a child.
Hannah’s Hope by Jennifer Saake
Don’t Tell her to Relax by Zahie el Kouri
Resolve.org is an excellent source of information
For a poignant perspective from a Twin Cities pastor and dad, go to www.stevewiens.com/2013/03/26/ten-words-that-describe-infertility