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“Don’t you want kids?” | The secret burden of infertility

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Today’s post is a little bit heart-breaking. It’s written by a friend of mine who wishes to remain anonymous. She and her husband have struggled with infertility for too long. It’s a subject that most of us know little about unless we’ve explored it from the inside, but it’s a subject too important to exclude when talking about women empowering women, because so often we actually disempower one another without even realizing it, simply through our flippant remarks, “friendly” teasing, or unsolicited advice. My hope is that perhaps by reading someone’s perspective who has not only been there but is still there, we might have a paradigm shift and be able to better support those who are hurting among us. I’m learning so much from my friends who are dealing with infertility. I hope you will, too.

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Don't you want kids? — The secret burden of infertility

I look at the calendar and count backwards. It’s true. My period was due today.

As one day passes, then another, my excitement grows yet I’m too afraid to speak the possibility. I wonder if I should stop by the supermarket and get a pregnancy test. No – I tell myself – tomorrow is my husband’s birthday and I catch myself dreaming about being able to tell him I’m pregnant. I couldn’t imagine a better gift to give him after years of waiting and “trying”.

I sit there hoping that my husband hasn’t caught on that I’m late – he’s normally so in tune with my cycle, which sometimes makes it harder especially when I’m late.

As I wake up the next day I get that dreaded gut feeling that it’s coming and sure enough three days late on my husband’s birthday I get my period. My heart aches and I dread having to tell my husband that “I caught the rag train today” (his words not mine).

While driving home from work I begin to cry out to God, asking him why he lets me be late, asking him to stop doing that to me. I tell him if he’s going to me make have my period can he please make it be on time, every 26 days. I share with him that I’m getting weary and I can’t handle this emotional monthly roller coaster anymore…

26 days later:

I wake up feeling gross and groggy. I head off to work and am greeted by my good friend and colleague who’s coming up to 18 weeks of pregnancy and she’s holding the cake she made for morning tea for her big reveal of the gender.

As morning tea comes around I brace myself with a big smile to go in for the big reveal. The middle is blue and it’s a boy.

I stand around smiling, sharing my congrats, looking at the latest scan, and ohhhhh-ing and ahhhh-ing. I look at my watch and think I’ve done my fair share of joining in and slip out to the restroom to find that yep… another month and one more chance gone for becoming pregnant. I feel myself beginning to get angry and then I remember that I had asked God for this…. so I quietly thank him for hearing my cry and making it come on day 26.

There’s been so many moments over the last few years that have been a challenge. It’s hard because you don’t want to stand on a roof and yell, “look at me—poor me—I want kids but for some unknown reason God hasn’t given them to me!” Another challenge is having a spouse that processes things so differently to you… it’s so easy to feel angry and begin to take things out on him because he’s the closest, and since so few people know it’s hard.

Sometimes I think being around Christians it’s so much harder because they’ve got these expectations that you’re meant to have kids. So many assume that we’re newlyweds because we haven’t got them. Some have the nerve to ask,” do you want kids?” It hurts so much because who doesn’t want kids?

The other week I told my husband I felt like punching the neighbor guy who (it feels like always) is tossing his little 14 month old honeymoon baby girl in the air. He is so in love with his daughter. He smothers her with attention, laughs and giggles, and often looks at us and says, “you’ve got to get yourself one of these.”

So often I wish people had the common sense to think and maybe be more tactful or sensitive around us. Yet, at the same time I fear that close family and friends are beginning to tip toe around us about the topic. In the beginning I used to talk more to people about it but I found myself being faced with people who, out of love, thought they’d give me advice and tips.

One friend brought a book around which she thought would help us know when I’m ovulating. Another said, “just take the pill, it’ll up your fertility and you’ll be pregnant and no time.” Another recommended a woman’s fertility doctor who had the nerve to ask us if we knew what hole we were to be having sex in. Everyone seems to have something to offer and yet I don’t want a bar of it. Half of it offends me that people think I’m so ignorant.

There have been days when I sit with God with my heart aching and just asking Him to speak to me. And time and time again He shows up and speaks to me. Through these years of roller coasting up and down with emotions, the one thing that’s stayed true is God – He’s good and still God. I know I can trust Him. I know He had plans for me to give me a hope and a future. I know He will always be there and He will hold me.

For those of you wondering how to help your friends or family members who you think are in the same boat as me – I guess all I can recommend is be sensitive. I know you might mean well but sometimes the best thing to say is nothing. At the same time don’t hide things from them. I know I want to have joy and celebrate with those who celebrate and mourn with those who mourn. Life is a gift and we need to celebrate each and every bit, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy.

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Dear friends, have you made light-hearted remarks about a couple having children? I know I have. Before becoming a mother I didn’t understand these issues at all and I wish I could go back and be more sensitive in certain conversations where I was well-meaning but ignorant. I hope my friend’s words have shed light on this sensitive issue for you today and that we’ll all be empowered to become better friends to those among us who battle with these issues. 

And for those of you who aren’t strangers to this battle, what has been your experience with hurtful comments and how would you suggest us loving you better? (Feel free to comment anonymously if you’d prefer.)

Love,
Adriel x

 

31 Days of Women Empowering Women at AdrielBooker.com

 

This post is part of a series called 31 Days of Women Empowering Women. See hundreds of incredible #31Days projects here.

 

Photo by Zach Guinta on Unsplash

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16 Comments

  • Reply Aprille @beautifulinhistime.com 22 October 2013 at 6:33 am

    I’m struggling right now with the question of “do you want more?”

    because we do.

    And it’s hard because our problem isn’t fertility. It’s finances. And people think it’s okay to ask and pry and make jokes about our son needing a sibling. Yes. I know that. I’m painfully aware that he needs a sibling. But unfortunately, we can’t afford it right now. And it breaks. my. heart.

    So, yeah…not about fertility, but I hate the questions.
    Aprille @beautifulinhistime.com recently posted..my worst fear about AllumeMy Profile

    • Reply Adriel 22 October 2013 at 2:32 pm

      Yeah, a family’s decision-making process and/or ability to have children, contraception, fertility, pregnancy loss – all very personal topics. I think the rise of social media has made this stuff even more confronting because we know more about each other… or sometimes just *think* we know more than we actually do.
      Adriel recently posted..Breaking the silence: Mothers sharing stories about miscarriage, stillbirth, and baby loss My Profile

    • Reply Kari 23 October 2013 at 3:20 pm

      Aprille, please have the faith (and prayers) that the Lord will provide. Somehow it will happen and be for your good. I’m saying a prayer for you now.

      • Reply Aprille @beautifulinhistime.com 23 October 2013 at 8:36 pm

        I’m sorry but it’s comments like these that are the very reason I commented on this blog post to begin with. Strangers I’ve never met make ignorant assumptions about me, my situation, and my faith and prayers (or OBVIOUS lack thereof) which is just as hurtful to me as if I were infertile and someone had made some of the senseless comments that were mentioned in this post.

        I don’t have to defend my choices to you or anyone else, but just to shed light on our situation:

        My husband is a combat veteran who has already spent two whole years away from me as his wife and one whole year away from our 3 year old son (get that – he’s missed 1/3 of his son’s life and is just now feeling like he’s actually getting to know our son.)

        He left his job in the Army so he could spend more time with his family. A decision I respect and support. Unfortunately, in so doing, he took a 51% PAYCUT and we lost our free healthcare. We moved to another state (so we could be closer to family) and between the move and recent problems with our car, our savings was reduced to nothing.

        Our life has been wrecked in many ways. My husband is staring over in a new career while struggling with combat-related stress and anxiety issues, struggling to find his new place in life after devoting 10 years to US military service. Struggling to reintegrate with the family. Struggling to provide even the basic needs for this family.

        And you ask us to just have faith and prayers?

        Situations like these are very complicated. And trust me, faith and DAILY prayers have gone into this decision on both of our parts. Me? I’d love to throw caution to the wind and just get pregnant and expect God to work miracles for us to even pay to have the baby.

        But my husband has asked us to wait. So now there is an aspect of Biblical submission I have to humbly deal with.

        So, yeah… faith and prayers. That will fix everything.

        In reality? Waiting to have another baby is one of the most self-less and faith-filled and prayer-filled things I’ve ever done.

        So maybe next time you will think before you make ignorant assumptions about a person’s faith because they say they can’t afford to have a baby.
        Aprille @beautifulinhistime.com recently posted..when the online life and the “real” life collideMy Profile

        • Reply Aprille @beautifulinhistime.com 23 October 2013 at 8:54 pm

          Kari – let me apologize. This comment was made in anger and I should not have lashed out at you this way. You struck a nerve but my response was not gracious.

          I think in your heart your were intending to be positive, encouraging, and faith-filled. You are not the first person to say this to me. Faith that God will provide is something that every family needs to take into their family planning decision.

          However, do tell a family who “can’t afford to have kids” to “have faith and prayers” makes the assumption that they haven’t done so already. And that can be very hurtful to a family who has actually put a lot of faith and prayers into the decision already. A family who daily prays as a family that God would grant them a better financial situation so they could expand their family – which is what they all desire (even the 3 year old “talks to Jesus for money for the baby.”)

          I think your original comment is a very good example of a ignorant well-intentioned comment that people make in the name of faith and encouragement that can actually feel like a knife to someone who is in that situation.

          And, just to give you a further perspective, we are waiting to expand our family while not using any consistent hormonal birth control – using abstinence and fertility awareness. At any time, on any given month, God’s plans could supersede ours and I could end up pregnant. That is the reality. So there is a monthly internal struggle between my own desires (to have a baby), my responsibility (to submit to my husband and the decision we have made together), and the reality of God’s sovereignty in the situation, regardless.

          And I’ve been doing this for almost two years. Again, I say that this is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.

          Again, I apologize for the harshness of my original reply. I was out of line to come down on you in anger.
          Aprille @beautifulinhistime.com recently posted..when the online life and the “real” life collideMy Profile

          • Anonymous 24 July 2014 at 7:27 pm

            This is not the same. You do not have the worry that you will never be a mother. You have a child, you have the ability to have another. Not the same.

  • Reply rachel 22 October 2013 at 1:24 pm

    I did deal with fertility issues and it was so hard. I myself became pretty open with my friends and family about our struggles. I really felt that if more people talked about their struggles it would be become less taboo. I do know that everyone is different and some people are much less private. The thing I came to realize is that for most people pregnancies, fertility, babies are a joyful thing. Nobody meant any harm when they made those comments to me- they were being playful, interested and friendly. I know they did not want to hurt my feelings. Depending on who the person was I would respond with “We would really love a baby, so much, and we are working hard to make it happen, but it isn’t always that easy.” People would get the message, and either offer support or shut their trap. Of course there were the stupid ignorant comments of “just relax”, but for the most part people were really very good and supportive of us….. This is such a painful experience. I do pray for your friend, and advise that just because the one fertility doctor was an idiot, it doesn’t mean there are not very good ones out there. That is why we have our boys!

    • Reply Adriel 22 October 2013 at 2:39 pm

      Thanks for sharing your experiences Rachel. I can see there would probably be advantages and disadvantages to being open about infertility and no doubt each woman/family weighs those differently. I do feel it’s important to broach the subject more openly – perhaps not the women struggling with it themselves (when it’s just too painful?) but those of us who can be advocates for them. There’s no easy way forward, I know. It’s not only painful for the family going through it, but for the loved ones who see them suffering. I’ve found it very hard to know how to best love my friends who battle infertility and (sometimes) failed IVFs. Because we just wish we could FIX it for them. We so desperately want to see them have the children they long for and we grieve the loss (or absence), too. But that’s why I’m thankful for my friend that posted here today – I think her voice is so important and that by her sharing we can all learn how to be better friends. Thanks for your prayers, too. I know she’d want to thank you. xx
      Adriel recently posted..The Problem of the Period: Why menstruation is holding us back from changing the world and how you can reverse that with your sewing machineMy Profile

  • Reply Anonymous 22 October 2013 at 10:17 pm

    We have struggled with fertility. And we’ve both had our ups and downs – trusting God, depressed, desiring, content, in faith, noticing ‘everyone’ is pregnant or with infants… it changes with the season. Its true, some people just assume we’ve not been married long, so there’s kind of that awkward pause after they’ve done the math, so I’ve had to learn to just keep the conversation moving. Mostly we’ve had respectful conversations, where people ask appropriate questions in a personal setting. Its a bit more awkward to have such personal questions in communal/public settings. But I personally haven’t minded sharing with people we know when asked personally. But one thing I can suggest is please don’t give unsolicited advice, just be a listening ear. We personally have not had fertility treatment, and we get questioned about that “don’t you think you’ll regret it?” Well, I’m not sure if I will. But I’ve also seen those who have infertility issues who have failed IVF, or long-term adoption processes that have even more emotional ups and downs than we have. Everyone deals with it differently, so just be sensitive and yes, it is just better to say less than more.
    At this stage, we’ve just taken the approach to not pursue any treatment, and that doesn’t make sense to most, but its where we’re at for now.
    For me, I want to rejoice with those who are also rejoicing, so I don’t want people to try and hide their joy of pregnancy or kids. But I can’t deny that it does make me think about it again, and talk to God about, again. But I have resolved myself to not be bitter about it, and not close myself off to others’ happiness. But everyone is in a different process, don’t please don’t judge.
    What I probably find the most difficult (and this is just personal, which no one can do anything about) is being able to make connections with people who are in my age group. Most everyone in my age group has young or middle aged children. I’ve had to learn how to talk about children and what is happening in their lives. But honestly its hard, cause I have no personal experience to share with them. As a result, as one example, I don’t have a church home group to attend because I don’t feel I can connect with people in the “young families” groups- which is the only one in my age group. I don’t blame mothers for talking about their kids- its the season they’re in and if I were there I’d be doing the same thing. Its just one of the things we (with no kids) have to deal with, and learn to associate with anyways, even though we can’t thoroughly relate.

    • Reply Adriel 24 October 2013 at 10:16 pm

      You have a beautiful and gracious perspective on a very hard issue. Thank you so much for sharing your insight and some of your journey.

      I can imagine the issue of relationships in your age group would be tricky – for all the reasons you explained. Ryan and I just started going to a bible study that has a great variety of people – singles, young couples, families with young kids, and couples with kids out of the house. I love having that variety and think it’s so important that churches think through how they form small groups like that. Not saying that “young families” groups or “singles” groups are bad… but that there needs to be other options too.

      I just hope those of us reading this can become better friends as we better understand the issues you face. Thanks again for sharing. x
      Adriel recently posted..What Jessica Rey didn’t tell us and why the modesty debate matters (Modesty, Power, & Bikini Burning part 2 ) My Profile

  • Reply Anonymous 22 October 2013 at 10:46 pm

    I am currently on the roller coaster of infertility. 2 months ago we were told that we will never conceive naturally, IVF or adoption are next for us (once we are ready to make that decision, which is not just yet). I agree that advice drives me crazy and leaves me feeling isolated. We have been fortunate to meet with top fertility specialists, so I find it strange when people who have never had to deal with infertility think they have better advice then experienced doctors. I know it comes from a good place, so I remind myself of that and try my best to be loving in my response.
    Adriel, thank you for posting this. I think it’s important for people to share their story and it connects us, whether we have children, want children or have chosen that having children isn’t for us… we are women and we should be able to share openly the struggles we each face.
    And to the writer, thank you for putting your story out there, I know how precious it is. I’m praying for you and your husband right now.

  • Reply J 22 October 2013 at 11:29 pm

    There is a man that spoke at our church we are ordering his book. http://sheridanvoysey.com
    I think the feeling of dissapointment and shattered dreams is unique but also universal.

    Childless couples were able to help me! Because they had the time to do what my parents could not. They counselled me in what is to be a strong, independent and educated young woman. I did not need to follow the crowd, i have been able to build resilience. Do not think, that this is wasted time waiting… there is surely a purpose.
    Those two couples are still childless. They have parented me, I am their spiritual child and they have parented many others. I am who I am, because they were willing to invest their time for me. Not many people are willing to do this kind of thing.
    To the author of the story, i hope and pray for you, for your heart’s desires. I also know that there is a season for everything. <3

  • Reply Jason 25 October 2013 at 2:55 pm

    From my experience, I would like to add one piece of this issue to the discussion. Being divorced from a marriage that suffered from infertility, I often get asked if I have kids. When I say no, many people say that’s a good thing. Most people if they put themselves in my shoes would realize it’s not a good thing. To explain, I tell them to imagine that they had a choice. Keep there kids through their divorce or change their life so that their kids never existed. At that point they understand. Just one way to be more sensitive about infertility.

  • Reply Blessed are the mother-hearts who mourn and rejoice on Mother's Day 10 May 2014 at 5:42 pm

    […] who’ve struggled with infertility. Send her a card or leave flowers and a “someone’s remembering you today” note on her […]

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