Last June I was invited to speak at a Grief Recovery Workshop in Kearney, Nebraska. My assigned topic was “Recovery for the Biologically Barren Woman.” In this post, I’d like to share some of my notes from that presentation.
Even though 6.1 million couples struggle with some form of infertility, we find ourselves living in a society that has situated procreative hardships as an “elephant in the closet.” We, still, as a culture, have not mastered (or even resolutely engaged) the discussion of biological barrenness.
I began the session by commending the attendees for being present, and I shared how I believe my calling is to reach the regretfully infertile sect of our population with the love of Christ. After stating that my healing, as a barren woman, comes from a relationship with God and that my recovery is found in God’s Holy Word, I urged them to seek their restoration from that same Divine source.
My presentation was a very practical one. I offered “Ten Maybe-This-Will-Help Tips for the Wife Longing for a Child.” (And don’t fret, dear lady, I did include a comment or two for the husband.)
I suspect that if you are reading this post, you may be facing reproductive disappointments. If so, I want to assure you – I am, by no means, an expert in this matter. I have journeyed through childlessness for 18 years, and these ten suggestions are simply the thoughts that I extend to you, praying and trusting that they can help you in some way.
“Ten Maybe-This-Will-Help Tips for the Wife Longing for a Child”
1.) Don’t let infertility consume you and disfigure you into a one-dimensional woman. Infertility has the potential to do this. Many times, the thought of having a baby is the first thing in our minds when we awaken and the last thought we have before falling asleep. Beware of this trap! Remember, you are multi-dimensional; you are a daughter, a wife, perhaps a mother to another child, a teacher, a neighbor, a counselor, a Christian. Fulfill those roles. And as difficult and as harsh as this may sound, live with awareness that having a baby is really not your primary and sole purpose in life. (And trust me, I know how easy it is for that purpose to become completely miscued by the most sincere, desperate longing of your existence.)
2.) Put on your mallard feathers. Yes, your duck feathers. Some comments spoken to you will need to bead up and roll off your back. Undoubtedly, people will say the craziest things. Extend grace to those folks. For the most part, good intentions are at the heart of every comment. Janet Hunt, wife of Dr. Johnny Hunt of First Baptist Church Woodstock, states, “Infertility is an unspoken heartache.” Keep that in mind. People aren’t accustomed to such discussion, and we must assume the good nature of their hearts.
3.) Commemorate your loss if you have lost a child – whether through miscarriage, still birth, or infant death. You love your baby, and you want others to acknowledge that you love your baby. Write a poem or a song; plant some spring bulbs; buy a piece of jewelry; do something that will, for you, properly memorialize your sweet baby.
4.) Find the right doctor. You may have to search, and this will likely take quite a bit of effort on your part. Rusty and I had three criteria for our “right doctor:” a.) He/She was to be respected within the medical community. We found, what we believed to be, the best endocrinologist, best ob-gyn, and best maternal fetal specialist … for us. You don’t want to have any regrets, and medical skill and expertise can make a long drive to a clinic seem much shorter; b.) He/She was to “fit” our personalities. Rusty and I searched for doctors with whom we felt comfortable. Once I was seeing a very respected doctor, but some of his tendencies came across as alarming to us. We soon left his practice; c.) He/She was to be a Christian. (Please keep in mind, these were our preferences. I don’t think we would have refused the care of a brilliant physician upon discovering he/she was not a Christian.)
5.) Guard against resentment when others grieve differently than you. I am a crier (a very good one!). Rusty has been known to cry on several occasions, but he did not cry hours into the night upon losing our babies. He loves our babies just as much as I do, and he is as regretful as I am about our loss, but he expresses that differently than I do. Keep before you that people mourn in various ways. Some of the people, who are the very closest to you, may grieve by distancing themselves from the pain – which may cause them not to call or not to come visit as much as you’d expect. Bitterness is dangerous. Consider Hebrews 12:15, “See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.”
6.) Find a friend who has walked down the road of infertility or childlessness. This is not 100% necessary, but it certainly can help. There is much support in the companionship of someone who can relate to your specific heartache.
7.) Protect your marriage. Did you know that a couple who seeks fertility treatment and fails to have a child is 3 times more likely to divorce? Research proves that childless couples have an increased risk of leaving each other up to 12 years after they first contact a doctor for a fertility evaluation. Infertility has the potential to totally alter who we are (if we allow it). At a point in my desperation for a child, I lost sight of the love that Rusty and I had for one another. I beg you, my dear sister, take a look at who you have become. Is your poor husband ready to have his wife back? Is he currently married to woman who is nothing like the bride he kissed at the altar? I encourage you to resolve to LOVE what you HAVE … not what you don’t have.
8.) Don’t try to be a hero. Don’t feel obligated to attend every baby shower; every children’s Christmas musical; and every baby dedication service. Such events are tricky for the woman wanting a child. For me, Mother’s Day was a biggie; I learned to re-focus the day into a celebration of my mother and grandmothers.
9.) And this tip is for the hubbies … Dear wife, share this with him. Blame it on me! Do it because I said so! Husband, please share your heart with your wife. More than likely, she is thinking about a baby (perhaps, the one you lost) much of the time. Her journey can seem very lonely if you never talk with her about your reactions, emotions, and grief. Share your hopes, your heartaches, … share your struggling heart with your wife. If you go hunting alone and find yourself thinking about what it would be like to have a son tagging along, tell her about those thoughts. If you find yourself getting a little sad, maybe even teary, when your niece gets baptized and the regret of the miscarriage is intense, articulate that moment to your wife. Here is what you will discover: when you share those thoughts and emotions with your wife, she will automatically feel a closeness to you. There is a sense of oneness, togetherness that is generated when she hears that you are going through this journey together.
10.) Keep the big picture in mind. What is the #1 job for all of us? Our purpose for being on this planet is to glorify God by growing into the image of Christ. I’ll never forget hearing my Biblical counselor say these words, “Now, Miss Candise, you just need to focus on being the Godly woman God has called you to be.” And how true. We are called; we have a God-ordained supreme purpose. We are to be Godly women. We are to respect our husbands, witness, serve others, and love people into a relationship with Jesus. That, my dear sister, really is the BIG picture.
I love you, my dear sister! Never forget God loves you more than you can ever imagine!