Infertility is intensely private. (Well, maybe not this week…) Essentially, we’re talking about something that 7 in 8 couples get to experience in the privacy of their marriage. A pregnancy bumps alludes to the intimate act, but no one is asking for details or how many tries it took or whether you needed to have your feet up in stirrups for any part of that conception.
Those of us facing infertility tend to isolate ourselves. We know that there are no guarantees, and we’re not sure how many times we can share publically that another cycle bit the dust. Other times, we just want a cycle to ourselves so that when (if?) it fails, we can sob bitterly and avoid the loving encouragement you want to soothe us with. (We know. We’re kind of impossible to be around. Please love us anyway.)
Sometimes, though? We long for specific words from you.
1. How can I pray? Sometimes, the question is enough to slow our hearts and remind us to pause. To engage in conversation and be vulnerable. Please understand that this vulnerability is a challenge for us: we fear that if we begin to weep we may not stop. In many ways, hearing ‘I’m praying for you’ is a balm and encouragement. To be honest, however, some days we steel our hearts to it. The words can echo bleakly in our minds on those days when all the prayers in the world seem to be unanswered.
Engage us. Encourage us to be specific. Assure us that we’re not too needy, too desperate. Remind us God is the God of details, and cares intimately for us.
2. Can I pray with you? In our eleven years of infertility I have been asked this twice. Both times were overwhelming, humbling and beautiful. Those moments that are carved into my heart as the truest expressions of compassion and love a person can offer another person. I realize this isn’t for everyone. Not everyone feels comfortable praying aloud. But if you do, and if the Lord leads you to bend a knee beside a hurting brother or sister in Christ, please know that moment will not be forgotten.
Kneel with us. Draw us to the throne of grace with you. Remind us who captures each of our tears in His bottle.
3. I noticed your [sister/sister-in-law/cousin/best friend, etc.] announced a pregnancy. How are you… really? First off, the fact that you realized a pregnancy announcement or birth of a baby is a source of pain for us is huge. Then, you asked, acknowledging that we might be masking that pain and putting on a brave face. Asking us this question will either leave us silent and speechless (in a good way) or make us cry. Or both. Please be prepared for the Ugly Cry on this one because it probably means we’ve been fighting our grief for days.
Be a soft place to land. Hold us. Sit in silence with us as we grieve. Remind us that we are loved by a God who quiets us with His love, who sings His grace over us in our times of deepest sorrow.
4. You’re invited… you know I understand if you can’t make it, right? Oh, this. This release from obligation and the underlying compassion within it. We love you, we hear you saying, but we know it might be hard, too hard. Take the time you need to make space for yourself. The first Mother’s Day my mother-in-law offered this to me, my gratitude for her gentleness convinced me to join the family gathering. We shared a quick, meaningful embrace when The Len and I arrived, and the visit was pleasant and encouraging.
Include us. Gently. Assure us we’re always welcome, even if that means we need to be absent for a time. Remind us that in our time of needing space, we are well hidden with Christ, safe beneath His wings.
5. You are beautiful. You are whole. You have purpose. Alright, technically that’s not a question. The statement contains a question, however: Do you know it? Do you believe it? Are you losing sight of it? We do lose sight of it. Our bodies fail us monthly. We crumple every cycle. We stare at ourselves in the mirror and all we see is brokenness. A pointless, useless body. We lose sight of it so quickly that we need to fight to gain it back; we need to claw back from the empty bleakness of this grief to find a way to believe that we mean something… anything. To those who love us. To our God. That our inability to do this one thing that for every other woman seems so simple will not one day make us simply vanish.
Fight with us. In the persistent, saturating grief be the relentless voice of struggle. Remind us whenever you can, even when we protest and roll our eyes, that we are His creation, His masterpiece. We are His.
We need you more than you know, more than we dare let on most days. There is a weariness and hopelessness that sets in some days, and we lack the strength and daring to reach out. We’re sorry for it. We know this time is difficult on you, too. We know that you are watching, helpless and frustrated, and we don’t know how to bridge the chasm that yawns dangerously between us.
We need you. These five simple questions? They’re bridge builders. Chasm shrinkers. And, at the risk of sounding hyperbolic, life savers.
This post is part of National Infertility Awareness Week. Please go to resolve.org to learn more and become a part of the movement.
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