Monday, April 22, 2013

Infertility Awareness: Part 1

April 21-27 is National Infertility Awareness Week. Did you know that infertility affects 7.3 million people in the United States? This figure represents 12% of women of childbearing age, or 1 in 8 couples. (2002 National Survey of Family Growth).  I actually began writing this post in July.  At that time, I felt led to write what was in my heart.  I wrote it hoping that one day it would  be a source of comfort and encouragement to others. Now is the perfect time to share it with you.  This is a two part post with today's post for the couple facing fertility issues.  Tomorrow's post will be for the family and friends of someone facing infertility. 
I begin by saying that our boys are first and foremost, a gift from God, secondly, a testament of the love ordained between a husband and a wife, and thirdly, the result of years of fertility treatment.  When we started our journey, we were excited, anxious, scared, and worried about the financial cost of treatment.  However, we entered the process with a prayerful heart filled with trust in the Lord and with an expectancy of what we hoped God had in store for us.  I can look back on the road to both pregnancies and can actually find humor in the memories as well as many days of emotional pain and despair.  We were lucky.  We were entering treatment at a time when fertility methods were on the cutting edge.  There has been little change in treatment since our experience.

If you are facing infertility, dig down deep and find strength in the Lord.  Cry out to God.  Psalm 18:6 tells us, "In my distress I called on the LORD, and cried to my God: He heard my voice out of His temple, and my cry came before Him, even into His ears".  He will hear your voice and He will give you comfort. His promises are everlasting.  I was always comforted in knowing that our Lord was listening to my cries of fear, despair and confusion. 
I would encourage you to surround yourself with loving, supportive, and understanding family and friends.  Don't isolate yourself.  Feelings of despair and loneliness will only be exasperated.

Nurture your relationship with your spouse.  I remember one doctor telling me, "You know, this is hard on your husband, too".  He was right.  Too often marriages suffer during this time.  Satan tries to attack marriages when they are vulnerable, seeking to tear apart and destroy.  Nearly one-fourth of women in a  survey conducted by the nonprofit organization, Healthy Women, reported that infertility had a negative impact on their relationships.  Work hard at making this one of the strongest times of your marriage. Pray together.  Talk about your fears and concerns with each other.  Listen to each other.  Take care of each other.  Love each other.
Be aware of the many emotional aspects to infertility.  Some of these are not conscious thoughts, but may be your body responding subconsciously.  These feelings are not limited to, but may include anger, grief, inability to concentrate, irritability, difficulty sleeping, etc.  Do not attempt to cover them up.  If you like journaling, write your thoughts down. As a counselor, I know how important it is to work through our feelings.  Trying to cover them up is similar to a splinter in your thumb.  If it remains there, it will only get worse and cause more discomfort.  If you feel as though you are unable to deal with your feelings and they are consuming your life, then it may be time to seek assistance from a mental health professional.  Many fertility clinics have on site fertility counselors to help you.  Find a support group.  Resolve, The National Infertility Organization, has a search engine on their website for finding support groups in your area.  Here is their link... Resolve   If you do attend a support group, find one that you are comfortable in and one that is uplifting to you and your spouse.   Do not spend time in a "Negative Nelly" group.  It will only cause you more distress.  A good leader of a support group will limit negative talking and encourage a supportive atmosphere.  
Some couples travel this road alone, not wishing to share such a private concern.  Other couples openly discuss their infertility.  We were the latter.  We asked people to pray for us and to encourage us.  We also asked that they not change their behavior around us.  It was okay to discuss their children with us.  As an infertile woman, I never felt more alone as when friends would discretely stop discussing an upcoming baby shower or what was going on with their own children.  I knew they were doing what they thought was best, but it made me feel even more alone and different than I was already feeling.  Open discussion with these dear friends made them aware of my feelings and blessed our friendships.  If you realize your friends are at a loss for what to say, open up the discussion with them.  Tell them what you need from their friendship.  They will be appreciative of the open dialog. 

For the infertile couple, life becomes a series of charts, doctor appointments,  procedures, injections, and planned relations with your spouse.  Don't allow this to consume your marriage.  Find time for enjoyment apart from your fertility work.  If you are like us, you may have to travel outside the area you live for treatment.  We had to travel to New Orleans, LA for our fertility procedures.  I urge you to plan an enjoyable excursion on your appointment day.  Maybe a nice lunch out, a walk in a beautiful park, or a visit to a museum, etc.  If you are like many couples, it may seem as though all you do is discuss your treatments.  Go ahead, discuss your appointment, but then spend some time with each other discussing other issues.  It will benefit your relationship with your spouse and bring joy to your day.

Too often intimate spontaneity between a husband and wife literally becomes a military plan of attack!  Calculated to the tee! If you allow your treatment to become work, it will reek havoc on your marriage.  Keeping the romance in your marriage is extremely important, especially during this time.  Find time to be intimate with your spouse outside the time frame of your treatment regimen.  Do not discuss conception at all during these times.  Money is often tight due to the treatments, but if at all possible, plan a night or weekend away and focus on the spontaneous relationship you once had.  Your relationship will only grow stronger.

I am sure you know this, but your infertility is not a punishment from God.  I say this, because at some point, I thought it myself and I know my friends facing infertility shared the same thought.  Remember that infertility is a medical issue.  It is not a consequence of our sin.  As a Christian, I knew that my sins were forgiven and that God was not withholding His favor from me.  Even so, those negative thoughts surfaced. Be aware that you are not alone in these thoughts, but they can be very damaging.  Talk to a supportive friend or your clergy.   Pray and seek guidance if these negative thoughts become overwhelming.  As a counselor, I know that when people realize they are not alone in their thoughts and feelings, those feelings become more bearable.

We know that stress does not cause infertility, but infertility definitely causes stress.  One of the best ways to reduce stress is exercise.  Spend time with your spouse walking, hiking, riding bikes, playing badminton, etc.  This is also another terrific way to build your relationship with your spouse during this trying time.  Another great way to reduce stress is by laughing.  We often found humor in the rigid routine we were given.  I remember receiving a call from our fertility specialist telling me that a small miscalculation had been made on our time for "relations".  Our optimum time was soon approaching.  My husband was a high school football coach at the time and was at the practice field prior to an out of town game.  I prayed that he would answer the phone to the field house, but no, it had to be the head coach who answered.  This was such a Godly man and he and his wife knew of our treatments and were lifting us up in prayer.  With some embarrassment, I told him that my doctor's office had called and I needed my husband at home.  This sweet man briefly hesitated and simply asked if he could come back after I "didn't need him anymore"! Don't you love that? Coach Gill went to be with our Lord last year. All these years later, that story still makes us smile.
There are numerous websites which address infertility and the emotional aspects of treatment.   I urge you to do some research and find those that benefit and support you.  Even though we were eventually blessed with two wonderful sons, I still carry the emotional scars of infertility.  It does not define who I am, but it did play a  part in shaping my adult life.  For many of us, the quest for a child is not easy, but I urge you to be hopeful and encouraged in your journey.  May God bless you and your spouse as you travel this path. "Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9
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Blessings from Still Woods Farmhouse


  1. Just stopped by via WLW link-up... Thank you so much for sharing honestly about infertility. We suffered for 6 years with infertility. Well-meaning friends told us to "just relax" or "adopt -- then you'll get pregnant!" They had no idea how difficult the disappointment was to manage month after month... and the temptation to lose hope. Thankfully, God led us to a doctor that FINALLY diagnosed the issue. Regardless of the results, remembering that God's love is constant and His timing is perfect is paramount. Blessings!

    1. Hi Christi! Thank you for visiting Still Woods Farmhouse and especially for leaving your heartfelt comment. There were many times when we too were discouraged and felt the temptation to lose hope. I am thankful that God led you to the right doctor. I agree, I am reminded so many times of how His timing is perfect.
      Blessings from Still Woods Farmhouse