Monthly Archives: February 2010

Infertility and the Purpose of Pressure

We were a mess.  Why was God doing this to us?!  I got angrier and angrier. I was definitely in the mode of trying to figure out ways to fix things.  It was so hard for me that I couldn’t fix this — I wanted to!”

These are the words of a twenty-something husband who shared his infertility experience with me as part of the book, Pregnant with Hope. Trey’s honest assessment of his frustration and uncertainty was mirrored in the comments of the other nine men I interviewed – and many others I’ve met in years of working with infertile couples.

Like their wives, these men frequently feel helpless and hopeless.  The anger that results has a profound effect on their relationships – with their spouses, and with the God they thought they knew.  It also undermines their sense of themselves as Doers, Fixers, and Providers.

Our society expects men to be confident, capable, and even stoic in the face of difficulty.  To see a need, and do something.  To identify a problem, and fix it.  Whether genetically or culturally, they’ve internalized the imperative:  Find a solution!  That expectation creates tremendous pressure when a couple is going through infertility.  As James described it:

“The pressure built as we started to find out about possible complications and options.  The more it built, the more I felt like, “What’s happening?!” I sure came close to being angry at God.  I didn’t understand at all.  And you come to that point where you think it can’t get any worse.  I mean, what is going on here?!  When I felt too pressured, I pulled away.  That’s when a lot of stress built up in our marriage.

Would you believe it if I told you this point in the infertility journey is very common?  And that it’s a well-disguised blessing?

Well-disguised, maybe… but a blessing?  How?

Infertility forces couples to confront the head-on collision between their dream of parenting and their current reality.  In the process, it forces them to make a choice.  They can allow their feelings to drive a wedge into their relationships (with each other, and with God), or they can find a constructive way to deal with those feelings and strengthen those relationships.

The couples who ignore their feelings, and put realizing the dream ahead of strengthening their relationships, pay a high price.  The unrelenting pressure of infertility causes fault lines to crack wide open, increasing the sense of frustration and separation.  Not only are the relationships weakened, but couples get caught in a vicious cycle in which everything seems to be coming apart.

By contrast, those who deal with their emotions and put relationships first uncover many blessings.  They revisit their expectations and realize some were faulty, unhealthy or simply incorrect.  As they make adjustments, they discover passageways to renewed peace, greater trust, and grace-filled compassion.

They come to see that the pressures of infertility can actually serve to “…refine them like silver and test them like gold” [Zech 13:9].  In the process, these pressures can seal a deeper commitment to the future that is coming, and the relationships that will sustain its promise.  Couples begin to see that God can use infertility to forge firmer bonds – between future parents, and between God and His people.  As a result, they can actually find cause for gratitude.

My advice:  Don’t become so obsessed with the outcome of this journey that you lose sight of this well-disguised blessing.  Work through your feelings, nurture your relationships, and trust God’s purposefulness.  It beats the alternative.  Just ask the dads, Trey and James.


Find more resources and cause for hope at

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Finding Hope During Infertility

My favorite blogger, Jon Acuff, wrote about hope yesterday.  I don’t know if he ever went through infertility—most guys don’t seem to volunteer that information—but he definitely understands how it can feel to long for hope.  To think you’ve grasped it, and then feel it slipping away.  He writes:

“Hope is one of the first things that disappears when you get lost.  Your ability to see beyond your current circumstances is chased south by the shadows.  Your ability to dream and plan and hold visions close to your chest fades until hope feels foreign and far away.”

He’s right, and it can happen in an instant.  One minute, you think this could be the month when everything changes, when all the meds and shots and office visits and heartache become worth it.  Your hopes are high… the counts look good… and then…  no heartbeat on the ultrasound.

No baby.

As the shadows deepen and the realization chases hope away, a part of you knows you’ve got to reboot and psych up to do it all again.  Muster some more hope, even if you’re not feeling it.  Because otherwise, how are you going to keep doing this?  And what other choice do you have?

As the tears start to fall, you wonder, will it ever happen for us?  Jon writes:

“There’s a temptation to believe you’re doing something wrong if you don’t feel hopeful 24/7.”

That’s a trap a lot of us fall into, thinking “it’s all about me and what I did (or didn’t do).”  We start doubting the hope that seemed so prescient just before we got the news.  We begin thinking that this moment’s lack of hope not only mirrors a past full of failures, but also foreshadows a future of many more.  And then, we sink into the darkness of despair.

We want to escape this awful place — this terrible feeling — and something urges us:  grieve the past, push through the present, and seize control of the future.  It’s the only way to get what you want.  Believe in yourself, and don’t give up.  That’s the only way.  It’s what’s working for everyone else.

Don’t fall for the lie.

God says, receive my grace for all that is past.  Trust the plans I have for your future.  And meet me here in the present.  I will give you peace in the midst of uncertainty.  Trust me with all your heart; don’t trust yourself to make sense of this.  Believe that I have a plan and a purpose, and I will show you the way out of darkness into hope and a future [Prov 3:5-5, John 14:27, Jer 29:11].

Despite our hunger for hope and our desperate need for help, we’re tempted to turn our backs.  To say, No thanks, God.  I want a baby, and you didn’t say anything about a baby.  I want control, and I think I can have a baby if I find the right doctor, and take the right medicines, and eat the right foods, and get the right exercise, and do the right things, in the right order, at the right time, on the right month….  And, I hope that’s true.

I… I… I….

What if it’s not true?  What if you’re not in control of this story?  Then, what happens to your hope?  The shadows lengthen at the thought.

But, what if you’re not meant to be in control?  And what if that’s a gift?  What if you haven’t failed?  What if it’s just not time yet?  What if God intends to transform your experience before your baby comes?  What if there is so much that you don’t understand?

“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you…. [Eph 1:18].  There is a hope that transcends the moment of bad news, the blood counts and test results of this day, and the despair that’s guaranteed to be part of this journey.  It’s hope with staying power.

It took me awhile to find it, and longer to trust it.  But it changed everything.


Find more resources and cause for hope at

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Filed under Control, Hope, Peace

Infertility Survey Says…

In a recent study of 200 women, a high correlation was found between those who said they were religious and those with low rates of anxiety/depression during fertility treatment.  Lower rates of depression and anxiety correlate to higher pregnancy rates.  So, it stands to reason that spiritual women should have more pregnancies.

Newsweek, 3/24/08

In the beginning, when couples walk through the door to the infertility Bible study, the men look apprehensive, and the women, fragile to the point of tears.  But that changes.  Over the course of the study, they come to realize the wisdom of letting go of (the illusion of) control.  They learn the value of being still and listening for God.  And with that understanding comes peace in the midst of uncertainty.

I can literally see the change occur.  Body language goes from self-protective – arms crossed, gazes averted, huddled close to their spouse – to open, relaxed, and receptive.  The real change is occurring in the spirit, but it is reflected in the unspoken language of the body.  That change indicates God’s growing presence, which creates new possibilities.

So, is the study right in its prediction that these increasingly spiritual women have more pregnancies?  I’d have to say, yes.  And no.  Yes, because experience has shown me—again and again and again—that those who see infertility as an invitation to draw nearer to God, and who respond to that invitation, are likely to become parents.  But no, because sometimes the result is not a pregnancy; sometimes, it is an adoption.

Here’s the important thing:  that is no less a miracle.

I don’t say that as a Pollyanna.  I’m not advocating, “be happy about failure,” or “suck it up and compromise.”  I’m saying, make a paradigm shift.  Recognize that, sometimes, God calls couples to steward a soul who comes into their life in a different way than they might have expected.  That’s not defeat; that’s a different plan for victory.  And it is no less a gift.

Are those couples disappointed?  Truthfully?

“Alumni” couples often return to the Bible study to talk to current participants about their experiences.  One entire class is devoted to hearing from adoptive parents.  They speak with conviction about their certainty that their particular child belongs with them:  “God chose him for us,” “We knew as soon as we held her that she was meant to be our daughter.”  In some cases, they also share stories of the effect the adoption had on the birth parent(s).

With loving grace, I suggest to you:  let go of your vision of how this story will unfold, and when.  Give God as much room as possible to work in your story.  He wants to give you His very best.  He wants to create a pinwheel of blessing, and it may touch souls you don’t even know.

Will you make way for that possibility?


Find more resources and cause for hope at

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Can We Talk About Infertility?

If misery loves company, why do we insist on isolating ourselves when we need support the most? One woman with the courage to go public with a private loss wrote this in a Newsweek editorial:

“The doctor said the test had indicated an unviable pregnancy. I started talking to other pregnant women (who seemed to be all around me) and learned what no one tells you until devastation has set in: up to 25% of pregnancies end in miscarriage.

People keep too mum about private tragedies such as this. True, miscarriages are not catastrophic, especially in terms of sheer commonality, but it can tear away a piece of you that you didn’t know was there.  We need to talk to each other, rather than suffer surrounded by silent sisters.”

She’s right. We need to talk to each other. Suffering in silence only compounds the sense of isolation we already feel in the midst of infertility.

So, why don’t we talk? Why don’t we tell each other, “I lost a pregnancy” or “I lost a child”? The tidal wave of grief is already washing over us. The only way to get a lifeline is to call for help.

What’s stopping us?

Pride is what silenced me.  I hated to admit I was failing at something so many other women seemed to accomplish effortlessly.  Seemed being the key word.  If the Newsweek writer is to be believed, there were miscarriages going on all around me.  But no one talked about it.  Those silent sisters kept their secrets and I foolishly believed that I was alone in my misery.  That I was the only one struggling to catch up with everyone else’s instant gratification.

Now, consider this:  “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble” [James 4:6].


My pride was rooted in a desire for self-reliance and control.  I was raised to consider self-reliance a virtue…an admirable quality often seen in leaders… the mark of a “can do” go-getter.  And control as the holy grail.  But God doesn’t see it that way.  He sees arrogant self-centeredness that refuses to make room for Him.  Or worse, an entitlement attitude that puts me on the throne and Him at my beck and call (in the form of “I want/I need” prayer).

“God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

Thank goodness I finally set my pride aside and began to share my struggle.  Grace came from all around me, in the form of stories shared by women who’d also kept their struggles secret.  All of us had bought into the lie that we alone were failing to conceive.  We alone kept miscarrying.  Meanwhile, “we” were everywhere.

Don’t make my mistake.  Share your story.  There’s a silent sister out there suffering, and she needs to hear it.


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Filed under Bystanders, Humility, Speaking Up