For infertile couples, part of the frustration – and a major source of heartache – is other people’s cluelessness. It may be rooted in ignorance, inexperience, a lack of social skills, or pure self-absorption. Whatever the reason, the words of others can cause deep, lasting pain to hearts that are already fragile.
Just after I miscarried twins, we called my husband’s brother to share our heartbreaking news. We had no idea that he and his wife were also planning to start a family. His reaction? “That’s too bad… but now we’ll have the first grandchild!!”
I was speechless. It took everything I had to get to the end of the phone call.
Thankfully, it’s not always that bad. But people can be incredibly insensitive. Has that been your experience? People you think of as loving family or supportive friends suddenly seem incapable of saying anything helpful? Instead, their words slice right through your spirit and take your breath away?
It’s a common problem for couples going through infertility.
People you trust and care about will be thoughtless enough to ask, “why haven’t you two started a family?” Or, they’ll hand out gratuitous, unsolicited advice like, “just adopt – you’ll get pregnant right away” or, “go on vacation – that’s how we got pregnant” or, “stop worrying about it – it’ll happen sooner or later” – as if tossing these tidbits is all it takes to help you.
Surely, they don’t mean to be heartless. Or patronizing. Or dismissive of the challenge you face. But, all too often, they pour salt in your wound. When the tears threaten to pour down your cheeks, you may wonder, am I being oversensitive? Too defensive?
I don’t think so.
It is hard to explain this journey to someone who hasn’t made it – the stress… the fear… the tension… the uncertainty… the worry… the anger… the grief… the sense of being far removed from everyone and everything “normal”… the inability to get on with your life because you’ve put everything on hold.
How do you say all of that in the middle of a phone call? Or a church hallway? Or a restaurant?
But, here’s what you can do:
Set some boundaries – Recognize that you know better than anyone else what helps you now – and what doesn’t. Set firm, healthy boundaries that will protect your vulnerable heart. Make choices that fill your spirit with hope and surround you with people who truly understand how to help. Say “no” to people and events that leave you empty, discouraged, or afraid. Remember, “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power….” [II Tim 1:7]. Use that power to enforce good boundaries.
Give some grace – It’s hard to imagine trying to muster compassion for someone whose remark has just reduced you to tears. The temptation is to focus on the pain they’ve caused. Don’t do it. Release it, reclaim your hope, and let God heal your wound. As Jesus prayed, “…forgive them, they know not what they do” [Luke 23:34].
Find some community – You may be looking to the wrong community for encouragement and hope. If family and friends have failed to offer meaningful support, seek out other couples who understand this journey. Meet with a counselor or clergy member who is not afraid to confront your feelings. And claim this promise, “…hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us” [Romans 5:5]. When no one else stands with you, God delivers His hope to you through the Holy Spirit.
Make some progress – There is no greater satisfaction in this journey than sensing forward progress. Instead of measuring it just by test results or egg harvests, learn to measure progress this way: “… let us throw off everything that hinders us… and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us” [Heb 12:1-2]. Hurtful remarks hinder us. So does dwelling on them. If we are to run with perseverance, then this isn’t likely to be a sprint. We must pace ourselves – and applaud every bit of progress we make.
The Finish Line is waiting. Don’t be distracted by the voices of the crowd.
Find more resources and cause for hope at PregnantWithHope.com