Monthly Archives: May 2011

Infertility’s Effect on Commitment

“Men are spending more time with their kids.  Young dads are  now spending more time each day with children than mothers between the ages of 29 and 42 are.  Which is staggering! Astonishingly, married men are now feeling more torn over balancing work and family than their wives are.  Norms have shifted.  Taking care of a child is now part of what it means to be a father.”                                                                                               – Newsweek

This encouraging report on the news that men are becoming involved fathers is most interesting for what it doesn’t mention.  Concurrent with the rise in involved fatherhood, the U.S. is experiencing a steady rise in infertility.  It’s getting harder to get pregnant.

If infertility is resulting in great numbers of fathers with a deeper gratitude for the opportunity to parent, that’s a blessing.  Admittedly, it’s not one any of us would ever choose — but it’s a blessing, nonetheless.  And not to pick on the guys; I’d say the same thing about women becoming passionately committed mothers.

If God converts couples’ gratitude into motivation to be “astonishingly” committed parents, then infertility has served an important purpose.

It’s tempting to say we would have been deeply-invested parents without infertility.  Maybe we would have.  But truth be told, many of us value things much more when we’ve had to work hard for them — and becoming parents is no exception.

“Does infertility teach you something?” asked Mike, formerly a member of the group and now the father of two boys.  “Yeah.  If it takes this much effort to have a child, you cherish them more.  If it takes longer to get pregnant, you appreciate it more than if you had a baby the first time you tried.”

Brent,  a father for three months, agrees.  “I had a life plan.  But now, I don’t feel the rush on the career side.  It doesn’t bother me.  If it happens, it happens.  I’m not going to force it.  I’m focused on being a father.”

In my experience, infertile couples go on to become incredible parents — whether by conception or adoption.  Not only are they deeply grateful for their child(ren), they are also deeply committed to stewarding them in the best possible way.  I believe that commitment is what God’s after.

Sometimes, the commitment is tested.

James, the father of twin girls, says, “Not having children seemed like the hardest thing.  But then, we had one kid who needed heart surgery and they  thought the other kid might have Down’s Syndrome….”  Difficult as it was — “We only had five minutes to enjoy becoming parents!” — James and his wife faced their new challenges head-on, and they continue to work as full partners raising their incredible girls.

That was my experience, too.  Our daughter required open heart surgery when she was just four-weeks-old.  Our son was born prematurely a week before I was (mis)diagnosed with a rare form of cancer and began chemo.  Of course, we recoiled at the thought of more suffering, hard on the heels of infertility.  But my husband had that “astonishing, staggering” commitment Newsweek talks about — so did I — to our children, and to each other.

Not that we would have wished for it, but the challenges of infertility prepared us — individually, and as a couple — for what would follow.  With faith in each other and trust in God’s purposefulness, we got through it all.

That’s one of the great blessings of the infertility journey:  You and your spouse discover strength, passion and a depth of commitment you never knew you had.  And, as best I can tell, they last a lifetime.  As does the desire to continue to grow in the faith that sustained you.

That may be part of how God’s setting the stage for your future — as a parent, as part of a forged-solid relationship, and as a believer whose faith has been tested, renewed, and proven.  May it be so.

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For more resources and cause for hope, visit PregnantWithHope.com

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A Pre-Mother’s Day Pep Talk

Have you ever had a day that’s so bad you want to spread some misery around?

Not long ago, I had a horrible stomach bug.  I struggled with raging fevers that left me alternately freezing and melting.  The trashcans were overflowing with Kleenex, and I couldn’t even muster the energy to empty them.  What a perfect time to write a Misery Loves Company post… just in time for Mother’s Day!

Don’t worry.

I didn’t.

But it was tempting.

Lots of internet writers seem to think spreading misery is a great idea.  A quick online search found loads of despair waiting to be shared on blogs and in tweets posted in the last 24 hours.  There’s something about Mother’s Day approaching that tips infertile women over emotionally, making a difficult struggle suddenly feel impossibly unmanageable.  And sharing some misery with the world is so cathartic:  Come bond with me!  We’ll be miserable together!

It’s a trap.  Don’t fall in.

The temptation to wallow in self-pity is a powerful one.  We tell ourselves it doesn’t hurt anyone – and believe it can actually help.  But really, it doesn’t.

Dwelling on despair makes hope feel much further away than it actually is.  It makes God’s purposefulness seem veiled and impenetrable.  It gives us an ever-expanding laundry list of reasons to grieve, resent, and give up.  None of which makes this journey any easier.

“Our lives are the expression of the thoughts that lie behind them, and of the thoughts that inspire them.”  – Marjorie Jackson

Especially now, as Mother’s Day approaches, it matters what you feed your mind and spirit.  A steady diet of hopeless messages may seem to satisfy your hunger, but it will actually starve you of the strength you need for the journey.

Unless you’ve chosen to give up on the dream of parenthood – deciding it’s too arduous a journey and no longer worth the effort – you need to FOCUS:

– On why you are doing this:  God planted a seed of hope in your heart.  And He did it for a reason.

– On why you have hope:  “All things work together for good for those who love God, and are called according to His purpose” {Romans 8:28].

– On where you find your strength:  “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” [Ephesians 4:13].

– On how you resist self-pity:  “The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure” [I Corinthians 10:13].

– On how your story will end:  “I (God) will pour out My spirit on your offspring, and My blessing on your descendants” [Isaiah 44:34].

God has given you the power to alter the course of your journey with your thoughts.  They will express themselves in the life that unfolds before you.  You are certainly justified in thinking thoughts of failure and defeat.  But, you are also justified in thinking thoughts of strength, sufficiency and victory.  Which will it be?

Use your power wisely.  And be thankful for this Mother’s Day gift.

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For inspiration, cause for hope, and useful resources, click this link.

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The Many Blessings of Adoption

For some couples, infertility is simply the product of timing.  Initially, that can feel like a huge disappointment.  But, it can prove to be a great blessing.

Robin and Don met in their early 40’s and married just before Robin turned 45.  Statistically, they had an 87% chance of being infertile.  Robin conceived naturally – twice – but both times, she miscarried soon afterwards.  Said Don, “I thought, realistically, that chances of me becoming a father were slim.  I remember telling some friends one time that that would be my biggest disappointment in life….”

“ It was hard to think that we had passed the point of being able to have our own genetic children,” Robin agreed.  They talked to fertility specialists, but somehow weren’t at peace with IVF.  So, they began to consider adoption.  Here’s how Don described their decision process:

“I’m one who believes you’ve got to exert immense patience to understand – and wait for – what God’s doing in your life.  If you jump to a conclusion, you may miss the message.  At the time, I wondered:  We haven’t been able to get pregnant — is there a message there?  I was listening and thinking:  Is God saying, ‘You shouldn’t be parents?’ or ‘Take another approach’?  I knew God had messages for us, but we had to be listening.”

Psalm 37 teaches, “Delight in the Lord, and He will give you your heart’s desires.  Commit everything you do to the Lord.  Trust Him, and He will help you.”  Don and Robin did that:

1) They entered the adoption process focused intently on God’s love, His purposefulness, and His deep desire to bless them, 2) They sought His guidance and trusted Him to direct their steps, and 3) They chose to believe that He had a plan worth waiting for – one that would be better than anything they could accomplish without Him.

What happened?  Did God help them?  “We were told to expect a 12-18 month wait,” Robin said.  So, they trusted and waited.  Ten days later, they got a phone call.

“Our social worker said, ‘Are you ready to be blown away?  There is a mom who has 5-month-old twins.  She has been wanting to make an adoption plan since she was pregnant, but she’s had a lot of false starts and nothing’s come through.  She’s ready to go through with it.  She chose you.’”

“I look back on it now,” said Don, “and here’s the miracle: if we’d been ready six months earlier, this mom wouldn’t have been ready.  If we had been ready six months later, we might have missed adopting our boys.  God has a way of moving things around so that it’s a win-win for everybody.  This mom needed relief, these boys needed a home – they needed our home, Robin and I wanted children… and God worked it all out perfectly.”

Is their story an extraordinary rarity?  I don’t think so.  After spending five years struggling with infertility, Owen and Kelly had a similar experience.  They felt led by God to move onto a path toward adoption and they, too, are now the joyful parents of twins.

Want another example?  How about Bill Haslet, who emailed me about adopting his twins 30+ years ago.  He wrote, “We received a call on a Friday evening and picked them up on the following Tuesday. Talk about instant family!! Today, they are 33 years old, both married, both fathers, and two of the finest young Christian men I know.  Our lives don’t always turn out the way we might plan them, but God’s plan and his blessings are more than we can even comprehend!!”

Sometimes, infertility is the first step on the path designed to lead us toward  adoption.  Rather than a curse, it serves as the signpost that says, “Adoption’s pinwheel of blessings:  this way.”

Don’t be afraid to follow the signs.

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For more resources and cause for hope, visit PregnantWithHope.com

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Getting Help, Finding Hope

I’ve been hearing about the importance of good self-care all my life.   Because there is more to me than just my physical self, it requires me to be attuned to my emotional, intellectual, psychological and spiritual needs.  That became very difficult when we were going through infertility.

It’s a common problem, and one that can snowball rapidly.

Poor self-care can quickly undermine a relationship as our list of unmet needs grows – along with our frustration, resentment, hurt and anger.  We can’t control infertility, but a truly committed partner would sense our needs and meet them.  Right?  That unvoiced expectation puts tremendous pressure on a relationship already stressed by the challenges of infertility.

What’s the alternative if this is the best self-care we can muster?  Who else can help us?  Christ, in community:  “For where two or more are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.”  That’s the foundational assumption on which we built the infertility Bible study group.

People who are struggling through infertility need help and hope.  We need to surround ourselves with people who truly understand the struggle, and care deeply about it.  We need to immerse ourselves in the powerful promises of God – who is bigger than the problem we’re facing.  And, we need to experience the caring presence of Christ through community.

It’s too much to expect good self-care to do all that.  In the midst of infertility, it can’t and it won’t.  Neither will the world’s best partner.

If you are one of the “we” going through infertility, stop expecting the impossible from yourself – or your spouse.  You need a community to surround you and lift you up.  You need to find comfort in the knowledge that you are not alone – and to experience that comfort, first-hand.

When you seek and find it, you will also find affirmation, belonging, support, hope, encouragement, inspiration, compassion, spiritual sustenance, and much more.  And, you will (re)discover the joy of giving all these things to others who – like you – are so hungry for them.

How do you find such an amazing community?  A growing number of hospitals and churches are starting infertility groups, using Pregnant with Hope: Good News for Infertile Couples as the basis for discussion.  If you find there is no such group, equip yourself with a copy of the book and print-outs of a few blogs that have been particularly meaningful, and point out the need.

The risk you may feel you are taking – “what will people think?!” – is well worth the incredible support you will find God providing in response to your call for help.  Remember, “Everyone who calls, ‘help, God!’ gets help” [Romans 10:12].  So, don’t be afraid.  Think of it as very good self-care.

And if, for some reason, you don’t get the response you want, contact me directly (susan@pregnantwithhope.com).  I’ll work with you to start a group in your area.  There’s also lots of information on the website, PregnantWithHope.com, about how to get the ball rolling.  Find one other couple hungry for support, and you’ll be ready to begin.

The help and hope you need are closer than they feel.  Please, take a step toward them.  It will completely change the way you experience the infertility journey.

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For more resources and cause for hope, visit PregnantWithHope.com

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Filed under Hope, Speaking Up