Category Archives: Speaking Up

What do we gain, and what do we risk, when we share the truth of our struggles with infertility? Pros & cons worth considering.

So That We Can Comfort….

I was taking a walk with a new friend recently when I mentioned that I write a blog for people struggling with infertlity. It’s hard to explain to my peers why I still write it — our own journey ended long ago, I no longer lead the Bible study, I’m not trying to sell books or raise my profile… and I’m getting white hair, for goodness sake!

I just feel called.

Periodically, I wonder, “Is it time to stop writing?” I’d been praying about that for a while and seeking a clear answer. I’d had several unexpected, unprompted and very encouraging affirmations, but honestly, I still wrestled with this question: “Does someone who’s this far removed from that particular journey need to keep writing?”

Then, I got this email:

Hi Susan,

I just ran across your blog today and I am so happy I did. I almost cried because I have been searching for months for something to help bring me back up. A lot of other bloggers have stopped writing as their lives get hectic once they have children. It’s just so heart-warming for me to scroll down to the bottom of the last post and see the time stamp be within this month and this year. I don’t know why I find it so comforting, but I do. I’m purchasing your book and diving into your blog. I’m so happy and so encouraged now.

Katie

I couldn’t ask for a clearer answer. Not only do I need to keep writing, but there’s the answer to “why?” Scripture puts it this way:

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,  who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” [2 Corinthians 1:3-4]

Reading blog posts about other infertile couple’s fears and failures won’t reduce Katie’s worry. Just like comparing notes in the doctor’s waiting room won’t reduce her stress. Yes, “misery loves company,” but her spirit is not encouraged by reading or hearing about other people’s suffering. The details of their grief don’t inspire hope

Only those of us who have made the journey and experienced the incredible faithfulness and goodness of God can attest to it in ways that will resonate in the midst of Katie’s circumstances. We can comfort her with the same truth that comforted us. We can share our stories and bear witness. We can point out the path of peace, having taken it ourselves.

Katie’s right. Too often, infertile couples become new parents so busy with their long-awaited joy that they don’t think to offer a helping hand to those still making the journey. No judgment; it’s understandable, but it’s bittersweet for people like Katie who are still struggling and left wondering, “Why them, but not me?”

I’m honored to have been given the privilege of walking alongside Katie — and each of you as you encounter the living God in the midst of your infertility journey.

“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.” [Ephesians 3:16]

May His truth speak through me and resonate in your spirit, and may peace — however fleeting — be compelling evidence of His presence.

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Need more cause for hope? Visit PregnantWithHope.info

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“Our God is Truly Awesome”

A few days ago, I wrote about the minister and his wife who adopted twins after despairing that they might never become parents. They were matched within weeks of presenting their profile to the adoption agency, and they flew across the country to witness the births of their boys. What a story of God’s incredible goodness!

Some of you who are in the depths of despair over your own infertility struggles may be tempted to argue that that story sounds like a fairy tale — that things like that don’t happen to people like you, and that it’s unlikely to change your circumstances if you trust a God who seems to be failing you already.

I understand those feelings. I wrestled with anger and resentment for years as we attempted to start our family.

So, here’a another story — with a very different outcome.

Jovita Nwaugwu was unable to conceive after years of fertility treatments. She discovered this blog and, through it, the book Pregnant With Hope. She emailed me recently asking for an opportunity to share her story with you. Rather than paraphrase her testimony, I will just post it here in her own words:

“Hello Susan,

I emailed you years ago about how to pray when you are struggling to conceive. Now, I want to share my testimony…

After 7 years of fertility treatment and no success, I decided to seek God seriously. During that time, I realized God does not owe me a child. I changed my spiritual environment and started fasting and praying to know when to stop the fertility treatments. Finally, my pastor told me it was time.

I prayed for a confirmation. It was time for us to start fertility treatments again and my husband refused. He said, “God doesn’t want us to go back for any further treatment.” Even though he had wanted us to go back to treatments, he suddenly changed his mind. I said okay, and I thanked God for His confirmation by my husband’s refusal.

This was in 2014. Then my husband said, “Let’s see what God has for us this year.” This was in April/May.

In August, I found out I was pregnant. Usually, when I’m pregnant, my progesterone level is low and my pregnancy ends up in miscarriage, but this time my progesterone level was perfect. I started thanking, trusting and believing God.

My daughter was born on March 17th and her name is Grace Ogechi. “Ogechi” means “in God’s time.”

Please, I want you to continue encouraging your readers. Your book, Pregnant With Hope, gave me all the hope I needed to go through the wilderness of infertility — and God saw me through. My pregnancy wasn’t an easy journey, but God was with me from start to finish. Our God is truly Awesome and doesn’t share His glory.”

And all God’s people said, Amen.

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For more help and hope, visit PregnantWithHope.info and read Pregnant With Hope: Good News for Infertile Couples

 

 

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The Best Defense…

It doesn’t happen often, but when someone willfully violates my boundaries and I am struggling to respond constructively (or just to hold my ground), it takes a heavy toll on me – and my body pays the price.

I’ve learned recently that many of us absorb our feelings deep into our bodies.  Rather than resolving issues that may require us to confront people we’d love to avoid, we push the hurt down, away from our thoughts to a place deep in our spirits, and we tell ourselves that we’re handling it well.

But we’re not.

A book I’m reading now makes clear that our health (and fertility) is profoundly affected by our thoughts and feelings.  When we feel helpless and hopeless – or when we push our emotions so far from our consciousness, we can’t even say what we feel – negative physical consequences often result.

How?  Research has shown that anxious, worried, stressed, frustrated, anguished, hostile thoughts and feelings have the power to alter our immune systems, making it hard to fight off sickness.  They can undermine our sleep, making it harder to recover through rest.  They can affect our concentration, making it difficult to think clearly and make good choices.  And much, much more.

Bottom line, they can become the enemy within.

Literally.

That was the epiphany for me.

I’ve realized that when I allow negative thoughts and feelings to dwell in my spirit, I open the door to all sorts of bad consequences.  The chain reaction starts off simply enough.  My skin breaks out, or my shoulders ache.  I narrowly avoid an accident or somehow provoke an argument because I’m tired and distracted.  I’m not hungry, so I don’t eat.  Without the energy to exercise, I skimp on that, too.  Soon, good self-care falls by the wayside.  And before you know it, I look bad and I feel worse.

Without realizing it, my dark mood – and all the negative thoughts and feelings it procreates — propels me toward poor choices that reinforce my sense that everything’s coming against me.  It becomes self-fulfilling:  Bad leads to worse, and worse, and even worse….  Then, someone says, “Are you sick?  You don’t look good.”  The vicious cycle accelerates and within hours – or even minutes — my perception is altered without my realizing it and it affects my ability to see things clearly.

An emotional death spiral begins – and soon, it becomes a spiritual one, too.  God feels very far away.

Sound at all familiar?

It doesn’t have to be this way.

The enemy is always seeking a stronghold in our spirits – a place of anger, fear or self-pity that will enable him to set up camp and attack us from within.  It is an opportunistic assault launched when we feel vulnerable (helpless, hopeless) and alone.

We opened the door.  And we can close it.

How?  By asking God to fight our battles.

That’s what I did recently.  I affirmed my right to healthy boundaries, backed away from the person who set off my downward spiral, and asked the Lord to work in his spirit – to convinct him, show him the damage he’d done, and free me from the burden of either defending myself or engaging in an unwelcome “battle” over whether he did me wrong.

I’m confident my body will thank me… as soon as my hands stop shaking.

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Sisters in the Struggle — Sharing Hope

It’s so easy to feel isolated and alone when you’re struggling through infertility.  Somehow, it helps to know that other women (and men) are struggling, too.  The community that’s built through sharing stories is invaluable — which is why I consistently urge you to set aside secrecy in favor of finding others who understand.

Of course, understanding doesn’t always translate into the kind of support or sympathy you need in the moment (that’s what inspired my last post), but it’s worth the risk.  As one reader commented,

“As one who has been through many trials, it is so much better doing it transparently. There will always be those who look at you with pity, but there will also be those who LOVE you and know you just need a shoulder to cry on and a hand to hold.”

Yesterday, I discovered that hundreds of SingaporeMotherhood.com readers made their way to this blog in search of community and understanding.  They were following a link in a chatroom post that read, in part…

“Dear sisters, I am touched by the care which you have rendered to support one another.  I have been married for 12 years and am dying to have a baby of my own.  I have been praying to God to answer my prayer, and in the midst of searching for God’s voice, I chanced upon this blog last night. As I was reading it, my emotions were greatly stirred! I felt a strong urge to share this blog with sisters who have been through a tough, roller coaster ride in their hope of becoming parents.”

It is both thrilling and humbling to know that my blog posts can inspire people struggling through infertility half a world away.  The Lord knows the glory is His.  But here’s what was most exciting to me….

In 2010, the fertility rate in Singapore was the third-lowest in the world.  That makes for lots of community if you want a baby but can’t seem to conceive and bring one to term.  The problem is not quality of care.  Singapore has the lowest infant mortality rate in the world.  So, what’s the problem?

And, at least as important, when those statistics define your experience, where do you turn for help and hope?

In a country where the predominant religion is Buddhism, one woman had the courage to say to others, “I found hope.  There is hope in Christ.  And you can read more about it at PregnantWithHope….”

That is God’s incredible grace.  He plants a seed of hope, meeting one need, and it generates a great harvest.  One woman in Singapore found hope – and she risked sharing it with others hungry for the same kind of hope.  One online forum post led to almost 200 new readers for this blog.  That’s the awesome goodness of God in action.

So, are you feeling alone?  Can’t find community?  Don’t worry.  God can.  He’ll lead you to it, and then use you to guide others there.  All so He can give you the love, compassion, mercy and grace you need to make the journey through infertility to parenthood – and the future He’d always planned for you.

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Sharing Stories

When couples confront infertility in secret, with little or no support, aided by an expert they hope will work miracles and a faith that feels increasingly feeble, their fear is often palpable.  Isolated, anxious, afraid to contemplate “what if we fail?” – they are grateful for the smallest encouragement.

That’s why I write this blog.  That’s also why I encourage couples to share their stories with one another – and then, to seek spiritual sustenance that points them toward true hope.

If you are in the midst of a journey that seems hopeless, if you’re longing to hear that there’s still reason to believe that God is working in and through your circumstances, listen to the voices of some other aspiring parents who’ve written to me….

“Susan – I have so appreciated reading your blog over the last 6 months — often your message is just exactly what I need to hear that day and so insightful into this journey.  Thank you for taking the time to write.”  – Lisa

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“Susan – I found your site in April when I was at rock bottom with infertility.  At that point, all I needed was some hope, and your site brought that.  Going through infertility has made me grow in ways I have never thought possible.  I have truly felt God working in my life and helping me with my pain.  I found that I run to Him so much more now!  Anyway, after hitting bottom, we are expecting twins.  Thank you for your help, your resources, and your guidance.  God bless you as you continue on in this ministry.”  – Kelli

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“Hi Susan  – We are a Christian couple from Romania and we try to have children. We realized something is wrong and we consult a doctor.  He told us we are less than 15 percent to have a child. My husband was so disappointed he refused to preach anymore and turned angry to God.  Today I was wondering if I can find some encouragement and looking on Youtube I found you. I needed to know somebody understands.  Thank you for hope.”  – Elena

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“Hi Susan – Your blog is a blessing and I have recommended it to several friends in the midst of infertility struggles.  God used the words from your blog to give me perspective and to help sustain me during this journey.  I wanted you to know we are due this week with our miracle IVF daughter and are beyond thrilled. THANK YOU!!”  – Melissa

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“Dear Susan – THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THE BLOG.  I don’t think I ever let God help me out cause I was too stubborn to let God take the lead. But now he’s my only hope!  Thanks for the encouraging words and please don’t stop writing. Your words have given a whole new meaning to this journey.  My life is in the hands of the almighty. There is nothing impossible for him!”  – Pushpa

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“Susan – Just to let you know that God has used your book to minister to me and I am very grateful. Sometimes, I feel like I’m the one writing.  Your book has made me realize that God did not pull away from me, but I pulled away from him.  Thank you.  Remain blessed.”  – Javita

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“Susan – I want to thank you –you have helped me have hope and faith and the desire to be more open to things and look at them differently and I thank you deeply for that.  We are perfect strangers but you put out your hand for me and I was smart enough to take it.  Thank you for the huge source of support you’ve been to me.  I wanted to let you know that our miracle has arrived!  God Bless you and all you do.”   – Andrea

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“Hi Susan – I just wanted to say THANK YOU for your blog.  I haven’t spent much time on most other infertility sites because they tended to make me feel more depressed or desperate.  But now I turn to your blog multiple times a week for a reminder of God’s love and an extra dose of hope through the struggle.

Your words hit right at the heart of the matter so many times and always provide much needed encouragement. Thanks for taking the time to allow God to speak through you to provide hope to so many who are struggling with infertility.” –  Cindy

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“Dear Susan – Thank you for your inspirational messages. I must give God all the glory and honor for leading me to find your blog – it impacts lives! I can’t say which of your stories, of many, impacted my life the most.  May God always bless you for being a blessing to so many.  Our little girl that we will welcome into our world in April is a miracle!”  – Darlene

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“Dear Susan –  It has been a dream for the past 9 years… and now, I’ve received word that I’m pregnant!  I’m amazed.  The night before I got the news, I read Psalm 139 and every word spoke to me.  As soon as I got the news, I got on my knees and thanked God about 50-75 times.”  – Melissa

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“Dear Susan – After a 10-year battle with infertility, my husband and I finally conceived and now have twin girls.  I truly believe God set us on this path to help others.  Through lots of prayer and searching for His purpose we believe we are to offer hope and support to others enduring infertility, so we are starting a support group.  Your book will be the resource we use.  Thanks so much!”  – Alesha

Wish one of these good news emails was from you?  Don’t give up hope.  Cling to the One with the power to make all things possible.  Trust that the hope He gives is always fulfilled — according to His purposes, in His perfect timing.  Let go of fear, set aside doubt, and let Him take control.  He will respond to your trust with blessings “beyond what you can ask or imagine.”

To Him be the glory.

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It’s a Blessing…

Once couples who’ve battled infertility reach the goal of parenthood – whether by conception or adoption – it’s tempting for retroactive amnesia to take hold.  Who wants to remember the heartache of the journey?  Why would anyone hold on to memories of loss, grief and suffering?  After all, given the time, money and effort it took to become a family, why do anything but enjoy it?

Because it’s not just about you.

Everything God does has a purpose.  Every difficulty He allows into your life is for a reason.  And very often, His reason extends beyond the impact of this journey on you and your faith life.  He also intends to use your experience, and its life-changing effect on you, to bless others.

As scripture says…

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.

The temptation to focus on a hope-filled future, while intentionally forgetting the faith-challenging past, is just that:  a temptation.  It is a common one, a completely understandable one, and one you should resist.

Why?

Because part of our calling is to be the body of Christ for one another.  “…To comfort those in trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive.”  The infertility journey doesn’t end with parenthood.  Instead, we graduate to the next stage of the journey – one in which God calls us to set aside our former need for privacy (secrecy?) and openly witness to God’s goodness and faithfulness in order to give hope to those making the journey behind us.

Kristi and her husband, Carlos, kept his male factor infertility a secret from their family and friends.  But they confided in me, asking that I pray for their decision-making process, and for peace in the midst of uncertainty about the outcome of their journey.  [For more on their story, click this link].

Recently, Kristi got a call from a close friend who confessed that she and her husband were struggling with infertility.  In a split second, Kristi had a decision to make:  should she protect her privacy and the perception of an effortless conception, or should she share her story?  Kristi felt God nudging her to tell the truth.  She did.  She also talked about Pregnant With Hope: Good News for Infertile Couples, and about this blog.  “It was a spiritual lifeline for me,” she assured her friend.

Kristi’s friend hung up, immediately ordered a copy of the book and went online to read recent posts.  She called Kristi back in less than thirty minutes, and “we cried together over how good God is, and how everything happens in His perfect timing.”

Kristi shared this story with me so I would know how much the book and blog helped her — and by extension, her friend.  I pointed out that Kristi’s now taken on the role I played during her journey — of comforter, encourager, faithful witness, and Spirit-filled friend.

You can do that, too.

Do you know someone who’s struggling to find hope in the midst of the infertility journey?  If you’ve become a parent, share your story.  If you’re still making your own journey, it’s not too soon to help someone else.  Pass on your copy of Pregnant With Hope.  Send a link to this blog with a verse of comfort.  Risk exposing your need for God’s help and allow Him to use you to deliver a message of hope.

You will experience the joy that proves the axiom “It is a blessing to be a blessing.”

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With Friends Like That….

I’ve been re-reading Job recently, and I’ve been struck by the many ways Job’s friends acted morally and spiritually superior – even though they were wrong.  They were wrong about what was happening.  They were wrong about why.  They were wrong about God’s silence, and they were wrong about Job’s response to it.  They were wrong about almost everything.  But, that didn’t stop them.  And because they knew enough to sound credible, they caused Job tremendous grief.

Does that sound familiar?

Does anyone you know ask questions or offer insights that make you feel your struggle is somehow your fault?  That God is withholding your heart’s desire, or punishing you for some reason?  That His silence means He is ignoring your pleas?  That you deserve the life you have – but not the one you want?  That you should just give up and accept your fate?

Take another look at Job.  You’ll get a new perspective on friends like that….

Job’s three friends came to comfort Job not long after his ten children and 11,000 livestock died (all in one day).  Just before they arrived, Job broke out in painful sores from head to toe.  When the friends saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him.  “They began to weep… and sat with him for seven days and seven nights.  No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was.”

Many counselors call that the ministry of presence.  The friends didn’t offer answers or explanations, only compassionate concern expressed through silence.

But then, Job voiced his feelings about his sudden suffering and they couldn’t resist the temptation to respond.  They could not hold their tongues.  Instead, they indulged themselves in judgment of the friend they’d come to comfort.  They chose to “help” him by closing their ears and opening their mouths.

After withstanding as much as he could bear, Job responded: “How long will you torment me and crush me with words?  I also could speak like you, if you were in my place.  But my mouth would encourage you; comfort from my lips would bring you relief.”  Does he sound comforted?  Enlightened?  Not at all.  He’s angry, hurt, and resentful.  These are not true friends — their words only compound his grief and make him doubt God’s faithfulness — and he lets them know it.

And then, Job says, “My intercessor is my friend, as my eyes pour out tears to God….”  In other words, compassionate action speaks louder than words.  Anyone who lifts me up in prayer when I am grieving or struggling is my true friend.  If you want to do more than sit with me in silence, then actively intercede for me with the only One who can truly help me.  That would bring me comfort.

Job’s words equip us to discern who will be the true friends along this journey.  They are the listeners.  The compassionate comforters who do not pretend to know the mind of God.  The untiring intercessors who are driven by our tears to petition the only One with the power to change everything.

Do you have a friend like that?  One who will stand by you throughout this journey?  One who will pray for you when you are too exhausted to pray for yourself?  If you are fortunate enough to have a true friend — or more than one — tell them what a blessing they are to you.

If you don’t have a single friend like that, don’t despair.  You are not in this alone.  Read the lyrics of this hymn (written in 1855) and know that you do have a friend who stands with you:

What a friend we have in Jesus. All our sins and griefs to bear!  What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer! Oh, what peace we often forfeit. Oh, what needless pain we bear. All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer! Can we find a friend so faithful,who will all our sorrows share? Jesus knows our every weakness; take it to the Lord in prayer. Blessed Savior, Thou hast promised Thou wilt all our burdens bear. May we ever, Lord, be bringing all to Thee in earnest prayer.”

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Find more cause for hope at PregnantWithHope.com, and read Pregnant With Hope: Good News for Infertile Couples.

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