“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 PregnantWithHope.com