Tag Archives: pregnancy

National Infertility Awareness Week

It’s National Infertility Awareness week.  Could you be any more aware of how hard it is to conceive?  Well then, rather than seeing this week as salt rubbing into an already gaping wound, consider these words from Jesus Calling:

“Peace is my continual gift to you.  Just as the Israelites could not store up manna for the future but had to gather it daily, so it is with My peace.  The day-by-day collecting of manna kept My people aware of their dependence on Me.  Similarly, I give you sufficient peace for the present, when you come to me by prayer and petition with thanksgiving.  If I gave you permanent peace, independent of My Presence, you might fall into the trap of self-sufficiency.”

Whoa….

I wish I’d understood that when we were we struggling through infertility.  The sense of barely having enough peace to make it through the day – or the next few minutes – is not a sign of God’s absence, but of Christ’s Presence.  He does not intend to strengthen us to the point of self-sufficiency.  That is our goal; not His.

His goal is to teach us minute-to-minute reliance on Him.  Our reliance is a constant reminder that He keeps the promise, “I am with you always.”  Our neediness is a constant reminder that He is sufficient for every need.    Our inability to find peace apart from Him is a blessing because it returns us – again and again — to the only Source of strength that can overcome all things.

So, welcome National Infertility Week as a worldly reminder that millions of infertile couples need peace, hope, and compassionate love as they make their way toward the future of parenthood.  You are not alone, and neither are they.  He has promised, “I am with you always.”

Seek Him, and find peace.

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Need more encouragement and cause for hope?  Click this link to order your copy of Pregnant With Hope: Good News for Infertile Couples.

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Filed under Control, Hope, Loss, Peace

There is Nothing Wrong with Hope

In his book, Love, Medicine & Miracles, Dr. Bernie Siegel writes, “In the face of uncertainty, there is nothing wrong with hope.”  How often has your infertility specialist said that to you?  How about your family or friends?  There is something in Siegel’s unconditional assertion – “there is nothing wrong with hope” – that implies a confidence infertile couples often crave, but do not feel.

Dr. Siegel, a cancer surgeon, discovered years ago that a subset of those patients who came to him for help were able to live lives of meaning and purpose in the midst of uncertainty.  These “exceptional patients,” as he called them, experienced something during their journey that they shared repeatedly with him:  attitude is everything.  As they explained, the belief(s) that guide your thoughts will determine the quality of the life you live.

The same is true of the infertility journey.

Couples who learn to trust God’s plan, release their grip on (the illusion of) control, and lean into believing that there is a purpose in their struggle, invariably go on to become parents.  Some by conception.  Some by adoption.  A few by foster parenthood.  But all of them get there.  I have yet to see a couple give their dream to God and forever remain a twosome.  It’s a matter of how – not If.  A question of when – not Whether.

“… There is nothing wrong with hope.”  Siegel’s words are a great reminder that there is no great risk in hoping that God is faithful.  Hoping that His promises hold true for ALL believers.  Hoping that He will elect to bless those who trust Him – His purpose, His plan, His timing.  There is nothing wrong with hope!  It is not irrational. It is not delusional.  It is not unfounded.

It is faith.

And we have been called to walk by faith, and not by sight.  We have been taught to trust a God we cannot see, but who hears our prayers, knows our thoughts, and shares in our suffering.  It is this God who alone is able to realize our deep desire to become parents.  It is His will that makes it possible.  And when we are in the flow of His will, “there is nothing wrong with hope.”

I know several couples who will be finding out in the next few days whether their recent IVF’s have resulted in Christmas conceptions.  I hope that they have.  But even more, I hope that the God who knows their hearts, feels their longing, and intends to bless the seed of hope He has already planted will give these couples nothing less than His very best.  ‘

I know from experience — it’s worth waiting for.

Emmanuel.  God with us.  There is cause for hope.

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Filed under Control, Hope, Perspective

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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The Unexpected Gift

“Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” [I Peter 4:10]

When I was going through infertility, nothing about it felt like a gift.  It was more like a curse that had sought and found me for reasons I couldn’t explain.  If someone had asked me, “How might this experience be a gift to you?” I would have felt patronized, defensive and angry.  No one was helping me find wisdom or insight, and I didn’t think I had the time.  I was busy trying to rush a heartbeat into an empty womb.

But, several years after our infertility journey ended, I was ready to ask some questions.  Why had we had to suffer so much to bring our children into the world?  Why had so many other forms of suffering been piled on during that same season?  What had been the purpose of all that pain and grief?  Why had it happened?

I wasn’t asking in anger (as I might have been years before).  I wasn’t picking a fight with God.  I just wondered if there had ever been a reason.  Truthfully, I didn’t expect to get an answer.

But I did.

“This happened so you would know you were never alone.”

I didn’t hear a voice.  It was more like I suddenly knew the answer with certainty, down deep in my spirit.

I wondered, ‘What am I supposed to do with that information?’

Again, there was no sound.  But my spirit received the answer very clearly: “Find those who feel lost and tell them they are not alone.”

In that moment, God showed me there had been a purpose for all we’d been through.  Throughout our infertility journey, He’d demonstrated His faithfulness – over and over – in unforgettable, life-changing ways.  He’d done it, in part, so that I could tell others with absolute certainty that He would do the same for them, too.

That moment signaled the end of one journey, and the beginning of another.

I never set out to create or lead a Bible study for infertile couples.  Or to write a book.  Or to help churches and hospitals launch groups.  Or to spend hours every week writing blog posts.  But that’s what God had planned all along.

He wanted me to tell infertile couples, “you are not alone” every way possible.  He wanted me to tell you that He has promised to be with you always, and He will be.  That He walks every step of this journey beside you – to comfort, to strengthen, to guide you.  That He has a plan and purpose, and that He intends to bless you beyond what you can ask or imagine.

I hope this blog gives you insight I never had on my journey.  I hope it gives you peace when you’re anxious, comfort when you’re grieving, and inspiration that urges you to look past each day’s struggle to the joy that awaits you.

That joy includes a child God has always intended for you.  If you’re willing, it also includes the joy of paying forward God’s goodness and faithfulness by using whatever gift you receive through this experience to serve others, “faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.”

May it be so.

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For more inspiration and cause for hope, read Pregnant With Hope: Good News for Infertile Couples or visit PregnantWithHope.com

 

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The Crazy Things We Do….

I just heard from a woman who adopted years ago, and is now watching close friends struggle with infertility.  She wrote:

“They are desperately trying to have a child…even eating tons of rabbit meat…someone told them rabbits are prolific so maybe eating them would help…not joking.”

Okay, what the heck?  Except… we tried all sorts of crazy things, too.  Someone told me I should eat lots of pickles, since that’s what pregnant women crave.  So, for weeks, I choked them down.  Never having been a fan before forced consumption, I learned to hate them in a whole new way when my next cycle started right on time.

It’s laughable now.  But it wasn’t then.  We were dead serious about getting what we wanted, and if pickles were the path to parenthood, so be it.

When we can’t have what we desperately want, our common impulse is  to seize control. That’s human nature.  The behavior can seem ridiculous – eating tons of rabbit meat, choking down jars of pickles.  Or, it can appear rational – buying ovulation predictors by the case, scheduling major life events around doctor’s appointments.  But bottom line, it’s all about the fight for control.

Part of the purpose of this infertility journey is to help us realize we are not in control.  We can’t be, no matter how desperately we want to be.  That unwelcome realization brings every couple to a fork in the road where a choice must be made:  resist the truth, or embrace it.

Resist it, and you doom yourself to a lot of heartache.  Control is an illusion.  A mirage.  An unattainable goal.  If you commit yourself to gaining control of this situation no matter what it costs, you will pay a very high price.  And you still may not have a child.

But, embrace the truth and you make room for God in your story.  You stop investing energy in pretending you know the answers, and recognize the wisdom, power and authority of the only One who truly does.  Instead of worshiping the illusion of control, you worship the One who has it – and you humbly acknowledge your need for His help.

It’s the only choice that makes sense.  And, it’s the path that leads where you want to go.

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Find more resources and cause for hope at PregnantWithHope.com

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Confident with Hope

The devastating experience of loss is inherent in the infertility journey.  Loss of a pregnancy, of an achiever self-image, of the illusion of control, of a naïve belief in invulnerability, of the highly-prized idea of Happily Ever After achieved effortlessly and on the ideal timetable.  Every one of us experiences these losses.

And then what?

I firmly believe the way we respond to our losses determines how our journey will unfold.  We can choose to dwell on them incessantly – filling our minds with thoughts of defeat, failure, disappointment and doubt.  Or, we can choose to metabolize our losses, learn what we can from them, and step forward into our future with faith in the Lord’s promise:  “I will never leave you or forsake you.”

I ran into a man I met through the infertility group this past weekend.  His wife conceived recently, after years of infertility.  You’d think he’d be ecstatic, but other things in his life remain challenging.  So, rather than choosing to focus on the incredible blessing they’ve received, God’s responsiveness to their prayers, and the ongoing encouragement of many friends, he continues to dwell on what he doesn’t have.

He maintains a steady stream of negativity – a gallows humor monologue that he says is his coping method.  It may give him an outlet for stress, as he claims, but I’ve noticed that it doesn’t seem to make him feel better.  Instead, it drives away those who try to encourage him (sometimes including his wife), and it persistently speaks a lack of faith over his circumstances.

Does that really matter?  Does his running commentary do any harm?

The Bible says,

“Therefore… since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.”

Those words aren’t just a suggestion.  They offer powerful insight into what we can do to change our circumstances and reach our goal(s).  In his book, Success God’s Way, Dr. Charles Stanley explains what this verse says about our role in our success.

“The good news in this passage,” he writes, “is that you are surrounded by a host of encouragers, both those who are living and those who have gone to be with the Lord.  You are wise to be encouraged by them and to seek to be like them… always with the perspective, what God has done for others, He can and will do for me!”  He continues, “The Lord Himself should be our principal encourager.  He is the One who continually speaks deep within our hearts, ‘I will help you succeed.’”

Unfortunately, it is impossible to hear God’s encouragement when we persist in filling our minds with thoughts of failure, disappointment and resentment.  The Holy Spirit can – and will – help us remove these roadblocks when we ask for His help, but He will not overpower our free will.  If we choose to reject thoughts of hope in order to dwell on past heartaches and current fears, He will respect our freedom of choice.  And we will remain mired in hopelessness.

Are you fearful about whether you’ll ever succeed in becoming a parent?  Are you doubting that God is with you in the pursuit of your dreams, or that He will enable you to realize them?  If your answer is yes…

1) Ask God to help you overcome the roadblock of negative thinking that has stalled your progress.

2) Get in agreement with His promise, “Ask and you will receive, that your joy may be full.”

3) Resist the temptation to make self-indulgent u-turns that revisit past failures, refresh feelings of despair, and oppose hope in God’s promises with “realistic” negativity.

4) Anticipate God’s love for you being converted into action on your behalf – and walk boldly into the future He has planned for you, confident with hope.

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Need more inspiration and cause for confident hope?  Read Pregnant with Hope: Good News for Infertile Couples and hear ten couples’ first-hand accounts of their journeys from hopelessness to joy.

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Community Benefits Infertile Couples

Harvard Medical School recently completed a study indicating that a woman’s chances of conceiving improve by more than 50% with involvement in an infertility support group.

That would seem to simplify the decision process – should I/we join a group? – fairly substantially. But the truth is, pride and a longing for privacy can be hard hurdles to clear. Even if Harvard’s right, are those increased odds going to be enough to alter the outcome of your story? And if not, is the public exposure of your private struggle worth the downside risk?

Author Barbara Brown Taylor thinks so, and her reasons are worth considering. In her new book, An Altar in the World, she writes, “At the very least, most of us need someone to tell our stories to. At a deeper level, most of us need someone to help us forget ourselves … [because] the main impediment to living a life of meaning is being self-absorbed.”

Anyone who’s experienced infertility can tell you that self-absorption is par for the course.

It’s human nature to be self-absorbed. We’re all  inclined to see ourselves as the stars of our own story – and everyone else as the supporting actors, bit part players and non-essential walk-ons. Social media like YouTube and Twitter reinforce that perception with their subliminal message: “It’s all about you.”

When infertility strikes, our story takes such a dramatic turn, we become hyper-aware of the spotlight. Anticipating social scrutiny, we instinctively seek privacy (or, at least, internet anonymity). We don’t want  our “audience” to see anything other than our success; this uncertainty feeds our fear of failure. We want applause, not pity or patronizing advice; this vulnerability fuels our desire for secrecy.

Ultimately, we want the public perception of us to match our highly-prized self-image. We are successes, not failures. We are good people destined to become great parents… aren’t we? Afraid to expose our feelings honestly, we struggle alone — doing all we can to hide the truth of our long, difficult journey.

Taylor makes clear that there is a better way:  seeking to share our true selves with others who are also struggling. “Encountering another human being is as close to God as I may ever get – in the eye-to-eye thing, the person-to-person thing – which is where God’s Beloved has promised to show up.” In other words, if we are to find God in the midst of this journey, it may well be through others making the same journey.

“Paradoxically,” she continues, “the point is not to see Him. The point is to see the person standing right in front of me whose heart holds things for which there is no language, whose life is an unsolved mystery.” Can we set aside our own struggles long enough to be fully present for someone else? Someone who also needs to sense God’s presence — through us?

If we are to benefit from community, we must. Otherwise “the moment I turn that person into a character in my own story, the encounter is over. I have stopped being a human being and have become a fiction writer instead.”

There’s the valuable insight.

Community gives us an opportunity to share our stories and be heard. It also requires us to set aside our tendency to think of everything in terms of our selves. Rather than being fiction writers, we can offer the very real gifts of presence, compassionate listening, and sincere support. If we do, an infertility support community will not only increase our odds of conceiving, it will enable us to help others increase theirs, too.

All in the presence of God.

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Filed under Perspective, Speaking Up