Thursday, January 12, 2012


Have you ever been called over-sensitive? How about insensitive? Typically, I'm more often classified as the former. It's always been natural for me to react offended to something than for me to not care at all. Perhaps that comes with the territory for people who have compassion as a personality trait - the positive elements of that trait are generosity and having a kind, loving heart, but on the flip side, you can be easily wounded when you wear your heart on your sleeve.

In the context of infertility, it's extremely easy for me to get hurt feelings. From a friend haphazardly announcing her pregnancy, a friend complaining about the effects of being pregnant or having a newborn, or even saying "encouraging" words to me like "Just relax, and stop worrying so much" -- all of these have happened to me personally and have hurt me.

And I'm not alone in this either: a close friend recently told me that her sister-in-law announced her pregnancy without sensitivity even though the sister-in-law knew my friend has been struggling to get pregnant (the sister-in-law announced it in a way as "We weren't trying, just not preventing" - Folks, take care with this phrase when speaking to someone going through infertility, because that's basically saying, "We weren't trying to win the lottery, we just randomly found the winning ticket and it's no big deal" or like Elle from Legally Blonde when she got into Harvard Law School, "What, like it's hard?").

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I'm a very loyal person, so when someone hurts my husband's or friend's feelings, it outrages me. I also feel so much empathy for her because I know that the sister-in-law's announcement was like a knife cutting deep. It hurts when others are insensitive to this trial. I'm so glad there are people who have taken the time to write down tips and advice for people who have friends struggling with infertility.

If you're tempted to think, "Well Christine, maybe you really are just being over-sensitive..." I would have to respond strongly to that: Friend, unless you too have experienced the pain that comes with infertility, you really have no grounds for thinking that. You simply cannot imagine the pain of having a desire in your heart for something that you have zero control over. Certainly not to discount the following trials (we too have experienced them and recognize the fear, stress, and pain associated with them), but infertility is not quite the same type of pain as losing a job, hoping for a job/scholarship/degree, or even losing a loved one. Because if you lose your job, you can take action to seek a new one. Sure, it may be hard, stressful, and require big life changes or a move somewhere else, but it is within your power to seek a new job. And because when you lose a loved one, you only lose that loved one ONE time, not month after month. There is some finality in losing a loved one too - you know for certain that they will not come back, so you can mourn their passing, and move on and allow God to heal your pain.

But infertility is on-going. Month after month your heart goes on an exhausting roller coaster ride of hope, enjoy "trying", waiting in hope, and then disappointment and mourning. Every month that passes where you do not get pregnant, you are having to mourn the dream that will not be born quite yet. Plus, you have to deal with your period...a big, red, slap in the face is never a fun thing.

Since I've been struggling with infertility, at first I would quickly take offense when something hurt me, hold onto that grudge and avoid/ignore the person who hurt me, and finally, weeks or months later forgive them. I'm getting better about this and learning to show more grace to others, with the Lord's help. But I also now have a passion for educating my friends and family about the pain associated with infertility - perhaps they have acted insensitively because they don't know how else to respond.

So friends who are struggling with infertility, show GRACE and lots of it. You're going to need it. Just look at it as a great opportunity to practice showing forgiveness to others even when they don't ask for it. Not easy I know, but it is what God asks of us:

Colossians 3:12-13
So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.

Ephesians 4:31-32
Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.

And for friends of those struggling with infertility, here is a quick list of ways to encourage them and things to say if you're unsure (for more advice, I encourage you to read this):
  • Ask how you can pray for her
  • Better yet, tell her that you're praying for her
  • Tell her to hang in there, stay strong, and never give up hope...God is bigger and more powerful than ANYTHING
  • Hugs are always nice
  • If you are pregnant/have a newborn, do your best not to complain about anything you're going through - it's easily interpreted as ungratefulness
  • If you are pregnant or hosting a baby shower for a mutual friend, be sensitive that the shower can be extremely painful and depressing to go to. Be understanding if your friend declines to come. The point is that it's a temptation for your infertile friend to attend - she's tempted to focus on jealous, envious, bitter thoughts. If your husband struggled with sexual purity, you certainly wouldn't want him to attend a strip club would you? Of course not, it's only wise that he avoid situations that lead him into temptation. The same applies to women struggling with infertility - respect her decisions on what she can and cannot handle.
  • When announcing that you are pregnant, tell her by email or letter...over the phone is possibly okay, but could still be hard sometimes. Telling her in person is very hard because your friend will feel obligated to react joyfully even though it's painful to hear of other friends who are expecting. Telling her in person in a public place is the worst possible way to tell her - she will feel trapped and will be fighting to hold back tears.
  • When announcing your pregnancy, if doing so to a group of mutual friends (in a Sunday School class or Bible study group) and your infertile friend will be present, it is wise to tell the friend ahead of time via email/letter as previously mentioned so that she can process the news on her own alone, and will not be caught off guard by your surprise announcement in a group setting. I know you may have a dream of wanting it to be a "Guess what, WE'RE PREGNANT!" sort of moment, but for the infertile friend, that will hurt her deeply. After all, telling the infertile friend ahead of time is a win-win - you're sparing her some additional hurt feelings, and still getting to announce the surprise to others in the group (the non-infertiles).
  • When announcing your pregnancy and "How It Happened", be careful with your phrasing. Implying that it's no big deal, "He just had to walk in the room," "Got it on the first try", and "We weren't really trying" are all very difficult for your infertile friend to hear. Use wisdom in knowing your audience and when to hold your tongue.

Still holding onto hope for this month's cycle, thank you all for your prayers and friendship.

Jeremiah 29:11
'For I know the plans that I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.'

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