Since it is National Infertility Awareness Week, I thought I would share some thoughts on ministry and infertility;
Ministering To Those Struggling With Infertility
As I write this, my four daughters lay sleeping in their beds. The quiet is a nice change from our rambunctious day! But this wasn’t always the case, a silent house used to cause sorrow. Years ago, my husband served as children’s pastor at our church and I helped him while we struggled with infertility and loss. Ministering to other people’s children when you long for your own was very challenging. Many of our friends from Bible College were already having babies while we waited, took costly fertility drugs and then miscarried our first five babies.
Many infertile couples don’t talk about the challenges they face. I found it hard to get support in the church. Eventually, I found support from an online forum called Hannah’s Prayer (http://www.hannah.org) to help me through the joy of positive pregnancy tests, numerous doctor visits and tears of losing babies. They celebrated the adoption and births of our daughters with me. They allowed me to ask questions that I could not ask anywhere else. They encouraged me when my faith was weak.
It’s estimated that one in six couples are dealing with infertility. Infertility is described in Webster’s dictionary as: “not fertile; especially: incapable of or unsuccessful in achieving pregnancy over a considerable period of time (as a year) in spite of determined attempts by heterosexual intercourse without contraception”. So, whether you realize it or not, someone in your church may be dealing with infertility and/or loss.
Eventually we became foster parents and adopted a beautiful little girl. Adoption opened my eyes to how God sees us as His adopted sons who have a full inheritance. Our daughter filled a huge void in our hearts and arms.
Our sixth pregnancy was successful and brought us a live baby girl right before our tenth wedding anniversary. Eleven months after that we welcomed an eleven month old girl into our home through foster care. We recently adopted her. Our seventh pregnancy brought us another little girl last July.
Though the experience of infertility and miscarriages has made me stronger in my faith and helped me minister to others more compassionately, it is a journey that will never be far from my heart.
Here are ten ways you can minister to a couple struggling with infertility and pregnancy loss;
1. Don’t compare my barrenness or loss with anything. Having no money, being spiritually dry or losing a pet you loved does not compare to the desire for a child. All my future hopes and dreams of motherhood may never become a reality.
2. Being infertile or miscarrying my baby doesn’t mean I lack faith or I haven’t reached a certain level of maturity. Most likely, I am already having a crisis of faith and struggle with this area. Reassure me that God does love me.
3. Keep away from clichés like “its God’s will”, “it’s probably for the best” or that you know “God will answer your prayers”. You don’t know the answers or what God has planned for my family’s future.
4. If I lost my unborn baby at six weeks, six months or six days after birth, don’t compare the level of grief I may be suffering. Saying things like “at least you weren’t far along” belittles my child’s value as well as my grief and pain. A child is a child no matter how old he or she is.
5. Do pray for me, and tell me that you do. There may be days or seasons when I feel like I can’t talk to God because of my heartache and grief. Knowing someone is lifting me up in prayer encourages me.
6. If I share my struggles with you keep it confidential. Please ask permission to share it with others or before putting it on the prayer chain. I may still be dealing with the situation and need time to process it before facing others comments and questions.
7. Please remember to be sensitive on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. I may skip the day to avoid the topic in the sermon, being the only one sitting while all the parents stand up or hearing someone who doesn’t know what we are going through say “When are you going to have a baby?” If I do come, there may be tears as I see other’s whose dreams for children have come true, while I still wait. Baby dedications are also hard for us and even Christmas where the focus is all on a baby (even though we know it’s baby Jesus).
8. Fathers have a hard time too. They also long for a child and daily see their wives hurting and longing for a baby.
9. Let me say ‘no’ to situations I may not feel strong enough for. Working in the nursery or children’s ministries may not be the best place for me now. I may not feel able to face attending or helping to host a baby shower either. Churches are very family orientated and just being there can be a challenge for me, I may struggle fitting into typical peer groups.
10. Acknowledge my baby if I miscarry. Let me talk about him or her. It’s okay to say something or send a card. Knowing that someone remembers that I carried a life and that this little life is gone helps me grieve. I’ll probably keep the card and tuck it in a memory box.