Fertility has never been an issue for my wife and I. Our question was not will we get pregnant but rather how can we time out our pregnancies the way we want them to be? Our three biological daughters are all two years apart with their birthdays falling within six weeks of one another each fall. Planned, calculated. Like clock work.
I share our experience to say this - I know our case is not the case for all, and while someone in my position cannot relate to the pain, we can certainly be sensitive to the reality that many around us are also planning and calculating, yet month after month silently struggling with the heartache of infertility.
Many around us are also planning and calculating, yet month after month silently struggling with the heartache of infertility.
Their good and holy desires to conceive and love and raise children is not being matched physiologically in their ability to create life together. Why, God, while so many around us have no issues with this, have you chosen us to bear this burden? This question, among many others, burrows deep in their souls and acts as a lens through which they view the world around them. They notice every mom pushing a stroller down the sidewalk, every dad playing catch with his son at the park and every cute young couple creatively announcing to the world through Facebook that they are expecting their first, or that their first is now going to be a big brother or sister to their second, third, fourth, etc. They outwardly celebrate all of this but inwardly their heart sinks just a little bit further. Their smiles for us are gracious but their souls within them grieve all that much more.
Not only do those struggling with infertility see the joys of what it could be like to have children, they also hear the grumblings of what it is like for many parents who do. Their hearts twinge when moms and dads allude to their kids as burdens, frustrations, interruptions to their plans or complications that make life more difficult than it is fulfilling. They see some consider to be a burden what for them would be the ultimate blessing.
They see some consider to be a burden what for them would be the ultimate blessing.
And then there's THE question: Do you have any children yet? It's asked with innocent intentions but still received like a punch to the gut as they must disappointedly answer no. It's a reminder that they don’t have what they desperately want, and now in the company of others they are forced to publicly recount all over again what they fight so hard to keep as a silent struggle between just the two of them.
This is a universal human issue, not one that is unique to those inside the Church or outside it. Yet, generally speaking, there is an elevated view of children and family within the Church as opposed to mainline cultural thinking – as there should be. We hold in high regard the sanctity of marriage, the foundation of family as a cultural cornerstone and the responsibility to steward children well as the gifts they are from God. This is a good thing to recognize, but not the only thing to be aware of.
It is our privilege to celebrate children and family in the Church, but also our responsibility to serve well those who are struggling with the pain and heartache of not having their own yet. As Mother’s Day approaches this year we have a great opportunity to do just that – celebrate and serve well. To honor moms and the children that make them such, but also to love those who wish they were in that position but aren't yet.
It is our privilege to celebrate children and family in the Church, but also our responsibility to serve well those who are struggling with the pain and heartache of not having their own yet.
So to those struggling with infertility, know this on Mother’s Day, and on every other day that your desires are yet to be fulfilled:
- We're sorry for saying things we thought would be helpful but only proved to be hurtful, like: God is just waiting for the right time, or, Enjoy your freedom now, because when you have kids it all goes away, or, Have you ever thought about adoption? We realize these are often legitimate statements just spoken at the wrong time, and that they probably don't progress you out of your pain but only push you deeper into it. While we mean them to be helpful we see how they can be hurtful and hollow.
- Those of us who have not walked through the struggles you do are ignorant of how to appropriately encourage you or help you carry the painful burden. At the end of the day all we can really say is we don’t understand, we love you and we hate that you are going through what you are. We have no answers, so our silence at times is not because we don't care, but because we do. We want to be there for you, to help you not hurt you, and our silent presence is all we have to offer.
- We promise to cherish our children as the gifts they are all the more, not only to honor the Lord in the responsibility He has given us but also to honor you. Our kids are a joyous delight; the more we view them as a burdensome duty the more we disparage that which you so desperately desire. We'll fight hard not to complain about having the very privilege you wish you had, and learn to appropriately relish the gift we've been given.
- There is nothing wrong with you for desiring children but not yet having them. In fact, there is something very right with you – your desire is good and holy and of God. It is a reflection of the heart of your Father to want to care for and love children. This is a good gift from above, a good desire, one that our gracious God is not blind to but is very aware of. Never let anyone tell you otherwise.
You do not have to struggle silently in the Church, but can be both celebrated and served well even while your desires are yet to be fulfilled - if nothing more than with the hope that Jesus loves your longing for having children and will fully satisfy it in a way that is perfectly good for you in the end. We can know this for certain, even if all of our other questions about why remain unanswered.