Always Real, Snips And Snails

On Infertility

I didn’t really intend to write this post and I may regret hitting the publish button. I intended to just jot down some thoughts surrounding an exchange that occured at church last Sunday so that I might further ruminate upon them later, but apparently all this stuff has been fermenting and percolating and it kind of just bubbled up to the surface and oozed out all over the keyboard. Read on at your own risk…

* * * * *

It always catches me by surprise — the hollow hungry feeling in the pit of the stomach, as though I hadn’t eaten for days, the closing of the throat, the burning sorrow that wells up from some secret unseen place.

But on Sunday morning, there it was again, that familiar pain just as fresh and raw as it was almost ten years ago – a pain that seems to have no expiration date.

The bell sounded the end of Sunday school class. As everyone gathered their stuff and stood to leave, I said hello to a gal I know who was sitting in front of me. I asked her how she was doing. She rushed into a description of how hectic the first days of school have been and the classes she’s teaching. As she spoke, I watched her fill the air between us with words that represent the busyness of her life, I watched her as she tried to convince me and convince herself that “busy” was the answer to my question. We both knew that it was not.

“Well, that’s good,” I said, “But what I really meant is how are you doing? How is it going with your infertility treatments?” She knows a little bit about my story, I know a little bit about hers, they are similar. We chatted and it wasn’t long before tears began to fill her eyes. They have all but come to the end of the line in their quest to get pregnant, they are in desperate measures territory, where the soil is spongy and threatens to swallow you whole with each uncertain step. It’s the place you said you’d never go, it’s beyond the line you would not cross.

I told her I remembered those days, how the tears were always there, just barely below the surface, how hard it was. I offered her my understanding as one who has been down that road. I so desperately wanted to comfort her but at the same time I knew from experience that nothing comforting can be said. I wanted to offer her hope but at the same time to tell her to let it go, to give up. But I didn’t. These are lessons one has to learn for oneself. AD and I offered her and her husband our prayers and our availability and then she slipped away to dry her eyes, probably not for the first time that day.

I carried her sadness with me for the rest of the day and the day after.

You would think that once you had achieved victory over infertility — that once you became a mother — that the grief would go away. But for me, it has not. I simply cannot forget that there are women in my midst whose dream of becoming pregnant and having a baby has not or will not come true. As a society, and particularly in our churches, we have dismissed those women and brushed off their pain. And that makes me not only sad, but angry. And if I had twelve children, I would not forget how it feels to slip out of church unnoticed and in tears on the most painful day of the year for the infertile — Mother’s Day.

Mother’s Day was salt in the wound of my infertility, but never was it more painful than at church.

In 2002 I sat in the back of church on Mother’s Day watching as little children handed out carnations to all the mothers in the congregation. I smiled a tight-lipped smile and scolded myself for the bitterness I felt as I watched all the carnations pass me by. I don’t even like carnations, in fact, I hate them, yet I was grieving the fact that I was not going to get a carnation and more so that I would never get one.

I will not cry I will not cry I will not cry I repeated in my head, as though that would somehow quash the great upwelling of sorrow that was rising in my chest. Antique Daddy put his arm around me. I looked up at him and he squeezed my arm. He knew what I was feeling. And it was then that I felt the sting of tears. I got up and quickly left the church before I broke down into big ugly snotty sobs. When we got to the parking lot, I shook my fist at God and I cried my eyes out. And I don’t think anyone even noticed that we had left. I don’t know if that is good or bad. It felt bad.

By the next Mother’s Day, I was several months pregnant. As we left the church that day, a well-meaning person commented to me that now that I was going to be a mother I would never have to be sad on Mother’s Day again. I just shook my head. She didn’t understand. I could not participate in the rubbing of salt in the wound of a sister and I never will. Mother’s Day is a fine holiday but it is not a holy day and has no business in the context of a worship service.

Every time I look at Sean, I think of how my life could have turned out so differently. God simply does not say yes to the prayers of every woman who longs for a baby. I don’t know why God decided to answer our prayers as he did in the 11th hour. He could as easily chosen not too. I’m so glad he did. So very glad. I just wish he would answer yes to the prayers of a few more ladies like my friend at church.

* * * * *

What Not To Say To Someone Who Is Struggling With Infertility (from my own personal collection)

I have a friend who adopted and then immediately got pregnant. (If I had a dime for every time I’ve heard this, I’d have a lot of dimes. And I would roll them all up and throw them at you.)

Just relax! (Oh great. I’m too uptight. Something else that is my fault.)

Have you thought about adopting? (This isn’t about adoption.)

I know just how you feel. It took us two months to get pregnant. (No, you don’t know how I feel and just now I want to hit you.)

If you pray, God will answer your prayers. (My bad, I’m not praying hard enough.)

I know how you feel. I got pregnant with my first one, but the second one took forever. (Shut up.)

You should be glad you don’t have kids, mine are a big pain in the butt. (Seriously. Shut. Up.)

And the list continues….

Edited to add this jewel from Heide to the list:

Any “helpful” comment that starts “At least…” (Implies we should be thankful for our situation and that we are greedy.)

153 thoughts on “On Infertility

  1. To Jennifer who said,”I’m at the stage in my life where most of my friends are married and have at least one child. I’m not married, and it doesn’t look like I will be any time soon. I hear my clock ticking and I wonder if and when I’ll have my chance to be a mommy. ”

    i went to my 10 year reunion in 99 and was one of the only still single not a mommy type women…
    I will be going to my 20 year next summer as a married mom of 3. When i turned 30 still single/no kids/no prospects in sight I thought my life was over…God just had other plans for me. I met my funny hubby 3 months later and we have now been married 6 years with a honeymoon baby and a second one we found out about on our first wedding anniversary…
    hubby told me right around our second anniversary that he didnt understand i wasnt near as much fun the first 2 years of being married as i was when we were dating…i told him if he had been preg basically 19 of 24 months he wouldnt be much fun either…

  2. Oh wow… what an incredible, incredible post. Earlier this year (a couple of days after Mother’s Day in fact), I wrote a post that included some of my feelings about this exact topic.

    Six years ago, I became a mother through adoption on the day AFTER Mother’s Day. The Mother’s Days since that time have been much less painful, but I will NEVER, NEVER forget how hard it was to wait year after year for a baby… to watch other women stand up, get their carnation or gift or whatever… to hear the sermons about mothers in the Bible and how God made women to be mothers…blah, blah, blah… The last couple of years before adopting Samuel, I just refused to put myself through it and stayed home from church.

    I have since been able to give birth to two more children, so I am a mother to three now – which still amazes me. And yet I still get up on Mother’s Day and wonder if I want to go to church or not. It’s sort of like grief over a tragic death… the pain never goes away… it lessens, and it just changes and transforms in time. I don’t want to forget completely – it’s part of who I am.

    Thanks for the post today… I’ll be praying for your friend.

  3. Your tips of things NOT to say were right on. Thanks for the side comments (especially about the dimes. I would have enough dimes by now to knock several people out.). Another thing I would add of things NOT to say (or do) to someone experiencing infertility (or infertility combined with a late miscarriage): Don’t hand babies to us. Just because we can’t have our own children (or we’ve just lost one) doesn’t mean that we want to hold any baby. That happened to me on more than one occasion. It was tough to say “I’m kind of missing my OWN baby right now, and holding someone elses makes it harder…”

  4. My favorite–from my doctor who was also an elder in my church. “You just need to relax. Remember Sarah (from the Old Testament) was 90.”

    Or from a teenager in our youth group–“I don’t know how I got pregnant. I only had sex once!”

    The day I broke down at church, a fellow minister’s wife said, “So, when are YOU going to start a family?”

  5. I for one am so glad you hit that publish button. I will never be able to sit through another Mother’s Day service without thinking of what you and countless other women have been through.

    Thanks for allowing me a glimpse of what it’s like, not to “count my blessings” (although I am grateful), but so that I have a better understanding of how to talk to someone who’d going through it.

  6. Please don’t ever regret hitting the publish button – especially when you have something so improtant to say. My sister couldn’t have children, and I have friends who faced the same silent agony. In a sense, having a list of what not to say is so important. It was the same when my husband died. Every word matters. Thank you for writing this, AM

  7. This was a wonderfully written post.

    My husband and I struggled for nine years with infertility. Mother’s Day wasn’t so terribly hard for me, strange as that may sound, because we were busy spending the day with our mothers. Since my mother and I are so close, it was easy to let the day be about her. And no one on either side of the family ever pressured us about children, which was always such a blessing.

    It was the baby showers that were hard. I was a teacher, and when you work in a school with a young faculty, pregnant people pop up right and left. As happy as I was for my friends, it was hard to keep going to them.

    We heard all of those insensitive comments and then some. A person (who used to be a pretty good friend was pregnant after trying for a whole four months) said to me, “You just might have to accept that some people aren’t meant to be parents.”

    Another person once told my husband and me that God was probably sparing us from having children with terrible disabilities. My husband, who would normally hold his tongue until it turned blue, said, “You mean like the one you have?” Bless him.

    Our son was born 2 years ago. I am grateful for him. I am grateful for what I learned while waiting for him. I have no advice to offer, only prayers for peace and grace for those who are longing.

  8. Thank you for giving me much to think of. I have 2 children, when the first came along as soon as I came off the pill, I wondered why others had problems, it was easy to have a child. 3 years later God proved me wrong, with a miscarrage. When my daughter was on the way i was knew life wasn’t so simple, and didn’t take the pregnacy for granted.
    I hadn’t thought about others feeling about mothers day. our church celebrates Mothering sunday, i believe its on a different date. It tends to focus on those who care for others, who can be male or female, tho all the ladies often receive a flower. As some of our familys are with out fathers we don’t have fathers day either.

  9. Thanks for posting this. It’s really good to hear about it from someone who’s been there.
    My SIL just underwent IVF and is desperately hoping for some good news right now. I’ve been praying and hoping for her. This post was very timely for me; it helps me know how to be supportive.
    Years and years ago, we went to an African church in Oregon. On Mother’s Day, they insisted on honouring all women. It used to bug me, as I didn’t want to be honoured (I was in my mid-20s at the time), but now that I’m older I understand it better.

  10. I am guilty of telling my sister to relax. In my defense, that was before she was diagnosed with a disease that causes profound infertility issues. But I still feel badly about that to this day.

    That was a lovely but gut wrenching post. Thank you for baring your soul to us.

  11. Thank you as always for the reminder of how difficult infertility can be. I appreciate your honesty. My best friend struggled for years with infertility and eventually delivered her son at 25 weeks 6 days. Zane is a thriving if nutty 4 year old now. 🙂 Blessings to you as you minister to the women who are struggling to become mommies.

  12. Thanks so much for sharing this. You spoke so clearly what’s in my heart.

    As for Mother’s Day at church I so encourage anyone to talk to their Pastor about their concerns. Thankfully I work for my church. When they were planning Mother’s Day gift for the moms I was very clear about the pain it would cause so many. Having known my story they listened and we honored all women that day with a gift instead of just the “moms”. I know it’s still a very difficult day though. It’s only through allowing ourselves to be vulnerable and reaching out – even if we don’t know what to say – sometimes a hug is all we need.

  13. WOW you hit the nail on the head. YOu said everything I felt for 7 years and often felt too guilty, shallow, unworthy, small, or bitter to say. Thank you for verbailizing what so many of us have experienced and for hopefully giving some insight to those who have no idea of the pain that is infertility.

  14. I do hope you leave this post up. So much you have written here needs to be said, but more importantly HEARD!

    Infertility stinks. The only kind thing I have to say about it is that through my journey with infertility I have met some amazing women and some remarkable medical professionals. I am lucky…my journey resulted in a beautiful daughter through IVF, a daughter from a surprise natural pregnancy and the battle finally ended with a miscarriage. My heart hurts for anyone who struggles with infertility.

  15. There’s a great book available on called To Walk on Fertile Ground by Kristi Brown that speaks to this subject. I recommend it for anyone who is struggling with infertility. It’s a truly uplifting and inspiring book, easy to read and written with the purpose of helping others.

    At 30, Kristi was told she was in the late stages of menopause. A couple of years later, through IVF and a donor egg, she did become pregnant only to find out that the pregnancy was not sustainable. A few weeks later, she found out that there were cancerous cells left over from the molar pregnancy, and she underwent chemotherapy.

    As of today, Kristi is cancer-free. She and her husband have two wonderful Labrador Retrievers and are living a very full life. It’s not at all the life that my good friend had planned for herself, but as she once told me, “It’s the life I was given, and I’m going to LIVE it.”

    Kristi and I have been friends since our freshman year in college, so I knew her story. But I read her book in one sitting and it helped me in ways I couldn’t have predicted.

  16. This is such a beautiful post. I just posted something of a very similar sentiment on my own blog. (But I write about my miscarriages, not infertility.)

    Thank you for sharing this.

  17. I’ve been there…the miscarriages, dr visits, tests, tears, the frustration & confusion knowing the Creator of Life chose to give fruit to young, unmarried teens in a one-time experience while we waited year after year…and here I am 23 years & 2 grown sons later with the pain still clear in my memory. I am sad for you and each of the posters here who are or have gone thru the pain.

    Please allow me to gently say I do find it interesting among all the comments about whether Mothers/Fathers Day celebrations belong in church that no one has mentioned that honoring one’s Mother & Father is actually one of the Ten Commandments. Why wouldn’t a day set aside to remind & encourage us in that direction belong in church? Granted, truly honoring one’s parents is about far, far more than a carnation in church. But then, truly embracing Christmas or Thanksgiving or Easter is far more than whatever we do in church on those days as well.

    My pain was at its worst on Mothers Day. Some years I couldn’t bear to go to church, so I get it. Yet, it in light of God’s instruction, I always understood that for the church to spearhead the effort to take the time to honor mothers and fathers, to remind us all to make it a priority toward our own mothers in spite of our personal pain, was in itself a good thing. My pain continually turned me inward to myself, and what our church did on Mothers/Father’s Day was a good reminder that all of life was not about me and my pain, altho’ it sure felt that way most of the time. Sometimes I was able to reach out to my mother on Mday & some years I was not. But when I did, it was healing and it was good to reach out beyond my pain.

    I would like to encourage readers not to try to remove M/F Day observances from your churches. If you are at all able, and I know sometimes you just cannot, instead please try to find ways to bring your church leadership to an understanding of the pain, and work together to find ways the church can add support for the hurting on that day in addition to what they are already doing that really, truly is GOOD.

  18. Deb, I appreciate your thoughtful and well-reasoned case for celebrating MD in the church. However I still think there are other more appropriate days and ways to teach that particular commandment than on a Hallmark sanctioned holiday which clearly causes pain for many women who suffer in silence, as indicated by the number of comments. I simply just could not be happy participating in a corporate event at church that I know will be hurtful to my friend. Would it not be okay to just casually say Happy Mother’s Day and then move on to the business of worship?

  19. Today is my first introduction to your blog…someone on my blog alerted me to this post, because I had just posted something similar in my “Rewinds” post. Thank you for sharing so transparently and communicating a subject that is too often ignored. I look forward to following your blog and am grateful when I find someone who “gets it”. =)

    Jen @

  20. Wow. This was so well written. It is so hard to see someone in that familiar pain. You said “I don’t know why God decided to answer our prayers as he did in the 11th hour. He could as easily chosen not too. I’m so glad he did.” Perhaps he answered your prayers because he knew you would use your experiences to inspire and uplift so many? I know reading your blog is a highlight of my mornings and I often send my friends links to your postings.

    My road to motherhood took six painful years of specialists, surgeries and miscarriage. I am so blessed to have been given my daughter. When she was just a few months old I found out my husband of 14 years had a pregnant girlfriend. I think that God knew I would have lost my mind without my child to ground me in those dark days. Being a single mom has been hard but I am grateful for every minute of it.

  21. Oh my sweet, sweet, understanding & compassionate friend. Thank you so much for these words of wisdom, comfort and remembering!! I am a lurker here, daily, have commented once or twice.

    We have been trying, hoping and praying for a baby for 8 & 1/2 years now. Mother’s Day, Baby Dedications, when the children sing @ Christmas or Easter, kids in Halloween costumes, baby showers. The list of things to “avoid at all costs” varies from year to year depending on feelings, emotions and what I can handle this time around.

    This past December we made the official decision (after MUCH thoughts, prayers and guidance) to work with an adoption agency. It took a ton of waiting on signs from God and thankfully he speaks through his people. It’s not the path for everyone, but we feel 110% that it’s the one he chose for us.

    We have been approved since May 28th and are waiting to be chosen by a birthmother. Our adoption will be an open adoption so we’ll wait on HER to CHOSE US! We plan on some sort of ongoing relationship with her, we’ll work that out as we go. (Any extra prayer shout out, anyone who has connections, want to add a link to your blog about us? whatever, we’ll take it all and anything)

    And church is a hard place to deal with the whole thing. You are SO RIGHT!! We have dropped out of Sunday School twice now through this journey. We have tons of wonderful friends at church and out, but well meaning people can sometimes do the most “harm” to us emotionally I think. We didn’t fit in with people are age, everyone has a child (usually 2 or 3) at this point in their lives. Social gatherings are about picnics with kids and McDonald’s so the kids can play instead of getting together to appreciate and encourage each other as couples in Christ. I understand they need to share, discuss and encourage each other as parents… but I think sometimes the rest got left out.

    Anyhow.. we have chosen to be active in our church, but skip Sunday School until we are parents. It’s sad, but easier on the heart.

    Until then, we wait to be chosen and for our own little one to be in our arms!! Your words are comforting, you’re right about so much. May we always remember our journey to our child and remember what we learned along the way!!!!

    That first comment is now one I hear constantly too. Like my adopted child wont be “real”, but maybe…if we’re lucky .. we’ll get our own “real” baby after that. Ugh, ugh, ugh, ugh!!! Makes you want to scream!!

  22. Oh the memories (sad, awful, heart-rending ones) your post brought back. I thought your list of remarks was fairly spot on, though I took slight issue with the one about the second baby taking forever. The pain of secondary fertility is very real; parents dream of a certain size family and sometimes that dream is simply not realized. However, that person’s phrasing was very insensitive.

    I’m past those days but am now trying to help a friend going through fertility treatments. Sad days for her. This book by someone who’s been there helped her know she’s not alone: it’s Tiny Toes. The author writes a simple, easy to read, and informative account of a very complicated life situation. Infertility and premature birth are probably two top life stressing events. You will find tons of information here — this book is good for the couple going through it, as well as friends and family trying to understand what someone goes through during this trial in their life.

  23. Your post took my breath away.

    You wrote so eloquently about one of the many, many facets of infertility that prompted me to write my book, To Walk on Fertile Ground, to help women like me find peace and grace with their life. I also wrote it to help bring an awareness to others who do not struggle with infertility that the pain never goes away. It sometimes quietens down and comes rolling in like thunder other times.

    excerpt from To Walk on Fertile Ground:

    …I recounted in my mind over and over the moment, the instant I was told and understood having children on my own would not be an option. My thoughts raced into fast forward, a glimpse of my life’s dreams, scurrying ahead of me — seemingly always out of reach. Just always beyond grasp.
    There would be no crib to put together, no baby shower, no lullabyes, no bouncy seats, or walks with Daddy. Fairies and frogs disappeared from my decorative plans.
    I was no stranger to heartache in my life. I learned very early to cope in a world with others’ very adult issues. But now this was my very adult life and issues. The harsh reality of crushed dreams now belonged to me.
    My heart’s cry in total exasperation that somehow my body had betrayed me was much too great to bear. “Oh, God, why me?” I asked. “Why are things so hard for me?” How does a 30 year old explain to a world of Babies-R-Us and Winnie-the-Pooh fanatics and those who think they have all the answers having children is impossible for her?
    I knew I would somehow have to reconcile the difference in my life between what the world tells us that we can do or be anything we want to be with the fact that I could not. Try as I may, I could NEVER have a biological child of my own. I cannot think of anything more devastating to a young wife. We were born to have children, to raise a family, and to leave a legacy behind. Like so many other women, I yearned to wrap those sweet tiny fingers around my own, to smell baby lotion every night, proudly watch my child grow and learn, and to know the depths of my heart from a child’s perspective. I wanted to be a mother, but my body could not make it happen. Broken dreams are a part of life, but I wanted more. I wanted to give my husband more than broken dreams. He deserved more.
    Plagued by heart-wrenching moments, I replayed friends’ innocent comments over and over that night…
    “Just relax.”
    “Stop trying so hard.”
    “You need to just pray harder.”
    “It’s so much fun practicing though.”
    “Timing is everything.”
    Like a bad joke where the punch line falls just short of an audience’s acknowledgement, those mindless quips of answers are nothing more than hollow words to a heart broken and an infertile body.
    Infertile. Unproductive. Unfruitful. Desolate. That’s how I was classified on paper. That’s how I felt emotionally. I was barren. (end Chapter 5)

  24. True, so true. I just had one of those weeks too a couple weeks ago. It’s good to get it out!

    The message still rings true – we have no control over the miracles we are given.

    -mother of 8, 7 of them dancing with the angels.

  25. Thank you for this post. My husband and I were married for six years before we had our first child. Two of those years were spent trying to conceive. It took months of Clomid (at almost twice the maximum dose) to finally get pregnant. I, too, had drawn a line in the sand, and that month’s dose was to be my last. Fortunately, it was the last for a good reason.
    It would be six more years before we had another child. This time, we had already given up (and given away almost everything) and were planning our life as a three person family. There were no drugs involved this time, just the humor of God’s timing.
    I, too, have such a heart for those that are infertile. I just want to slap those that say to others (and at one time to me), “When are you going to have another one? You don’t want an only child, do you?” – well, no,yes, maybe, but should I give you my (in)fertility history?
    If only we would all THINK before we speak…

  26. What an honest post. I’m so glad you hit the publish button. Clearly, God is blessing this. I am infertile and while the pain of infertility isn’t as raw as it used to be, church was actually THE hardest place to feel accepted during the time in which I wanted so badly to get pregnant. I happened to go to a very fertile church, too, and heard the most insensitive things about how “their husbands just had to look at them and they were pregnant…” Blech!
    I’m an adoptive mom of 2 now but the grief is still there, not too far underneath the surface. Like you said, it will never go away. While I’m thankful for it, it still hurts so very much. Thanks again for your post.

  27. I cannot imagine how painful it must have been, or how painful it sometimes continues to be. If I ever see you, I promise not to say something with stupidly good intentions, but just give you a hug and be on my way. This was a beautiful post, as are so many of yours.

  28. Wow!! This is a beautiful and sensitive post. Thank you for it. I have to admit that I have been guilty of some of the wrong words that you have pointed out. I am so grateful to hear so articulately how to love my sisters who are sharing this heartache better.
    Thank you for your transparent heart and you precious words,

  29. After struggling with infertility and then miscarriages once I did get pregnant, it was so painful to me to have someone say, “Well at least you know you can get pregnant.”

    I’m glad you posted this- you have such a way with words.

  30. As the mom to a “frozen baby”….an 11th hour answer to a prayer, I applaud you for addressing this issue. Now the burning issue is do I copy and paste your link and send it to my pastor? Thank you for sharing our spirit, our grief and our hope.

    I would also add that those of you who know people with an only child, PLEASE do not assume they are some smug, selfish couple who wanted a token child but didn’t pursue more children because it would be inconvenient. If I had a dime for every mother of 2-5 kids who told me my life was a breeze because I have an only, I would surely throw that at them as well! If they only knew the heartache, physical struggles and years of tears and $$ that went into “just one.”

  31. Yes, well. I recognize myself in your post.
    I especially like this sentence, “Mother’s Day is a fine holiday but it is not a holy day and has no business in the context of a worship service.”
    I choose not to go to church on that day, but my husband does and he brings me home a flower, gives it to me as a “someday mother-to-be.” So I just cry in the comfort of my own home, not only because of our inability to conceive, but because of his sweetness. (sigh)

    One of my pet peeves are those well-meaning folks who, seeing all my sister-in-laws who are pregnant or have had two children in two years, ask us when we’re gonna have a family… never even realizing that their question brings us pain because WE CAN’T. (sigh)

    Lines in the sand, indeed. Obviously, by the content of the comments, this post needed to be written.

    So sorry I missed you when you were in California. xoxo

  32. wow! what beautiful postings. I’ve read only 2-3 postings of yours and i must confess, that, it persuaded me to write comment. as generally i don’t prefer commenting
    Thank you for verbalizing what so many of us have experienced.

    great work. keep it up
    best regards

  33. You would think that once you had achieved victory over infertility — that once you became a mother — that the grief would go away. But for me, it has not.

    not for me either. and I hate it when people assume that because I had 3 kids in 39 months those years I spent begging to get pregnant and the one that I lost no longer mean anything…are to be forgotten.

    I hate it.

  34. There are truly many awkward moments in the long struggle with infertility that I had.

    But this stands out as one of the most poignant!

    After only 2 years of infertility treatments I did get pregnant with a miracle baby–only to have it stillborn at 21 weeks. I was a high school teacher at the time. The following year in my small (5-6 students) remedial math class there was a pregnant girl in my class. Also, there was a girl who had been in one of my regular classes the previous year and knew of my loss. The pregnant girl gave her baby up for adoption—the other girl kept saying that she should give it to me. To see her give her baby for adoption—to look at the pictures of them saying goodbye to their baby for the last time—

    Need I say more.

    Now I have 5 adopted kids. And these losses were many years ago. And my kids are teens—-I find myself wondering what my birth kids would be like as teens. I surprise myself because I thought this was behind me.

    One of the best things I did was join an infertility support group. My friends were tired of it and the awkward moments that it produced. We were able to compare doctors and treatments. I highly recommend it.

  35. You are so eloquent. So honest. So real. I never struggled with this issue, but I know many who have and I feel sure it’s a very deep wound that doesn’t go away. Thanks for the gentle reminder of what NOT to say. I guess we so often want to say something to make the pain go away, but maybe the best thing is to just love the person, cry with them and say nothing.

    And on another note, I heard that you are going to be speaking to the MOPS group at my church! I am THRILLED. I am not a MOP (2 teens), but I lead the Bible study for the leaders. Yesterday I was giving them a list of my favorite websites which included your blog. One of the MOPS coordinators smiled and said, “Hey! She’s one of our speakers!” What a small world. Maybe I can play hooky from Bible study that day and come hear you and meet you in person. Woo hoo! Those gals will LOVE you.

  36. I came across your website a couple of months ago, and I have really enjoyed reading it, mostly because of the laughter they bring. This post made me cry. Thank you so much for your words, and your additional comment about not fitting in in the church and the way we divide up the body of Christ. I am a single woman in my 30s and struggling with these issues, not necessarily of trying to have a baby and having my hopes disappointed time and time again, but of living with the knowledge that unless my situation changes soon, I will never have a baby. I was about to be married, and God shut the door on it for reasons I know now were for my good, and I had to end the relationship. In the 5 years since, God has not brought another man into my life, but unfortunately the longing for a family has increased. I have felt like a horrible person at times because of the feelings of “why not me?” that come over me sometimes when I hear about friends having babies and starting families. I had the horrible experience recently of my best friend being afraid to tell me of her recent first pregnancy because I had shared my heart with her about my longing to be a wife and mother and she didn’t want to hurt me, which hurt me even more that I had made her or anyone else feel that way. In the weeks after my latest nephew was born, I actually felt resentment towards HIM because I couldn’t have my own child, and it took a while before I could hold him without fighting tears. I have told myself that I am better off, because if I’m not a mother, I will never have the pain of a having a child who is ill or disabled; I won’t have the pain of bringing a human being into a hurting world and having the possibility of him/her choosing not to follow after God, etc, etc. But it doesn’t help, because in all my arguments to myself of how I’m better off, the fact remains that I would be childless in all those scenarios.

    Unfortunately, church is not a safe haven or a place to find healing, because I feel there is no place for me. My “group” that I would be put in, being a single woman, is full of college kids and young 20somethings and it just grows younger as I grow older. I too have sat in the Mother’s Day recognition church services fighting back tears, with the added pain of having no one’s hand to hold beside me and feeling that I have no right to be upset or feel “barren”. But I do feel that way, and I am. So thank you for sharing; it’s made me realize there are some things about myself that I need to change to accept and embrace the life God is giving me, but I don’t need to be ashamed over my grief and longing to be a mother.

  37. AM – I echo everyone who has said over and over again, thank you for writing this post. I’ve never had to go through this type of pain, and this was definitely eye opening.

    I know though, that all of us have probably said something at one time or another that has been misconstrued as insensitive or unfeeling. My husband is Hispanic. His mother is Mexican and his father is white. He was raised here in East Tennessee. People are constantly coming up to us and asking him, “What nationality are you?” His answer, “I’m American. Just like you are.” People tell my husband racially hate filled jokes about Mexicans. We’ve also sat in churches that are predominantly white or black. Not one Hispanic in the bunch. We’ve been through sermons where the preacher is expounding upon the evils of racially mixed marriages…never once understanding who they are talking to or what they are talking about.

    I realize that none of what I’ve just talked about is nearly as traumatic or painful as not being able to conceive. I’m just trying to make the point that people just are not perfect and everyone says stuff that is just ignorant at times. It’s not intentional. It just is what it is. Thank all of you ladies however for showing grace and mercy on those of us who are so clumsy at trying to show our love and concern. Please continue to forgive and educate us on how we can best try to meet your needs.

  38. Thank you for the honesty and openness of this post. I think blogging has opened the door for a huge number of women to share their thoughts, fears, hopes, hurts, miseries, about infertility. There is an immense body of support, sympathy and concern out there. It makes me very sad to think of all the women in the past who have been silent and unbearably lonely.

    The Mother’s Day thing really sucks. There is a story on one infertility blog of a lady who, when the pastor invited the congregation to stand in honor of mothers everywhere, deliberately stayed seated, in recognition of those who would like to be mothers but aren’t. I think that is brave and I hope that I (fortunate and grateful mother of 3) would do the same, or come up with another similar gesture. Most of all, couldn’t we just not do Mother’s Day in churches? There are always gifts home from preschool and school, so do we really need more recognition in church? Church is meant to be a safe place, and many must suffer on Mother’s Day.

  39. I haven’t told anybody that we started trying for a family last April. I didn’t want to hear everybody ask why it was taking so long. (I know 6 months doesn’t seem long to everyone else, but it does to me). I haven’t told anyone that my doctor says I’m not ovulating. I just pretend that I’m not interested in having kids. I didn’t want people to tell me all the things you mentioned. Instead, they ask me when I’m going to get around to making my parents grandparents. My family asks me this. My co-workers ask me this. Strangers in the store ask me this. They don’t know any better because I deliberately made the choice not to tell them, but it hurts anyway. That’s the first time I’ve admitted that.

  40. This is so very very well written. You should try to write a book, you write so very well.

    I’d never thought that Mother’s Day isn’t a *holy day*. We know how the church values motherhood and the Holy Mother.

  41. MotherPie, I’m not saying that the church shouldn’t value motherhood. Of course it should. My personal opinion is that the creation of life is a holy alliance between God and woman and it should indeed be respected. However… Celebrating Hallmark holidays in the context of a Christian worship service is a recent adaption of the modern church and I – personally, just me – am not in favor of it. There are a million other ways to honor your mother than with a big public display at church.

  42. I didn’t have fertility problems but I had a miscarriage (7 years after my 1st son). My husband and I hadn’t been married a year at the time. The comments and stupid remarks I heard were very hurtful. My Mother in law actually said “well at least you know you can have a baby” among other ridiculous things.

    It’s true what you say about the “at least” phrase.

  43. What a powerful post – I’m glad it spilled out onto your keyboard and made it’s way to my screen! I don’t write as eloquently as you do at all, but I shared a blessing God has recently given with regard to our long struggle with infertility.

    My personal three favorite comments:

    “Have you tried standing on your head after – you know ??? – I heard from my forth cousin twice removed on my mother’s aunt’s side that her daughter used the pull of gravity to get preggo – I think she stayed there three days!!! She has 6 kids now you know”

    “Did you ever think God doesn’t plan for you to have children so that you can focus on being a better pastors wife and care for the need of the children of our congregation?”


    “Since you mother briefly considered an abortion when she was expecting you because of her difficult medical condition, you are now being followed by a spirit of abortion and that’s why you cannot conceive!”


  44. Compared to others, I had a relatively short fertility problem – about 2 years. But nonetheless equally painful. This was the only time in my life I have ever been angry with God. I just could not fathom why He wouldn’t give me the other thing I have ever wanted in life (husband and then children). I say God finally got tired of my complaining and gave me the greatest gift in the world. My boy is now 6, and a handful. My daughter is 2 and is very good at it! but my love for them knows no bounds. But even all of that love cannot cover the absolute helplessness I felt during that 2 years when I thought I would never be a mother. It is always there.

    I had hopes of adding one more little one to our family, but a difficult pregnancy and miscarriage last April put an end to this 41 year old mommy’s desire.

    I thank you for sharing your feelings. I think a lot of us can relate.

  45. a fly in the ointment.

    As I read this I thought of a story I heard from a woman in Auschwitz —she said she saw a major difference in people in the attitudes they had toward their own pain and suffering. There were people who, even though they were starving, would give their bread to others. Others complained and stole. There were those who would place themselves in confinement with others with no food or drink. Others who would lie and tell others did things they did not do so they would not have to go into confinement.
    I see in your story so much pain. It is a very emotionally charged post and I agree we need to consider others in this place of chidlesssness…but I must say I did not see much godly resolve. It was put to me once when I pitied my circumstances: “Mrs. ‘Babies in heaven’–You are not your feelings, you are your choices.
    I see you want to go to church to worship but are very upset when it is not the way you want be, ie. “not on Mothers Day because of_________ or not on this day because of_________.” Name your pain or name what you don’t like. Everyone has a story. We all suffer. You say “I will not cry, I will not cry…” “I” do not like carnations. “I” would not get one. He knew “My” feelings. “I” ran to the parking lot. “I” broke down. There were a lots of “I’s” in that worship service that day. Imagine if Jesus would not want to recognize the resurrection or any day like it because he was rejected by everyone and hung on a cross to suffer and die. What if Jesus said “It is too painful for me to even think about being nailed to the cross and having everyone rejct me so no one else can rejoice becuase I suffered way to much humilation.”
    I have had 6 miscarraiges. People say suprising things. They are not trying to be hurtful. I say things I should not, too. I would imagine you do also. What is that age old Christian principle, “forgive as we forgive others and Do not be easily offended”?
    A wise woman once told me, “don’t let your affliction become your career”. If we are Christians and we have afflictions, then put them where they belong—in the hands of God. Face it and place it. Quit putting it on people(or churches)to know our every need and pain and to be emotionally sensitive to all of them.
    What about learning in spite of ourselves? What about overcoming our circumstances? We need to learn to bear a burden well. What about considering others as above ourselves? How about going and saying to your hurting friend, “Let’s go and get a carnation.” I bet your Pastor would not dissapprove. Keep it if you’d like. Better yet teach this younger woman to pray about who she can bless and give it to…maybe even a mother who has children! Or say,’I’ am going to take a widow to lunch today; do you want to come too? ‘I’ am going to give that mama with 4 kids a hug and a gift certificate for a manicure today. ‘I’ am going to thank that mother that said the silly things to me for raising those children. ‘I’ am going to find a single mother who looks harried and watch her children for her today. ‘I’ am going to bless God regardless of my feelings. ‘I’ am not going to complain because I am not getting want ‘I’ want in my fertility. ‘I’ will be thankful for Pastors who prepare and show up even when everyone is complaining about the topics. Aren’t you glad he doesn’t show up just when he “feels” like it or doesn’t “feel” it. ‘I’ will rejoice with those who have something to rejoice. Here is what is sad to me: After I read the comments, I was very suprised at how everyone was complaining. If we all (those who posted comments here) were to be placed in Auschwitz, I would be scared to be in that concentration camp with alot of these church going commenters who can only consider the pain they will suffer on “that particular day”.

  46. I think these women are entitled to their pain and entitled to acknowledge it and talk about — or complain as you say. I think these women deserve some sensitivity to that pain especially in a church environment. I don’t think Hallmark Holidays and personal birthdays should be celebrated in the context of a worship service but that is just my own unpopular opinion.

    Most of us eventually work towards the Godly resolve you talk about, but it takes time,and in the meantime it doesn’t help to be told, basically to suck it up.

  47. Thank you for publishing this, and thanx to all the many people who responded. I have many thoughts as I remember those difficult days, our three angels in Heaven and our two precious boys, and appreciate your honesty. My pains tend not to be shared, so I appreciate being able to read all these views on the topics.

    Mother’s Day at our church was always about honoring YOUR own mother line (and I know this is also fraught with possible problems) but I found it comforting to think of the good things of my own mother and hers, and to be thankful.

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