There once was a woman who longed for a child. She would ask God continually to bless her with one. She often went away to a special place to talk to God and it was while at this special place that her heart changed and she decided to just accept God’s will. Many of us think this scenario is about Hannah in 1 Samuel 1. But in reality, this scenario could be applied to many women today. Our special place might be our room or even our husband’s arms. But we never talk about it to others. We keep it to ourselves and we hide behind a mask of happiness, yet our hearts are aching and longing to have a child. And we often beg God to bless us with a child.
If this is something that is close to your heart, I ask you to spend a few minutes in prayer and join me as we share our pain with others, so they might better understand us. If this is something you have never had to deal with, I ask that you join me and learn ways you can help other women who ARE in this scenario. So you can help other Hannah’s in their struggles and pain. So that we, as Christian sisters, can be there for one another and lift each other up.
Infertility, as defined today, is the inability to conceive a child after at least one year of trying. To some this might not seem like much, but as any woman who longs for a child is faced with month after month of disappointment, the emotional and the relational impact it causes, can be heartbreaking. Some women are able to accept it and carry on with their lives, while other women are so hurt and feel so “damaged” that they live their lives every day behind a mask. It is these women we are trying to help.
Start with understanding.
If you yourself have never faced infertility, then you might not know where to start when you find out a sister is struggling with it. Here are some statements from myself and other women I know, who suffer or have suffered. These are their thoughts, as they opened up and were honest and true:
“I feel like I am a failure to my husband who wants to have children so badly.”
“What bothers me most is that my body can’t do what it was created to do.”
“I hate it when I hear someone say they got pregnant “on accident” because I can’t get pregnant on purpose”
“Maybe God knows I won’t be a good mother?”
“I’m broken and don’t know how to fix it”
“Every time someone asks me when we are going to start having kids, I want to ball up and cry, because they don’t know the pain I’m going through to TRY and have those kids they are bugging me about.”
You can see that these statements show many sides of the struggle they are going through. The relationship between them and their husbands is affected. How they feel about themselves and their self worth is affected. How they feel about others is affected. And mostly, their relationship with God, our Father, is affected. This struggle affects everything in their lives.
- Making yourself available to talk. Allowing her to talk, and you to listen will not only help her with coping, but it will help you to better understand where she is at with her struggle. Let her explore her feelings with you. Let her express how she feels, and don’t try to belittle those feelings. They are real.
- Encourage alone time. If you yourself DO have children, try to make time for you to spend with her, without your kids around. Seeing other people with their happy families, doesn’t help the pain these women are struggling with.
- Encourage her with Scriptures. As mentioned in the beginning, 1 Samuel 1 is a great place to start. Psalm 5:2-3, Psalm 55:22, Psalm 121, Psalm 139:1-5, 14-16, etc. are great scriptures to encourage her to keep her relationship with God strong. Sometimes when we are struggling we forget to turn to God. Yet, He is the One who will answer our prayers.
- Help her see that she is still a child of God. In hard times like this, it’s easy to forget that God made us all for a purpose. Help her realize the talents and the fruit she is bearing in the church. Help her see her strengths. Encourage her to use those strengths in her struggle with infertility.
- Pray for her and pray with her.
What NOT to say…
And for those of you who have never suffered from infertility, you might not know the right words to say. I know we all mean the best with what we say, but there are some things that are hurtful to a struggling sister. Try not to say things like “Don’t let it get you down.” Of course infertility will get someone down. This statement is trying to dismiss the problem as insignificant rather than offering support or encouragement.
“You’re still young, you have time” You don’t know what God has in store for this sister. While she might be young, time might not be what is going to fix her infertility.
“You can always adopt” a statement like this can belittle the sense of pain they are struggling with. Not to mention, adoption is a personal decision that some people don’t feel they can make.
What you SHOULD say instead is things like “What can I do to help you?” It’s okay to not know what to say or do. Most likely, your sister will just want prayers and encouragement. Be there for her in any way she might need.
“I’m sorry you are going through this.” Your sister is going through something that she never expected. It’s a scary and very sad time for her.
“You are not alone.” If you know of someone else who has gone through infertility let her know about them (if they are okay with you sharing). Get her in contact with another who has gone through it or is currently going through it. Help bear one another’s burdens (Gal 6:2). We feel so alone and so secluded, knowing someone else, who is in our shoes, really does help.
While we might never know the exact thing we should do or say, one thing we can always do is pray. Pray for the sister and her husband. You might never run into a Hannah, but if you do, remember that it might not seem like a big deal to you, but to her, it’s everything. Hannah went daily to talk to God and beg him to bless her. Infertility is not something you can “forget about.” It’s on our mind daily. We think about it constantly. Our life revolves around it. It can suck a sister up and send her spinning out of control. Be there for her, and remind her that God loves her and she is still a child of His.
By Carley Robertson
Carley and her husband, Travis, serve with the Columbine church of Christ in Littleton, CO. Travis is a minister there focusing on young adults & families. Carley is a stay-at-home mom to their two daughters (Paityn Elyse, three years old; Brooklyn Kate, one year old) and is expecting their first son. Before serving with the Columbine church, they served in Hope, AR.