Things to do when you or a loved one is going through infertility or feels distant from God

Pain and grief come in waves. Some days you will want to be normal all day and almost forget that life is hard. Don’t be afraid of those days. Live in the light when you see it. Search for the light. But there are also some days that hit you out of nowhere with a rush sadness that knocks you off your feet, and that’s ok too. Just make sure to balance dealing with the pain and letting yourself feel those real emotions, but also looking for and living in the light. Remember that you are never alone. Even when it feels like everyone has forgotten, find someone and remind them. I wrote these lists towards the end of our infertility journey. I was finally making peace with God and peace with suffering. I may never understand the whys behind what we went through, but there was peace sometimes and that was just as good. I wrote this in May after our first failed IVF round, and in July we found out we were pregnant. I’ll give you the rest of that story another week.

Things that you can do when you feel distant or angry with God (May 2016)

  1. Let yourself be angry. Let God know how you feel. He already knows anyway, so getting it out in the open actually helps. Plus, if David can write multiple psalms about it and even Jesus can shout about it, then so can you. Psalm 13, Psalm 22, Matthew 27:46
  2. Don’t keep it to yourself. I know it hurts to talk about it and sometimes it’s embarrassing, but it really does help to have people in your corner, picking you up and checking on you. When Derek and I decided that we would not hide under this stigma that you aren’t allowed to discuss infertility it helped so much. Our rule is, if it helps or brings healing – share.
  3. Fight fear. The Bethel song “No Longer Slaves” created a huge breakthrough for both Derek and I. God is bigger than fear and sometimes you have to fight to escape it, but don’t quit trying.
  4. Be friends with the light. Derek and I still repeat this regularly as one of our mantras. Even in the darkest days, there are happy things. You may have to hunt for them, but don’t stop trying. I have had so many beautiful moments with sweet students or my soccer players or with Derek or with my friends or family in the past 2 years. I don’t get to nullify those light moments with the darkness. The darkness does not get to win. Be friends with the light.
  5. Keep praying. Even if it’s one word. Just don’t stop. Prayer beads helped me find prayer again.

Things that you can do for a loved one that is feeling distant from God or is going through a time of pain or suffering.

  1. Be normal. Tell me about you day. Tell me about the crazy person at work or the cute thing that your child did today. Tell me about how stressful work was. I really do want to know. Just because I feel sad some days doesn’t mean that I want to live in the sadness. Being able to talk about normal life with my friends and family helps me feel normal.
  2. Ask good questions. Ask me about how I’m feeling. The more specific the question, the easier it is for me to answer. Sometimes the vague ones are hard because most of the time, my emotions are all over the place. Also, ask me at a time that I can really answer. It’s hard to answer the question “How are feeling?” in passing.  But I genuinely do like sharing my thoughts and am open to answering questions. (This may not be true for all people struggling. It depends on where they are in the process and how close you are to them.)
  3. Pray for me. Pray with me. Tell me that you are praying for me, but don’t just say that you are praying for me to have a baby because in all honesty, the baby may not come. Pray for me to be filled with the spirit. Pray that I have strength. Pray for my marriage. Pray that I find joy today in my students. Pray that I find hope and purpose in helping others also fighting this battle of losing hope. Pray for peace to cover me in the hard days. Pray with me in the hard days. Pray for wisdom and understanding. And pray that I don’t quit searching for how to find God in the craziness
  4. Let me have hard days. Let me vent and be angry and cry and not feel bad about it. Be angry with me. Cry with me. Listen without trying to fix it. Derek always reminds me of when Jesus came to visit Mary and Martha after Lazarus died. Jesus doesn’t walk up and tell them that he is about to raise Lazarus from the dead, and he doesn’t tell them to wipe their eyes. Jesus cries with them. He straight up stopped in his tracks and wept. Lament is a very real and big part of Scripture. An entire genre of psalms is lament. David gets flat out angry with God. So, it really is good for me to tell God and to be able to tell you that I am really frustrated or sad or angry.
  5. Then be normal again. Let me hold your babies. It really does help me feel happier when I get to be a part of your life and your child’s life. Every now and then it’s hard to be around babies, but mostly I love the feeling of getting to shower your child with cuddles, kisses, and just that touch of a child fills this need inside of me that I can’t explain. I need to know that even though I don’t have a baby, I’m still your friend and still an important part of your life. I need to know that not having a baby doesn’t make me less of a woman.  I need to know that just because I am hurting, doesn’t mean that I don’t want to help you through your pain. Your struggles may have a lot to do with your child and that’s ok too! I still want to be a part of those conversations. Again, sometimes that may be hard, but that’s on me. More often than not, it makes me happy to get to love you through your problems just as I know that you want to love me through mine. In fact, when you try to shelter me and protect me, it makes me feel more isolated and alone.
  6. Ask my husband how he is doing. Sometimes people forget that he also lost a baby and is going through this whole crazy process just as much as I am.  Don’t just ask him how I am doing, but ask him about how he is managing the pain and pray for him just as much. People rarely ask Derek how he’s doing. Our culture handles infertility and miscarriage poorly. We handle men dealing with infertility and miscarriage even worse, or even not at all. Miscarriage and infertility hurt men just as much as women. In some ways it’s even more isolating because our culture tries to pretend like this isn’t the case.
  7. Encourage me. This one comes so naturally to so many people that love me. I have been covered with kind notes and texts and words to lift me up. Each one has been a huge help and brought smiles to my face.
  8. Learn my love language. Find out if I love quality time, words of affirmation, physical touch (hugs work), acts of kindness and service, or gifts (small treats are just as good as big ones). Not only does learning how I receive love help you connect with me more, but it also allows you the unique gift of speaking my language. Maybe you are trying to show love but are only doing things that would help you not me.

Over the next 3 weeks, I will be sharing posts about our IVF journey. I will explain why we chose to do it (hopefully Derek will also post more about the ethics of IVF), the details of what that process looked like for us, and my reflections and thoughts along the way. Thank you so much for reading and for following along with our story.

Psalm 13

For the director of music. A psalm of David.

1 How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?

How long will you hide your face from me?

2 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts

and day after day have sorrow in my heart?

How long will my enemy triumph over me?

3 Look on me and answer, Lord my God.

Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,

4 and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”

and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

5 But I trust in your unfailing love;

my heart rejoices in your salvation.

6 I will sing the Lord’s praise,

for he has been good to me.

Infertility hurts

The year after our ectopic pregnancy was spent mourning and healing and waiting only to find more pain. Honestly, the pain of infertility was just as deep as the pain of losing our baby. I watched more friends than I can count get pregnant. I went to so many baby showers and was genuinely happy for them and celebrated with real joy, but at the same time, it hurt. I would get in my car and cry after every baby shower. It’s a weird cycle, infertility. The start of the month is always a fresh start. I would think, this is it, this is the month it happens. Then comes the exhaustion that is figuring out ovulation day(s) and taking my temperature and sticking to a schedule. Then I would wait. At the end of each month, I would start dreaming about when the due date would be and what it would be like if it happens this month. And then, with each passing month, it got harder and harder to be positive. I don’t know how to explain it except that every month it felt like we were losing a baby or at least losing the dream of one. I know that I wasn’t losing a baby, and I know that the pain is no where near what someone experiences when losing a child, but that’s the best way I can explain it to someone that has never experienced infertility. Everyone around us was moving on in life and we were stuck in this merry-go-round of being let down and not being able to start our family. Not only was infertility physically and emotionally painful, but it really made us angry. We were mad at God for letting us be in pain. I was mad at my body for not doing what it’s supposed to do. I was exhausted trying to figure out what to do next and how to act like everything was normal when everyday I felt like I had this giant thing wrong and missing that couldn’t be fixed. It was also incredibly isolating. Infertility is not something that people can see on the outside so most people don’t know that something is wrong. It’s awkward when someone asks how you are doing and all you want to say is, “actually terrible because everyone around me seems to be getting pregnant without trying, and I am apparently infertile, but how are you today? The weather looks nice.” Church was probably the hardest place to be. We love our church and our community, but we sing a lot of happy songs at church which is great when you are happy. However, when you are sad or angry, happy songs are really really hard to sing. I would just sit and cry often in church. Looking back, I am glad that we kept going to church and kept trying to sing the songs. I still can’t sing the song Good Good Father without crying, but there is something to be said for letting others speak joy and hope into your life when you are incapable of speaking it over yourself (my wise husband told me this). Community is a beautiful thing. Our friends and family never stopped asking and listening and waiting with us. They understood that the pain was real and constant but gave us space when we needed that too. And let me tell you something…being married to your best friend and someone that loves you unconditionally and is a good listener, its the best. Derek would pray for me every night because for months, I just didn’t know how. For months, I just didn’t know what to say. I could pray for other people, and I could pray in a big group or with students, but not for myself. Because praying just opened myself up for more disappointment, and I couldn’t handle any more of that. I’ll write a post later about how Derek taught me how to pray again. Remind me if I forget – prayer beads, they were the key. Or better yet, maybe I’ll get Derek to write it. No matter what you are struggling with though, and if it is infertility, know that you are not alone. And also know that it does get better. Sometimes it takes a long while, but remember that God is a God of redemption and loves taking the broken pieces and making something beautiful. I truly believe that God didn’t make me infertile just so we could have triplets. I don’t even believe that He planned for us to go through infertility. Life is just broken and unfair and hard. I do however, fully believe that He took this terrible thing that we went through and is using it to shape us into better people and hopefully He is using it to help someone else see the love of Jesus. The pain is not the end.

ok, rant over. Back to infertility…We started testing at the end of that year. My OBGYN was great and so helpful in starting the process. I first tried 3 rounds of clomid which about destroyed me. Clomid made me C-R-A-Z-Y. I mean, I was a complete basket case (poor Derek). He was reading over this and said, “crazy doesn’t do justice to how illogical and emotional it made you”. haha I would take offense to that if I didn’t 100% know he was right. Plus, it didn’t work. Then we tried letrozole. It did not have near the side affects on me as clomid, but it still didn’t work. Then Derek had to get tested which is not fun to say the least. Every time we tried something new, Doctors would just say, “everything looks normal. We don’t know why you aren’t getting pregnant. Just stay calm and keep trying.” We got so sick and tired of having no answers. People told me all the time (literally at least once a month), “Oh just stop stressing. As soon as you quit trying, thats when it will happen. Just wait.” Please, for the love of all things chocolate, don’t ever say that to someone struggling with infertility. It made me feel like it was all my fault. I thought that my stress was keeping us from getting pregnant. Turns out, that’s not true. We learned so much in these years about how to mourn well with others and gained compassion for “the other” (That’s what we call people who are different from the norm). “The other” can be the person who looks different, has a different culture, or just seems to stand on the outside. Infertility is very isolating and makes a lot of people uncomfortable. People say a lot of wrong things, but also many many people loved us very well. Learning how to love “the other” well is a skill that all people and especially all Jesus loving people should learn how to do. We tend to be good at loving those like us but forget how important it was to Jesus that the sinners, tax collectors, lame, sick, Samaritans, Gentiles, etc. be well taken care of and loved. Next week I’ll post some lists that I wrote in the midst of infertility. First I wrote a list of things that you can do when you find yourself feeling angry at life and at God (both of these were true during infertility). And the second list is how you can help a loved one in this situation. So stay tuned and come back and read next week.

The Beginning

Derek and I got married 5 years ago, and we have had so many fun adventures together. A little over 3 years ago we started learning about what it meant to be in pain and to suffer together. We have grown so close to each other, and I think that we make the best team. However, this period of time and this part of our story together is something that I really want others to know. In the church and in our society, often pain gets covered up or patched up too quickly. We want everything to be ok too fast. Derek and I pray that our openness and honesty with our pain and questions through infertility and also our joy and celebration with the triplets will help others find hope and comfort. We also pray that it will help bring understanding to those that have never experienced these things before.

On January 26, 2015, Derek and I lost a baby. We had been trying to get pregnant for several months and were ecstatic when that pink line finally appeared. We immediately started dreaming of what he/she would look like and let our minds run wild with how wonderful it was going to be. We honestly did not know anyone at the time that had suffered through a miscarriage, and it just isn’t very socially acceptable to discuss (I’m hoping that is slowly changing), but at the time the thought of losing the baby had NEVER crossed my mind. Then, weird things started happening. At 8ish weeks, I started bleeding and thought I had miscarried the baby but my numbers were still high so they just monitored my progress. Finally, it was discovered that I had an ectopic pregnancy. This is when the baby starts growing in the fallopian tube instead of the uterus. If we hadn’t figured out the problem, in just a few days or hours it could have ruptured and been extremely dangerous for me. I had surgery to take the baby out which was overwhelming in so many ways. I had a miscarriage in a sense, but it was different. They had to physical go in and take the baby out which really messed me up. That’s something that we have been through this whole journey…different. But I know that I am not alone. I want to speak out and tell our story in hopes that other people feeling the same way can find comfort in my openness and honesty. Here is something I wrote 7 months after losing our first baby:

It is almost September 4, 2015. The day our little baby was supposed to be due.  After 8 months of trying, Derek and I finally got pregnant and in January found out that it was an ectopic pregnancy.  After losing the baby, we were broken but surrounded by so many people that love us. My dreams of names and nurseries and even sleepless nights were crushed. However, we still had hope though that after a couple months, it will all happen as we had dreamed. Surely if God is a good father then He will allow us to have a family and raise a child up in the name of the Lord. That’s all we wanted to do. Now here we are 7 months later, still broken and with hope all but lost. Hope is too hard. Hope means that every month I open myself up for more brokenness. Every month as I sit in pain, I feel as though I have lost yet another child. It never gets easier. For the last couple months I have given up hope. I don’t dream about names any more or due dates. I don’t pray for a baby anymore because I just don’t want to be disappointed again. I’m tired of being in pain. So is forgetting hope the answer? Or is there a way to live in hope that keeps me from getting crushed. Romans 12:12 says to rejoice in hope. How in the world is that possible? If you have hope it means that you have something to hope for which means you don’t have what you hoped for. It means you are empty but waiting for something to happen. What does it look like to rejoice in hope? Should I be happy that my dreams of becoming a mother seem so far out of reach? Should I be joyful in the fact that instead of staying home this year and learning how to raise a child, I am taking fertility treatments and making my mind and body crazy with tests and medicine. I sure don’t feel joyful. I feel tired and angry and sad. There are things in my life that bring me joy – my amazing husband, our supportive families and friends, our jobs and ministry…so I can be joyful, but I don’t want to be joyful IN hope. I want to be joyful despite my hope.  The message translation says to be “Cheerfully expectant.” That sounds like an oxymoron to me. All I really want to do is stop caring, stop dreaming, and stop hurting.  Maybe the problem isn’t whether or not I hope, but what I hope for. I have always laughed when my students read Psalm 37:4 to mean that God will give them whatever they ask for, but that’s kind of what Im doing.  I’ve lost hope because my life doesn’t look like what I think it should. I also laugh at all of the parents of my students that want to plow all of the problems our of their child’s way. As a teacher, it makes me cringe when parents fight the battles for their children and the student never learns anything. If God is a good father then I know that He shouldn’t take all of my problems away but shouldn’t He give me the strength to not feel broken or the peace that passes understanding. Why don’t I feel that? How am I supposed to act like everything is normal and happy only to be crushed every month again and again? How am I supposed to go to school on September 4th and pretend like nothing happened?  The answer: ????

Hope – 

noun: the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best.

Verb: to look forward to with desire and reasonable confidence; to feel that something desired may happen.

This way of thinking is not possible if the thing that I want is to have a baby. Because right now, in all reality, that may not happen, well at least for a long time. We have already decided that we will happily adopt and I am so glad that God gave us that calling through all of this but it will be 3 years before we will have a child through adoption. So, if the thing that I want or look forward to is to be a mom then I will be setting myself up for more heartache. There has to be another option. I have to transfer my hope from things turning out the way they should in my own personal world and focus on the goal of Gods Kingdom being known. If I put my hope in the fact that God is shaping me and molding me and forming me to be a better disciple and better leader for His Kingdom, then no matter what happens at the end of this month, I am not left alone and shattered. It gives my hope and my pain purpose. I have HOPE that God will redeem this crap. I have HOPE that God will transform my broken pieces into something that can be used to bring hope to others. My HOPE is NOT that one day I will be a mom, even though that’s true. I know that one day – maybe far in the future –one day I will be a mom. But that’s still not what I HOPE in. I need to put my HOPE in something that wont let me down. 

So here I stand, or have fallen, with nothing to offer but the broken pieces of me, begging to be transformed into something more beautiful, something more like Jesus. I have HOPE that one day I will be whole again.  

(back to Sept 2017) Now looking  back, its crazy that it did in fact take 3 years for us to have our baby(ies). I never would have pictured it turning out the way it did. People tell me all the time that it was all part of God’s plan, and maybe it is, but really I believe that God took a terrible thing and redeemed it and turned it into something beautiful. That’s what He is best at doing. I serve a God that doesn’t create the ugly, the broken, the pain, but takes those things and makes them new. Our journey in meeting our triplets was a long and hard one, but God sure did shape my heart in the process. He made me a new person. Even though we have our beautiful babies, I still struggle sometimes. That pain of infertility did not just disappear. I still sometimes ache when I think about that baby we lost or the failed round of IVF or the months and months of negative pregnancy tests. It was and still is painful. I still often feel angry that God allowed it to happen. I also see many friends that are still waiting and still don’t have a baby in their arms. I don’t have my babies because I prayed harder or because God loves me more or even because I deserved them. God redeems in all sorts of different ways. So if you are still in the middle of infertility or mourning a miscarriage or lost child, this is not where your story ends. I don’t know how it will be used, but have hope that your pain will be transformed into something beautiful.

Over the next few weeks I will post a new part of our story and slowly build up to the present. Along the way I will reflect on how God was working or the questions and frustrations that I had and am having at God. I believe that God is a God of beautiful redemption and that my story is just beginning. I would love for you to follow along with me in this journey. Let me know if you have questions or comments too. I would love to hear from you.