Hug An Infertile Couple This Week

 

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You may not have April 20-26 marked on your calendar as National Infertility Awareness Week, but 1 in 6 couples check their calendar frequently to see if they’re pregnant or how long it’s been since they filed adoption papers or when will the infertility tests be back . . .

An Ignored Group

With millions of couples experiencing infertility, a large percentage of the population feel shunned. Yet, you probably know someone dealing with infertility in your neighborhood, your church, your family, your friends, your co-workers . . .Maybe it’s you struggling to become a mommy or experiencing secondary infertility and know what it’s like to feel invisible in a group.

Many of the “mommies-in-waiting” sharing their stories in my book, Dear God, Why Can’t I Have a Baby? A Companion Guide for Couples on the Infertility Journey expressed the sorrowful complaint that they felt ignored by friends and family, even in the church–especially in the church.

Often we ignore the infertile couple because we don’t know what to say to them. Or the infertile couple doesn’t talk about their painful situation because people say hurtful things.

People Say The Darnedest Things!

Your loved ones will say all the wrong things. All of us who have gone through infertility agree on this point.—Laurie, A Mommy-in-Waiting

Dear God,

People keep asking when we’re going to start having children, as if I’m making a conscious decision not to! I try shrugging it off with an answer that we probably will “someday.” Inside, I’m dying. Why are people so insensitive and why do they feel it’s ok to ask something so personal? Everyone seems to think they’re a doctor and they know the answer to my infertility. Then the advice . . . the number one thing everyone seems to say is, “Oh, you just need to relax.” Or “You’re young; you’ve got plenty of time.” UGH!!! Help, God, they’re killing me!

Wounded by Words, Kim

Kim is my precious daughter whose struggle with the heartache of infertility was often intensified by well-meaning—yet wounding—words. Many infertile couples’ stories mention how thoughtless and hurtful people’s comments and advice can be. Debbie wrote, “I’ve experienced people in the church say some of the worst things ever to me with every good intention. Probably one of the most insensitive and painful is, ‘Maybe God never meant for you to have children.’”

You can be sure thoughtless, hurtful comments aren’t from God, who instructs: “Kind words heal and help; cutting words wound and maim” (Proverbs 15:4 MSG).

10 Things Not To Say or Do To Someone Experiencing Infertility

I believe in the front of every church directory there should be a list of things that you shouldn’t say to people during times of grief, just like emergency preparedness in the front of the phone book.—Debbie, A Mommy-in-Waiting

Most people don’t mean to be hurtful: they innately want to say and do the right thing. They offer a cliché or something that minimizes your situation or feels patronizing because they’re uncomfortable being around someone suffering. Here are ten helpful tips from Mommies-In-Waiting:

DON’T…                                                                               DO…

1. Talk about people you know with infertility.                    1. Let me talk about mine and listen

2. Tell me God is in control, or has a plan.                            2. Show me God’s love.

3. Tell me to pray harder.                                                      3. Pray for and with me.

4. Pity or patronize me.                                                          4. Show compassion.

5. Avoid me. It makes me feel rejected, different.                5. Keep normal contact with me.

6. Tell others, unless you have asked permission.                 6. Honor my privacy.

7. Offer unsolicited advice or suggestions.                            7. Support my choices.

8. Resent how my infertility affects you.                               8. Remember, this is about me.

9. Ask personal questions or give advice.                              9. Curtail curiosity.

10. Assume it’s a “female” problem.                                     10. Respect it’s personal.

Suggested Responses for the Infertile Couple

We will speak the truth in love.Ephesians 4:15 (NLT)

Following are frequent unwelcome comments and suggested responses. Non-satirical humor often defrays uncomfortable situations. Your goal isn’t to offend or embarrass the person. The responses shouldn’t be said sarcastically, defensively, or angrily. Use this as an opportunity to be a good witness:

1. “When are you two going to start a family?”

Response: What makes you think we’re not trying?

2. “You just need to relax, take it easy, rest more, or take a vacation.”

Response: Then I might have two problems—no baby and no job!

3. “You aren’t getting any younger!”

Response: Are you fishing for an invitation to my next birthday party?

4. “You’re young, you have plenty of time.”

Response: Time is the one thing we have too much of now.

5. “You should take________”—they name some food, herb, or drug.

Response: I’ll check with my doctor about that.

6. “You should try_______”—they suggest some sexual position.

Response: You mean we’re supposed to have sex?

7. “We need grandchildren.”

Response: We need to be parents first.

8. “There must be some hidden sin in your life.”

Response: Jesus forgave my sins when I became a Christian.

9. “You aren’t praying hard enough.”

Response: Are you offering to pray for us?

10. “If God wanted you to have children, you would.”

Response: Ouch! That hurts.

Remember: Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit—you choose (Proverbs 18:21 MSG).

*Some excerpts from Dear God, Why Can’t I Have a Baby? A Companion Guide for Couples on the Infertility Journey

Kim's family 2014Daughter Kim’s family today! Thank you Lord for these 3 precious blessings

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Mother’s Day: Happy or Hurting

“I hate Mother’s Day!” said my dear friend who is longing for a baby. “You know that women struggling with infertility don’t go to church on Mother’s Day.” Kris agrees, “I was that mom-in-waiting for 16 years; I stayed away from baby showers, church, and friends who would get pregnant. I didn’t stop praying, but it WAS the worse pain.” Lisa concurs, “I am guilty of having skipped church a few years before we adopted my son.”

In my book, Dear God, Why Can’t I Have a Baby? A Companion Guide for Couples on the Infertility Journey, my own daughter wrote about her painful Mother’s Day experience:

Dear God,

It’s almost Mother’s Day and I don’t know if I can handle seeing all those happy moms at church and brunch. I’m trying to focus on my mom and not think about how I’m missing out on being a mommy on yet another Mother’s Day. This year is especially hard since we’ve been trying to be parents for so long and so hard, only to be repeatedly disappointed. At the store looking for a card for my mom, I see the cute cards at the end of the aisle “To Mommy”…oh God, I wish I were someone’s mommy! I look away and continue focusing at the task ahead, getting my mom and mothers-in-law their cards.

Today’s the day, it’s Mother’s Day. I don’t think I can bear it. It’s just begun and already I want this day over. I pull myself out of bed and get ready for church. I’m not looking forward to the sermon about children being a blessing and honoring mothers. God, help me focus on my mom.

We met my parents at church and I put on my happy face, when inside I was crying watching all the mothers with big smiles dressed in pretty spring dresses and children running all around. This was a day of celebration and I just wanted to go back to bed. The pastor started the message with asking all the mothers to stand up. Hundreds of women stood and everyone applauded. I couldn’t take it any longer and sat slouched over in my seat quietly crying. Toby put his arm around me and my mom held my hand, but nothing took away the pain. I barely heard the rest of the message.

After brunch, I came home, collapsed on my bed, and cried myself to sleep where I remained the rest of the day. God, please don’t make me go through another Mother’s Day with this hole in my heart. I want to stand up in church with all those other mothers beaming from ear to ear and have everyone applaud me. God, please let me stand up next year.

Mother’s Day is especially hard for mommies-in-waiting, but for most of these women, every day is hard. With 1 in 6 couples experiencing infertility, you are, or know, a woman experiencing this heartache. Often we don’t know what to say to them, so we say nothing, or maybe unintentionally say something that makes them feel worse. Kris, who I mentioned in the opening paragraph, says, “We cannot ignore them [women longing for a child]. I know how hard it was for people to talk to me. But I would have loved it if they did.”

In Dear God, Why Can’t I Have a Baby?, I offer tools to help you know the “Top Fifteen Things Not to Say or Do And To Say or Do to Someone Experiencing Infertility.” This list is also on the Infertility Support page on my website.

When I was writing the book, women often told me that the place they felt the loneliest was the church. That breaks my heart.  Jesus said he came for the sick, and that includes heartsick. The church should be a safe place for the hurting, not a place where they feel shunned or outcast.  How does your church comfort mommies-in-waiting on Mother’s Day and every day?

Mothers of Prodigals

Another group of women who will be hurting on Mother’s Day are the mothers of prodigals. They may not even know where there child is, or know all too well where they are and what they are doing that breaks a mother’s heart and the heart of God. These moms also need comforting, a hug, a reminder that this day is for them too and they are not forgotten or ignored.

I was that hurting mom and in Praying for Your Prodigal Daughter: Hope, Help & Encouragement for Hurting Parents, I tell the story of praying daily that my daughter would find her way back to God, and six years later, she did. This Mother’s Day weekend she and I will be sharing our story at a Mother/Daughter tea. I’ve had a vision of us doing this for many years and prayed expectantly that God would bring my dream to life, and He has.

And Kim who was that heartsick mommy-in-waiting on Mother’s Day is now blessed with a family, but when we speak to the women God brings to this Mother’s Day Tea, neither of us will ever forget what it felt like to be hurting on Mother’s Day. We will speak with caring and compassion a comforting message of hope in God’s plan and timing. We won’t ignore these women, we will love on them!

I hope that you will do the same for the mommies-in-waiting, the moms of prodigals, or the moms who have lost a daughter or a son who may need a shoulder to cry on . . . a prayer . . . an understanding hug. If you’ve been where they’re at, mentor them like only someone who has been in their shoes can. If you haven’t been in their shoes, just let them know you can’t possibly understand, but you’re there for them and God is too!

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as you are already doing.”—1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NLT)

NOTE: Besides not knowing what to say, many of us don’t know what to give a mommy-in-waiting or a mom of a prodigal, and so we usually give them nothing. The books I have written for these women are full of hope and encouragement from the voices of other women who have walked the same journey, as well as from God’s Love Letter.  So for the month of May I’m running a sale on my website for Dear God, Why Can’t I Have a Baby? and Praying for Your Prodigal Daughter. Another helpful book might be Face-to-Face with Sarah, Rachel, and Hannah: Pleading with God. I will sign and personalize each book.

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5 Things You Should Know About “Dear God, He’s Home! A Woman’s Guide to Her Stay-at-Home Man”

1. It’s humorous.

When I was writing the book and telling people about it, there was always laughter and chuckles. My husband noticed this and asked me if it was going to be a funny book. I told him there would be some funny parts . . . but the book wouldn’t portray husbands in a negative light or poke fun at them.

Sometimes the best way to handle a transition or new situation is to laugh—at yourself and the circumstances. The humor comes from our humanness and some of the crazy things we do and say. God will turn your tears into laughter, and your mourning into dancing, if you let Him (Ecclesasties 4:10)

2. It’s also serious.

The book had to include serious moments because the circumstances that bring a husband home are often very serious—illness, accidents, disability, layoffs, PTSD, unplanned retirement . . . just to name a few. And the transitions that the wife and husband experience can at times be serious. God takes our problems and trials seriously (Matthew 11:28), so the book includes Love Letters from God (personalized Scripture) and Let’s Pray (prayers to personalize).

3. It’s been described as “raw.”

I am open, vulnerable, and “real” when sharing about myself, but always make sure to give God the glory for the amazing things He has done in my life. My tagline is “Sharing Life’s Experiences and God’s Faithfulness,” and that’s the heart of mentoring—my passion and my purpose. So I do discuss my fears, inadequacies, anxious moments, and difficulties in adjusting to our new 24/7 lifestyle, as do the women sharing their stories in the book. In our weakness, God’s strength prevails (1 Corinthians 4:10).

4. It contains questions for couples, small groups, & readers’ groups.

My vision for the book is that it will encourage husbands and wives to talk about their “issues.” Often problems escalate for lack of communication. It also would be advantageous for women with stay-at-home men to form support/small groups or couples’ groups: there’s a leader’s guide included to help facilitate the group. This would be a perfect book for book clubs. God tells us to meet together and encourage each other (Hebrews 10:25).

5. It features my husband as the hero of the book, but he says he’s the “sacrificial lamb.”

My husband graciously allowed me to share our lives and hearts with the readers. He also wrote the epilogue to give a window into his experience as a stay-at-home man. He is my helpmate and my biggest encourager. I could not do the things God has led me to do without my husband cheering me one. As God has ordained for marriage, we truly have become one (Mark 10:8).

To read a snippet.

To learn more about Dear God, He’s Home!

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Dear God, He’s Home! Part 2

(This post is continued from last Monday. To read Part 1 go to March archives)

Dear God, He’s Home! Trailer

 

You, and He, Need an Outlet

When Bob retired, he bought two snowmobiles. I didn’t like those smelly things, but I didn’t want him to go alone. I was so happy when he met other snowmobilers and I didn’t have to go anymore! Then he started making friends who play golf and I gained some space to do my gardening.—Michelle

 Dear God, He's Home! T-shirt

A stay-at-home man can become a wife’s full-time job, as he tries to make her his new hobby! When does she retire from the household management or being a caregiver or parenting? Here are several creative ideas to help both of you adjust to, and even enjoy, this stay-at-home man season:

  • Develop individual hobbies, and if possible, do one together.
  • Both learn something you’ve always wanted to know how to do.
  • Leave the house on your own at least once a week.
  • Plan a weekly or monthly date together. Put it on your calendars.
  • If still parenting, join a babysitting co-op, trade off babysitting with friends, or if finances permit, hire a sitter and go have fun.
  • If you’re caring for a sick or disabled husband, ask a friend or family member to stay with him and do something for you—not just running errands and chores.
  • Exercise daily.
  • Serve as a volunteer for a charitable organization or a ministry.
  • When a husband retires, the wife retires from one home chore. Her choice.

Words of Wisdom from Wives with a Stay-at-Home Man

  • Make each day the best it can be. You don’t know how many days you’ll have left together. —Alice
  • Understand where your husband is at in his life and don’t make his retirement or at-home-experience miserable. —Alice
  • Don’t belittle or put down your husband—build him up. Find out his concerns and needs, don’t just focus on your own. —Alice
  • Communicate your needs honestly and lovingly. —Joan
  • When shopping together, pick a store that also has sporting, gardening, or electronic departments and let your husband browse or send him to find something. —Sue
  • What’s important to your spouse should also be important to you and what’s important to God should be important to both of you! —Janet (me)

My Stay-at-Home Man Shares

My husband, Dave, selflessly understood that I would have to write vulnerably and honestly about our messes and our miracles. In the Epilogue of Dear God, He’s Home!, Dave offers this closing advice:

So I leave you with these final words: Living with your spouse in stay-at-home man seasons of life, while different, is no more challenging than any other season of married life. You just have to constantly die to self as God teaches us, consider your spouse more important than yourself, and work as a team. I like the wise council I gleaned from Promise Keepers years ago and ultimately conveyed to my son, sons-in-law, and men’s small group studies—marriage isn’t a 50/50 proposition as proposed by some, but 100/0. If you give 100% and expect zero in return, you’ll grow to love your spouse as Christ loved the church, and your marriage will thrive.

This is a continuation of Part 1 posted last Monday. To read part 1 go to March archives)

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