Supporting my wife amid infertility
So my wife and I have been trying to conceive for around five years with no success. We have no idea if it’s me or her or both. I’m 34 and she’s 37 so she’s kinda freaking out.
The hard part is that I don’t really feel to terrible about it though I’d like to have kids. My wife on the other hand is like having a catastrophic meltdown several times a week at least. Anyone we know gets pregnant and she goes home and starts sobbing. She will cry if she sees children at church. She keeps having emotional break downs and I’ve been trying to be supportive but I’m honestly at a loss for what to say or do. I’d really love to comfort her and even provide her dream but it’s not like I can just decide conception is going to happen.
It’s really difficult because the frequency of the breakdowns feel like they’ve exceeded my capacity to offer. As if I started with a barrel of emotional water and she drank it all but I’m still trying to give her some.
My wife and I have been married for around seven years and we never argue or fight. Like never ever. Other than interior battles common to every man this is really the first time my marriage has felt strained.
I honestly don’t even have a direct question but any advice and your prayers are appreciated.
Oh, Eleven. I know your wife’s heartbreak well.
This part won’t be all that encouraging, but it will let you know I understand.
When you are a woman who has been unable to conceive, there are few moments in the day, few sights to meet the eyes that do NOT remind you of your grief. You feel inadequate, like a failure, like you are not really a woman. The Bible is full to bursting of commands to have and raise children. Families are seldom defined as anything less than 3 kids. It’s almost like you can’t even be a Christian if you don’t have a quiver full and home school them all. How are you supposed to obey God’s instructions to be a Godly woman–which includes an awful lot about raising children–if you can’t have any?! You just feel so left out, lonely, and lost. And God, the One who creates life with just a word, seems not to even hear you, much less answer. Then there’s the marching of time–every month that fresh hope…followed by disappointment. There is nothing so hateful to a childless woman as that first drop of blood. (Then you fool yourself for a few days, thinking about how some women spot in early pregnancy but go on to have healthy babies!) Do you know how many stories are on the internet of women who delivered babies without ever having missed a period or knowing they were pregnant? I used to read every one and hope somehow we had missed it. Sex becomes not even close to an expression of intimacy, but an exercise in “maybe this time, Oh God! Please! Please let it be this time!!” Your barrel of water is empty; but your wife is bleeding out and there just doesn’t seem to be anything that will ever stop the bleeding or the pain. I was that woman for twelve years and thought if that pain didn’t end, I would die. It didn’t even matter to me how I became a mom–spontaneous pregnancy, assisted, adoption, we even considered foster care and fostering to adopt. We even had a failed adoption within that 12 years. Returning our son, after having him in our home for ten days, to his birth parents who had changed their minds, who lived on assistance in a seedy motel known for its drug activity was the absolute worst moment of my life. We drove there, eviscerated ourselves as we handed him over, then got back in the car. Where do you go after that? We went to church. I laid face down before the cross at the front of the church and cried. I thought I would never be happy again without a child in my arms. People would say to have hope, but hope of what? God never promised us a child as he did Abraham and Sarah. People judge Sarah for her choice, but I could see what a good father my DH would be and I thought maybe I wasn’t supposed to be his wife. Maybe I was meant to die (not suicide; I pictured a car accident or cancer or something) so he could re-marry and have children. Then again, there was Hosea, who had a wife and children, but they were a trial to him all his life as an illustration to the people of Israel; where was his happy ending? Or Jeremiah, the weeping prophet; or any number of martyrs–so many people throughout time who never did have some happiness they ached for because it was God’s will that they do something else in service to Him. What if we were meant to be childless and serve Him in some other way?
What if, indeed?
When I finally got to that point, when I accepted that it might actually be God’s will and part of his plan for me to never have a child, which I KNEW would make me heartbroken for the rest of my life, I realized I had a choice to make. Choose to accept God’s plan WILLINGLY and be content to be in his service. Or resent God and be His enemy. It was NOT an easy choice. Accepting God’s plan WILLINGLY meant saying, “If God intends to use me in this way, I CHOOSE to have no children.” Only when I finally knew that if it came to it, I could HONESTLY say those words, “I CHOOSE to have no children because I want what God wants,” only then did I finally have peace.
We did NOT suddenly and miraculously become pregnant. Nor did our second adoption opportunity appear immediately. God was not simply waiting for me to learn a certain lesson so he could give me what I wanted. His plan was in motion all along; if I had been able to make peace with childlessness in His service sooner I would have had a much easier time waiting than I did. But yes, eventually he gave us a daughter, in just the right way at just the right time and we do our level best to be Godly parents and to build the family we dreamed of in our wide-eyed days as young Christians.
My poor husband; he never did know exactly what I needed or when I needed it. He must have felt a lot like you–like I had drained him dry and still needed more. We came to have a few coping mechanisms we relied on together. We knew how to signal each other when it was time to leave a social gathering. We supported needy children through the Salvation Army and social services and enjoyed spoiling the children in our circle at Christmas. We babied our cats and made a point to purposely enjoy our time as a family of two, promising each other that we would someday be grateful that we had not wasted it (as our statement of hope that we would yet have children to interfere with our intimacy!) I gave myself grace to cry and be depressed when I needed to and poured my heart out to God, knowing he was big enough to take it. (I also got some counseling because of the grief from the failed adoption.) I also allowed myself a controlled amount of optimistic shopping–cute baby clothes, toys. A lot of them never got used (wrong size at wrong time or they were for a boy) but the importance of them was just letting me feel a little less…defeated? Maybe that wasn’t the healthiest thing to do, I don’t know, but it’s something I did.
One of the absolute kindest, most thoughtful things my DH did for me during that time was to surprise me one Friday in May by taking off work and driving me a couple hours away (without telling me where we were going) to an Olive Garden (which I love, and which we did not have at the time.) When we got there, he told me we were celebrating Mother’s Day. I felt so loved, and even though I was sad about not having a child, I felt really truly blessed in my husband and the love we shared.
I guess to summarize: There are no tricks or shortcuts to get God to do what you want. The pain will stab you in the gut at the worst possible and most surprising moments, so be prepared to either talk about it to anyone around you or have a good poker face. Learn to let stupid advice and insensitive remarks just go in one ear and out the other. CLING TO EACH OTHER AND THE LORD! And the sooner you believe, really KNOW, deep down in your bones that being a part of God’s plan and exactly where he wants you (even if you don’t really like it!) is more important that ANYTHING else you ever dreamed of, the sooner you will have peace. Then sit back and watch what he does, because in all likelihood, he has something WONDERFUL in store for you!
A few more things: Maintain your friendships, whether they have kids or not. They are easier to lose than they are to rebuild if you finally do have a child. Build new friendships, but not solely on the shared experience of infertility. When one of you has a child, that friendship will definitely pause if not end. Establish some stock responses for impertinent comments, so that when you are blind-sided, you can block and run. Establish handy (real) excuses for when you just CANNOT do one more baby shower! But don’t skip them all; you never know where a hidden blessing might appear. Know what you need for self-care and make sure it’s handy, whether it’s a certain ice cream or movie or just keeping the rocking chair on the porch clear of leaves; make sure you can get to relief when you need it.
One final thing: I have walked this road, and the thing that always helped me more than anything else was just knowing someone else knew what I was feeling. I would be glad for your wife to e-mail me and be a sounding board for her. I often felt like I didn’t want to talk to people I knew because I didn’t want their pity or for everyone to know what was going on in our life. I can be the listening ear of a stranger for her if it would help. Just PM me for my e-mail.
And by the way, you absolutely have my prayers!
Man I really love this forum.
So I needed some time to sit on the responses. I feel like someone shared a personal story and deleted it when I came back to read the responses for the fifth or sixth time. Unless I’m trippin and I remember one that didn’t exist. Whoever you were, thank you. It was a great post. I seriously meditated on it…
Duchess, your posts are always absolutely slam dunk. My heart has been heavy for at least a day and a half from yours and the mystery posters story. I can relate to so many weird thoughts you said like maybe God is waiting until one of us dies and all that weird stuff. Like I’ve literally had that exact reoccurring thought.
I just decided to tell my wife that I posted, and read some of your responses to her. Now she is on TMB looking through it.
Prayers my friend.
I do not know what you’re going through, only walked through multiple couples with those issues. All those couples do go to doctors and see what the reasons are. Sometimes it’s a male issue, other times it’s a female issue; a few times it’s been neither. Have you gone to a specialist to see if there are any clear cut reasons as to why and see if they have suggestions? Sometimes changing from briefs to boxers has helped. Other times, couples have had to make a choice about easier to more complex procedures and expenses. Some times couples have gone down the road of IVF and have taken and others haven’t…then God miraculously gave them a baby. Others have went down the road of adoption and God provided that way…or they even became pregnant after a lot of false hopes. Other times nothing has worked out.
What I do know is God is working, He loves you and your spouse, and He wants to do a miracle in your life. How? That is between the two of you and Him but He is with you in you pain. Cling to God and each other because no matter what, those are the only two things that matter…and will matter 30 years from now, baby or not.
Sorry to hear of your difficult situation. Yes, things like this impact spouses differently. Continue to seek to walk with your wife in an understanding way. Seek to bring support and encouragement to her daily. Also, keep on looking for medical advice. Do you have another couple who has gone through similar challenges?
I would definitely see a doctor, could be something simple. If it is something that can’t be fixed, you can adopt. I know a couple that never used birthday from the day they got married and never had kids, but are happy.
If you really want kids and can’t have them, adopt!
I think it’s definitely worth seeing a doctor, as there might be a medical reason why you’re unable to conceive. If there is, then it might be possible to treat it and conceive naturally.
If not, at least you’ll know and can make a decision as to what to do next.
We’ve faced this in our marriage, and it’s not an easy process to go through. We decided against IVF, because I don’t think the success rates are high enough to justify the stress and difficulty for us, but know other Christian couples who decided differently and went on to conceive that way. However, at least we have the assurance that there’s nothing wrong with either of us that’s preventing conception.
Look to your Savior in faith. I know this can sound trite… and that you both have and are. But please don’t give up.
I believe that God is most pleased with us when we continue to trust Him, His goodness, to believe His promises and that He LOVES us and is ALWAYS meeting our needs. And that our heartbreaks HAVE A PURPOSE and can glorify Him… even when every cell in our bodies is screaming “WHERE ARE YOU GOD???”
Who among you fears the Lord
and obeys the word of his servant?
Let the one who walks in the dark,
who has no light,
trust in the name of the Lord
and rely on their God.
I hesitate to write this but it is true and I feel compelled to share it with you. Years ago I had a secretary – she was in her mid-30’s at the time – whose usually cheery demeanor had turned sad… after about a month one morning she was crying softly when I said hello to her. I called her into my office, had her shut the door and I asked her what was wrong. She swore me to secrecy and told me that she and her husband had been trying and had been seeing a fertility specialist for several years. They had been on a high believing that it “had finally taken” only to lose it after a few weeks. I told her I would pray for her and we did.
As I thought about and prayed for her over the next few days, the Holy Spirit brought to mind the account of Elkana and Hanna in 1 Samuel 1… I believed that she was a Christian but wasn’t sure even though “we” had prayed a few days before. So I bought her a Bible and suggested that she might want to take a look at 1 Samuel. She thanked me but not much else was said. About 7 months later, she came into my office one morning, leaned over my desk and joyfully whispered that she was pregnant and was almost 3 months along. She waited until she was showing to announce her news and went on to have that child before our paths parted when her husband landed a job in a neighboring state and they moved away. A mutual friend told me later she’d had another child too.
I am not saying that God answers every Believer’s heartbreak the same way… Duchess’s account makes that clear.. but He did in my secretary’s case and we’ll pray expectantly and look forward to your report of how our Lord Jesus meets you where you are. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YX-BoHKhgrQ