"Cancer." A word that for so many seems surreal and quite distant, affecting society only in a general sense. That is, until you or someone you are very close to becomes afflicted by this scary unknown. Then suddenly your eyes are opened and you begin to see through a different lens that cancer is everywhere affecting so many directly and indirectly. If you are going through this personally, all of the questions and unknowns creates within you a sense of hopeless isolation that can often rob you of the joy of life. It is hard to find people that you can really connect with during this time. Although you assume they all mean well with their unsolicited advice and their version of encouragement, they just don't quite get it unless they have really been through it and experienced a similar journey themselves. On the flip side, many may be hesitant about even talking to you at all for the fear of saying something offensive. This leads you into an even deeper state of isolation. This journey is one that you never thought you would go on and while you are in it you never think you will get out of. I personally experienced these feelings during high school when my mother was diagnosed with and eventually overcame colon cancer.
To draw a parallel into my life as it is today, I believe many of the same feelings exist with the word "Infertility." Until recently, this word had never even been on my radar. Why would it? As little boys we grow up thinking about sports, playing video games, fighting with our siblings and wondering what kind of professional athlete we will be when we grow up. Rarely do we play with baby dolls (unless our female siblings or cousins force us to) and even more seldom do we think about having a baby of our own. This also means that we never develop the fear of not being able to have children, like many women acquire as they get older.
So we boys grow up (though that part is debatable), get married and then still probably don't think about not being able to get pregnant. In fact, we usually are thinking about the opposite - trying to Not get pregnant until the "right time" according to our plan that we have come up with in our own mind. We want to get all our ducks in a row first, be financially secure, etc. So you can imagine the shock a husband experiences the moment he starts to realize that his "plan" has been sabotaged somehow and that having kids may not be something that "just happens" whenever he and his wife are ready to move on to the next phase of life. Sure, at first we don't struggle with it nearly as much as our sweet wife who is now seeing one of her greatest fears come to fruition. I think this could be by God's design though, so that we are still able to provide some strength for her during this time of great need. However, as we move beyond the initial shock and enter into this scary journey as a couple, no husband's strength alone could ever be enough for the wave of emotions and heartache that is about to follow...
After the first several months of our "baby-making" journey, it seemed like negative pregnancy tests became the norm for Kelley and me. Our initial reaction was usually limited to slight disappointment with a "better luck next time" mentality. But the further along we got, the more our hope began to slowly fade away. After over a year on this empty road, through months of fertility treatments and even a miscarriage, our disappointment had turned into frustration, which eventually led to anger. We struggled with bitterness towards each other and jealousy towards our friends who were getting pregnant easily, often during their first month of trying and some who were not even trying at all. Deep down I knew this attitude was obviously not helpful. But what was I supposed to do about it? How could I "fix" this, as we men often try to do. I searched for areas in my life that I thought maybe I needed to get right first before God would allow us to have kids. Surely there was something wrong with me or my life or my marriage that was holding me back from this next stage of life. Maybe God was punishing me for some sort of unresolved sin or something. Wow did I have it all wrong!
The truth is, the hard times might be easier to understand if our pain could be traced to our own sinful choices or those of others. But struggles can fall upon us that we have had no hand in at all. Nothing that Kelley or I did has been keeping us from getting pregnant or caused us to have a miscarriage just a few weeks into a pregnancy last November. So then what was going on?
As I have been recently studying a book written by our pastor Gregg Matte called "Finding God's Will" (a timely book to study in our small group this spring, God is funny like that I know), I was faced with the question, "Is it possible for life to stink and still be God's will?" Now I can definitely say a resounding "Yes." I mean, think about most of the characters in the bible. Many of the men God used the most went through some pretty crummy stuff. Job, Paul, David, Peter, and let's not forget about Moses hiding out in the desert for 40 years, then wandering in the wilderness for another 40 years only to die before ever reaching the promised land. But God placed each one of those men in their difficult circumstances because it was necessary for His will to be carried out. Even in the most difficult of times, we can trust deeply that the parts of His will we don't want are the very things He will use to accomplish His eternal plan. He is faithful not to wound us at random. God is working things out in the midst of those very parts of His will we do not want. He is crafting, shaping and planning at a much deeper level than we can see.
Kelley and I finally realized that, as counter-intuitive as it seemed, the very best thing for us to do was to press in even closer to Jesus than before. He has been faithful our entire lives thus far, so why would this be any different?
"God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful." 1 Corinthians 1:9. We chose to trust and believe that God was in control and that his eternal plans are bigger than our immediate desires for a child of our own.
Before I go any further, I would like to say a few words to the men going through this and also to those men that are not, but may know someone who is.
* First things first, please understand early on that this struggle with infertility that you and your wife are going through is not just something you can "fix." Especially her crazy emotions and unprompted tears - which will probably come often. It does no good to try to make the situation seem better than it is either, or fake that everything is ok. The situation you are in sucks, so just agree with her that it sucks and love her in the midst of it.
* Men, do not be tempted to isolate yourselves during this time. Satan uses isolation to wear us down. You can bet your wife will probably be reaching out to other women for extra support, and I would encourage you to do the same. Sure you may think you are a strong man with a strong will that can handle anything. But regardless of how strong you think you are, you will be much better off and will have much more support to give to your wife if you have other men in your life fighting for you and encouraging you along the way.
* Men who are NOT going through this -- please reach out to us men who are. We may act like we don't want to talk about it and may just try to play it cool, but the truth is whether we know it or not, we need someone besides our wives to talk about things even if we haven't reached our own breaking point yet. Since this is so unnatural to us and is a weird thing to talk about with other guys, we probably aren't going to want to reach out to you first even though we know we should. As men we are prideful and don't want to seem weak or like we don't have things under control. So please, even if you don't fully understand what we are going through, still come to us and just let us know you are there and praying for us. That will be a good start.
* Finally, husbands please realize that you are not in control, and will need to rely completely on God's strength to get you and your wife through this time no matter how much you think you can handle. Have you ever heard someone say, "God will never give you more than you can handle?" Where exactly is that in the bible? If you can find it let me know and I'll send you 20 bucks in the mail. I believe they must be paraphrasing 1 Corinthians 10:13, which says "He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear." But trouble and temptation are two different things. There will never be an instance when you or I are forced into sin with no way out. Sin is always a choice, not the inevitable result of crushing temptation. But somehow that verse has been twisted to mean that we won't experience more trouble than we can bear - when in fact nothing could be further from the truth. God will often allow more than we can handle ourselves, but He'll never allow more than He can handle. The sooner you realize that, the easier it will be to overcome each obstacle you encounter during this journey.
I firmly believe that the trials of life are meant to push us closer to Christ, otherwise we are just wasting them. C.S. Lewis said that God "whispers to us in our pleasures...but shouts to us in our pains. Not only do we hear God more clearly, but our attentiveness to him can also cause the ears of others to incline toward words of hope." I have been so incredibly proud of the way my wife has embraced this trial and has found a way to find purpose in it. There is no doubt in my mind that other women have been encouraged by her willingness to open up about this scary and often secret journey of infertility that she has been on for the past year and a half. It makes it far easier to embrace trials when you can find purpose in them. And I don't think our purpose in going through all of this will stop with just the women she has been able to encourage who may be struggling with a similar thing, or the support group she has been able to help lead at our church. I trust that God has big plans for us to use the trials we have experienced on this journey somehow, regardless of whether we end up getting pregnant in the future or not. He has already used it to strengthen our marriage by leaps and bounds, and for that we are tremendously grateful!
Men and Women both - as you go through any struggle whether it is Infertility or something else, I desperately urge you to just surrender to the process and seek God's will above all else. Be more concerned with God's glory than with your own relief. Through it all you can rest in the truth of knowing that God's will for your life is good and perfect, even if it doesn't always line up with Your will for your life.
Friends and Family, we are forever grateful for your prayers and loving support throughout our entire journey so far. We thank you in advance for how you will continue to walk beside us as we press onward down this unknown road.
"On Him we have set our hope that He will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in the answer to the prayers of many." 2 Corinthians 1:10-11
By: Justin Ramsey