RELATING WELL WITH OTHERS THROUGH ONE OF THE MOST DIFFICULT SEASONS OF YOUR LIFE CAN BE INCREDIBLY CHALLENGING… ESPECIALLY DURING THE HOLIDAYS WITH MORE GET TOGETHERS.
WHICH IS WHY WE CREATED THIS SERIES TO EQUIP YOU WITH PRACTICAL WAYS TO RELATE WELL WITH YOUR FAMILY, SPOUSE AND FRIENDS. WE HOPE YOU CAN DO MORE THAN SIMPLY SURVIVE YOUR DEAREST RELATIONSHIPS IN ONE OF THE MOST BEAUTIFUL SEASONS OF THE YEAR.
Walking through infertility involves plenty of gray areas: determining when and how to start or stop treatments, deciding which family-building options to pursue, figuring out if and with whom we share our private struggles. Yet in other ways, it paints our circumstances black and white – specifically, the Haves vs. the Have-Nots. You either have living children or you don’t. You’re either in the mom club or you’re out.
Being left out is hard. No one enjoys not getting something they desperately desire, while watching others receive it so (seemingly) easily. Yet if we spend too much time and headspace thinking about what’s missing – envying mothers and bemoaning our lack of children – we miss out on opportunities that arise from the unique trials we’re facing. We forget that we’re not the only ones who Have-Not.
Friends, take this encouragement from someone on the “other side”: One of the greatest benefits that can result from infertility is the relationships made because of infertility.
God made us in His image to live and thrive in relationships, and formed His people, the body of Christ, to work together, lift each other up, and love one another. We’re called to “bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). That means reaching out a hand to support those entrenched in suffering – whether we’re standing above ground or stuck in the pit with them.
Experiencing infertility heightens your awareness and sensitivity toward those facing the same struggle. This part of your life that hurts so deeply helps you connect with others at a deeper level because of your shared pain. Though it might be difficult to view infertility as a gift right now, you could think of it as a badge of honor – not something that defines who you are, but rather indicates what you know. It shows fellow infertility sufferers that you get what they’re going through, and helps them know they’re not alone.
As we meet and make friends with others facing infertility and childlessness, we can comfort them with the same comfort Jesus has given us (2 Corinthians 1:3-5). Sometimes, these friendships take a while to mature; other times, we hit it off and dive right into the deep stuff – which could include some of the embarrassing and awkward circumstances that naturally accompany infertility. I remember immediately bonding with a new friend over our awful experiences taking fertility meds: “You went crazy and snapped at your husband while on Clomid?! Me, too!”
However these relationships develop, we can approach them as followers of Christ, putting others above ourselves and demonstrating His humility, kindness, and empathy as one who truly understands our weaknesses.
Friends, let’s be woman who love well even in great pain.
Some guidelines to keep in mind when interacting with our friends who are also waiting:
God is always at work, drawing us into relationships through the circumstances He causes or allows in our lives to bring Him glory and grant us grace. But His sovereignty doesn’t negate our responsibility to seek out others who need a friend. Even in the midst of our grief and hardship, we can offer light to others by taking the first step toward connection. This often requires some level of vulnerability – letting your guard down and sharing your struggles. By opening up your heart, you invite the other person to crack their own defenses and let the sorrows spill out. It’s scary, but worth it. Trust your Father and take action, leading the way toward healing.
Perk up your ears and guard your mouth.
Once we’ve found a friend who understands what it’s like to ache for a child, we face the temptation of over-venting. While it’s vital to have a safe person to talk to when you’re struggling – someone who allows you to share the nasty emotions that come with grief – it’s also important to guard ourselves from two pitfalls: 1) monopolizing the time so that the other person never has an opportunity to share and 2) dragging each other down into negativity. As you grow in your friendship, take a moment to set a few ground rules for your conversations. Come up with ideas to make sure you both get a chance to talk and to prevent healthy venting from devolving into complaining and bitterness. Waiting in Hope local support groups follow guidelines for members and discussions to create a loving a fruitful space for all.
Encourage one another in marriage.
Our spouses process their feelings differently than we do. This isn’t anyone’s fault; it’s simply the reality of our different genders, personalities, and longings. Sharing some frustrations about our spouses with close friends might be acceptable as a means to work out our emotions, but only if we do so in a way that is respectful, gracious, and intentional toward building up the marriage. NO HUSBAND OR WIFE BASHING SHOULD BE ALLOWED. If there’s any question about you or your friend’s attitude toward your spouses, restrict yourselves from talking about them. I can’t emphasize this enough, as I’ve seen marriages erode while couples began talking behind one another’s backs about their infertility woes. If circumstances are that severe, encourage your friend to pursue marital counseling. The goal should always be unity, not dissension allowing an inroad to bitterness.
As much as it gives us relief finding someone who understands our suffering, we still need to remember each person’s journey is unique. We have different diagnoses, treatments, results, options available, and choices made. While we support our friends who are facing similar battles, we must fight our tendency to compare circumstances and expect that we’ll feel the same way and/or experience the same outcomes. Giving into this temptation only leads to envy, discontentment, and division. Remember that in Christ, we’re members of one body, equipped with different gifts and functions for the purpose of building each other up. Don’t place the burden of wrongful expectations on your friend or yourself. Instead, spur one another on in the distinct paths where God is leading you to grow your families.
Maintain sensitivity and give grace.
Once we’ve reached a resolution to infertility – whether through pregnancy, adoption, or child-full living in other ways – we carry a responsibility to continue loving those who are still suffering and still waiting. Though our relationships might change due to the needs of taking care of children, we must remember to check in on our friends who are waiting for their children and keep encouraging them in their journeys. This also means being careful how we handle pregnancy announcements. We of all people know what it feels like to have your heart slammed when you hear the news that someone else is having a baby. So we must be gracious in how we deliver this news – for example, telling a friend privately before posting on social media – and also sensitive in how we talk about it with them. To put it bluntly, don’t ditch your friend now that you’ve gotten what you wanted (I call this “pregnesia,” as if you’ve forgotten what and who is in your past). We can both rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15) because God weaves our hearts together, making us one in Christ.
Point each other to Jesus.
Friends are a gift from the Lord. They can give us joy, supply comfort, encourage us, call us out on sin, and help us gain wisdom. But the best role a friend can fulfill is directing people to Jesus. We can help our friends by listening to their cries, serving their practical needs, extending patience, and showing grace. Yet we can’t save them. We won’t heal their wounds. Christ alone satisfies our deepest relational needs and secures our eternal peace. He is our Healer and Redeemer, who already bore all our pain and suffering, and continues to carry us day by day.
Dear friends, let’s be people who love our fellow sufferers by turning to our Savior. As we praise His name together, and remind one another of His faithfulness and sacrifice, we’ll sink our roots into truth and grow in grace as we wait in hope together.
Jenn Hesse - Content Developer - Jenn@waitinginhopeinfertility.com
Jenn Hesse is a writer/content developer at Waiting in Hope. She leads a local infertility and infant loss support group called Graceful Wait and has a passion for equipping women to know Christ through His Word. When she’s not teasing her husband or chasing after her two sons, she writes at her blog jennhesse.com and other websites. Connect and follow, @jennmhesse.