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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

the disgrace of infertility

It is rare to find an infertility piece written from a man's perspective. 
It is even harder to find one written by a man of God. 
This post, written by a pastor named Nate Pyle, is so powerful…I just had to share it. 

This Christmas I preached through the Christmas story as told by Luke. For all the times I’ve read the story, I’ve never noticed this small line hidden in the middle of the Christmas narrative. But this year was different. This year, that small, innocent line refused to go unnoticed and forced me to see it.

After Elizabeth became pregnant with John, she praised God saying, “The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.”

We know that disgrace. My wife knows that disgrace. I know that disgrace.

Infertility.

No, it isn’t the same type of disgrace that Elizabeth experienced. In that day, an inability to bear children was equated with sin. It was assumed that the reason for barrenness was your own doing. You must have done something. You must have something to repent of. Some sin you committed. Some reason God was withholding his blessing from you.

You.

You created the problem by your disobedience, and now God is punishing you.

Thankfully, the shame of disapproving eyes and rumored gossip doesn’t surround infertility in America anymore. But shame still exists.

Shame grows with constant thermometer readings. Peeing on countless sticks. Needles. Probes. Tiny plastic cups. Forever counting days. Sex that feels mechanical and forced because “It’s time.”

Shame slips in with the silent words spoken as another, month pregnant only with hope, passes by. It is amazing how much silence surrounds the struggle of infertility. The silence of not wanting to talk about it. The silence of wanting to talk about, but being scared. The silence of trying to avoid the one thing you are wondering about, but not wanting to focus on it, and yet having your mind dominated by it. The silence of not feeling comfortable talking with others about it because it involves sex. The silence because you just don’t want to deal with the questions.

That silence gives shame all the voice it needs to whisper silently, “Something is wrong with you.”

Infertility is a shame-filled, silent trial, isolating couples in closed bedrooms of pain.

As a man, the pain of infertility is difficult to talk about it. While my wife and I walked through our experiences together, she felt the pain of not being able to conceive more acutely than I did. Pregnancy was failing to take place in her body. Even though the doctors couldn’t find anything wrong with either of us, she was the one scheduling the monthly ultrasounds. She was the one taking medications. She was the one physically being reminded every 28 days of the failure to conceive. The pain was much closer and much more tangible for her. And all I could do was stand back and watch. I felt hopeless. Unable to do what I normally do when situations aren’t what I want them to be: fix it.

We stood in the kitchen having the same discussion we’ve had every month. The sadness was making Sarah cry and I stood there helpless. I hugged her, but I couldn’t do anything else. I couldn’t fix this. This was out of my control.

Helplessness is not a feeling I do well with.

As I held my crying wife, I didn’t cry, but quietly grieved and pulling back from hope. The grieving brought on by infertility is different than other grief I have experienced because you do not grieve what was lost, but what never was. At some point you start grieving for what never will be.

Men don’t talk often about infertility. My guess is that, if we started the conversations, a lot of guys would feel helpless. When people dream of starting their family, no one sees years of disappointment and frustration as part of the process. No, when we dream of starting our family it is a nice and tidy schedule. “First we will go off birth control, then in 3-6 months we will get pregnant.” Wouldn’t that be nice?

Instead those struggling with infertility find themselves dealing with resignation, bitterness, anger and exhaustion.

Exhaustion from fighting to hold on to hope.

Infertility is a brutal cycle that steps on hands gripping hope. The cycle begins each month with hope only to be followed by disappointment.

Hope.

False alarm.

Hope.

Discouragement.

Hope.

Frustration.

Hope.

Shame.

Hope.

Despair.

At any point in this cycle you are constantly reminded of what you cannot do by running into countless pregnant women in the grocery story, at church, or at the gym.

Church is a good place to find support, but it isn’t always a tower of refuge. The American church is one place in our culture where marriage and kids is an expectation. Singles are constantly met with questions about when they will get married, and unnecessarily pitied or prayed for when a potential spouse isn’t in the picture. Young married’s are bombarded about when they will start having kids, as if their marriage doesn’t really matter until a child validates it.

Around church, having kids is talked about as if it is like scheduling a tune-up for your car. “Isn’t it time the two of you start having kids?” is one of the most painful questions a couple dealing with infertility can hear. Because thats exactly how they feel! It is time for them to start having kids. They’ve been hoping and praying and wanting and waiting for a long time for God to respond to their request. So yes, it is time, but no, kids don’t show up on a time table.

My wife and I struggled for 14 months before we surprisingly found ourselves expecting our now 3 year-old son. We were literally starting to have all the testing done the next month when my wife woke me up with the news that she was pregnant.

So many couples never wake up to that news.

It’s now been over two years that we have tried for another child. Two years and an ectopic pregnancy that we had to end. I’m not writing because my wife and I have discovered some secret to living with infertility. I don’t think there is any. I’m not writing because I have some great pastoral wisdom to help comfort those who are struggling with infertility. In fact, I don’t even know how to end this post. All I have is this:

You are not alone. Your struggle may be in silence, but you are not alone.

I don’t have a magic Bible verse of comfort, or prayer of peace, or words of wisdom, or any answers.

I only have “me too.” Us too. We know. We understand. And we mourn with you.

So may we, together, accept that there is nothing wrong with us and see we are simply sharing in the human experience – which is simultaneously beautiful and painful, disheartening and hopeful.


42 comments:

Maran (HeyHawleywood) said...

Wow, thank you for sharing. I shook my head "yes" the whole time while reading this. Infertility is not sexist. It affects the men and women going through it and I forget that sometimes.

Ashley said...

I totally intended to post a link to this article as well. Love it! Thanks for sharing!

Kelly Z said...

Thank you so much for sharing this!

Kasey A said...

Wow. So powerful. Just wow.

Amanda said...

"Exhaustion from fighting to hold on to hope."- if that doesn't sum it all up, I don't know what does. Thanks for sharing! Thinking of you!

Christina Schergen said...

This was so good. It really hard when the thing you want to badly is a baby.

Rachel said...

What a beautifully sad and yet completely relatable post! Thanks for sharing!

Laura Rahel said...

I had to share this with everybody on facebook, it is sooooo sooooo good. I love that he acknowledges that he will never truly know the pain his wife feels. Stephen and I got into a tiff last week about it because I equivilated the death of my never-concieved children to the death of somebody living. because for me, infertility was a lot harder to deal with than say the death of my grandmother who was old and sick for a very very long time. It was easy to say, she loved God, I'm so glad shes not in pain any more, she was so happy to meet Him. Whereas dealing with the death of children you've already named, already created memories with in your mind, is so much harder (for me anyways.) You have to grieve the loss of a loved one you never got to hold. And you have to grieve mostly alone because others dont understand how deeply infertility hurts women who are burdened with it.

Cristy said...

And the tears flow. Thank you for sharing this Jessah. Sending love to you and A.

The Run Away Stork said...

I loved this article so much. I found myself silently yelling (in my head) YES! EXACTLY! It's so reassuring to have someone put your thoughts and feelings into words and be able to truly understand what you are going through. That is why this community is so amazing. Thank you for sharing!

Jenni@FlyingOnARainbow said...

It's interesting to see a man's perspective. My husband is an amazing support to me, but never really talks about how he feels about it other than that it's upsetting seeing me upset. Thank you for sharing this!

Lilee said...

There is so much truth in this. I'm not proud of it, but I'll admit I'm ashamed of my infertility. I know so many wonderful, amazing women and men who are also going through infertility, and I hope it isn't disgraceful to them, but I know I'm embarrassed of my own struggle to conceive. I wish it didn't have to be this way. Thank you for posting. This is a great perspective.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for sharing this article! I'm sure my husband would love (?) to read this. If not, I'm forwarding to him anyway. ;)

Miss Kari said...

This is such a beautiful post. It is nice to read something written from the male's perspective. So often women feel like their husbands aren't as equally upset or they aren't as sad, upset, or hurt by the journey. This was refreshing to read and so beautifully written.

shay said...

wow, this was great to read and every word so true. thanks for sharing!

Elisha Kearns said...

such a great post. Thanks for sharing!! :) :)

waitingforbabybird.com

monica yard said...

I absolutely loved this. It's so comforting to hear a man's perspective on this. I often wonder what my husband is thinking because I know much of the time he feels pretty helpless. Thank you for sharing this and as always - prayers your way for your happy ending. ((Hugs))

katytrackslife said...

I saw and loved this post too. Thanks for reposting this, it's a great reminder to see it again

Courtney Wilson said...

I was actually JUST going to share this with you as I saw it floating around FB. :)

Life Happens said...

What a great post! So refreshing to hear from the male's perspective. Men don't typically talk openly about it as women do and it's good to know that infertility impacts them just as much as it hurts us. Thanks for sharing.

Aubrey said...

Wow. Thanks for sharing this. XO

Ali said...

Thank you. I'm not religious at all but I loved this. Thinking of you.

Nathalie Willmott said...

Oh this is perfect! Explains it oh so well xx

Sara said...

I love this, thank you so much for posting it!

JoJo said...

Wow this is beautifully written. Here I am thinking that men don't understand truly what we struggle with.

Ashley P said...

Thank you for this post. I think this topic is very difficult for men to talk about. There have been countless times I wonder what I did "wrong" for God to punish me. But I know that is not what it is. I am learning so I can teach and help others. I am being taught strength, Faith and patience. I know my husband struggles with out infertility, just in a different way than I do.

Raffy Believes said...

Thank you so much for sharing this. As a man struggling with infertility, it was just perfect timing. Thank you again

Sincerely
Raffy

Chelley N said...

Thank you for posting this. It spoke to me on so many levels.

Finley S said...

wowee!! That is brilliantly written. You are right. from a males perspective that is incredibly powerful!! and so much truth too! I love the "the one thing you are wondering about, but not wanting to focus on it, and yet having your mind dominated by it." that is so accurately well said. Thanks for sharing jessah!

Anna Thornton said...

absolutely on point. thank you so much for sharing.

Holly Olsen said...

Thanks for sharing this.

Ashley Sanderson said...

I found this article on facebook and cried all the way through it! He wrote EXACTLY how we all feel and did it in such a way that was easy to understand. I wish I was that good with words!

Ashley
Man and Wife and Two Fur Babies

Stacy said...

Omg Jess...this is amazing. Thanks for sharing! I"m literally fighting back tears as I write this. This guy totally nailed it and put into words better that I ever could. I'm sending to my husband now...all too often sometimes we forget they're struggling just as much as we are.

Elyse said...

Thank you for sharing this. Hearing a man's perspective on infertility is rare and not something I have seen very often. Even my own husband doesn't like to open up about it.

Marcy said...

Thank you for sharing! This post puts the journey into words that I can't write on my own.

Whitney B. said...

I've read this before and enjoyed reading it again, such beautifully inspired words. I love that our generation talks more openly about infertility and miscarriage... I couldn't have overcome what we did had I not been able to speak with others.

Sarah said...

he wrote that well. and i loved it.
thank you for sharing!

Catherine said...

Thank you for sharing. This was very genuine and honest and I appreciate reading a man's perspective on infertility. This might be the first thing I've read on infertility written by a man.

Anonymous said...

It's so rare for people to admit this kind of secret, especially as the naturally-fertile world is so condescending to infertiles. Thank you for sharing.

Amber said...

Thank you for sharing Jessah. It's always powerful to hear from a man's perspective on infertility.

Michelle Hurst said...

I had a friend recently send this very article to me. It is truly an amazing article. I thought about blogging about it as well. I'm so glad you shared.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing this. As I was reading this I began to cry and agreed with every feeing of hope and loss. Every month is a reminder and a constant battle to give up hope or keep trying. Infertility is not something that's talked about much. My husband and I have been trying to have kids for five years after having a miscarriage. I know it's hard on him, but he try's to be strong. I wish he shared how he was feeling with me. It puts things all in perspective when you see how it affects both partners. Thank you again

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