It's been over a year since God opened my womb and gave us these twin boys, which means it's been over a year since I've felt the daily sting of infertility. All throughout our struggle to get pregnant, and in the months following our pregnancy, I have wanted to write something that would help others know how to help their friends in this difficult trial. I have written about how to help after miscarriage and I have written to the infertile woman, but I have never written to an outsider looking in on the infertile couple. There are a number of reasons for that. In the midst of our journey I never felt like I could really pinpoint the most helpful things. We were truly upheld by so many dear people, but in the moment I never wanted to come out swinging against the ones who maybe didn't know exactly how to help. During infertility was not the best time for me personally to write about it. I felt like God had more work to do on my own heart before I could write about it.
But as I am now farther removed from it, my prayer is that I can help those who earnestly desire to encourage their weary friends as they walk this hard road of infertility. Here is part one.
Choose Your Words Carefully
This can apply to many situations that have nothing to do with infertility, which is why I mention it first. As believers, we know that our words matter. We know that our words have value for another. And we know that our words can either bring life or bring death to a person's soul.
Nowhere is this more important to recognize than when you are dealing with a suffering person. And infertility is a form of suffering. For the infertile, there are days where the reality that she cannot get pregnant is right on her shoulder, screaming lies into her head. Lies like "you aren't really a woman." "This defines you." "You have no purpose because you can't bring life into the world." Carefully composed words can be a healing balm to a discouraged and fainthearted saint.
But another more common temptation when you are helping your infertile friends is the urge to generalize their situation and lump it into every other instance of infertility that you are aware of. I still struggle with this, and I have gone through it! The truth is there are a myriad of reasons why a couple might be infertile. And as their friend, you might want to help find out that reason. While some may know why they can’t get pregnant, some don’t. Some situations require simple procedures to fix the problem. Some require years of treatment that only amount to drained bank accounts and broken hearts. What an infertile couple needs most is not a story about how a friend of a friend got pregnant with the same treatment. That might be true. But for every story of success there is another of failure. This doesn’t mean you never offer advice or insight. Just be careful what you say and when you say it. Sometimes silence is the best policy.
And I understand how hard this can be. When I don’t know what to say, I often say too much. I just want to say something, anything, to alleviate the pain. But sometimes removing the pain is not what your friend needs. She might just need empathy. She might just need you to sit with her and cry. But here is one thing I can almost promise you, if you have thought of a reason for why she is infertile, she has probably thought of fifteen more. The infertile woman knows her body (usually) more than she ever wanted to know it. And she understands conception usually better than most.
So if your desire is to help your friend, and I trust that it is, understand that a carefully composed word goes a long way. This doesn't mean you have to walk on eggshells around your friend (we will talk about that in another post), but it does mean you think about what you say before you say it. Words, if chosen wisely, can go a long way to helping your suffering friend.