The Gift Heaven Couldn’t Give

The waiting season is where you’re desperately longing for God to bless you with a particular gift. In the dark days, you don’t see God’s faithfulness. You don’t always feel His goodness. The blessings are pouring out in other people’s lives. But you had another failed treatment this month. You lost your baby too soon. You heard nothing when there was supposed to be a heartbeat. Your heart broke. Correction, your heart is broken.

The pain is overwhelming. And yet when you call out to God for help, you hear silence.

You see nothing.

You feel nothing.

You’re desperate for that tiny gift others label their “oops” or their “accident.” You would give anything to be called ‘Mommy’… or to feel that kick on your ribs… to wake up to go pee for the 934,582th time… to pull over and throw up in a Wal-mart bag… to check for the monsters under the bed again… to pack up school lunches…

It’s in this season that all of heaven sees your longing. It’s in this season that you have the opportunity to give God something that NO angel is ever able to give God.

You’re able to give God something extraordinary that your future-mom-self can’t even offer God. 

That gift is worshipping God through your pain and uncertainty.

There’s no pain in heaven.

Angels can’t worship God from a place of pain.

What a beautiful gift you can give God to choose to believe truth, especially when it seems so far off. When you choose to praise God before the miracle, that is a miracle. If I can be brutally honest for just a moment, I’d tell you that it’s kinda shallow to suddenly declare God’s goodness, faithfulness, and love on the day the miracle arrives. This worship is something so unique to this season.

The value of your praise is so weighty when you declare who God is before it’s proven in your circumstances. THAT is the gift you can give God that heaven never could. This is the essence of faith.

<<This is an excerpt from the Hope Narrative Infertility Conference session I did, entitled Fruifully Barren>>

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Anthem

I hope you enjoy these songs as much as I have. Here’s my infertility playlist:

  • Hills and Valleys- Tauren Wells (acoustic version)
  • Do It Again- Elevation Worship
  • The Sun Is Rising- Britt Nicole
  • Let Hope In- Daniel Bashta
  • To Those Who Wait- Bethany Dillon
  • The Waiting- Jamie Grace
  • I Will Carry You (Audrey’s Song)- Selah
  • I Will- Citizen Way
  • Give Me Faith- Elevation Worship
  • Storyteller- Morgan Harper Nichols
  • Help Me Find It- Sidewalk Prophets
  • Worn- Tenth Avenue North
  • Climb- Will Reagan & United Pursuit
  • I Would Die For That- Kellie Coffey
  • God I Look To You- Jenn Johnson
  • 123 Victory- Kirk Franklin
  • Healing Is Here- Deluge
  • Redeemed- Big Daddy Weave
  • Find You On My Knees- Kari Jobe
  • Take Back- United Pursuit Band

So whip out your walkman…or iPod…or youtube! Let me know what your favorite songs are in this season!

 

 

Sunshowers

“A sunshower or sun shower is a meteorological phenomenon in which rain falls while the sun is shining. A sunshower is usually the result of accompanying winds associated with a rain storm sometimes miles away, blowing the airborne raindrops into an area where there are no clouds.” ~Google

I LOVE it when it’s raining and sunny outside. Don’t you? It’s one of my favorites. I can’t help but smile every time. It’s so pretty and unexpected.

This morning I stepped out on the balcony and enjoyed watching the rain drizzle with not a heavy cloud in the sky, for the second day in a row. What a treat for me!

It got me thinking.

This.

This is what I want (and hope) my journey with infertility will look like to others. You know it’s supposed to be ugly and gloomy, but somehow you can’t help but smile. This is how God wants to use every stormy trial in our lives. He wants to bring Sonlight to all our storms. He wants to be the captivating beauty that draws out the darkness and overcomes the intended evil in our deepest valleys.

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence is in him.
They will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit.” ~Jeremiah 17:7-8

And I found it so funny that my mother-in-law’s sprinklers were set to continue to water her garden even though it was raining. How often do we worry about the things that God is already taking care of for us. {meanwhile I was relieved I didn’t have to water my struggling tomato bushes}

In the book, Graceful, author Emily P. Freeman shares an example of a young girl riding in a horse carriage and firmly holding onto her book bag in her lap because she doesn’t want the horse to suffer from carrying the extra weight. Obviously the horse is already carrying the weight, whether the bag is in her lap or on the floor of the carriage.

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It’s so easy to get stressed and worried in our uncertainty. But God is already carrying the weight and holds our solution. He knows the final chapter of victory. We don’t know which chapter we are on now and how much longer till we reach that victory. But we can give Him the burden of fulfilling His will in our lives. We can surrender and, dare I say, trust. Our Father in heaven sees the finish line and is cheering you on: GOOO. You’ve got this. You’re so close. Lean into me. Let me carry you. Let me show you my wonderful plan. Give me glory.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” ~Proverbs 3:5-6

How beautiful and refreshing it is to see the Lord receive glory during the darkest days of someone’s trials. How can this look in your life?

<<disclaimer: this is not insinuating that treatment shouldn’t be pursued as a solution to any illness/condition. My hope is that your trust in the Lord is refined today. He is so trustworthy and good, even when you can’t make sense of what you’re walking through. One day there will be answers, even if only in Heaven. For today, we have faith and a whole lot of grace to strengthen our weary hearts>>

“When you pass through the waters,
I {God} will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers{see footnote},
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire{see footnote},
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.”~Isaiah 43:2

footnote: You may replace the words “rivers” and “fire” with infertility/illness/brokenness/weighing circumstances/broken relationships/unmet expectations/YOUR struggle

July Updates

Here is an update on all things fertility! The cheatsheet is below on time increments in case you care to only hear parts.

Time# 00:00 FertilityIQ sidenote ( fertilityIQ.com )

Time# 00:40 I discuss my thoughts on Whole30 and Endometriosis. (And a sneak peak at “our” dog- I hate to love)

Time# 07:35 IVF pre-testing updates (may get controversial)

—-Saline ultrasound results

—-Zika test to come

—-AMH level change

—-Genetic blood panel results <<Sandhoff Disease & Cartilage-hair Hypoplasia>>

—-Thyroid levels

—-Gratitude

Time# 21:20 The Hope Narrative Conference info (September 16th faith based infertility conference hosted by Sarah’s Laughter)

I’m so sorry for the million “um’s” … When I was studying speech communication my first couple years in college, that was my biggest pet peeve and now I’m realizing I’ve picked it up! Time to kick that habit ; )

One of these days I’m going to become technologically literate and clean up the blog and fix up these videos to be fancy and professional-ish looking. I even have a twin with impeccable photography skills. Until then, thanks for hanging with me and my uncut reality.

May you find continued joy, comfort and strength in Christ,

Tricia Schnoor

Podcast Episode

I was recently privileged to share our story on Sarah’s Laughter’s podcast (Podcast.Sarahs-laughter.com). I encourage you to listen to episode 0 and explore some other episodes. They cover a wide range of fertility related journeys, including the following: gestational carrying, adoption, embryo adoption, sperm donation, secondary infertility, genetic complications, cancer and so much more. Chances are, you’ll find that someone’s story sounds a lot like yours. The podcast is a lovely companion for commutes and beach days!

Here here to listen to our episode: PODCAST EPISODE

A couple things I wanted to clarify from our episode:

-The doctor who didn’t inform me about thin lining while on Clomid was not our current doctor. I changed to Dr. Lu after that experience (making him our 5th and favorite doctor on our case).

-I absolutely LOVE the little girl that was born on the day before my birthday. She is my sweet niece and I’m “Aunt Shrisha”. I can’t imagine life without her. She and her brothers have brought so much joy, snuggles, and laughter to me. I’ve done quite a lot of practicing for mommy-hood with them.

-My endometriosis has worsened significantly this year, making the IVF so much more necessary. Time is not in our favor. We can’t even begin to express our gratitude to God, Sarah’s Laughter, our team of supporters who raised funds and who attended Baby Steps, and our doctor for this opportunity and blessing. We are thrilled to be starting the process and will continue to keep an open window for updates.

 

H-O-P-E is a 4-letter word

I have a bad relationship with hope. Sometimes I binge. Sometimes I avoid it altogether. “Hope deferred makes the heart sick….”- so says the wisest man who will ever live aside from Jesus himself (Proverbs 13:12). In our journey for offspring, grasping at hope has been a rollercoaster.

I’ve been told how important HOPE is during our battle so many times. But I didn’t understand it. Why should I be so foolish?

Sometimes pushing for hope is like investing stock into typewriters or landlines or pagers…. unwise. With my cycles usually lasting 26-29 days, we have tried for 66 cycles total. I’m no mathematician, but our natural odds of conceiving are proven not that great. It would not be wise for me to invest my emotions into hoping that this month, this treatment to work.

Hope deferred makes the heart sick. I’ve been walking around with a heart that’s sick.

-I keep hoping that this’ll be the last New Years, Mother’s Day, birthday, Christmas towing just my food-baby. I AM SO SICK. My heart is broken.

How do I have a good relationship with hope again?

My hope IS in Christ. But the enemy tries to twist it even still. I’ve run into a handful of comments, blogs, & quotes during our journey that have pushed me to believe God is going to do exactly xyz for me, if only I do dot dot dot.

So what do I say to the people whose faith didn’t produce children? To the parents who gave up on treatment and finally fell back on adoption (not that adoption is always a second or last choice). Do I blame the victim? You’re faith wasn’t big enough. Do I blame God? He doesn’t love them like he loves the one who received the miracle. THAT is PREPOSTEROUS.

I’ve heard sermons that tell me that my outcome is based on my faith level- if I don’t activate my faith, God can’t activate His reward. I’ve even heard from the pulpit that God is waiting for me to praise Him loud enough to bless me. Sweet sister, if this is what you also are hearing all around you, may I encourage you to rest. Know that this is a twist of God’s heart for you. We’ve made God out to be a sugar daddy and our prayers and spiritual services as payment for a vending machine miracle. But that is NOT the God of the Bible.

I sat for many weeks mulling over what it means to be God-honoring in my hope level. Finally, it hit me. As a Christian, my hope is not in the outcome. not in the solution. not in the doctor.

My hope is in Christ. I know I can trust in His Character.

Watch the below clip from 12:26 to 14:10

There’s so much depth to the spiritual aspect of infertility, or any season of prolonged waiting. Being faithful doesn’t mean you expect, plan and anticipate xyz by xyz date. Faithfully hoping in the Lord means to believe that maybe my plan isn’t what will happen, but God still has a plan. God is still good. God can redeem everything, even this. God hasn’t forgotten or abandoned me, or you. God is sovereign. God is still in control.

Psalm 20:17 “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.”

  • When this was written, chariots were the IVF of technology. Horses were like the United Airlines (somewhat temperamental at times). Our hope is not in the treatment or the doctors, our hope and trust is in the Lord. He is the most reliable investment. It’s simply logical.

If you’re like me and hate to read, you can park here and get the gist of the post. If you want to read further details of our journey and how my view of “hope” has been formed, continue reading 😉

Along the road, we’ve had many “hope” moments:

-The day we got off birth control and expected to be pregnant within 2 months (ha).

-The day Allan had his surgery for varicocele, his urologist told me we shouldn’t have any trouble conceiving and to go home and try for another year.

-The day I was diagnosed with Endometriosis, my doctor calmly said it wasn’t that bad, and if anything, I’ll just need a few rounds of Clomid (the gateway fertility drug).

-The day my biopsy showed no breast cancer and we were cleared for fertility treatment.

-The day I started Clomid. My monitoring appointment showed 3 beautiful follicles and my RE assured me that I should get pregnant that month, possibly with triplets. <<only to tell me after it failed that my lining was a 5.5mm (bad), which actually hurt my chances of conceiving>>

-The day I started Letrozole (also called Femera, another fertility drug).

-The day I started injectables (3 or 4xs the cost of my fertility drug months).

-The day my parents offered to pay for another round of injections.

-The day our friend told us that “God told him” that we would conceive by the end of 2016.

-The day we learned of a ministry in Thailand that hopes to begin an abandoned baby ministry.

-The day we won a free IVF from our doctor (Lu) thru Sarah’s Laughter ministry

All of these moments got our hopes up. Most of them were false hope. But you know what, I’ve learned to guard my heart. Full faith does not mean crash and burn. It doesn’t mean investing into beepers.

My least guarded moment was during Clomid. I really started to believe I was pregnant during my 2WW (2 week wait-before testing). That was one of my lowest moments after hoping/expecting so much.

While in Thailand, I did start falling in love with every baby I saw, picturing myself surrounded by 5 beautiful dark-skinned babies, elbows deep in diapers and learning the Thai language right along side them. Each of the 5 times we have moved during our marriage, I’ve envisioned where the tire swing will go in the yard, I’ve picked out where the nursery would be. So when we were asked to dream on the actual property where they would build the home for abandoned babies, I had a check in my spirit. I knew not to let my heart go there.

Even when they were announcing the winners at the baby steps, I knew to coach myself to cheering for the winners and hope that someone I knew won. I mean, we had a 1% chance of winning. The night before baby steps, I was crying. I was crying because I didn’t want to go visit a couple that just announced they were pregnant. I was crying because I didn’t like who I’ve become. I didn’t like that I was happy for them but sad for me. I felt selfish (though it is a natural and normal part of grieving during infertility). I was crying because I’m marked by infertility far more than I care to admit. I was crying because that was our last friend who hadn’t conceived yet. We were very much the last ones out of my husband’s core friend group. I was hopeless.

I don’t regret even the false hope moments. Because they came at a time when I was hanging by a thread. I see God redeem the false hope as strength for today. Most of those didn’t translate to a live baby. But they did give me grace to face the storm. They were umbrellas. I still got wet from the storm, but not drenched.

You see, God is faithful, even when we don’t see Him moving.

He is actually carrying us when we think we are fighting alone (just like the old footprints in the sand story).

One day we will see in full what we only see in part now. I’m confident that on that day, it will all make 100% sense. On this side of the miracle, in the waiting and waiting and waiting, please know that what you are facing and what I’m facing is not too big for the Lord. It may not be safe to hope in a particular outcome or remedy, but it will always be safe to trust and hope in the Lord.

Let’s Get Practical, Practical

Let’s say you’re on a diet and you decide to buy a HUGE chocolate cake…and place it on your kitchen island just to look at. That wouldn’t make sense at all, would it?

When you’re on a diet, your best bet at success is to raid your pantry and fridge for all sweets and unhealthy food and GET RID OF IT! Throw out the ice cream, toss the (delicious) full fat cream cheese, and give away your Halloween candy stash.

RIGHT?

If all the above makes perfect sense, why do we still torture ourselves by not eliminating the trigger points for us?

I’ve learned A LOT about my body and mind and preferences during our struggle with infertility. I’ve learned most of that the hard way. But, I’ve learned how to adapt my lifestyle, choices and environment to maintain my best chance at a healthy mind and heart.

Here are some practical steps I’ve made (or know someone who did) that has helped me tremendously in my attempt to endure infertility- because let’s be honest, infertility can be a marathon...except in this marathon, you haven’t trained and there are no mile markers and your GPS watch battery died…. and we can add in a thunderstorm, why not?

-We don’t know how much longer it’ll be before our miracle comes—-how many more treatments till one works—how long it’ll take before you and your spouse are on the same page for action—IF a pregnancy is going to be viable and sustain to full term :(–If a birth mom will refuse to sign the termination of rights papers….

We do know that we are here now. Let’s make the most of it. Let’s learn what works for us and go with that. It’s going to suck, here in the barren land. But it doesn’t have to keep sucking quite as bad as it’s been.

  1. Social Media– the point of social media is to keep in touch with people. It’s supposed to be FUN. When it stops serving its purpose and starts to torture you, you ought to have two choices. (A) Eliminate it all together or (B) Control it. We have the luxury of the unfollow button. USE IT. For me, my personal rule of thumb is “ignorance is bliss”… I live by this mentality. I function best when I don’t keep up with how far behind I’m falling in our imaginary life race. I stopped counting pregnancy announcements when the number got to be in the 40s. I stopped following people when they announced they were pregnant…and a couple years later I found I had better unfollow when people marry…and now, I unfollow people when they get engaged (because the life lesson we learned in 1st grade is true for the 80%- “first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes” you know what). If seeing those baby pictures makes you sad, stop seeing them. Comparisons will either leave you prideful or ashamed and neither outcome is God’s design or desire for us. So if social media news feed is hurting you, change it. Lagniappe: there are app options to only view group activity on your news feed. So if you would delete FB but want to be available to keep in touch when necessary and you want to keep up with your groups- that’s an option.
  2. Baby Showers (& gender reveals & hospital visits after birth & bringing meals & children’s birthday parties & church on Mother’s Day or your due date for your miscarried angel) You don’t have to go. If these things hurt you, if they cause trauma, if they cause the tears to flow, don’t go(if you don’t want to). I know there are different opinions on this, but I don’t even like getting the shower invites. I stopped giving my address when someone asks for it. Ignorance is bliss for me, so I don’t want to know when the shower is because chances are, I’ll be sulking that day thinking about it. Truthfully, I’m happy for you, but sad for me. I’m sad that all these things reminds me where I’m not and how broken my hopes and dreams are. People do not have to understand. If it’s best for you to miss these things, it is OKAY. If you don’t think everyone will understand why you missed, it’s okay. They likely don’t understand at all what you’re going thru. You can explain it to them, but they don’t need an explanation. If you’re private about your infertility and not ready to open up, you don’t have to explain yourself. You don’t have to carry the weight of the world and fulfill every whim of a desire/expectation of others on you. (PS. many women walking thru infertility prefer to get the invitation to the showers, because they are already so left out. Many want the invite but the freedom to not come if its a bad day or season. That’s not me at all, but it’s worth saying for the sake of your infertile friends. It doesn’t hurt to ask but please extend grace with their decision.)
  3. Support. Y’all, prioritize establishing a support system for yourself. If you have a support group in your area (first of all, you’re incredibly blessed and it’s worth the drive), GO TO IT. But if you don’t have a group already meeting in your area, please start one. You don’t need to have all the answers and you don’t have to be a superstar Christian to facilitate a meeting. There are tons of resources available for you so you can go thru a workbook (Baby Hunger & Surviving Infertility by Beth Forbus, to name a couple). If you know one other person going thru this, that’s a group. Start meeting. Online groups are available but a face-to-face group is optimal. Even when I had my mom and sister with open ears and unlimited patience to my disposal, their support cannot compare to being in a room of other women who get it and are walking thru the same desire and disappointment as you. I also remember distinctly my husband looking at me and saying “am I not enough for you?” and “can’t I make you as happy as a baby can?”…. and the answer is NO. He is definitely enough for me- as my husband. But my husband will never again be a 10lb, paci-sucking, snuggling little bundle of joy and terror all at once. He fulfills my desire for a husband but he will never be a baby for me….and that’s a good thing. I still have a different shaped desire for a baby. His support and love are wonderful, but they do not cure my desire for community and desire for a child. I promise you, this journey is a completely different experience with a good support group. I’ve done many more months without than with a group and it’s SOOOO MUCH better with a group. I am not alone. I am not the only one. I don’t feel isolated anymore. It’s a huge difference and worth my 1.5 hour drive one way.
  4. Goal Setting- Surprise. My point is not to make goals. The point is to stop making goals. What I keep hearing from my friends in support group and experience myself is that time oriented goals = self destruction. If you get pregnant and maintain that pregnancy, great. This won’t hurt you. But for many who walk the path of infertility, the most crushing moments are the surpassed mile markers. The 10-year plan is the worst. Just say no! I like to equate this kind of “hope” to the wisdom of investing into landlines or pagers or typewriters. We do the damage to ourselves when we say, I just have to get pregnant before that friend, before that birthday, before that holiday, before that many years of trying. When that happens… it’s adding grief to the grieving. Good grief, stop picking at the scabs. We have to surrender that ideal picture we hold so tightly to. INFERTILITY CANNOT BE CONTROLLED. If you’re a control freak (like me), this will drive you nuts, but you’re doing it to yourself. You can, however, make more realistic goals. i.e. fitness goals, character improvement goals, increasing gratitude/trust in the Lord, etc.
  5. Self-Care– This is essential. Take it easy on yourself. You’re walking thru a journey that is often compared to the process of a cancer diagnosis. You’re grieving. You’re in trauma. Take the time to do what helps you, especially on the hard days. Some days, some minutes are good and some are hard. When it’s hard, do what you do. Maybe that’s reading a book or taking an extra long drive up the coast. Maybe that’s going to the spa. I like to use my little foot wax thing- heaven knows I’m clueless to its actual name. I like to paint my nails and vegg out watching the Amazing Race episodes and listen to country music. You know yourself best. Maybe you need a little chocolate and some wine. Maybe you need some good time in the Word. Self -care AKA: Treat Yo-Self.

So, just like setting diet up for success by eliminating the available sweets and fats in your house, lets set up our season of infertility to be fruitful. Let’s clear away the trigger points and make room for God to give you purpose. Every person is unique and so every individual experiencing infertility will experience it uniquely. You have to learn yourself and what works for you. Learn what hurts you and make changes to create a less stressful and painful environment for yourself. It’s all about creating healthy boundaries for yourself. We all have limits but our limits are unique to us.
I know, some of you have read this article and are convinced I’m coddling my wounds. I’m perfectly fine with that perception of it. But here’s what you have to understand. When I scroll thru social media and get stuck in the comparison game and the stab in the heart from the announcement and the pain of seeing another diaper add (because someone still hasn’t convinced the FB admins that there needs to be a BABY FREE ad option that eliminates ANYTHING associated with pregnancy, babies, parenting etc. Just because I googled something about TTC doesn’t mean I care to be heartbroken by a reminder. I can’t fathom the pain of someone who has experienced a miscarriage and has to put up with the formula and diaper ads.)—when I expose myself to all that on social media and then go to the showers and find myself miserably alone and facing the horrible questions and comments- I lose my gratitude, and gain envy and jealousy and discord. Its a breeding ground for all things ugly. It’s the enemy’s favorite recipe.

BUT, when I take all these “crutch” measures for myself, here’s what I gain:

-Sanity. peace.

-Gratitude for what I have (it’s MUCH easier to accomplish this when the chocolate cake isn’t on the island as I eat my salad. I can start to realize that my salad is DELISH)

-Contentment for where I am (Christ really does work wonders and helps with this)

-Joy (it sounds foreign when discussing infertility, but we can choose joy during the waiting)

-Freedom- free yourself from the expectations you assume people have for you. Live your life.

-Purpose—–this is a big one. You see, the enemy wants this to destroy you, and it will if you let it. Infertility is big but God is bigger. I’m a firm believer that God will give purpose to anything you surrender to Him (it doesn’t have to be a pretty surrender). I can’t tell you why you’re stuck here, but I can say that God doesn’t waste anything. This can be your ministry if you let it. This can be your way to punch the enemy in the throat, if you let it. It may be time to pray about allowing the Lord to turn your ashes to beauty. Maybe this season is almost over and you can keep your denial going. But maybe this is a marathon and we don’t know how much longer. In the latter situation, it’ll be better if you face it. It took me a long time to start and it is more of a continual process than a one-time event. Surrender and seeking the Lord for perspective is the greatest way to find peace. The surrender is not about trying to “let go”…. the best way to find peace and understanding (and reaching surrender) is to seek out learning about the character of God.

When you know God’s character, you don’t walk in fear (because you’ve found perfect love). You are able to trust in His plan and timing and calling, even when it doesn’t make sense and (obviously if you’re reading this) things don’t look like they’re heading in the “right” direction (according to you). You have confidence that HE WILL BE GLORIFIED IN THIS. And that is worth fighting for.

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And the “Let’s Get Physical” chorus by Olivia Newton-John is stuck in my head. So, let’s get PRACTICAL, PRACTICAL

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Babble Blunders

Celebrate National Infertility Awareness Week

By Forgetting These 15 Phrases

In honor of National Infertility Awareness Week, I’ve decided to pull back the curtains into our reality. 1 in 8 couples suffer from infertility. We are the 1 in 8. After a year of trying to conceive unsuccessfully, a couple is considered infertile… we have reached that status 4 times over. Before our first anniversary, I didn’t even know this was a struggle for people, and I wouldn’t have guessed it could be this painful.

We have been blessed with an abundance of supportive friends and family during our journey. Many good-hearted, well-meaning people have said hurtful things. Please don’t view this as an opportunity to yell back. I would have likely spoken most of these “forbidden phrases” had I not walked through this myself. I just want all the well-meaning loved ones to know how to effectively comfort a friend or family member in a similar struggle.

WHAT NOT TO SAY- and how it is perceived to someone suffering infertility

1. When are you going to start having babies? (do you even want kids, you’d better get started if you want a few, your biological clock is ticking) Any of the above comments are inappropriate. When and IF a couple decides to start trying to build their family, it’s a private matter. It hurts to be asked and it’s difficult to come up with answers—- “when God blesses us with a miracle” is my go-to answer.

2. Are you sure you know what you’re doing? You’d be surprised how often people say this. For couples who suffer from infertility, research becomes a lifestyle. They likely know more than the average parent on how to conceive.

3. You can always adopt (or equally common- if you adopt, you’ll get pregnant soon after)- One does not simply adopt. You first need to have a heart for adoption. This is a very private matter between the couple and God. Adoption is not for everyone and that is okay. Additionally, adoption can cost as much as a new car and there are home studies, lawyers, and potentially several more months of waiting once the journey starts.

4. There must be some stuff (sin) in your life that God needs to iron out before you can conceive. (you’re just not good enough to be a mom yet is what we hear) and the immediate thought is- “oh, but crack-head-fertile-mertile was good enough?”It’s just a slippery slope. God is sovereign, yes. There’s further damage in blaming the victim.

5. You must not have enough faith in your prayers. Early on, I decided I must stand firm on these truths: We live in a fallen world. Things don’t always work the way they should. It stinks. End of story. There’s great danger in appointing infertility more spiritual meaning than it ought to have. Lagniappe: It is a decision based on personal conviction on whether a couple pursues fertility treatment and any medically assisted insemination.

6. It’ll happen when you stop trying. Infertility often is a medical issue (we’ve had surgeries, countless tests and appointments, and we have spent enough to deliver a child!). It would sound absurd to tell a cancer patient that when they stop seeking treatment, the cancer will cure itself. Infertility isn’t a mental condition.

7. Everything happens for a reason. This phrase irks me in general. Some things are just evil. There are actions/afflictions in this life that are bad. period. Now, God can redeem anything, bring light out of any darkness, and give purpose to anything that we surrender to Him… but no, everything does not happen for a reason. For example, I am now sort of (and unfortunately) equipped to minister to others in a similar season of waiting.

8. Maybe it’s not meant to be. Maybe. But again, maybe it’s best left unspoken. The maybe’s and the what if’s are a constant poison already.

9. Just go on vacation. It’ll happen then. Statistically untrue ….not always feasible for a couple funding their attempts to conceive either.

10. Want to hear what my kid did this week!? (or) How cute is this picture of a random baby? Be it a relative’s baby, or a friend of a friend’s baby- it falls into the ‘in my face’ category. I know this happens mindlessly, as you would share a cute story or picture with anyone nearby, but I can’t help but think, “wrong audience.”

11. Mother’s Day… this is a curse word in my home… really. This is the day to cower to the pit of loneliness and self-lothing. I log out of all social media, don’t dare to turn on the local radio and WISH I had found a replacement for the children’s ministry check-in desk so I can skip church (this year I’m not on the schedule!). Even a store clerk can jerk out tears by casually bidding me a “happy M*****’s Day”. It (I) gets ugly. Usually, the Hallmark message on that “M” Day is that you’re only a real woman if you’re a mom, you’re selfless and loving and kind and caring blah blah. But I will say that a couple of AMAZING loved ones have messaged me on the M-Day and let me know they were thinking of us and that they love us and are praying…. and it meant the world! Just a small, genuine (non-advice filled) message of comfort goes a long way.

12. Just borrow my kids. This is often stated with an air of resentment of said kids. It comes off as complaining. Which would quickly tongue-tie someone grieving their own lack or loss of children. {Typically the above statement is followed by “That’ll make you reconsider wanting your own” or “should be good enough birth control for you”— true story.}

13. Why aren’t you coming to my baby shower? <<Rain drops keep falling on my head **plop plop**>> I admit, if you read into blogs, many women prefer to get the invitation-to be acknowledged…. I, however, would love to live in ignorant bliss. I want to celebrate with you. I really really wish I were at that place emotionally where I could go to a shower joyfully, but I have tried a handful of times in the past 4 years, and my face betrayed me. You don’t want me there, trust me. I do my best not to cry, but no promises. Even to see the invitation is heartbreaking~on its way to the wastebasket, in this season at least.

14. Be patient. Wait on God’s timing. It’s like telling a person in a burning house to calm down and be still….. it doesn’t help. Yes, God’s timing ends up ALWAYS being beautifully perfect. And hindsight is 20-20. But the time being kinda stinks. Anyone grieving longs for the day the mourning is turned into joy. Jesus does it all the time. There’s hope. But today is still a dark day. Waiting is not fun. God is good at refining us in His fire, but it’s not our job to try to refine others with our fire. Ecclesiastes 3

15. Do a handstand, use egg yokes, try acupuncture…-and click your heels while saying “there’s no place like home”

Every person is different and is differently influenced by experiences. I acknowledge that there are varying levels of sensitivity to each individual on each point.

The truth is, God is SO amazing at speaking for Himself. Legitimately, y’all. I have heard the SAME exact sentence from God as I’ve heard from another person, and yet it was received in 2 opposite ways (healing vs wounding). When someone is suffering any form of grieving, the pat-answers don’t work. We know your heart is good. We know your motivation is to comfort, which is why we usually don’t lash back at the above comments. But eventually they become a heavy burden to bear on top of the already present struggle. It isolates further. It keeps the already-nervous-about-sharing-one silent. I can think of 3 instances where advice/condolences have helped. (1)My incredible friend Molly asked me every time we grabbed a cup of joe: “What’s new with your infertility journey? How can I be praying for you?”- but then she just listened actively. And let me talk. and sometimes vent. sometimes tears were involved. And she didn’t judge. (2)A friend who struggled with infertility 30 years ago reached out on a private message on M-Day (as mentioned in point 11). (3)A friend sent me a blog link privately that discussed someone else’s struggle with infertility. She told me that she has no idea how difficult this is for me, but she is praying and she is sorry. (4) My mother and sisters have been a very constant listening ear on the bad days. My mother even carries the burden in her way as she went from being nervous when we announced our beginning of trying to having her own difficulty as others become grandparents and again-grandparents. (yes, I know I said there were 3, but you gotta give credit where credit is due, YALL)

I’m praying for the day I can see 2 lines. I’m praying for the day I can let out the breath I’ve been holding in…praying for the day I can unpack all the baby and maternity clothes I so foolishly purchased 4 years ago…. along with the baby bottle someone thought was a cute wedding give (ps maybe not a good idea unless the couple is already expecting)….praying for the day I can google creative pregnancy announcement ideas without crying. Until that day comes, we appreciate heart-felt comfort from others as we find understanding in Christ.

This is a journey. There are good days and bad days. And they are completely unpredictable. What bothers one day may mean nothing on another.

What is appropriate to say?

I’m sorry.

It stinks.

period.

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Here is me before my surgery. Allan was camera shy before his.