Learning to Handle the Weight of the Wait During Infertility
How to cope with infertility. That’s a tough one. And unfortunately there isn’t one magic formula for the millions going through this journey.
As someone who is currently walking through infertility, I know how much it sucks. I hate it!
The burden to grow a family is extremely heavy.
And I hate knowing that there are so many women and men bearing the weight of the wait.
They are waiting for dreams to be realized.
Women are waiting to carry a baby to term.
Waiting for that positive test.
Waiting to hold a baby in their arms.
Women are waiting for their body to do what it was meant to do.
Waiting for their child to become a big brother or sister.
Couples are waiting for the stress of starting a family to go away so that they can stop fighting.
Waiting for it to be your turn to share some good news at family gatherings.
Waiting to go shopping in the baby aisle for your baby.
So much waiting!
Sometimes the weight of the wait is completely overwhelming.
In honor of the millions of people walking through this, I’d like to share some hope-filled encouragement on how to cope with infertility.
If you were able to easily grow your family, thank you for reading this! I encourage you to keep reading and gain more understanding of what this journey entails.
Perhaps it will help you show more compassion and empathy to those in your life who find themselves on this path. Maybe it will help you think before saying something insensitive. It never hurts to grow!
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What are the current statistics on infertility in the US?
It’s challenging to talk about that which you’ve never experienced or understand.
Many people have no idea how common infertility is in the US, or what it entails. Let’s start off with some basic definitions and statistics regarding infertility.
Infertility is the inability to conceive after a year or more of unprotected sex. That is a standard definition across the medical field. Once a couple has tried to conceive (TTC) for 12 months with no success, normally they are referred to a fertility specialist. For women 35 and over, after 6 months of TTC with no success, they are encouraged to see a fertility specialist.
Secondary Infertility is when a woman cannot conceive or carry a pregnancy to term after previously being pregnant and giving birth with no issues. This is a very common issue.
Recurrent Pregnancy Loss (repetitive miscarriages) is when a woman experiences 2 or more pregnancy losses. This is not the same thing as infertility (by definition) because the woman was able to conceive. However, this effects hundreds of thousands of women every year and comprises a big portion of the infertility statistics in the US. Many of these women go on to have successful pregnancies and births after medical interventions (surgeries, medication), but not all.
Regardless of which category a woman finds herself in, she is considered a warrior. This journey is no joke.
Here are some current statistics on infertility in the US:
- 33% of Americans have turned to fertility treatments or know someone who has
- 1 in 8 couples in America encounter fertility hurdles
- Out of all infertility causes, secondary infertility makes up about 50% of the cases
- 12% of women experience difficulties becoming pregnant or carrying a child to term
- 25% of women encounter more than one cause for infertility according to the American Pregnancy Association
- 9% of men of reproductive age experience fertility issues
- 10-15% of men who are infertile suffer from a lack of sperm (National Institutes of Health)
- A 40 year-old woman who has been trying to conceive (TTC) for three months has a 7% chance of getting pregnant (American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists)
- 25% of couples do not know the reason for their infertility issues (sinclecare.com)
- Anovulation, or lack of an egg release, is one of the most common reasons for fertility struggles in women
- 1 in 10 women of childbearing age have PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome)
- 12-15% of all couples are unable to conceive after a year of unprotected sex
- Infertility is one of the primary reasons for divorce among couples (International Journal of Reproductive Biomedicine, 2020)
What this list tells me is that there are so many people who are hurting due to infertility. Millions.
To all those who are walking through infertility…
I am so sorry.
I hate that this is part of your story. It’s awful! It sucks. I wouldn’t wish this journey upon my worst enemy.
To be honest, just last weekend I thought I was pregnant. My cycle was late, my body was showing symptoms (or so I thought), and I was trying so hard to not wrap my heart around the possibility too much.
I took 2 different tests Saturday morning, only to discover that they were both negative.
I went downstairs, shared the news with my husband, and then wept.
The truth is hard to swallow sometimes.
Addie is almost 8 and she wants to be a big sister so bad. Every year on her birthday she wishes for a sibling.
The reality that I’m 39, have PCOS, and never know when I’m ovulating (anovulatory), made me realize even more that this journey to a baby will not be an easy one. It’s something only God can make happen.
What better way to bring me to my knees?
As I sat on the floor ugly-crying, I looked over and saw Jesh’s Bible beside me. Why not?
I spent a good 20 minutes reading through Psalm 119, soaking in the truth and asking God to speak to my heart and comfort me.
Certain verses I had read many times before, but others seemed to just jump off the page straight to my heart.
God’s Word is living and active! (Hebrews 4:12)
Some of you may be thinking, How is this even helpful? The Bible? Really?
Yes, really. I’m sharing this because through these years of infertility, God’s Word has anchored me.
It reminds us that God’s love is steadfast, unchanging, and eternal (Psalm 136). Scripture shows us that God keeps His promises (Joshua 21:45) and will never leave us or forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6), even when we feel so alone.
He is with us. He is for us, not against us (Romans 8:31). And although He doesn’t promise us that life will be easy or pain free, He does promise to be with us wherever we go and to help us endure life’s challenges.
These are a few verses that jumped out at me while I was reading and grieving:
“This is my comfort in my affliction: Your promise has given me life.” (Psalm 119:50)
“You are my shelter and my shield; I put my hope in Your word.” (Psalm 119:114)
“Sustain me as You promised, and I will live; do not let me be ashamed of my hope.” (Psalm 119:116)
“Turn to me and be gracious to me, as is Your practice toward those who love Your name. Make my steps steady through Your promise, don’t let any sin dominate me.” (Psalm 119:132-133)
As I was grieving the loss of what I was hoping for, God reminded me that I don’t have to be ashamed of my hope. Yes, I’m hoping to have another child one day and for Addie to be a big sister, but I don’t have to be ashamed of that hope. I believe God has put that in my heart for a reason (Psalm 37:4). But I know that my ultimate hope needs to be in Jesus.
Even if Addie is our only child the rest of our days, God is still faithful. He is still good (Numbers 23:19). He hasn’t promised me an easy life or multiple children, but He has promised that He will be with me always and give me the strength to weather these storms.
For me personally, Scripture and prayer have been extremely helpful tools to cope with infertility. But I also understand that faith is not a part of everyone’s journey, so I’d like to share with you some other great ways to cope.
Helpful ways to cope with infertility when it’s just so hard:
- Exercise regularly
- Eat well (fuel your body with the good stuff!)
- Treat yourself to a massage
- Schedule date nights with your spouse and choose NOT to talk about infertility
- Take a vacation and relax and make memories
- Engage your creative side
- Join a book club
- Learn to cook something new
- Seek out a good counselor
- Serve others who are hurting (this is a good one!)
- Find a new comedy to watch and enjoy laughing with your spouse
- Try to have times of intimacy that are NOT about making a baby
- Teach yourself a new skill by watching YouTube videos.
- Don’t attend every baby shower
- Give yourself permission to grieve…it’s healthy!
- Take a break from social media and All. The. Posts.
A social media break could do us all some good, but when you’re struggling with infertility, sometimes you just want to break your phone. Have you ever had any of these thoughts while scrolling? I’m sure I’m not the only one.
- I’m done with all these pregnancy announcements!
- How in the world does she keep having babies?
- I just want ONE and they have 6 healthy kids.
- This is so unfair; she didn’t even WANT a baby. I do not understand.
- Four babies in 5 years…I just want to be pregnant ONCE!
- We would be such great parents. When will it be our turn?
- How is everyone pregnant right now? This is so messed up. I hate Facebook.
Usually after thinking I hate Facebook is when I click my phone off or I toss it on the bed. That’s happened more than once. I even took an 11-month hiatus from Facebook one year because my mind and heart needed a break from the madness. It was wonderful!
How do you encourage someone going through infertility?
This is a great question! If you’re even willing to think about this and ask questions, you are already showing so much compassion.
Many times, it can be awkward when someone in your life is walking through something you’re not familiar with. You may question whether your words are wanted in the moment, so you choose silence or indifference.
More than any words you might offer, your faithful presence to continue to show up for your friend is the most valued gift.
Here are a few tips to help encourage your friends or loved ones who are going through infertility:
- Text and check in with them
- Show up to their house and ask if you can hangout
- Ask good questions such as, “How has your mindset been lately?” or “Is there anything I can be praying for?”
- Let them lead the conversations regarding specifics of their infertility journey (treatments, cycle details, etc)
- Offer to bring a meal over or drop off takeout during a typically difficult week
- Assure them that you’re not bailing, regardless of how hard or emotional things get
- Be aware of sensitivities regarding baby showers, Mom groups, pregnancy announcements, gender reveals, etc
- Send a kind text on Mother’s Day letting them know they’re on your mind (Mother’s Day can be a huge trigger for sadness and grief)
- Help the conversation not always be focused on their infertility issues
- Offer to pray for and with them
- Write out Scripture cards that they can keep in their car when they’re heading to their many doctors’ appointments
- Remind them of truth from the Bible when they’re too emotional to think of it themselves
- DO NOT fill silent moments with stupid platitudes
- Be okay with the mess that is infertility
This is a great list to get you started! If you want to read more specifics about stupid platitudes and comments, I wrote an entire article about that! It’s worth a read. You would not believe some of the things people say!!!!
A Final Word
To all of you out there who are on this journey, please know this:
You are not alone.
You are no less of a woman if you’re not a mother.
Infertility does not define you.
This path is so hard and your feelings and emotions about it matter.
Grief is part of the journey…let yourself go through it.
You weren’t meant to be on this road alone…find your people who will stick with you!
Whether you believe it or not, God sees you, hears you, and cares about you. None of your tears or pain is wasted. It all matters.
I’m praying for each of you, that in this journey you will feel God’s nearness. I’m praying for breakthroughs in your treatments, miraculous pregnancies, and dreams to be realized. May you be anchored by hope as you keep moving forward.
Hoping with each of you!
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” (Romans 15:13)