Tag Archives: infertility

What Not To Say To A Woman With Infertility

No matter the reason or the source of the issue, infertility is a difficult problem for any woman to face, physically, mentally, and emotionally.

And it can be compounded when well-meaning, well-intentioned people who want to help say the wrong thing.

Coming from a place of experience, I’d like to share this little list with you in order to help you should you ever feel the need to encourage a woman who’s dealing with this issue.

This list is meant to educate and encourage women who are struggling with any form of infertility and those who want to help, encourage, and love them through it.

Here’s my top 6 list of what NOT to say:

6. Getting pregnant is so easy!

Must be nice. My husband says that ‘must be nice’ is my go-to response for everything, but the other day when I was talking to an acquaintance about our struggles with infertility and she commented that she got pregnant while on birth control, I held my tongue. (Actually, I bit it. I know she didn’t mean for it to come out the way it did.) Some people can get pregnant by just being in the same room with their spouse, it seems, but for some of us, it’s not so easy. So we’d appreciate it if you wouldn’t rub it in that you’ve had 18 children in the past 5 years and gotten pregnant each time while using 10 different forms of birth control.

5. Have you tried _____?

(Fill in the blank with various drugs, treatments, herbal remedies, etc.) Please don’t offer medical advice. When a woman is struggling with infertility, she usually becomes a self-professed expert on all possible ways to get pregnant. Let her work with her doctor and let them come up with the proper plan. I can’t even keep track of how many times it was suggested that we try herbal remedies and cough syrup. And how many times I smiled and pretended it was that easy.

4. God told me it’s going to be okay.

Unless God has directly shown/told/spoken to the couple to whom infertility is affecting, this is not a good thing to say, mostly because it might not be okay. For reasons only He understands, they might not have a child. And if not, your message from God doesn’t bring the peace they’ll need to seek from the Lord on their own.

3. But you already have a child.

Wow. This one is like a knife in the heart. No matter whether you have zero children or ten, the desire to have a child is the same. Secondary Infertility affects women who have been able to have one (or more) children with no problems, and then suddenly, and most often inexplicably, find themselves facing infertility. Just because a woman has one or more children doesn’t mean she’s not dealing with infertility, so please don’t assume that because she’s got kids she’s not dealing with this issue. Any time a couple has to resort to using medications and procedures to get pregnant, infertility is an issue. And no matter whether it takes 6 months or 6 years, emotionally, it wreaks havoc on the heart. So please don’t tell a woman she should forget about her desire to have more children because she already has one. That one (or more) is a blessing, but the ache to have another will be the same as her ache to have the first.

2. Just adopt, then you’ll get pregnant.

This is not a good thing to say for many reasons, but let’s narrow it down to two. First, this cheapens the glorious blessing that is adoption. When a couple chooses to adopt, in my opinion, God sows that family together in bonded love the same way as He would if giving the parents a biological child. So when you encourage someone to adopt “just so” they can get a biological child, it’s like equating that adopted child to an item you can pick up at the local grocery store. Not special. Not valuable. Not as important as a biological child. Secondly, while I have heard stories of women who have gotten pregnant while going through or just after the adoption process, this is a very, very infrequent occurrence. So it’s not a good idea to encourage a woman with this statement.

1. Just relax and it will happen.

No it won’t. 99.9% of the time, relaxing has nothing to do with fixing an infertility issue. If it were that easy, those of us struggling with infertility would definitely try that well before working with doctors and medical experts to try to get pregnant. Relaxing is not an option when it comes to getting pregnant when you’re struggling with infertility. “Relaxing” doesn’t make the problem go away. So please understand that when you tell a woman to relax, it’s likely that you’ll only increase her level of stress.


If there’s a person in your life who’s struggling with infertility, there are lots of good and helpful things to say. Here are some suggestions:

1. “I’m praying for you.” And do it. Actually pray. Even better? Pray out loud with that person so that they know you mean what you say.

2. “I can’t imagine how hard this must be. I’m going to be here for you if there’s anything you need.”

3. Encourage the woman to read 1 Samuel 1:10-11 and pray the prayer of Hannah.

4. If you know someone else who has struggled with infertility, put them in contact with each other. Speaking from experience, having someone to encourage you who’s had a similar experience is incredibly helpful.

5. Don’t say anything. Just love her, support her, and listen when she needs you to.



Share with me: What can you add to these lists?


Filed under Family, Infertility

Secondary Infertility: The Spiritual Sojourn

When I was struggling with secondary infertility (backstory here), I was at the lowest point that I had ever been in my life.

Never before had I faced an obstacle that seemed so overwhelming. Never before had I ever felt so lost and out of control.

Although my husband and I had welcomed a beautiful, perfect baby boy in the spring of 2006, my heart yearned to give him a sibling.

And as months passed without my ability to conceive, I began to obsess about all things ovulation and pregnancy. I read every book. I searched the web for every single tidbit of information, hoping that someone somewhere would give me the answer to my “problem.” And I prayed.

And when my doctor confirmed that I did have a medical issue, I felt even more despair.

When you tell a control-freak that there’s an issue with her body that she can do absolutely nothing about, it tends to sit as well as lava in an active volcano.
I simply would not accept that I would not have more children. And even though I have been a follower of Christ for as long as I can remember, at that point in my life, I was not willing to submit myself completely to the will of the Lord.
See, my life had been easy. I came from a good family. My parents had been married forever and raised my siblings and me in a loving, Christian home. I’d had a great childhood, and a pretty easy, straight path for most of my life.
I had never been challenged. I had never been really low. And although I had relied on God and known Jesus Christ as my savior for most of my life, I had never been broken.
I was a problem-fixer. I liked to be in control because I had solutions; I had answers. I always had a better plan.
I figured that I could live my life relying on God as long as his plan was my plan. I was pretty arrogant and I didn’t even realize it.
So when the fourth and final month of the fertility medication rolled around, I was desperate. And depressed. And obsessive. And more than anything, I wanted to fix the problem. I was also very, very sick as a result of the Clomid I was taking. I had trouble with every wacky side effect that medication could throw at me.
God was breaking me in a merciful way. For me, it was ALL about control. I had to learn to submit (something I was definitely not good at) and accept who was really in control of my life. I couldn’t go through life “depending” on God only when I needed to. I couldn’t lean on God only when times were tough. I had to be broken to come to an understanding that my dependence on God was to be a daily, hourly, moment-by-moment relationship with my heavenly father. And above all, His will wasn’t always going to be mine. What a major blessing it was.

In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps. Proverbs 16:9

I look back on it now and I am so grateful for the struggle. I am so grateful that heaven seemed silent to my prayers. I needed to get to the point where I was completely dependent on God, on making his will my own, no matter what that meant.

But hindsight doesn’t make the memory of the struggle any less painful.
No one seemed to understand what I was going through. When I was open with people, I got such responses as, “just relax and it will happen” or “I don’t have to pray for you because God has already given me peace about it.”
Responses like these came from family members and were equal with knives straight in my heart. (And I’m not gonna lie, I wanted to hug choke stabpunch people who said things like that.) No one seemed to get that the loss of control, even over my own body, was making me nuts. I wanted support and sympathy, not their dismissal that I need to “relax.”Relax? Really? Oh, gee, why didn’t I think of that???

**Relaxing was not an option. When any woman is struggling with infertility for any reason, relaxing is impossible. So, for the sake of every woman out there struggling with this issue, please do not tell her to relax.
One person even went so far as to say, “you already have a child. You should learn to be happy.” Ouch.
**Whether you have one child, ten children, or no children at all, a woman’s desire to have a child is the same.  The longing, heart-aching need to mother is built into our DNA. It’s God’s design for us, and being denied that design for reasons beyond our understanding is overwhelming. Especially when we follow a Creator we believe holds plans to “prosper and not to harm.”
Friends simply stopped talking to me about it. I noticed when announcements about someone being pregnant were…delayed… in reaching me. I noticed when people began to get uncomfortable, even when I asked for prayer for an “unspoken.” Some of my friends stopped looking me in the eye if the topic of babies or children came up.
And I can’t blame them. No one understood because no one I knew had ever been through such a thing as secondary infertility.
**I would much rather had my friends say, “Hey, what you’re going through stinks,” instead of ignore it. Even “I’ll pray for you,” was appreciated.
The part that hurt the most is that they thought that because of my struggle I was incapable of sharing joy. Sure, I had some momentary internal jealousy when several of my friends got pregnant, but I wanted to celebrate with them. I wanted to rejoice in their blessings. I wanted to celebrate with them because I was learning that God’s will for others was not his will for me, and I had an awful lot to celebrate. I had a wonderful husband and a beautiful, precious, train-loving son.
**Another thought– just because a woman is having infertility issues doesn’t mean you should leave her off a guest list to a baby shower or not tell her about someone’s pregnancy. Those actions are even more hurtful than her situation.
Once again I turned to the internet to seek companionship from those who were suffering in the same condition. And I found it. I found hope and despair, anger and understanding. And on one page, I found a young woman who had written her story and talked about how her refuge came in praying the prayer of Hannah from 1 Samuel 1:10-11.
  In her deep anguish Hannah prayed to the LORD, weeping bitterly. And she made a vow, saying, “LORD Almighty, if you will only look on your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the LORD for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head.”
So I began praying this prayer. I prayed it constantly. Aloud. I remember reciting these words over and over, begging God to give me one more child so that my son might have a sibling. I remember weeping as I drove down the road, these words pouring from my mouth.
When my fourth and final round of Clomid came, my doctor saw some problems on the ultrasound and I missed my chance for ovulation that month. I hit rock-bottom.
I sobbed all the way home from his office. I sobbed for the next week. And I screamed at God. I was furious. Lost. Frustrated. Confused. And I wanted answers. Now.
But never once did I say to myself, “He has left me.”
It took awhile, but I was eventually able to come to terms with the idea that we’d be a family of three. I decided that no matter what happened, God had not left me. He had given me an amazing, supportive husband and a beautiful son, and together, we were a complete family.
**One last side note. I want to give props to my husband who was amazingly supportive through all of those months. Even though it wasn’t his body that was causing the problems, he was just as frustrated as I was. But he never blamed me for our inability to conceive. He never pushed me away or refused to talk about it. He held me when I cried, hugged me, and listened when I wanted to talk. He was incredible.
We can’t forget the husband, even when it’s the wife’s biology causing the problem. Father’s desire to father, too. Men want the joy of children and they want to see their wives happy. 🙂
I would be a mother of one. The pain was raw, but I accepted that this was God’s will for me, and His will is always perfect. And although the prayer of Hannah had not “worked” for me, I began to pray a verse that had been important to me for years.
    Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4

And my heart began to understand acceptance. Very quickly, I saw the lessons in what God was teaching me.

During all of these months, my relationship with God completely changed. I learned lessons on control and patience. For the first time in my life, I felt God’s comforting arms supporting me, guiding me away from the path I had chosen to the one He’d laid down for me. For most of my life I had been living in my will, masking it as God’s. But now I saw the importance of making God’s will my own.

I had an intense desire to seek God–to really know Him and not be satisfied with what I knew of Him. My relationship with God has never been the same. And above all, I am so grateful for that.

Another amazing “side-effect” of my struggle with secondary infertility is that during all those months God laid an intense desire on my heart to write stories. I had written a little before, and seeking an outlet for my frustration, I turned to writing. It is because of those months, because of my desire to focus on something else, that I label myself as a writer today. A passion was born out of struggle, and it’s something else I am immensely grateful for.

God doesn’t always answer our prayers the way we want Him to, but He always answers.

When I finally did get pregnant, the words thank you just weren’t powerful enough. God answered my prayers, but in His time, teaching me many things along the way. He always knows best.

And just because it seems I got what I wanted by adding to our family, I have not forgotten the lessons, nor would I trade that time of struggle for an easy road. Those months molded and shaped me, bringing spiritual maturity. They changed my marriage, brought us closer, and made me appreciate God’s design with fresh eyes.

I wanted my kids two years apart, but God made them a little over three. And His timing is perfect. Hindsight tells me that my family is also perfect, just the way He designed it.

As I said in the previous post, I don’t know if tertiary infertility exists, and I hope and pray that I don’t have to find out. Should we decide to try to grow our family, I pray that whatever happens, I’ll be able to recognize God’s plans in all of it.
Share with me:
What other advice would you give to someone who is friends with a woman struggling with infertility? What life lessons has God used to teach you about His will and timing?


Filed under Infertility, The Christian Walk

Secondary Infertility: The Medicine Behind the Madness

Secondary Infertility is a very real condition that affects thousands of couples.

Most people have never even considered that it exists, because once you have one kid, in theory, it should be possible to have many more. But for some couples, it’s not.

*I write this post from a very personal place. And I’m writing it because during my lowest time, during the days when I absolutely could not find the hope I was so desperately seeking, encouragement came to me from women who had suffered and were suffering from the same situation and were brave enough to put it out there for the world to read. To those ladies, I thank you. And for those of you who need encouragement, here’s my story.  I pray that I can help provide comfort and hope, pointing readers to the One who answers prayers.

My husband and I got married in 2001. We always knew that we wanted kids, and talked about having three or four. We spent our first few years together working, finishing graduate degrees, and enjoying marriage.

In the summer of 2005, we spent nearly a month in Europe on a tour with high school students (I was teaching history at the time). When we got back, we decided that it was time to start a family.

A few weeks later we were expecting our first child. Easy as that.

Our son was born in April of 2006. And our kid was so awesome and amazing that we knew we definitely wanted more down the road. Parenting was something we both loved, and without a doubt, we wanted our son to have the joy of siblings.

In 2007 I decided to take a break from my job as a high school teacher and stay at home with my son, hopefully to have a few more children and get them all in school before going back to work.

The plan was to start trying for more kids that summer. But on my very last day of work, after the students were already dismissed for summer and the teachers were working post-planning days, I had some crazy-horrible pains on my right side.

I remember asking a colleague at lunch that day, “What does appendicitis feel like?” He laughed and said, “If you had appendicitis, you’d be throwing up.”

Well, I wasn’t throwing up, but an hour later I could no longer stand up. And I felt feverish. Within a few more hours I was in the emergency room, and in the wee hours of the next morning, I had an emergency appendectomy.

And that delayed our timeline for more children for three to four months until I had fully healed from the surgery.

When those healing months had passed, I assumed getting pregnant would be as easy as it was the first time.

But months and months later…nothing.

I started charting my basal body temperature and I began reading everything I could on getting pregnant. I couldn’t understand why it wasn’t happening when it had been so easy the first go-round.

I started to obsess. Everything in my life was focused around ovulation and getting pregnant. My mornings began with BBT charting and my days progressed with searching books and the internet for solutions to my “problem.”

Meanwhile, my son was getting older and my control-freak self was beginning to get upset about the growing age gap that would exist between my kids. If I could ever have another one.

Finally, after nine months of trying with no results, it was time to talk to the doctor. Thankfully, my doctor is a saint. He’s the kind of man who really listens to his patients. And when I told him there was a problem, he listened. And he tested me for everything.

His willingness to help so quickly is rare. Because it takes the average couple 9-12 months to conceive, most doctors won’t even consider that there might be an infertility issue until at least 12 months without conception.  This is why charting my BBTs was important– my doctor could look at my charts and see that there might be an issue.

After a series of needles, exams, tests, procedures, etc., on both myself and my husband, it was determined that for some unexplained reason, I was no longer ovulating.

It was assumed that either I was experiencing complications from scar tissue from the appendectomy that was affecting an ovary, or that all of this was a by-product of a micro-adenoma that had formed on my pituitary gland when I was in high school. But I’d had surgery in 2000 to remove it, and complications had never arisen. Until now.

A couple of months after the testing began, I started on Clomid. In case you aren’t familiar with the drug, what it does is help stimulate the ovaries to produce more follicles. Each follicle contains an egg, and in a normal woman, once a month, hormones tell the follicle to rupture and release the egg. Clomid increases the chance that an egg will be released at ovulation by creating more follicles. Many people are under the impression that Clomid greatly increases your chances of multiples. It does increase them, but only by about 10%.

With each month that passed with no results, my dosage was increased. Not only was I taking the medication, but I was having regular ultrasounds to see if follicles were developing, and then HcG shots to induce ovulation.

My doctor told me that he would give me four months of these treatments before my husband and I would need to see a specialist.  Well, a specialist was not an option for us. We knew that the next step after medication was invitro-fertilization or IVF, and we did not have the money for such a procedure.  We also did not have the money up front to pursue adoption with any seriousness, although it was something we had talked about wanting to do.

My last chance came. I was to report to the doctor for an ultrasound, and if the follicles had developed properly, I would receive an HcG shot that would hopefully induce ovulation within 24 hours.

I went for the ultrasound. The ultrasound techs didn’t say much, except that I only had one follicle, and it looked too large to be valid.  And when I was ushered back into the doctor’s office that day, I knew the news was not good.

“I’m sorry,” he’d said. “I can’t do anything else. It’s time to see a specialist.”

Apparently the follicle was no good, and there would not even be an HcG shot that day. There would be no ovulation. I didn’t even get my last chance.

I was given referrals for the local IVF specialist and a doctor in Atlanta. But I knew that this was the end of the road for us. We’d be a family of three.

Eventually I had no choice but to accept it.

About two weeks later, I decided to take a pregnancy test, even though my body was a mess of uncertainty. I knew it was a waste of money for me to do so, but being on the Clomid had regulated my cycles, yet I was late.

The test was positive.  I was unbelieving however, and took two more before I could allow myself to even hope a little bit.

I didn’t really get excited it until I sat in my doctor’s office and a blood test confirmed it. Baby #2 was on the way.

I remember asking my doctor, “Are you surprised?”

“No,” he’d said. “It can happen. And I know you’ve been praying about it.” My doctor is awesome.

Without the HcG shot, without the forced ovulation, somehow, we had managed to get pregnant. My only explanation is, of course, that God can do anything he wants to do. I assume that the “large” follicle that showed up on the ultrasound that month was large because it had already ruptured on.its.own.

In June of 2009 our beautiful second son was born.  We call him our miracle baby.

I don’t know if tertiary infertility exists (smile) or if I’ll ever have to deal with it. I’m leaving that up to God.

Now, there’s a lot more to all of this than just the medical facts. The real part of the story is the spiritual journey that I went on during this time. And also, I want to address how all of this affected my husband. He wasn’t immune to the frustrations just because it was my body that was messed up. I’ll be posting the second portion of this story on Monday.

Share with Me: Before you read this, had you ever heard of secondary infertility? Is infertility a condition that has touched your life or the life of someone you know? Have you ever given any thought to how infertility can affect a person, a family?


Filed under Infertility