From An Awakened Eye

Friday, March 26, 2010

Hannah's Hope - Infertility Awareness

"When you are meeting someone new, don't start your conversation with "So, do you have any kids?" WHile innocent enough, such questions can make me feel like a deer caught in you headlights. Instead try something openended such as "Tell me a littel bit about yourself." Anyone who in a a less-than-ideal life circumstane _infulfilled desires for a spouse, unemployed, and so on) wil appreciate such an approach."  -Jennifer Saake from her book Hannah's Hope.

Click on this link to see the Infertility Awareness Video

5 Things You Must Know about Women Facing Infertility
Written by Kerry Anthony

Infertility - a crisis in the life of many women - often receives very little attention. It is an unspoken grief that afflicts at least one in every six women. This represents a lot of hurting women. How can we minister to them? Before we can help someone deal with infertility, we must first have some background knowledge about what infertility is.

What Is Infertility?

The National Infertility Association, RESOLVE, defines infertility as "a disease or condition of the reproductive system often diagnosed after a couple has had one year of unprotected, well-timed intercourse, or if the woman has been unable to carry a pregnancy that results in a live birth."

This definition includes women that have not been able to achieve pregnancy, those who have had miscarriages, and also those who are trying to have additional children.

Five Things You Must Know about Women Facing Infertility

1.She may not be childless by choice. Society tends to assume that if a couple does not have children, they have chosen not to do so. The couple may not have options available to them to try medical treatments or go through the adoption process. Trying to have children through medical procedures and/or adoption is both very expensive and emotionally exhausting. Also, many ethical decisions have to be made regarding medical treatments.

2.Infertility is often a silent grief. A lady in your women's ministry may suddenly begin to withdraw from the group. Debby Peoples states, "Infertility changes you. It is a time when you find yourself disconnecting from those you love the most, your family and friends. A time when you pull back from the world and focus inward because isolating yourself can actually feel better than remaining a part of the fertile world."

3.Infertility is all-consuming. Infertility encompasses every aspect of the infertile woman's life. It works its way into her being. Left unchecked, it can overtake who she is. An obsession with infertility can develop which leaves the woman incapable of being able to identify with other women. The infertile woman sees other women only as "fertile beings."

4.Church can be a very painful place. Many events at our churches are family oriented. While it is important for the church to value families, you do not want to cause people without children to feel unwelcome. Celebrate motherhood but be willing to grieve with those who are not mothers. Mother's Day services are often avoided and not attended by couples dealing with infertility because of the painful reminders. Recognizing "spiritual mothers" is a wonderful way to include all women.

5.Infertility is a physical problem. Infertility is a disease with medical complications. The church has a tendency to blame infertility on a lack of faith or unconfessed sin. Learn to minister effectively, not offensively, to the woman who is experiencing infertility

The Nightmare of Infertility
Written by Rebecca Ingram Powell
This article is courtesy of ParentLife.

The dreams of most women begin as little girls, imagining their own homes, husbands, and happy families. For one out of six women, however, those dreams become a living nightmare of pain and heartbreak when infertility is diagnosed.
Dreams of a Family

Cara dreamed of having children. Instead, she experienced numerous trips to the obstetrician’s office, multiple exams, and harsh drug therapy. “The worst part was being around pregnant women,” she said. When you want a baby more than anything in the world, life itself reminds you of your inability to conceive.

Cara admits: “You get to the point where you are willing to do anything. When my doctor began prescribing fertility drugs, I was all for it. No threat of side effects was going to sway me from doing whatever was necessary to fill my womb.”
Barb and Brandon had been struggling with infertility for seven years. Barb confided, “When our friends had babies, and they knew we couldn’t, they began to feel awkward around us.”
She explains that there is a fine line between wanting to rejoice with a friend who is announcing her pregnancy and wishing desperately that you could share the same news about yourself. “I didn’t care how many babies they had. I just wanted one of my own.”
Part of every mom’s life includes ministering to friends struggling with infertility. It can be uncomfortable, inconvenient, and, at times, intrude on your joy. Yet you are to bear each other’s burdens. You can minister a soothing balm to your inconsolable friend.

Wondering Why
The cry of the childless woman’s heart is a resounding, “Why?” There are many causes of infertility, including endometriosis, ovulatory problems, and cervical factors. Sexually transmitted diseases and drug use also can lead to infertility. Some women experience a combination of reasons, while others are suffering from unexplained infertility.
Many women endure feelings of guilt and shame when their infertility is diagnosed. Some wonder why their devotion to God seems to have gone unnoticed. “I have served God my whole life,” says Jennifer. “I don’t understand why there are many unwed mothers when my Christian husband and I can’t conceive.”
Encourage your friends to ask God these hard questions. God has shoulders big enough to take on the questions, tears, and heartbreak of a childless woman.
Four Ways to Minister to Women Facing Infertility
Written by Kerry Anthony

Here are four key ways you as a leader in women's ministry can reach out to ladies struggling with infertility:

1. Commit to pray for her. You may not know what to do or say, but prayer will be exactly what she needs. James 5:16b says, "The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective." Remember not to just tell her that you will pray for her but actually pray with her! Words of comfort can be hard to choose but prayer will offer supernatural strength from God. The Lord, our Comforter, is able.

2. Be sensitive with conversation. Try to keep conversations from always being about children. Encourage the ladies involved in your women's ministry to refrain from complaining about their kids as this can discourage one who is longing for motherhood.

3. Be willing to listen. Just having someone with whom to share the emotions of the stress of infertility can make a huge difference in the stability of the woman walking through the crisis. Allow your women's ministry to be a place of grace and healing.

4. Find a place for her to serve. Offer a place in your church where she can use the gifts and talents that come easily for her. By serving in this type of capacity, she will feel needed but not overwhelmed.

Do not assume that she will want to help with the children because of her desire to have them. Working with children may only serve as a reminder of what she does not have.
Take these simple steps to be sensitive to the needs of women facing infertility, and see what God will do in and through you, the women you minister to, and your women's ministry on the whole.

Three Things Couples Facing Infertility Must Remember

Written by Kerry Anthony

"Mrs. Anthony, I'm afraid you are no longer pregnant." I felt numb, not believing what I was hearing from my doctor. My husband and I had lost our third child. Why would God allow us to go through this once more?

My infertility during our marriage had caused a series of disappointments: the inability to get pregnant or carry a child to term, endometriosis, related cancer, and two failed adoptions. God taught us many important lessons during those times of trial as we clung to Him and His Word for survival.

If ladies in your church are facing infertility, help them watch for what God will teach them through the trials they have. You can remind them of some basic truths during their struggles. Here are three key lessons my husband and I learned through our experiences with infertility:
Focus on what is true.

It's easy to become buried by circumstances of infertility. Couples facing this must choose to change their focus from what's presently happening to God's eternal truth - as we should in any crisis.

During my family's struggles, we faced some intense crises, but we knew God was in control. He was not surprised or shocked by anything that happened to us and allowed things to happen to shape us into truer reflections of Him.

Remind these ladies with your words and actions - pointing to Scripture in a sensitive and non-trite way - that God does indeed love them and have plans for them. As you feel led, think of specific ways to encourage and support them with a kind note, a hug, or a special gift to show your support.
Give yourself and your husband permission to grieve.

With each pregnancy and possible adoption we experienced, each child became a part of my thoughts, dreams and plans for my family. I felt the pressure to "get over" my feelings because we did not lose a "real baby."
But I realized my husband and I did have losses that we needed to grieve over. I chose not to worry about what everyone else said and gave myself room to go through the grieving process, which for me also included getting godly guidance from a professional Christian counselor. Acknowledging and grieving each loss helped me to begin walking toward healing.

Encourage women facing infertility to allow themselves to grieve, rely on support from friends and family, and seek out a godly Christian counselor.

Remember that God can handle our emotions.

During our struggle, I remember telling a good friend that I was furious with God. She asked me if I had told Him that. Her question stunned me. I had not told God how I felt because I had the misconception that I could not.
God wants us to bring all of our burdens to Him, including the anger, isolation, and brokenness I had. By telling God all this verbally, I let go of the anger and depression that I had held onto for so long. What followed was a sweet time of fellowship with the Father. He gently reminded me to trust Him, and the sweet peace of His grace enveloped me.

Dealing with infertility is an ongoing process for any couple. As you reach out to women coping with infertility, look out for ways you can encourage them, remind them of God's truth, and even give them a venue to share what God is teaching them when they feel led.

Testimony:  We all want one but don't want to go through the test...

Secret Sorrow
Written by Donna Dunn
This article is courtesy of HomeLife.

I knew I should’ve stayed at home. Inside the church bulletin was a colorful insert, listing the names of more than a dozen babies and their parents. I’d completely forgotten it was baby dedication day. Only a few friends knew my husband and I had undergone fertility testing with discouraging results. When my eyes began to fill with tears as parents made their way to the altar, I quietly slipped out so I could cry privately.
I felt completely alone.

Recognize the Reality

About six million people in the United States experience infertility. According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, 10 percent of the reproductive-age population is affected by infertility. Probably someone in your life right now is dealing with questions of fertility and childlessness, and they need your support.
John Van Regenmorter, director of Stepping Stones, a ministry for those experiencing infertility, and co-author of Dear God, Why Can’t We Have a Baby?, says the support of friends and family is essential. According to Van Regenmorter, “Of all the letters we receive, most [people] say something about how alone they feel. There’s a real need to find at least one other couple with whom they can share their infertility struggle.”
Infertility often is called a secret sorrow. It’s not discussed like other medical conditions. Couples experiencing infertility have depression rates equal to those experiencing cancer, according to the support group Resolve. Understanding the pain of infertility is an important first step in supporting those in the midst of this struggle.
Cheri, a nurse and mother of two adopted daughters, started trying to get pregnant when she was 33. After infertility testing, drug treatments, and nine cycles of intrauterine insemination, she and her husband were emotionally drained. “The worst thing, especially after all the effort that went into us trying to conceive, was being around couples who talked about getting pregnant as though it was only a matter of scheduling time for sex,” Cheri remembers. “The emotional upheaval of hoping we were pregnant each month and then having my period was another thing.”
Cindy, a medical professional now in the midst of an international adoption, told only a few friends about her infertility testing and treatment. “It was hard to share with people,” she recalls. “I found myself withdrawing.”
Suzanne, who went through fertility testing and intrauterine insemination before conceiving her daughter, says it was most helpful for her to talk with other women struggling with infertility. “Women need to come alongside other women and be open, honest, and supportive regarding infertility issues,” she urges, “trusting that God may use you to encourage and bless another.”

Listen with Your Heart

Blessing the infertile can sometimes come as much from what you do as what you say. “The most supportive thing was receiving cards and notes of encouragement,” Suzanne remembers. “Sometimes it’s nice to have friends communicate their love, encouragement, and prayer support without requiring any questions to be answered or any explanations given.” Suzanne knows friends and family mean well, but some days she just doesn’t feel like discussing the details of their family’s infertility journey. She says, “True friends ... just walked with us.”
Van Regenmorter says friends and family members should also avoid pat answers. Some of the most common phrases heard about infertility are some of the least helpful:

• Relax and it’ll happen. Not only is this statistically untrue, it makes the couple feel as if they’re doing something wrong. Those who say this would never say to a cancer patient, “Relax and it’ll go away.”

• My friend tried … Success stories may seem encouraging, but it’s important to remember that no two situations are the same.

• If you adopt, you’ll get pregnant. Again, statistics show those who adopt are no more likely to get pregnant than infertile couples who do not. It makes adoption sound like a lesser choice. Adoptive parents, such as Cheri, know adoption is not second best. “I wish someone would have told me [early on] that adoption is as great as it is and that God has other ways to give us children and can bless that,” Cheri says.

Extend Grace

The ache of childlessness is more acute at special events and during certain times of the year. Be considerate. Infertile couples appreciate sensitivity — whether it’s a private conversation, saying it’s OK to miss a baby shower, or a note of encouragement during a difficult holiday.
The Van Regenmorters experienced 14 years of infertility before adopting two children. They also later had a biological child. They encourage families, friends, and even ministers to think of the childless when celebrating holidays and special events. Baby showers, baby dedications, and child-centered holidays can be especially difficult.
“For a season, say, ‘No.’ It doesn’t mean it’s forever,” Van Regenmorter says to couples. “Couples should not feel guilty, and others should not make them feel guilty, about not accepting invitations to baby showers and other similar events.”
Pray and Trust God

Befriending an infertile couple doesn’t mean fixing the situation. Only God can work out the plans He has for each family. Yet, giving the situation over to God in prayer is powerful.
Suzanne recalls one friend who let her know she was praying and that helped her through an especially difficult day. “One card in particular appeared on our front door the day of our scheduled appointment to try artificial insemination,” Suzanne remembers. “Our friend knew we were scheduled for the appointment and wrote in her note that she’d be on her knees during the time of our doctor’s appointment. It still brings me to tears to think of that note.”
God’s plans for an infertile couple are often beyond our greatest expectations. This year, I’m celebrating with two children, brought into our lives in wonderful and unexpected ways. I’m eternally grateful for them and for the journey that brought me to them.

Donna Dunn is a wife, mother, and professional journalist. She lives in Lynchburg, Va.

Other resources I have found:

1 comment:

  1. Hi Jenny! I found your blog through Kelly's Korner and stumbled on your post about infertility and your mention of Jenni Saake & Hannah's Prayer. I am a co-director of Hannah's Prayer and have met Jenni, one of our founders! She has such a heart for ladies with IF. I'm so sorry if you are struggling through the journey of infertility. I just wanted to say "Hi" and so glad to see someone who is finding our resources helpful! Blessings, Tina