Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Infertility Resource for Ministry Leaders (and others)

Last week, in anticipation of NIAW and because I had been thinking for awhile that I needed to do it, I sent an email to our pastor about infertility.

I had been thinking that it can be hard to know how to help someone, or what to say to someone, when you don't know what they are going through. Furthermore, if you are not in a particular community, you often don't know of the resources that are out there. So I thought it would be helpful to send some along.

Now, I know many ministry leaders...I am related to a pretty good number of pastors and ministers, not to mention lay church I want to share my resources information here in case there are any who could use the information.

Infertility Awareness Day is May 1st, acknowledged the week prior to Mother's Day as a show of support for women and men who long for children. Infertility is currently the 3rd leading disease in the United States behind cancer and heart disease and affects about 1 in 8 couples. It is hard to know by just walking in to a church who is carrying this burden in the congregation, but it is probably more than most pastors realize.

Also, it may be something that a visitor is dealing with as well. This time of year is hard for families like ours. So many of my friends walking this journey have stopped attending church because of the focus on family and children. Not that either of those are bad to focus upon, but it also means a great deal to families that are hurting to know that they are also important. In general, infertility causes a crisis of faith, after all having children was one of God's very first commands and yet not everyone has the opportunity. It is really hard not to be mad at God.

Many church leaders, though, seem unsure how to acknowledge this issue in their church. I just wanted to provide you with some resources, particularly in light of the upcoming awareness time for infertility. I know there are some churches that do special prayers and such for the hurting families or do some other show of support. And some of these resources are just in case you do come across some families that are looking for help.

This website has some great resources for ministry leaders and ways to show support for the families suffering through infertility: Dancing Upon Barren Land

Focus on the Family has information about infertility and marriage: Direct Link

Hannah's Prayer is a christian support group for women experiencing infertility. They put together a list of ways to help a loved one, the church family counts as loved ones, I think: Direct Link

RESOLVE is the national infertility organization and has general resources about the condition.

The following letter to a pastor was not written by me, but I do share many of these sentiments:
Dear Pastor,

It's almost Mother's Day again. They seem to come so quickly. I'm sure you are planning a very special service for all of the mothers. I know that it is such a special day for them, and I do not want to spoil anyone's joy. It is important for all of us to rejoice with each other, and even those of us who are not mothers can give thanks for those who are mothers.

All I ask is that you remember that this day can be extremely difficult for a number of members in our congregation. For women like me who struggle with infertility, Mother's Day can be the most painful day of the year. I've thought about staying home, but I know I need to be in God's house.

The most challenging part of the service is when all the mothers stand and the congregation smiles and applauds them. It feels awful to be the only one still sitting. I want to be able to stand with them. I want more than anything in this world to be a mother. It's something I have always wanted. I have carried children, but they were taken before they were ever born. I do have children in heaven, but I'm not a mother in the eyes of those here on earth.

So, on Mother's Day I often go home and cry, not quite able to understand why I am unable to become what so many in the church consider to be "God's highest calling"...a mother.

It is not only the un-mothers who feel lonely on this day. It must also be a painful day for single women who have never married, for mothers who have lost children, and for moms who have sons or daughters wandering from the Lord.

As Mother's Day approaches, I pray that you will remember that it is not only a day of rejoicing for some, but a day of painful reminders for others. I know that God will help you to be a blessing to our congregation as you minister to us on this Mother's Day.


If there is ever someone that my readers know is also working their way along this journey, please feel free to give out my name as a resource.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Inside the Heart of the Hurting

When I am hurting, struggling, walking through a journey it is sometimes hard to tell someone what is in my heart.

I can talk about infertility from an academic and treatment perspective all day long. In fact, it is safer to talk about the logic of it. I have a better change of not crying.

But if you want to know what my heart looks like, watch the video in the link below. I didn't make this video, but it says what my heart is feeling every day.

Empty Arms Video

Thank you for taking the time to listen to our hearts.

NIAW Infertility Myth: "You are so young"

This is National Infertility Awareness Week. A week dedicated to raising awareness and support for the many families walking the road of infertility.

Resolve, the National Infertility Association, challenged bloggers to "bust a myth" about infertility this week. All the myth busting blogs are linked here.

I chose to bust the myth "you are so young". It is also posted on the Ladies in Waiting Book Club along with all the myths busted by fellow members.

“But You are So Young!”

“But you are so young.” I cringe every time I hear those five words. Actually, I cringe every time someone asks my age right after I say we are trying to have a baby because I know what is coming. “But you are so young”. Or a close cousin: “You have lots of time”. Infertility has been pushed off in society as a problem for “older women”. There seems to be a myth that young people don’t have ANY problem getting pregnant.

It simply isn’t true. Infertility does not discriminate, and it certainly doesn’t discriminate based on age.

This myth is based on the truth that women are born with all their eggs, the number diminishes at an increasing rate with age, and eventually the woman enters menopause. However, there are many reasons for infertility and not all of them are egg related or dependent. These can strike at any age.

My “infertility diagnosis” came at 25, just months after I married my wonderful husband. Everyone said I was “so young”. That was three years ago, I may still be young, but I am glad I didn’t wait until now to get started.

What the uninformed conversationalist doesn’t know is that I was first diagnosed with Endometriosis when I was 18. I had surgery for stage IV endometriosis at 19. I knew that having a baby was NEVER going to be easy and I was YOUNG. Women with endometriosis can have trouble conceiving because there are endometrial cells covering their reproductive organs. Endometriosis is often diagnosed in the late teen and early 20’s.

A later diagnosis on our journey was Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome(PCOS). This condition has a whole host of symptoms including weight challenges, unwanted hair growth, irregular periods, and annovulation (failure to ovulate consistently). These symptoms can manifest themselves during the teen years shortly after a young woman goes through puberty. Women with PCOS can, and do, have children, but they will struggle even when they are young.

Another common infertility cause is a structural problem; this can include blocked or damaged tubes and uterine deformities. Women with this diagnosis often can only be helped through in vitro fertilization (IVF). Structural problems can be genetic or caused by trauma and can obviously occur at any age.

Couples that have male factor infertility face a whole host of other stigmas, challenges, and treatments. For these couples, it is clear that the age of the woman doesn’t matter at all. Telling a woman whose husband has low sperm count that she is “young” isn’t going to win any points.

There are some problems with female fertility that do get worse with age, but youth doesn’t automatically equate to easy conception. Personally, I am glad I started young, because I don’t see it getting any easier waiting until I hear “but you are so old”!

Learn more about infertility here.