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.


NancyPants said...

April, that is a beautifully written letter and I may just have to pull from that one and share with our parish leaders. Love to you today and all of next month!

Colleen said...

This is a great idea and I have been thinking about writing a letter to our churches magazine as a letter to the editor with something similar. Maybe this will give me the motivation.

I have to say I have had some positive church experiences in the last year. Our priest at our church has mentioned infertility several times in his sermons the last 2 months. He has mentioned the pain of miscarriage as well. He quotes infertility as 1 in 6 couples even and I agree with him on this. I think the rate is rapidly increasing from looking at my friends and coworkers. He has even mentioned his mom's experience and how she only had him. I have to say kudos to him!

My mother's day experience last year was very positive too. They did not have all the mom's stand up but still acknowledged them. They prayed for all the mom's who have lost their children which was especially moving to me because I have a friend who lost her 3 year old. Then they prayed for all the woman who have not had children. It was wonderful even as I sat their surrounded by kids and moms. I wrote the church a thank you note for that.

I have also had an extremely negative experience where the priest had everyone stand up that was a mom, aunt, godmother....and then said that must include all the woman. Not me. It was terrible. It ranks right up there with the worse things that people have ever said to me.

I hope this year you have a positive mother's day experience!

Misty said...

Thanks for this, April. It's incredibly helpful and I know I will be more sensitive because I read this.