For me, the monthly roller coaster of hope and disappointment has been by far the hardest. It always starts with me telling myself not to get my hopes up. But still, I can't help wondering if this could be the month, especially if I've undergone some form of treatment. Every twinge is analyzed, I feel a little sick to my stomach and I wonder if it might be morning sickness. I try not to count the days, but I do anyway. And then it starts, and I know I'm not pregnant...again. Still. I can't help crying. And this happens month after month, until I'm so emotionally exhausted that I just don't think I can stand one more cycle of it.
The best help I've found for this is to try to look beyond today's storm to the rainbow--God's promise that it won't rain forever. Someday, the infertility journey will end, and whether that's with children or without I want to have walked with God through it and come out more like Jesus on the other side.
It seems as if a lot of women who get pregnant don't want to be. How do you deal with the issue of God's justice?
I think that just about everyone who goes through infertility at some point wants to turn to God and says, "What are you, crazy?" And when you look at things on a grand scale-the incidence of abortions, teen mothers, and unwanted pregnancies, while wonderful couples can't have children-it doesn't make a lot of sense. So, for me, it helps to look at the smaller picture-my life and what God wants for me. The blessings he chooses for me shouldn't be compared with those he gives to others, and vice versa.
Also, I believe that every child is a precious and undeserved gift from God. So if he chooses to give that gift to others, even those who don't appreciate it, and not to me, that's his prerogative. God doesn't owe me a child. I hope he'll give me one, but it's his choice.
Let me answer that with a resounding NO! For some reason as human beings we have the need to answer this question of WHY. Why is this happening to me? "God is punishing me" often becomes a simple answer to that question. A good friend of mine really struggled through this issue. She asked, "Am I being punished because I was sexually active before marriage, because we didn't try to have children right away after we were married, because I'm not a good enough wife, or did this, or didn't do that?" But plenty of people are sexually active before marriage, or use birth control, or whatever, and they have no problem conceiving.
So the real question is not so much "Is this a punishment," but rather, "Why do I feel so badly about myself that I have to believe that I somehow deserve this?" My friend finally realized that maybe God had just chosen this path for her for reasons she couldn't fathom. Maybe there wasn't a "why" that she could know. And if that was the case, could she trust God, and His love for her, enough to not make up a bunch of "why's" to get him off the hook?
Is it a sin to get treatment for infertility?
No! It's no more a sin to seek treatment for infertility than for any other physical malady. When I got bronchitis, I went to the doctor and got an antibiotic. When my husband broke his arm, he went in and got a cast. We don't think of these medical interventions as sin. Nor should we label infertility treatments as sin. They, too, are simply a means of trying to fix something that's gone wrong.
As a scientist myself, I believe that science is the study and discovery of God's works, his incredible creation. Therefore, medical discoveries and advances are a gift from God--a revealing of part of the mystery of his creation. We may use that knowledge for good, to fix what has been "broken"--in the case of infertility, to hopefully repair the reproductive system--or for bad, destructive purposes. Seeking treatment for infertility does not mean a person is not trusting God. Rather, it is simply opening another path through which God may work.
Typically, no. I do suggest, however, that people seek God's will for themselves--go to him in humility and ask what he'd have for their lives personally--rather than relying on what someone else says.
Beyond that, it's important to point out that God created people to have children. "Go forth and multiply," he said to Adam and Eve. Treatments such as IVF do not create children--that's God's work. Treatment only helps to overcome physical obstacles that hinder conception. The miracle of life is still in God's hands. For example, IVF puts eggs and sperm together outside the womb, but the doctor can't force those eggs and sperm to grow and develop into a baby. Drugs may increase the number of mature eggs a woman develops in a cycle, but drugs don't create life. Whether we use IVF or another means to have children, the miracle of life still lies fully with God.
One word of caution, however: We must be careful not to make medical treatments into our gods, believing that they will give us the children we desire. The idols worshipped by the ancient Israelites were fertility gods. We think these people were foolish to worship wooden statues, but we do the same when we put all of our hope in medicine and believe it alone can give us what we want.
Is there a limit to how far you should go in the effort to bear a child? Would you use a surrogate mother, for example?
Yes. I believe the line should be drawn at the point where others begin to be hurt or where life is destroyed. For example, I don't see any problem with using a surrogate mother any more than women used to use wet nurses when they were not able to nurse their babies themselves. However, I do see a problem with selective reduction, where many embryos are placed within the womb and then some of the fetuses are aborted later. In that case, the lives of some of the babies are sacrificed for the others. For me, that is a line I do not want to cross.
Often family and friends don't know what to do and end up saying just the wrong things. I have four basic rules that can help:
So instead of giving advice, ask how they're holding up. Say things like "This must be really hard for you, how can I help?"
Physically, I'd advise not to waste time being treated by your local OB/GYN. Once you've tried to get pregnant for a year and not been able to, go straight to a specialist--a reproductive endocrinologist. They're up on the latest technology, are specially trained, and deal with infertility all day, every day.
Emotionally, I'd say live your life to the fullest now. Do the things you enjoy. Don't put things off "just in case" you might get pregnant. Infertility can consume you. And it's going to be emotionally taxing, so try to make time to do things that you find refreshing. When God created Adam and Eve, he pronounced his creation "very good." It was complete. A husband and wife are a complete family. Children only expand that family.
Spiritually, don't be afraid to go to God with your doubts, fears, and even your angry accusations. Yell, scream, pound on his chest if you have to. Just go to him. He can handle your frustration. What he can't do much with, however, is your silence.