Infertility remains, by far, the hardest challenge I have ever faced. It is a silent, but deadly struggle.
Most couples going through infertility would whole-heartedly agreed with this statement. A couple experiences not only physical struggle, but also the mental and emotional struggle that goes along with it. Often times, you wouldn’t even know the struggle exists. There are ways to help couples going through infertility, but it doesn’t make the struggle any less difficult.
Here are 5 reasons why infertility is a silent, but deadly struggle:
1. It’s Painful
Take a second and imagine the one thing you would give anything to have or acquire. What would you do if someone suddenly took that opportunity away? What would you do? Can you imagine the daily defeat you would feel?
A person going through infertility feels just that. It challenges the idea that she/he might not ever have a child, a child they had always dreamed of. It’s an identity crisis. It’s an emotional roller coaster with ups and downs with a physical reminder each month that pregnancy isn’t in the cards. It cuts deep down to the root of a woman’s desires and how she’s created. It brings a man to question his manhood. And it’s painful, which leads to the next reason…
2. No One Talks About It
For many of the reasons given above, infertility remains a topic that not many people talk about — either out of ignorance, embarrassment, or discomfort. Anytime you talk about the S-E-X word in your own life, things can start to become very personal and very uncomfortable…very quickly.
Personally, my husband and I did not talk openly about our battle with infertility at first. Frankly, we were embarrassed. We felt like we had problems and didn’t want to open ourselves up to the vulnerability. Our parents knew, but only them. Even as I went back and forth to infertility appointments, my co-workers and friends didn’t have a clue.
We just didn’t want to talk about openly (yet). We weren’t ready to expose ourselves and probably couldn’t admit the pain and struggle we actually felt. As a result, we didn’t have individuals who knew what we struggled with….and we felt alone.
3. No One Knows
If you look around a crowded room, there is probably a large amount of individuals experiencing infertility. But you can’t tell, because it’s not a blatantly apparent condition (unlike its opposite–pregnancy). And how would people know about a couple’s infertility if the couple doesn’t share with those around them?
The “right” or “wrong” way to share (or not share) your infertility story doesn’t exist. Yet when those around you can’t extend support and love to you during a dark time in your life, it’s easy to feel alone and continue to struggle that much more. That’s when it becomes not only a deadly struggle, but a silent one…and lonely.
The stigma of infertility has decreased a bit, because of increasing awareness of infertility in general and on specifics. But still there remains a perceived stigma upon those who can’t have children. Although many won’t say it directly, someone experiencing infertility feels (and is sometimes treated as) defective — like they aren’t 100% woman or 100% man, because they can’t achieve something humans were made to do: reproduce.
I avoid using the word infertile to define someone, because it places a label on them which can feel derogatory. It also suggests a finality of a condition, which may or may not be the end. Someone experiences infertility. Please don’t make it define them.
5. Not Prepared For It
When you first get married, you focus on your future spouse, your next steps in life, the aspirations of your marriage, and what your future family might look like. Everyone asks: “how many kids would you like to have?”, but not many people ask: “what will you do if you can’t have kids?”
As my husband and I coach couples preparing for marriage, we cover the topic of kids. We include questions regarding the potential of infertility, so that the couple gets a chance to proactively process what they feel about children prior to experiencing infertility.
Why do we do this? Because infertility never crossed our minds as a struggle we would experience during our marriage. Like many young newlyweds we thought more on avoiding a pregnancy rather than dealing with the potential of infertility. So when we decided to officially start trying to get pregnant, you can imagine how blindsided we were to the fact that it would be such a challenge for us. This ignorance caused us more mental pain and struggle than we could have imagined.
As you read through this list, you find a few of the reasons why the battle with infertility is a silent, but deadly struggle. No one would choose to go through this journey, but the process shapes, refines, and molds who you become.
Please talk about infertility.
Please encourage small groups to read this.
Please preach about it, pastors. Don’t fear it.
Please create a culture where it’s okay to share about infertility.
Please don’t talk about women as only mothers. Tons of women would give anything to have a chance at motherhood and don’t need a reminder of their pain and struggle.
Go the extra mile to help infertile couples.
Share and show hope as those you know grieve during the infertility battle. Don’t let a silent struggle stay silent.