I know a beautiful young woman, Megan. She has had a baby doll since she was a toddler, appropriately named “Bitty”. I have seen her with this doll over the years, doing what most young girls do with a baby doll: feeding her, snuggling her, taking her on walks. Bitty has been through her share of bandages, diapers, hugs and kisses. When Grandpa jokingly tried to “hurt” Bitty, Mama Megan came to the rescue. As Megan has grown into a virtuous young woman, Bitty still holds a special place in her heart. Bitty is symbolic of the the dream many girls have – the dream of a family, a husband and children.
Imagine, in your mind’s eye, another young woman, age 28, kneeling next to her bed pleading with her Heavenly Father to bring a living “Bitty” into her loving and waiting arms. Imagine this young woman, month after month – empty womb, empty arms – her loving husband waiting and yearning at her side. Struggling with infertility is the loss of a lifelong dream. It can be the struggle of a lifetime.
We can learn to be a help and comfort to those struggling with infertility. We can use Christlike love and concern to reach out and comfort those in the struggle. This is critical because “the Lord God hath given a commandment that all men should have charity, which charity is love.” 2 Nephi 26:30
Try not to make assumptions
“Do you think they don’t want children?” “I heard they want to be financially secure before they have kids.” “She really wants to develop her career before they have children.” Whispers, wondering, questioning, concern. Often, when a couple doesn’t have children for a period of time, others seem to start to wonder: some quietly, others blatantly. Although some couples choose to put off having children for a period of time, others struggle with the silent battle of infertility. Infertility affects approximately 10 to 12 percent of married couples. (http://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/Infertility/index.htm, May 15, 2013) Whether you realize it or not, you probably know someone who is struggling with infertility.
If you truly want to show compassion to those struggling with infertility, be careful about assumptions. An off-hand remark, made flippantly or purely on speculation, can cause hurt and pain to those already struggling with a difficult infirmity. Asking a couple “When are you going to have children?” can be painful and uncomfortable for couples already struggling.
Remember your stewardship
Pointed questions about another’s physical and sexual health are uncomfortable, hurtful, and not within your stewardship. Infertility is a very personal and private battle. Decisions are made between a husband and wife, hopefully with the guidance of their Heavenly Father. If you are close to a couple that struggles with infertility, you can and should pray for them. If they ask for your counsel, then you are welcome to share your thoughts and ideas. But remember, many who struggle with infertility may not want or need extraneous advice or suggestions.
Because infertility is such a personal issue, if you want to help a couple that you find is struggling, start by listening. Offering up advice and ideas may not be what they want or need. Many couples have already done the research and may know far more about infertility than you do. What they are often lacking is a considerate, listening ear. One of the most difficult parts of the struggle with infertility is feeling alone. This is typically not a subject discussed openly, and can be very difficult to talk about with another person. If someone who has struggled with infertility shares their struggle with you, be sure to keep that information private. Be sure to pray for them. Seek out their well-being in a considerate and thoughtful ways. Always keep their battle confidential. Sharing their struggle with others may only create more pain for them. When they are ready to talk about it openly, they will.
Infertility is painful for both husband and wife
Infertility is a difficult struggle because it is a battle of hope and disappointment. We are taught to “Be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28). The Family Proclamation states: “The first commandment that God gave to Adam and Eve pertained to their potential for parenthood as husband and wife.” Many couples yearn for a baby and daily hope and pray: “Maybe this will be it!” When month after month goes by with a disappointment each time, the roller coaster of pain and hopelessness looms overwhelmingly. Infertility can create physical and emotional pain. Infertility brings stress and heightened emotion that can affect a married couple’s relationship. It can also cause financial strain.
Both men and women struggle with infertility. Just because women are primarily responsible for the nurture and care of children in the home , doesn’t mean that men don’t yearn for children as well. This is a mutual pain. Some couples may wonder if they are unworthy, or if God doesn’t trust them with a child. This is not the case. Even special days can become difficult: Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, births and baby blessings. Although infertile couples share in the joys of others, these events can be painful reminders of their own empty arms. Be considerate to those in your circle of influence. Include them, and seek out their well-being.
Every couple’s battle is unique and different
Everyone’s struggle with infertility is individual and different. Some may be able to get pregnant, but then miscarry. Others may not be able to get pregnant. Some may struggle with health problems, while others may not display any visible problems. Even couples who have children may struggle with infertility. For many reasons, some couples may be able to have one or more children, but when they yearn for more, the children don’t come. Don’t assume this is any less difficult for them.
Just as individuals struggle differently, also remember that each couple’s outcomes are different. Some use medical intervention, some choose adoption, while others may feel their answer is to wait. Some are successful in bringing children into their homes with the above mentioned ideas, while others are not. Remember, one couple’s answer may not be the right one for another couple. This is each couple’s decision – between them and the Lord.
Invite them into your circle of influence
Infertility is a grief. It is the loss of a dream, and an ongoing struggle. As you seek to understand and help those that you may know, seek the spirit. Be a listening ear. You will find some couples who want to talk about their struggle and will share with you their experiences. Others may not want to talk about it. Infertility is such a personal issue that talking may be too difficult or painful. Either way, you can respect them. Be sure to include them in your circle of influence. Treat them with kindness and compassion. Step outside yourself to find empathy for them and their situation. President Boyd K. Packer stated, “Each of us must stay in condition to respond to inspiration and the promptings of the Holy Ghost. The Lord has a way of pouring pure intelligence into our minds to prompt us, to guide us, to teach us, and to warn us. Each son or daughter of God can know the things they need to know instantly. Learn to receive and act on inspiration and revelation.” (“These Things I Know”, Ensign, May 2013) As we seek to emulate the Savior, He will guide our paths.
For those struggling
In Mark 5, we learn of the story of the woman who had an issue of blood for twelve years. The scripture says she “had spent all her living upon physicians, neither could be healed of any…”. One can only imagine the amount of grief and pain in her body and heart from this infirmity; how she yearned for healing and comfort. In the midst of her loss and pain, she sought the Savior. Through Him, she was healed. Peace and answers for infertility can come through the Savior. The woman with the issue of blood had faith, reached out for the Savior and was healed. Sometimes this healing comes in a very literal way – a healing that brings a child into your home. Other times the healing comes in a form of peace and comfort that the Lord will eventually make things right. Like many things in this life, we do not always get what we want, but the Lord will always be there for us. The symbolism in this scripture is very important: we must reach for Him. He will be there to heal our wounded hearts. “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: Not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14:27)
One of the most beautiful promises of this earth life, is that even in the midst of our greatest pain, the Lord has not forsaken us. In Isaiah 54:10-11: “For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee. O though afflicted, tossed with tempest, and not comforted, I will lay thy stones with fair colours, and lay thy foundations with sapphires.” Let us remember that the Lord will be there, that He does understand, and He holds us in His hands. As we each seek Him, His healing balm will heal our aching hearts.