No-Baby Blues After a decade of infertility treatments,
multiple pregnancy losses, three failed
adoptions and an ectopic pregnancy,
Sandra Glahn understands the no-baby
blues faced by childless couples.
“I think I just need to relax,” I told my ob/gyn after getting pregnant” – I left his office and stayed away
my annual examination. “We’re putting in long for another 18 months. “If God wants us to have
hours with our youth group, I work full-time, and my kids,” we told ourselves, “He’ll make it happen.”
husband just finished seminary.” I had believed the
myth that the cure for infertility is relaxing. When we returned to the doctor, we began a journey
which would take us through three years of no
“How long have you been trying?” he asked. conceptions followed by eight early pregnancy losses
and then three failed adoptions in our quest for a child.
“About 18 months.” He rolled closer and spoke gently,
“No. Perhaps it’s time to ‘stop relaxing.’ We can try a God’s grace and some information drove us forward.
few simple procedures; the pace is up to you.” First, we learned that infertility is usually a symptom
that something is physically wrong. Perhaps there’s
I did not know then that I had already met the a thyroid problem or an infection. In 95 percent of
textbook definition of infertility: the inability cases, doctors find a diagnosable medical problem.
to conceive or carry to term after one year of Second, we learned that for those entering medical
unprotected intercourse. (Some patients say it’s also treatment, about 65 percent go on to give birth;
the chance to determine mood by a thermometer, for those avoiding treatment, the number drops
hear every home remedy imaginable, and endure drastically. Medicine and faith do not have to be
bankruptcy in injectable form.) mutually exclusive.
Since I cringed at the idea of joining the one in So we started the process of Love Life by Calendar
six Americans of childbearing age with fertility Rule (which brought about as much joy as mopping
problems – people I considered “obsessed with floors). A few times we had to “get together,” then
rush to the doctor’s office to learn whether our loss of a dream; my heart’s desire is to have my
bodily fluids were “hostile” to each other. We turned husband’s child and raise it together.”
into pincushions, stuck with daily injections either
to help me conceive or keep a pregnancy going. I turned to the husband and addressed him. “And you?”
And we fought with our insurer, who lumped our
heartbreak in the same category with tummy tucks. He looked at her, then back at me. After hesitating
a moment, he spoke to her gently, and stroked her
The emotional toll astonished us. “The depression arm, “Don’t take this wrong, honey, but…” Then he
and anxiety experienced by infertile women are looked at me. “It’s the loss of my wife – she is not
equivalent to that in women suffering from a the same woman I married. Infertility is really
terminal illness,” says Alice Domar, Ph.D., director taking a toll on us.”
of the Behavioral Medicine Program for Infertility at
New England Deaconess Hospital in Boston. Why? “You’re normal,” I assured them. After enduring a
We’re not talking about a new living room set here. decade of infertility treatment that included multiple
We’re talking about a child – a child who might pregnancy losses, three failed adoptions, and an
make daisy chains, throw her arms around us, even ectopic pregnancy, my husband and I had talked to
throw up on us. It’s not that we were “stuck on numerous couples. And I recognised their stress,
genetics,” as some accused. which – though different in each couple’s case – was
still a normal response to an abnormal experience.
The idea of conceiving a child as the product of
two people’s love is a precious dream, and a deep When empty arms are a heavy burden
longing. Thus, what a comfort it often is for couples I always hesitate to tell our “sad story” because
to discover Proverbs 30:16, which tells us that a I don’t like to engage in what I call the Suffering
“barren womb” is among four things on earth that Olympics – going for the gold in competing over
are never satisfied. The intense desire who’s hurt the most. Many people
to have children is part of the way have endured much worse. Yet
The intense desire
God structured the world. The drive, during that decade (which ended
the longing, that “unsatisfied” feeling
to have children – thank God! – in the miracle of
– these are part of the design. is part of the way God a successful adoption) the Lord
structured the world. taught us these and a few other
Why does it hurt so much? things that helped us:
A couple sat to eat lunch with me
after I had spoken at an infertility symposium. As Infertility involves a normal grief process. The
we began to talk, I asked the wife, “When you grieve loss is intangible, but it is real. First there’s denial.
over your infertility, what is your greatest loss?” One woman insisted, “I’m not infertile; I’m just
having trouble getting pregnant!” Other responses
She didn’t have to think about her answer. “It’s the include crying, bargaining, depression, anger,
Children are among God’s many blessings,
but they are not the only blessing.
isolation, and resolution. Look at Hannah friends and support groups.
(1 Samuel 1); she exhibited almost all of these.
Remember: children are a gift, not the gift. When
Unfortunately, infertility is a grief cycle within a people quote verses about children being blessings
grief cycle: the monthly cycle of hope and despair from God, it’s easy to feel you’re being punished.
interrupts the greater grief process, often leaving Of the thousands of infertility patients we have
couples wondering if they will ever stop hurting. talked with, I’ve met only one person who told me
she’s never wondered whether God was punishing
Spouses grieve differently. Because infertility her (She was an atheist.) Children are among God’s
occurs during the childbearing years, it’s often the many blessings, but they are not the only blessing.
first major loss husbands and wives experience as
a couple. It can be a shock to discover they grieve Read up and speak up. As believers, our bodies
differently. Many researchers have concluded that are temples of the Holy Spirit. So we must manage
gender-based differences significantly complicate them well. Christian ethics here require thought
the crisis. One sociologist observed that, in and investigation. Will the clinic show respect for
general, “Wives saw their husbands as callous and your convictions? (Most will.) If you do high-tech
unaffected by infertility while husbands saw their treatments, will you limit the number of potential
wives as ‘overreacting’ and unable to put things embryos to those you are willing to carry to term?
in perspective. While wives felt their husbands Take responsibility for your treatment.
were unwilling to talk about infertility, some
husbands wondered what there was to talk Let God strengthen you. This is most important.
about.” In another study, half of the infertile women Keep asking yourself, “Do I believe God is good?”
said their infertility was the hardest thing they and “Will I trust Him?” Resist the temptation to cry
had ever experienced; only fifteen percent of their out, “My stupid body!” Know that God made you
husbands said the same thing. fearfully and wonderfully in love, mysterious as His
reasons may be. When Job hurt, he fell on his face
Yet it’s not always she who feels more pain; in some and worshipped. Worship your Creator in your
marriages, he does. And infertility is not a “woman’s pain. He cherishes you and bears your hurt. You’re
problem.” Its causes are about evenly split between not alone.
Reprinted with permission. This article first appeared
One solution to the emotional disparity is for both in HomeLife. Sandra Glahn, Th.M., is adjunct professor,
partners or the one feeling more emotional pain to Christian Education and Pastoral Ministries, at Dallas
connect with a support group or find an Internet Theological Seminary (DTS). Together with Dr William
buddy. Some psychologists estimate that even Cutrer, she has co-authored other books which explore
happily married couples should expect only about the spiritual, marital, emotional, medical, and ethic
25 percent of their support to come from their issues surrounding infertility. More articles on this topic
spouses. The rest must come from family, church, can be found on www.aspire2.com