The Cross of Infertility, Part 4: How to Encourage a Couple Facing Infertility

This is the final installment of Catherine Boucher’s powerful four-part series,”The Cross of Infertility” with special guest Amanda Teixeira. Read Part 1 herePart 2 here, and Part 3 here.

In Part 4, Amanda gives us ideas how TO support a loved one facing infertility.  We also discussed how faith plays in to all of this, how Amanda and Jonathan support one another, the best ways for friends with children to support them, resources for couples facing infertility, and Amanda’s closing thoughts.

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CB: What are some of the most helpful and healing things others have said or done?  What made these gestures so moving?

1. Praying for and with us.

We know many people have actually prayed novenas with and for us. Others have offered Masses and told us. Still others have included us on their pilgrimages to holy sites or brought us blessed religious articles from different places across the world.

These are really comforting to us. These gestures make us feel like we aren’t alone. Others are physically helping us carry the cross in these actions.

2. Inviting us over and opening their lives to us.

Several other couples who struggle with infertility have taken us under their wings. I always walk away from those convos refreshed and ready to keep carrying the cross.

Even fertile couples inviting us over to actually join them in their lives is incredibly healing for us. We get to be around a family and the realities of what it’s like to have kids around. This never makes us jealous or sad. We just enjoy feeling welcomed into the life of others’ families and it helps Jonathan and I feel more like a family even if it’s just us two. It also gives us hope of what might be in store for us someday.

3. Asking us how they can help.

This really takes boldness, and I really appreciate it when a friend asks this.

Infertility is like being on the cross with Jesus. I am totally linked to him. I am well aware that we are asking a LOT of our friends and family to be near us in the struggle.

It’s like when Jesus was on the cross — only Mary, John, and a few women stood nearby. It took tremendous amounts of courage to stay by Jesus on the cross and, in turn, it takes a lot of courage to ask people to stand with us while we hang on the cross. Most people won’t have the emotional ability to stay with us, and I know that. But those willing to try and stick near us…I treasure with all my heart because they are far and few between.

4. Sending us notes/gifts/gift cards/invitations to go have fun with them.

We’ve had people send us groupons or gift cards to go out to eat or to grab coffee. Yes, we’re busy with work and some outside of work activities but yeah, we have time on our hands. Time I all too often resent. When family/friends intentionally step in the gap and try to help me enjoy the time, I am thankful.

Once, I even got flowers with an encouraging message on a day I had some particularly difficult blood tests that a friend knew about. I can’t tell you how loved I felt in that moment.

Best yet, invite us to hangout/come visit if you are OOT. Quality time with others always helps us pass the time with more joy.

5. Asking us how we are doing.

There is a difference between really asking this and just being nosy. Everyone knows the difference.

The sincere asks are refreshing to me. If I don’t feel like answering, I will let you know. More often than not, I am carrying this burden alone with Jonathan and just praying someone will ask me how I am really doing. It’s healthy for me to vent from time to time and open up to people who really care about me.  I appreciate sincere people wanting to know how I am doing, especially because I feel awkward bringing this topic up because I don’t want to burden others.

One of the questions pregnant gals get ALL THE TIME is “how are you feeling?” I’ve never been pregnant, but in FOCUS I am surrounded by pregnant women EVERYWHERE, and so I hear it a lot. For the infertile girl, this question is hard and awkward and most people don’t ask because they simply can’t handle the suffering that will definitely come forth…which is why I am grateful for mature friends and family who willingly walk right into the hurt with me and open a door for me to share my heart.

CB: Being faithful Catholics, how does God play a role in all of this for you and Jonathan?  Do you distinguish between God’s ordained will and His permissive will in regards to your fertility?

This has been one of the hardest questions for us to struggle with honestly.

Questions that bounce through my mind: “Why would God, the author of all life, put a baby in the womb of a woman who will surely go abort it?” or “Why would God put a baby in the womb of a woman whose family will abuse the child?” or even, “Since God hasn’t blessed us with life, does that mean he doesn’t want us to be parents or we would be bad parents?”

There are no answers when I throw these questions at God. Usually only silence. All I do know is that he doesn’t want any child aborted or abused, and he doesn’t want me to suffer and feel like he hates me. But that is all I know. My life is surrounded with dozens of unanswered questions, as many peoples lives are with a variety of sufferings they endure.

CB: What are the best ways that you support Jonathan?  What are the best ways that he supports you?  

Best way to support Jonathan? To be attentive to spending time with him and verbally tell him how happy I am to be married to him/value him in my life. I mentioned previously that he sometimes fears I hate my life married to him without babies…so I have to reassure him of my affections despite my sadness.

Best ways he can support me? Taking me on adventures and helping me put my dreams into a reality. For example: I have been wanting to run a half-marathon lately. Jonathan is helping research races across the country in fun places like California or Florida so we can train together and have something to look forward to.

CB: What are the best moves for friends with children to do?

Keep me in their lives. I think people with children are afraid to talk to me about their children in fear I will have a meltdown. If someone is bragging about their kids to me, yeah, I will get annoyed, but so would anyone.

If a friend with children is simply sharing a hilarious story or wants to talk (without complaining) about how tough it is to be attentive to their older children while they battle sleepless nights with a newborn, I am all ears. That’s their reality, and I want to be a part of it, not shut out. I have the emotional maturity to be a good friend even if I am not blessed with kiddos myself.

Now, there may be seasons when I simply keep my own distance, and don’t think I hate you or anything. I am likely just grieving the most recent bad news (failed treatment, return of an infection, another negative pregnancy test, got 15 pregnancy announcements from other FOCUS women, etc.). I’ll be back. I just might not be able to accept your invitation to come over or attend that Baby Shower you are hosting for a friend.

CB: What resources are available for couples facing infertility?  What encouragement and support would you offer them?

1. Naprotechnology

2. My blog posts

3. Books:

- Infertility Companion for Catholics

- My Sisters the Saints (LOVE THIS BOOK!!!)

4. Counseling.

5. Prayer, Spiritual Direction, and Confession.

I can’t stress this foundation enough. With infertility, daily prayer is vital to warding off despair. Spiritual direction will also keep you sane. And confession…it will be necessary use this Sacrament to dispel lies from the Devil you slip into believing.

CB: How have you grown in your relationship with God during this time?

Sometimes I feel like I haven’t. There are days I feel I am backsliding in my faith at best..I’ve actually cussed God out a time or two in my weakest moments. Pretty bad, right?

But then I look back on my faith from years ago. It was strong, yes, but it hadn’t been tested. Now, with infertility, I feel as if I’ve been through the fiery furnace only to be sent right back through it again every time another cycle starts. Yep, there are days my faith is hanging on by a string. But most days, a sense of abandonment, surrender, wonder and awe, trust, perspective, humility, and wisdom come over me.

I feel 110% dependent on God alone…mostly because I literally can’t DO anything to take my cross away. I know how weak I am and I quit trusting myself a long time ago with this cross. It’s all Him now. My life finds its identity in God because He’s the only One who can’t let me down. Everything else is passing to me.  I long for heaven. I don’t care about my plans because His are better even if they don’t feel better right now.

Sometimes I think God gave me the cross of infertility to force me into total surrender because I never would have gotten there any other way. That makes me grateful. I’ve always prayed that my life would be about Him and bringing Him glory. That my life would look like His. I really believe infertility is an answered prayer (rarely!!!! but I do sometimes) because I don’t know if I would have been this linked to Jesus through any other means. I get to be with him on the cross…and so it’s only a matter of time until he brings the resurrection into my life. What a sweet day that will be indeed.

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Amanda, thank you so much for opening your heart and spilling out everything–your pain, your longing, your hope, and the truth about everything in between.  Thank you for helping all of us reading to better understand how to love you and anyone we know carrying the cross of infertility.  I am so proud to call you my dear friend.  I pray that this blog series will help the rest of us unburden you from carrying this cross alone.  You are a treasure!

Copyright 2014 Catherine Boucher

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