Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Encouragement and Understanding

One of the main reasons I wanted to share our journey with infertility is to minister to other women going through this struggle. It's an unbelievably hard thing to go through, but going through it alone is even worse. Also, I wanted to bring this issue to light, and help those who haven't been there understand a little bit of what we go through on a daily basis. Sometimes, insensitivity can cause deep wounds in a woman battling infertility, and many times insensitivity is caused by the inability to be empathic.
Okay, I'm going to play the therapy card here and explain what empathy means: Empathy is the ability to feel what another person is feeling. This is different from sympathy, which is feeling sorry for someone. An empathic person tries to put themselves in someone else's shoes. A sympathetic person thinks, "Oh that's too bad for them, I'm glad that's not me"; an empathic person thinks, "Because I can imagine what they are going through, I am going to do whatever I can to be sensitive to their feelings." Empathy doesn't mean that you will ever truly understand someone's situation, but it means that you want to try...and sometimes that is the best thing you can do for a woman going through this difficult journey.
Anyone who knows me knows that I am a detail-oriented, organized planner and I like to be informed. If  a client of mine is dealing with something I'm not experienced with, I ask them to educate me, and do what I can to educate myself. Infertility has been the same for me. I have read several books, blogs, articles, etc. for more information, but perhaps the most helpful information that I have found throughout this journey is the encouraging blogs, websites and books that have been recommended to me by friends and other women who are going through or have gone through the struggle of infertility. The factual information is helpful, but the most cathartic thing for me are the personal testimonies written by women who have been there and can put into words exactly what I am feeling. I want to use the platform of my blog to share these resources with other ladies who can benefit from them as well.
One of the reasons I decided to blog about my journey was because of reading a woman named Hannah Bunker's blog. I have no personal connection to her, a friend of mine just shared the link to her blog with me and it has been a great encouragement to me. She is honest, funny, and expresses a godly view of the struggle of infertility. I would highly encourage anyone to read her blog! The part of her blog that contains the fertility posts is called "Waiting for Grace". (She also blogs about photography and blogging). Here is the link: www.hannahbunker.com/waiting-for-grace.
Through Hannah's blog, I found a ministry called "Dancing Upon Barren Land: Spiritual Nourishment for the Infertility Road". This website contains devotionals and prayers designed exclusively for women going through infertility, and it has a lot of great resources linked to it as well. Here is the link: www.dancinguponbarrenland.com.
Another really awesome encouragement to me has been the Stepping Stones Ministry of Bethany Christian Services. They publish a newsletter 6 times per year to offer hope and support to Christian couples who are facing fertility challenges. The newsletters have personal stories, poems, and information that I have found speak to me on a very personal level. The link to this website (including the way to sign up for the newsletters) is at the following link: www.step.bethany.org.
A funny and informative book that was given to me by a friend is called "A Few Good Eggs: Two Chicks Dish on Overcoming the Insanity of Infertility" by Julie Vargo and Maureen Regan. Sometimes it's good to just get a good laugh about the insanity of infertility...and insanity it is!
A bible study that I have just started but was highly recommended is called "Surviving Infertility: What the Bible Says About Your Baby Hunger" by Beth Forbus. As I said, I have just started this study but I have heard great things about it.
I hope that you will find some of these resources helpful if you are going through infertility, or that you can pass these along to a woman you know who is dealing with infertility. One of the ways I hope to educate those who haven't experienced infertility is by sharing some parts from several of the above resources about what NOT to do and say when dealing with fertility challenged friends. I always joke that by the end of this I will be able to write a book on what not to say to those struggling with infertility or recurrent pregnancy loss, and I have found several women who have put my feelings into words for me.
The first list that is a must-read when trying to know how to (or how not to) talk to and approach your fertility challenged friends is a post on Hannah Bunker's blog entitled: "The Dos and Donts of Dealing with a Fertility Challenged Friend". She does a great job of expressing this topic, and the link to this specific post is as follows: www.hannahbunker.com/waiting-for-grace-the-dos-and-donts-of-dealing-with-a-fertility-challenged-friend.
The next 2 pictures that I am going to upload (hopefully you can read them!) are from the Stepping Stones newsletters. The first is a short list about things said to women dealing with infertility that can be harmful, entitled "Just Relax". It's in the Mar/Apr edition of the Stepping Stones newsletter, just in case you can't read the picture I post. The second picture is an article from the Stepping Stones Jan/Feb newsletter entitled "After My Miscarriage" that tells you things not to say to a woman who has just experienced a miscarriage. None of these lists are meant to cast blame or point fingers, but rather to help those unfamiliar with the struggles of infertility to be able to relate better and be more sensitive to those in the midst of the battle. I hope these resources will educate, encourage, and speak to my fellow women struggling with infertility, as well as the friends and family we are surrounded by and interact with on a daily basis.


  1. Thanks so much for this, Becky. After reading this and clicking through to Hannah Bunker's list of things to say or not to say to a woman struggling with infertility, I've been thinking through my own list. Here are my additions:

    DO NOT say "You just need to believe that God will give you a baby. Claim a day that you will get pregnant and believe that it will be so!" or "Have you prayed like this? Have you fought the Enemy in this way?" Most likely, the woman has "claimed" days, weeks, months and prayed her heart out. Don't imply that she hasn't done enough or prayed enough and that's why she's not pregnant.

    DO NOT call the couple/individual out in a group setting. Let them share what they will share when they will share. Applaud any vulnerability and requests for prayer, but do not force anything. These situations are extremely difficult to talk about and the couple/individual should be allowed lots of grace.

    DO NOT send me pictures of your ultrasound...or worse, videos. I do celebrate your pregnancy with you, but be sensitive to how much I need to hear/see.

    These are all based on personal experiences. I don't have any additions to the DO list. She covered them all very very well.

    Blessings and grace to Mike and you, Becky.

    Allie Davis

  2. Also really good points, Allie! I'm sure each woman who has experienced infertility could come up with a list of their own. It's such a personal experience. I just hope others will read these lists and be more sensitive to women who are experiencing this extremely hard situation, and know how their words can hurt so deeply.