The pain of infertility hurts worse than the pain of birthing a baby.
I have experienced both sources of pain and there is a big difference between them. Labor and delivery of a baby typically cause intense pain primarily within your body and usually lasts less than 48 hours. The intense pain of infertility can last for several months or even years and hurt at depths within your soul that can eventually challenge your sense of completeness as a woman. As a woman, I felt inadequate. I couldn’t do the ONE thing that women are supposed to do that men can’t— get pregnant.
There are over 7 million American women in the throes of this same struggle— an impaired ability to have children. Infertility can be caused by a myriad of problems. According to the World Health Organization, it is a global problem that afflicts over 180 million women. Here are five key points you should know about infertility:
One in six American couples has difficulty conceiving because of physical problems.
This can be due to hormone imbalance, blockage of the fallopian tube(s), endometriosis, damage from STDs, other pelvic infections, and ovarian cysts, along with other causes. Also, the age of the female plays a big role in fertility because women are born with a certain number of eggs and these eggs deteriorate as the female ages. One in three women over 35 may experience infertility.
Infertility causes a great deal of emotional stress.
It can be traumatic when you or your spouse is diagnosed as being infertile. The stress of infertility can be equated to that of the death of a close family member. Feelings of loss, bitterness, and worthlessness are common. Guilt, self-pity, anger, or jealousy may be part of that emotional roller coaster experience. Finding support through RESOLVE, the national organization that addresses infertility, through your clergy, or, perhaps a counselor, may be helpful.
Infertility can become a huge financial stressor.
When couples decide that the best option to get pregnant is to use Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART), they are opening the door to spending thousands of dollars in order to get pregnant. The high cost of ART affects the accessibility of treatment for many couples. Just one in vitro fertilization treatment cycle can cost, on average, $12,000 or more. Most couples have to go through multiple cycles before pregnancy is achieved. The costs of these various ART treatments are not fully covered by medical insurance plans, if at all. Legislation on federal and state levels has not advanced this issue enough for mandated insurance coverage of ART.
Infertility can fracture and sometimes dissolve relationships.
Many women will experience self-imposed isolation from friends. Becoming obsessed with the condition of infertility will usually strain family relationships and even cause divorce. Women who are married and have never had a child are more likely to experience marital separation or divorce.
Infertility occurs in men too.
A report from Stanford University states that in 40% of infertile couples, infertility is attributed to the male. The main causes are testicular damage, low sperm production, or poor sperm quality. Lifestyle choices can affect male fertility. A few examples are smoking, prolonged use of marijuana, steroid use (causes testicular shrinkage), excessive stress, and low thyroid hormone levels.
The advances made in medicine that provide assistance in getting pregnant have been outstanding during the past few decades. But there is an area that may not have considered or addressed in their struggle with infertility: their spiritual well-being.
Here’s a brief account of how my personal struggle was influenced by my faith:
When my husband and I decided the time had come to have children, we expected that our plans would come to fruition right away. Both of us were engineers so planning every detail of our lives was second nature to us. We were shocked when our plans for getting pregnant did not happen according to our schedule.
Infertility began as a process of suffering repeated disappointment month after month. There was never a firm diagnosis about why I was not getting pregnant. None of the tests produced conclusive results. I did have fibroids and as a result, had very heavy periods. Two D&C surgeries were performed to reduce the bleeding. Going through the journey of infertility and all that comes along with it was not what I had signed up for in my perfect life. Doctors’ reports were a source of frustration but God’s report in the Bible was a source of hope. I chose to use the hope found in the Bible to strengthen myself spiritually.
Choosing to stand on God’s Word was an easy choice, but actually doing it was not. It was a battle against my will, which wanted to do the easy thing and give up. Making a stand for anything requires that you fight back against numerous attacks, not just one. I had to do just that—fight against numerous thoughts that were fearful, doubtful, and shame-filled every day. Yes, I was ashamed that I could not get pregnant. No one else made me feel that way. It was self-inflicted.
After many doctor visits, we decided not to go the route of fertility treatments and instead, keep “trying”, no matter how long it took. We would watch God work it out. This struggle was not going to be a source of darkness, depression or a reason to become a hermit.
The Word of God was my way out of that inner turmoil. It was time to make some choices. I had to choose to give in to the fear or trust God. I had to choose to accept, reject or just ignore the fearful thoughts. I certainly did not want to live with fearful thoughts. Ignoring them would have left them harboring in the recesses of my mind and having a place to silently grow into larger, more fearful thoughts. I chose to trust God and to believe His Word in the Bible that children are a blessing from Him. It became a source of hope in my life.
It took a little under 2 years for me to get pregnant with our first child. The next two pregnancies occurred almost as soon as when we started “trying.” I gave birth to three healthy children. Is infertility impossible to overcome? I’m a witness that it is not!
You can find more of my story and encouragement for the struggle in my devotional e-book, “A Seed of Hope.” Join in the conversation and follow me on my blog, Hope-Filled Focus and on Twitter.com, @evcolbert.