"Do you have children?"
It seems as though the frequency of the question should numb the sting - but it doesn't. Whether your wait for a baby feels like an eternity or has just begun, the issue of infertility reaches deep into our emotions with fingers that touch many of our relationships. There are four specific areas where my husband and I have dug deep emotionally and spiritually to find the treasure in this season of waiting: our friends, our identity, marriage and our relationship with God.
It can be painful spending time with friends surrounded by baby coos and toddler's cuddles when your own arms are empty. I watched a friend who had just miscarried clench her fists at the announcement of another woman's pregnancy as she declared, "That should have been mine! That was supposed to be my baby!" The temptation to become jealous or give way to self-pity is very real and very ugly in this circumstance. I have employed a few tactics in this area:
1. Confess any self-pity or jealousy to the Lord.
2. Pray before going into a situation that will be charged with "baby wanting" emotion. Ask for God's comfort, truth and perspective.
3. Exchange self-focus for other-oriented thinking by serving friends with children.
4. Limit time in circumstances that increase "baby wanting."
Facing down infertility can deeply impact your identity. Thoughts like, Is God withholding blessing from me? Maybe I would just make a really bad parent. Or my personal favorite, I must be crazy! Hoping (or being positively convinced) each little symptom is the one that finally means "I'm pregnant!" while the months slip into years, can make anyone feel a little delusional!
Beside all the "crazy" thoughts, there can be heavy guilt associated with not being pregnant. My heart has ached as I have wrongly absorbed responsibility for not getting pregnant. Two women jeeringly asked, "What's the matter with you? Why can't you give your husband children?" For some couples, past failures or hurts rear their ugly head. Abortions and STDs can increase the difficulty in having children, further compounding a sense of guilt. Sexual baggage from personal choices or abuse can get tossed into the issue of processing infertility. The empty cradle has profoundly deep emotional impact. In order to maintain a healthy self-image in the midst of this circumstance, here are a few stabilizing practices:
1. Confess wrong thinking about issues of guilt as they come up. If past mistakes have a long-term affect on your fertility, ask God to forgive you and then live in His grace! This won't necessarily solve your medical concerns, but it will bring spiritual healing and more peace. And remember, no one is perfect. We're all sinners in need of grace. And if you wrongly take responsibility for your infertility, ask God to purify your thinking with His truth.
2. Talk and pray with your spouse, a mentor, ministry leader, Christian counselor -- or all of the above to Scripturally process any old baggage your empty cradle might be stirring up.
3. Root your identity in what the Bible says about you. Here's a download with a list of New Testament statements about who we are in Christ.
When a couple sets out to start a family, it's devastating to come up month after month with a negative sign on the pregnancy test. But in the middle of the disappointment there can be good things that come your way. While you and your spouse are waiting, try these ideas:
1. Pray about three qualities you want your family to have and then spend time developing them. Example: my husband and I wanted to grow in our financial management so we went through Christian video seminar together about financial freedom.
2. Celebrate this time together! Do things you wouldn't normally do with kids -- take a non-kid friendly vacation, enjoy the spontaneous romance you wouldn't if you had kids in the house, encourage each other to pursue goals that you might not if you had kids right now.
3. Communicate! Talk to each other about your feelings (when you both want to talk about it). Because this is such a deeply emotional topic give your spouse time to process before you jump into a conversation. You might suggest a time later in the week you want to talk so your spouse can be emotionally/mentally prepared to engage in the conversation. (Waiting for God to Fill the Cradle has a Couple's Conversation Starter for each week of study).
4. Pray together! Talk to the Lord together about what you are feeling and commit your desires to Him. If your situation warrants it, prayerfully consider options like adoption.
IV. Your Relationship with God
Your empty cradle affects your life in many ways, but your relationship with God will even more deeply affect every aspect of your life. If we wrongly take responsibility for our infertility, it is because we do not understand that God is the giver of life. If we blame our spouse or allow the disappointment to pull our marriage apart, we put our husband/wife on the throne of our hearts instead of giving God His rightful place within us. Your relationship with the Lord will be the solid rock, enabling you to weather the storm of disappointment that comes with not having children. Here are some ideas to help you seek His face in this circumstance:
1. Be honest with God: He has big enough shoulders for you to give Him your hurts.
2. Study the places in the Bible where a couple didn't have children. Ask yourself, what was God developing in this couple, what did He want them to learn about Him and themselves through infertility? This has been such a blessing of hope to me!
3. Pray for a baby! Scripture details many couples who wanted children and prayed for one. We have dear friends who conceived after years of an empty womb when they asked for others to pray for them.
4. Learn contentedness. Life is full of waiting and you will be a much better parent and individual if you learn the secret of contentedness in the circumstances God brings your way.
5. Be open to the Potter's hand. Seek to give and bend to God's shaping hand in your life. Embrace what He is doing and ask Him for the grace to live, feel and think about these circumstances in accordance with His plan for your life.
6. Trust God! The Lord is up to something good in your life (Romans 8:28)! My husband and I have talked about some of the purposes God might have for not giving us children. We may or may not be right, but we understand that our lack of children does not equate an absence of God's purpose or work in our lives.
Amidst the charting of temperatures and other unmentionables, may you find that place of peace in God, may your marriage grow in this season and may you be richly blessed as you wait on God to fill your cradle.
Originally posted on www.crosswalk.com.
For more encouragement on the topic of infertility, read Waiting for God to Fill the Cradle: A One Month Devotional for Couples.
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April Motl is a pastor’s wife who loves to laugh, loves her man, loves to talk on the phone entirely too long and most of all, loves her Lord. Collaborating with the efforts of her husband Eric, the two of them share a ministry dedicated to bringing God’s Word into the everyday lives of married couples, men and women. April has been privileged through her own church and ministry outside her local body to share God's Word with women ranging in ages and stages, across denominations, and walks of life. April is a graduate from Southern California Seminary and has written for Just Between Us Magazine, Dayspring's (In)courage, and The Secret Place and also writes regularly for crosswalk.com, iBelieve.com and Women's Ministry Tools. For more information, visit Motl Ministries at: www.MotlMinistries.com