A note from Kelly King: I have watched friends go through infertility. I’m sure I haven’t always said the right things or responded to their pain with compassion. Yet, as leaders, we can learn how to grieve with our friends, how to listen to their struggles, and pray for healing. I’m thankful for Kaye Hurta’s words today as I examine how to be sensitive to women experiencing infertility.
Fertile. Just saying the word conjures up images of a lush, green, well-watered, productive landscape. Infertile stirs up a different picture. Infertility is a major life event. The inability to conceive can profoundly affect how a woman feels about herself, her husband, her friends, and of course, God. For a seemingly straightforward issue, infertility is wrought with complexities.
As I previously wrote in chapter seven of Women Reaching Women In Crisis, “even if you personally have not experienced infertility, a large number of women in your church and throughout your community are struggling with this issue. As leaders we must be prepared to provide spiritual and practical help.”
Infertility is a chapter of my own story. My husband and I were married 15 years before we adopted our first daughter. As I listen to others share their heartbreaking experiences, a familiar pang of sadness and loss penetrates my own heart. The feeling I most revisit is the thought that perhaps I disappointed my husband by failing to give him a biological “mini-him.” Even though I believe with certainty that there is not an ounce of regret for him, my heart still feels the ache.
Like many life losses, experiencing infertility is not something you “get over” or “solve.” It is something you get through and learn how to lean into the healing that only God can provide. The two most profound emotions a woman facing infertility is navigating are loss and depression.
Understanding how to care for the heart of this hurting woman is worth the effort. Here are four do’s and don’ts to help you get started:
- Be an empathetic listener first, not a sharer.
- Encourage her to share her story and give her space and time to do so.
- Remember her husband is grieving as well and will need support.
- Provide helpful resources and referrals to meet her needs.
- Don’t ever, ever, ever, ever start a sentence with the words, “At least you can adopt” or “At least you have a husband who loves you.” Never.
- Please don’t make this about your pain or past struggles.
- Don’t answer for God by offering “why” answers or promises that God will deliver in a specific way. Where I come from, we call this spiritual abuse.
- Please don’t tell her what she “needs” to do or “should” do. Offer encouragement, not prescription.
If infertility is part of your story, I am sorry for your pain and your loss. I would say “I understand,” but everyone woman’s story is unique. I will say, “God loves you and sees you right where you are. You are not forgotten.”
Kaye Hurta has a Masters Degree in counseling from Liberty University and is a crisis counselor for Women’s Events through LifeWay Christian Resources. Whether speaking, singing, or listening, Kaye’s passion is to help others find intimacy with Christ and soul transformation through the living pages of His Word. Kaye met and married her husband Chris in Austin, Texas in 1987. They have two daughters through the miracle of adoption, Madison and Cami. They live in the Chicago burbs where they are both on staff at Willow Creek Community Church. Kaye is also a contributing author for the LifeWay resource, Women Reaching Women in Crisis.