Infertility

Heart of the Matter: Infertility

October 18, 2013
Cynthia: This is Cynthia with Heart of the Matter radio, for women who want to obey God in a less than perfect world.
In Genesis God gave the creation mandate for husbands and wives to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. And women have a strong need to nurture. It’s our fondest dreams to bear a child and to be a mommy.
But there are times when that doesn’t work very well. And today I have with me Janet Thompson. She’s the author of seventeen books and she has written a book on Dear God, Why Can’t I Have A Baby? Welcome, Janet.
Janet: Hi, Cynthia. Thank you for having me on today.
Cynthia: Janet, tell me what it’s like to want a baby so bad and things don’t work.
Janet: Devastating is probably the word that capsulate everything. As you said earlier often times we just feel like well, that’s our natural right as a woman. When we’re little girls we play with dolls and we’re going to have our own house someday and our own babies. That just seems, literally women have said that’s our God-given right as a woman. That’s what’s expected of us. 
And when that doesn’t happen, either on our time frame the way we think it should, or perhaps not at all, it feels like we have been gypped. We have failed. Depression. Because it’s an area where often times you just have no control over it. It’s something you think should just happen naturally is now suddenly maybe being turned over to science, or that may not even give the results that you want.
And so I would say most women that have been in the situation would say it is one of the worst diagnosis they can ever hear.
Cynthia: I remember as a little girl, my mother had two children, and I had played dolls for a long time with my girlfriends. And I remember looking at Mom and seeing her with me and my brother, and actually feeling jealous of her because she was a mom and I was too young to be one.
Janet: Exactly. And you know, we never lose that. There are, of course, women who choose to not have children. Not everyone has that natural bent. But the majority, I would say, of women do. It is that nurturing that we want to carry on into the next generation. It’s something that we planned for, we think about. 
Often we try to plan it into our life schedule and that right there can sometimes be the problem. Delaying too long or thinking that we’re always going to be fertile. And many times, even though there are so many ways that science has come up to help us and the medical field, it doesn’t always work out like that.
Cynthia: It doesn’t. And just so that we say this, there are women out there who are intended to be eunuchs. God chooses them to do a special job, that may be a nun. I did read about one lady who was actually a pilot during World War Two. She didn’t even care about men. She cared about her plane, and she died shortly after the war. So her life was short, that’s probably where God put her.
But for the most part, 98% of us, because he wants people on earth he made us to want that baby and we’re made that way. Just everything about our body is made so that we can have a child. And when it doesn’t happen it can be devastating.   
Janet: It can be devastating to the husband also. That’s his role is that he’s supposed to procreate and his seed is supposed to carry on. And often times the focus does goes so strongly to the woman because she’s the one that is physically going to be the person carrying that baby, but so often it isn’t even maybe her issue. And that is devastating to men also.
In the book Dear God, Why Can’t I Have A Baby, my step-daughter and my daughter each struggled with infertility and their story, their journal, runs through the book. And each of their situations was completely different, and how they ended up having a family was completely different. But I knew that not every woman would relate even just to those two, so there’s like forty-five couples that share their story in the book.
You can imagine, everything imaginable. And there are several women in the book who, after much prayer and effort and energy, came to that peace that God did not plan for them to have a baby, just as you were saying. And some of them went into children’s ministry, some of them helped in orphanages. They felt that God wanted them to have a more global mothering experience.
And so everyone didn’t necessarily fulfill that desire in the same way. They found that many times it wasn’t even in a way that they expected, that God brought them to that point.
Cynthia: Yes. I can remember one of my sons, when he was little, we asked him what he wanted to do when he grew up, and he wanted to be a father. And I thought oh. I expected farmer or pilot or soldier. But a father was what he chose. And so a man also has that very strongly too.
Janet: He does.
Cynthia: Tell me a little bit, tell me some stories here. There’s women now that have it and women that don’t, and so I want us to build in some sympathy, some graciousness, so that women in the church who do not have that problem will be reaching out and being sensitive to that problem.
Janet: One in six couples is struggling with it, so we all know somebody. Maybe they haven’t been able to express it openly. Either you know it in your neighborhood and amongst your friends, in your family. There are couples that are maybe secretly are quietly struggling with infertility. 
In the book I have a list of things not to say, and also a list of things that you can do to help them. Because the worst thing for them to hear is something like wow, you guys have been married quite awhile, why aren’t you having a baby, or when are you going to have a baby. And that’s just such a dagger to them because how do we know that they haven’t been struggling and haven’t been trying?
And so being sensitive to the way we even approach a discussion about families, especially if you know the woman. Yeah, they’ve been married for awhile, and maybe it’s been their choice. But there’s a really good chance that perhaps it hasn’t been. 
And for churches, there are women in the book that I quote who talk about this is the loneliest feeling. My one daughter, especially, when she was the last one, when Kim was the last one in our family of four, she felt so alone in her own family. And they also say some of the places they feel the loneliest is in the church.
Because the church often times doesn’t address these issues, isn’t responsive to it, doesn’t have support groups for them. I come from, I’m not there anymore, we’ve moved from California to Idaho, but I was a member of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California for twenty-three years, and they actually did have an infertility support group. And a depression and a grief support group, because this is a grieving process that many of these women go through.
I think those of us, not myself. I wouldn’t include myself because I did have difficulty also. But sometimes also complaining about motherhood in front of these women, or oh my gosh I was up all night, oh I’m pregnant again, these are like daggers to their heart.
And I think being aware and sensitivity, especially to young women that are married that you know around that maybe just opening up that conversation in a gentle way, because they often times want to talk about it but they don’t know who is going to be receptive to hearing them.
Cynthia:
Right. And you just think about a church shower where you’re celebrating the child that’s coming and so on, and you tend to talk about labor in those things. As a woman who couldn’t have a child I would think that that would be some place you wouldn’t want to be. You’d want to get away from that.
Janet: Right. Well, when the two that were struggling with infertility, Shannon and Kim, Shannon did get pregnant first through in vitro and she really wanted her sister, Kim, to come to the shower. I have to give Kim so much credit because she could have had an excuse. She lived about four hours away. But she managed to come down, but when Shannon started thanking everybody, because she’d been infertile for seven years, so she started thanking everybody for the prayers and the support.
My daughter Kim had to get up and leave the room because she said I wasn’t praying for her, I was praying for me. And I am jealous of her. Why her and why not me? And those were real feelings that she had, and she expresses them in the book. She says that she realizes it wasn’t really the way she wanted to feel, but it’s an emotional, physically, spiritually in every way, devastating is the only word I can come up with, again. 
I think that it’s hard to even put it in words unless you’ve been in these women’s shoes. In fact, you want to mention the Bible and Rachel, the verses where she said give me a baby or I’ll die. Some of the women that shared their stories were actually suicidal. They were to that point of if I can’t have a baby then what’s my purpose? Why am I here? Even though it doesn’t seem rational to us. But at this point maybe even to them as they look back. But that is how far-reaching this pain is.
Cynthia: Well, emotions are not rational. And that’s what you have to realize. You put them over to one side and you say I feel this and I wish I didn’t, but I still fell it. And when I feel that way, and there’s times now even that I feel things and I just say Lord, this isn’t rational but here’s how I feel and I take it to him.
I wanted to just bring up, you said something about them talking to you and giving you advice. I’ve heard people say to these infertile couples well just relax, it’ll happen. How does that make them feel when they hear that?
Janet: It’s very painful. It’s very condescending to them. It’s like oh, you have the answer, you think that we haven’t thought about that? In fact, I do also in the book have some kind responses for the couple to give back. You know, kind of to make a little bit light of it instead of being angry all the time.
Because most people do not mean to be insensitive. They just are. They’re not thinking all the time. And they do come across like hey, we’ve got this figured out, what’s wrong with you guys. You can imagine how they feel. It’s hurtful. They’re already living in this pain and that is just like digging the knife a little bit deeper into their heart.
And so that’s why I was saying earlier it’s so important to be sensitive to the couples, and let them talk about what they’re comfortable talking about. Don’t try to come up with hey, this worked for my aunt or my sister or my this. They’ve probably tried everything and they are in their own world of pain. 
The better thing to comment would be you know, I just want to know how can I pray for you. Or can I pray for you right now, or I really want to put you on my prayer list. I just want you to know. I can’t imagine how you feel, but I’m here for you.
Don’t think you have to come up with a fix-it or a solution for them, because those are condescending. The worse one, in fact I also have a book Dear God, They Say It’s Cancer, and I have a list of the top thirteen things not to say and do with someone that’s in that situation also. But it’s to say hey, God knew this was going to happen, God is in control. That makes them feel guilty like now they can’t even feel sad, or that they don’t even know this. Of course they know that.
But a lot of things that God is in control of that’s still not easy for us to take, or to accept. They’ve probably been crying out to God and pleading with God. In fact I have a Bible study on that pleading with God. That just, again, puts them in a pigeonhole like hey, I’m more religious than you are, or I know more about God than you do.
That is not helpful.
Cynthia: What about if you get pregnant? You obviously tell people. How can you tell someone who is infertile and still be sensitive to them?
Janet:  That is such a good question, Cynthia, because there is actually, as I mentioned, there are husbands and wives who share their stories. One of the women in the book who was actually suicidal, she was to that point, her sister got pregnant. And the sister shares, in the book, how hard that was to tell her sister that now she was pregnant, and something that she should be joyful about and the family should be joyful about, she knew how devastating this would be. But she had to tell her. It was going to be obvious fairly soon.
And so I think you want to be really happy, and you are happy, but it is so important that if you know couples around you who are struggling, that you personally tell them. Don’t think if I tell them in a group it won’t be so hard. They’ll just shrink away, and it will be even harder. But to say I love you, I know how hard you’ve been trying and I know how much you want this to be you, and I just want you to know that this is not going to be easy for me to be with you knowing how hurtful it is but I hope that we can still have our relationship together.
And that, I think, many women in the book shared that it was so hard for them when people were so insensitive, knowing that they were infertile. It seems to them that they’re almost flaunting their fertility in front of them, or expecting them to be happy for them. They are happy, they want to be happy, Kim wanted to be happy for Shannon, her sister. But her heart was aching.
It’s a really really difficult spot for them to be in. Both sides.
Cynthia: I remember I miscarried in between my first and second child, and there was a lady in the church who was pregnant and our due dates were the same. And so I watched her bloom out into full pregnancy, and just wanted to crawl under the table and not even see her because I should have been that way too. But I lost the baby. That was just a little bit.
Of course I did have several more children after that, and so I didn’t have the problem of infertility ongoing. But it’s devastating, and to notice it, pay attention to it. It would have helped me if someone had said I know that that bothers you. But nobody even paid any attention. It was me, I noticed it because I knew the due dates were the same.
Janet: They think if we just ignore it, don’t talk about it, or they don’t know what to say. But miscarriage is death. Many times it’s not considered that way. Well, they didn’t really have the baby. But you have to allow them to go through that grieving process.
And the other thing is when you’re in any situation, but especially in this situation of wanting to get pregnant, all of a sudden it seems like everybody you is pregnant. It’s not any numbers are any greater than they ever were, but now your antenna is up and it seems like everything you hear on television or the radio, it’s like you’re the only one and the whole world is pregnant besides you. That’s because you’re so sensitive to it and you’re so aware of this not being you that you suddenly, you just tun
e into every time you hear about a pregnancy.
Cynthia: And so when that happens and you have to decide if you’re going to go do something, go to the doctor and tell them, the fertility specialist, and I’ve heard some couples say well, the fact that it’s not natural just really bothers me and I can’t really get past that. So talk about that a little bit.
Janet: That is a personal issue, and nobody can make that decision for you. Both of my daughters did completely different with the way they went about their infertility, and that’s why I love the fact that they both share their story in the book. As do many of the other couples. You’ll see so many different ways that God chose for these couples to become parents, or to be satisfied and at peace with not being parents.
But it’s a couple issue. It’s never, as I mentioned earlier, it’s not just the wife. And it’s so important because this can be very divisive in a relationship, that perhaps sometimes they may need to see counseling. Spiritual counseling, Biblical counseling. Not just any counselor, if they get to that point.
But to sit down, and in the back of the book I have sanity tools to help them come up with what are our parameters going to be. How far are we going to go, what do we both agree on that this is something that we feel comfortable, this is something we don’t feel comfortable with. What are our options that we will decide on based on how much time has gone by. And really work and think through this rather than just going by an emotional feeling and kind of just making decisions on the spur of the moment.
My daughter Kim, they did that. They felt like well, we’ll try a few things, but they didn’t feel comfortable going any further. Even though they were offered a treatment for free they felt like you know, we’ve made our decision. And also it’s a financial decision also, because it can be very costly, some of the procedures.
And so they didn’t go any further and they actually chose to adopt their first child. My other daughter, they did in vitro and became pregnant right away, but then she suffered secondary infertility and had four or five failures with that until she had another baby. 
So there’s no right, nobody can say this is what you should do. It’s really a personal decision between the couple and God. They really need to be in prayer.
Another thing is support groups are so helpful. Especially in the church. You want someone that has the same values that you do and can relate to you as a Christian. Although my one daughter did go to the group Resolve, they’re not specifically Christian but I highly recommend them also. You can be with other couples, they understand where you’re at. You don’t have to say anything and they know. They can give you support and encouragement based on, and you’ll hear all different kinds of ways that couples have become parents.
Cynthia: I noticed in your book that you talked about the banks that donate embryos.
Janet: Yeah. There is a group. Bethany is an adoption agency but they also have (inaudible) where couples can donate, those that have done in vitro and they have had a number of fertilized eggs that perhaps they couldn’t use them all and they have them frozen. And these are like pre-birth, these are pre-people and should not just be taken lightly. There’s thousands of them in freezers, actually literally all over the world. 
This is a group, an organization, and actually they were right down in southern California but now I think they have branches in different areas, where couples can adopt embryos. Then you would just go through the in vitro process and the wife can experience pregnancy. It’s going to have the same statistics as doing any kind of in vitro. It may not always succeed. But it’s an actual adoption process.
They sent me their first one hundred babies that actually, and now of course that was a number of years ago, or a couple years ago anyway. It’s just beautiful to see that these couples are responsible and willing to help these little pre-births have lives.
Cynthia: I think that’s a wonderful idea. Because when you do fertilize an egg you do have a life there. If you’re not going to use it have someone else take that life, and not just leave it frozen forever and ever. I think that’s a wonderful idea.
Again, it’s the couple’s decision to do that and another couple to adopt that child.
Janet: It’s Snowflakes. It’s Snowflakes Frozen Embryo Adoption and Donation Program. You can just Google that and you’ll find how to get in contact with them.
Cynthia: And so what is the rate with in vitro? How many success do they have?
Janet: Well, as I mentioned with my daughter Shannon, amazingly her first try she got pregnant. But she had three of the embryos that attached, but one attached in her fallopian tube so she also lost a fallopian tube. Then one, they call it sloughing off, and little Joshua, he hung in there. Through surgery for the fallopian tube and everything. It was just a miracle that he survived. But he did.
But, she then thought well, that’ll be easy, we’ll just do this again. And it was seven years later and four more tries before our youngest grandchild, which is Jordan, is also an in vitro baby. So it’s, again, there’s no hard and fast number and percentages don’t mean anything to you when you’re the one who it’s failing on.
And there’s so many personal issues. Health of both the husband and the wife. The doctor can look at your situation and maybe give you some statistics, but even when it’s natural, just like you mentioned, you had a miscarriage. We never really know what’s going to happen. It’s just those couples that want to give it a try, and it is expensive. And so you also have to decide how much. Couples need to sit down and say we’re going to allot this amount but we’re not going to lose our home over it. Or we are going to, we’re just not going to give up. It really has to be that couple’s decision.
Cynthia: And so sometimes insurance does not cover that.
Janet: Right. Usually it doesn’t. My daughter, Shannon, her husband was in a position where they did cover it, but he wasn’t happy with the job and he’s like if you want to try let’s try one more time. And he did get help with it, but a couple times they did. And I will have to say they did lose their home. And they did go through a bankruptcy. But then they look at these two precious little children and to them it was worth it.
Cynthia: Well, I think we should value life. People always say if you adopt a child then you’ll get pregnant because you’ll stop worrying about. How true is that?
Janet: That is not true. It does happen, but you hear more about it often. Just look at any couples that have adopted children that have not had children on their own, and they’ll tell you that no, that is not a hard and fast rule. 
In our situation that did happen. My daughter, Kim, and I would say that before you think about adopting, that is not your reason to adopt. You want to have grieved the loss, and she talks about that in the book, of not being able to have your own children. Because if you’re just looking at this as a way, it’s not about having a baby when you adopt. It’s not all about you, the couple, it’s about that baby. It’s about giving that baby a precious chance at life and there’s going to be a whole set of issues with adoption and you need to be ready for that.
It’s not just to satisfy your
need for a baby. That is not a good reason to adopt. And so it’s very important that the couple go through that grieving process, have put everything aside. They’re not looking at this as second best, or well everything else failed so now we’ll try this. Those are all wrong reasons to adopt.
But in your heart, if you really feel that we want to be parents more than we need to be pregnant, we want to offer our home to a precious baby, well then that’s a good place to be in in adopting. 
In my daughter’s situation they had grieved, they had gone through it, they had decided that this was what God wanted them to do. And so they adopted Brandon. He’s 100% Hispanic little baby boy, and apparently the night before they picked him up my daughter did get pregnant. And so she ended up with babies nine months and three days apart, and then went on and had another baby about eighteen months later.
But, when people say that to her, she’s very careful to say no, it doesn’t happen all the time. This was God’s plan for our family, but it may be something completely different for yours. It is never a good reason, because then that adopted baby has always just been tools to be used to get what you really want. And that is so unfair to him or her.
Cynthia: That is. Very unfair. Is there any treatment for the male? If the male produces no sperm, can they treat that?
Janet: Yes and no. That, again, is a medical issue that everyone needs to deal with their own physician. But often times the infertility is on the male’s side. And there are stories, of course I have in the book also, if they are not producing any than pretty much they can try some different things, but often times, or sometimes anyway, that does not work. And they have to face that point. Or sometimes the sperm is just not viable.
That’s a hard thing. That’s a big blow to a man, because that’s part of his potency, and that’s what men are supposed to be able to do. And to be told that you’re not ever going to be able to impregnate your wife, your bloodline is not going to pass down through you, that is a huge grieving process for a male.
Cynthia: Very interesting. Well, where can we find your book?
Janet: You can find my book everywhere. It’s at all bookstores, it’s online at BarnesAndNoble.com, Amazon.com, ChristianBook.com. Also at my website. I have a shop on my website with all my books and my website is www.womantowomanmentoring.com And then of course you can get a signed book from me.
This is something, this book would make such a great gift. Sometimes you don’t know what to say, you don’t know what to do, and you think I don’t even want to bring this topic up with them. But that makes them feel alienated. That makes them feel strange and awkward. But just saying I didn’t know really what to do, but here’s a book with other couples that understand exactly where you’re at. In the book there’s a love letter from God and there’s a chance for them to journal out their own feelings, and there’s the sanity tool as I mentioned.
One woman said to me, when she received the book, she said it became her infertility Bible. It helped her come to understand. She felt like she was going crazy, and it gave her a whole new look at her life and her infertility issues. And that would be the best blessing.
All of my books have mentoring running through them. I struggled with infertility too and I just feel that mentoring is sharing life’s experiences and God’s faithfulness with another woman, that we’re willing to go to those deep, hard places that God has had us go through.
Cynthia: Thank you for sharing your pain and reaching out to other ladies. I think that is so important as Christians to be other-centered, and to think about the other person’s feelings and look out for them, not just your own interests. Blessings to you.
And to our listeners I want to say that we would love to have your feedback on this interview, and any other topics you would like to hear. You can reach me at cynthia@clsimmons.com.
Thank you.
Janet: Thank you, Cynthia, for welcoming me today.
Janet Thompson

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