Infertility and Miscarriage. Two of my greatest fears regarding childbirth. Both have personally affected some of my nearest and dearest friends. Trying to conceive while desperately desiring to and not succeeding is my worst nightmare. I’ve feared that God might test and try me in this way, and I don’t want to be tested. Miscarriage is also a wretched heartache that many of my friends have personally experienced as well. Every time they entrust me with their losses, my heart aches for my friends. But what can I do? Not only do I feel helpless, I feel guilty for my own healthy, strong, full-term baby. Miscarriage is a loss I don’t think I could bear, and don’t want to have to find out. Each time I hear of it I’m reminded of the frailty of human life and the preciousness of it.
Here are some practical steps when dealing with friends experiencing either infertility, miscarriage, or both based on my personal experience.
Do Grieve with your friends.
Romans 12:15 says to weep with those who weep. I’m not a big crier, but my friends sure are. It’s not just their physical tears, it’s their emotional pain that is to be felt. Both losses are like a physical death (miscarriage is, and each month not pregnant your hope dies a little bit more) and your friends need time to mourn. The best thing that Job’s friends did when disaster and death struck him was “they made an appointment together to come to sympathize with him and comfort him. When they lifted up their eyes at a distance and did not recognize him, they raised their voices and wept. And each of them tore his robe and they threw dust over their heads toward the sky. Then they sat down on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights with no one speaking a word to him, for they saw that his pain was very great.…” ~Job 2:11-13. Imagine not speaking for an entire week, but just offering your presence to your friend because their pain is so great. Oftentimes I was on the phone with my friends long-distance when they shared, and simply listening instead of offering words or advice was the best course of action. It seemed like no action at all when in fact it was.
- When was the last time you stayed with a friend in their time of need and just sat with them, offering your presence?
Don’t feel guilty but do be sensitive.
This one is the hardest to battle for me personally. Because I never had a burning desire to be a mom, nor have I struggled with these personal battles (so far), I instantly feel guilty when I hear of either situation coming from my friends. Why did God choose to grant me a beautiful, healthy, strong baby when there are so many others who yearn for a baby and can’t conceive or bring to full-term? It is a mystery into the Sovereignty of God, His will and His ways, but feeling guilty over your child(ren) does nothing to help your friends. Sure you want to be sensitive and not send or post pictures of your child if your friend is struggling. I am extra careful to post on social media when I hear of a loss or struggle, and if I’m close enough to that friend I’ll ask her if it’s alright or if she’s bothered by it. Honestly she is so appreciative that I asked her and oftentimes will admit it doesn’t bother her, or if it does she will avoid social media until she’s ready. Of course you don’t want to rub your friend’s nose in your happiness, but nor should you feel guilty for it. I have a friend who was very honest with me after losing twins in the womb, and when she would ask me about my son I would make sure she was okay with actually hearing about how he was doing, and then not spend a lot of time talking about him.
- How can you show sensitivity when you hear of a loss or struggle, even if they are only acquaintances?
Don’t fear it will happen to you.
Whenever I hear, whether firsthand or three times removed, of the struggle to conceive or the loss after conception, fear strikes my heart that it could happen to me. The reality is that it very well can. But as one dear friend who suffered an ectopic pregnancy told me, “I’m holding this (pregnancy) with an open hand.” What a perfect picture of surrendering control to the One who controls all life. Really, we have no control over bearing life. That is up to our Maker and Giver of “all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be” ~Psalm 139:16. “All things were made through Him-in Him was life, and the life was the light of men,”~John 1:3-4. “The Spirit gives life,” ~John 6:63. Knowing that the Lord gives and takes away will help dissipate the fear that can grip your soul. As a believer, even if He should choose to take away, or not grant our heart’s desire, we know that He is good, He is right, and He is loving. This knowledge of God’s character will sustain us through our toughest storms. “Perfect love casts out fear,”~1 John 4:18, which is mature love that banishes the fear of the unknown from our hearts. I don’t know the future, but I know the One who holds the future in His immensely strong, powerful hands. Should my fear of what could happen keep me from trying? Not at all!
- What (or who) are you holding with an open hand, surrendered to God?
Do Trust in the Sovereignty of God.
I can’t promise my hurting friends that “someday” their prayers, wishes, desires will be answered. I can’t assure them that they will ever truly heal from their pain. But one thing I can do is help them place their hope once more in Jesus, the great sympathizer of our weaknesses. Helping your friends hope once more can only come by the Holy Spirit. “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you TRUST in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.“~Romans 15:13. God alone can fill you and your friends again with hope that will not fail as you trust in Him. This hope is not false, but will be seen in eternity’s light. “Hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts,” ~Romans 5:5. Praying for God to restore trust and hope into your friends is infallible, whether He answers your prayers the way you want Him to or not.
- Who are you putting your hope and trust in today?