Friendship & Infertility: Feeling Alone Is Normal, But Don’t Stay There

It was the start of 8th grade. Having only known life as an Air Force brat, this was my eighth different school since kindergarten. But this year was different. I had just come from a school with twenty students in my grade, and my new school had over 220. My teachers and classes went well, but then came that dreadful lunch hour. Although I had changed schools before and had to make new friends, this was my first vivid memory of feeling alone.

Being alone isn’t necessarily a negative thing. Solitude is good and needful at times, and usually because you want to be alone. Feeling alone is more of an emotional state or reaction. I felt isolated.  I remember wondering what I would do during lunch hour, where would I sit and eat, where would I stand outside afterwards until the bell rang to go to my next class. Whether that feeling lasted two days, two weeks or two months, I am not sure, but I know I didn’t stay alone.

One girl befriended me. She was not new to the school, but she must have seen or sensed I felt alone and she reached out to me. Another girl I met was new that year, too. I didn’t know there was someone else like me who felt like I did. Although the school I had just left was 10 miles away, she had moved all the way from Alaska to Oklahoma! This happened over 30 years ago, and I honestly can’t remember whether she found me or I found her, but I know God brought us together.

Multiply that isolating feeling from 8th grade lunch hour many times over, and you can only imagine how alone I felt at times when we found ourselves facing years of infertility. Or you might know exactly how I felt if you are there right now facing it yourself.

The trials we endure throughout life or compared to others are different, but we can apply what we have learned in other circumstances to help navigate through a different set of circumstances. Just like the girl, who was not new, befriended me at school, I can tell you of many women who befriended me in my infertility. Women who had also experienced infertility found out I was going through the same thing, and they reached out to me through notes and hugs, listening and tears, and most of all, prayers. Even women who didn’t know exactly what it was like to experience infertility still showed compassion by seeking me out to encourage me and fill me with hope. I felt alone at times, but because of them, I didn’t stay there.

During that 8th grade lunch hour, I may have looked around for someone who was quiet like me and eating alone, or perhaps she was the one who looked up and noticed me standing around the courtyard by myself, looking lost. You may think you are the only one on this journey of infertility, but if you and I took the time to look at others around us, we just might find a friend on the same infertility road.

We look at the woman with the college degree who works full-time and automatically assume she must be putting her family on hold to climb the corporate ladder. We don’t see she just might be trying to get pregnant and longing for the day when she can have a baby and be a stay-at-home mom.

We look at a young wife and form an opinion that she is so newly married that we don’t even realize she’s had several miscarriages already and is quietly grieving.

We look at a happy couple that loves dogs and decide they must be animal-lovers and not really want kids of their own. We don’t even consider that they could be privately enduring heartache after heartache of infertility.

Two different circumstances, the same feelings of isolation – they are both normal experiences that other people are going through, but we don’t have to stay alone. We can accept the support when others reach out and not feel isolated anymore, and we can stop the seclusion and look for someone who could be experiencing similar pain and try to encourage each other.

I understand that however long your journey of infertility is, you will still feel alone at times and that no one seems to care. We are never alone because we have Jesus. Whether you know Him as your Lord and Savior or not, He knows exactly what you’re going through. He will hear when you cry out to Him. There is no need to hide the pain, the fear, the tears, the questions. He already knows, and He cares. This verse from the song, “Untitled Hymn – Come To Jesus” by Chris Rice makes me cry and smile at the same time.

Sometimes the way is lonely and steep and filled with pain.

So if your sky is dark and pours the rain, then cry to Jesus.

Cry to Jesus. Cry to Jesus and live.

In friendships, or the lack thereof, you can feel alone. The girl who reached out to me that 8th grade lunch hour became my friend and although we have not remained close, I still remember her reaching out to me. It brings a smile to my face, and I will always be grateful for her. The girl from Alaska became my best friend that year and I still consider her one of my best friends and am thankful she loves me in spite of my failures and flaws. If I ever have feelings of being alone in this area, and once in awhile, those feelings crop up, I look at this little album I made called the A to Zs of Friendship and am reassured of the special friends God has given me throughout my life, from those who have accepted me as I am to those who have zipped to my rescue. I am not alone!

In infertility, you can truly feel alone. But with the concerted efforts of Resolve to bring awareness, you can see you are not alone. I can look at my facebook profile and count 37 friends who have experienced infertility and loss and those are the women I know about. That’s over 12% of my facebook friends. I am not alone. You are not alone.

With God, we are never alone. “And lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” Matthew 28:20b

NIAW - National Infertility Awareness Week

Join the Movement. Apply the Ointment.

2013-bloggers-challenge-badge NIAW

I am trying to make a difference in the lives of people with infertility.  I know how it feels.  I know how it hurts.  I have one son, yet infertility is still with me.  I can’t take away my infertility nor can I take away your infertility.  But I can apply the ointment to help alleviate the pain of infertility.

In one word, the ointment is Jesus.

Assuage – I like that word even though I don’t use it in my everyday vocabulary! It means to lessen the intensity of something that pains or distresses.

Through prayer, His Word, a caring friend, a compassionate family member, a song, a devotion, a sermon, and a blog, Jesus applies the ointment to assuage your pain of infertility.  He soothes your troubled soul, calms your anxious heart, comforts your disappointed spirit, and quiets your fears.

National Infertility Awareness Week isn’t just a week to make others (who seem unaware of infertility) aware of infertility. This week causes me to reflect on where I have been and praise God for what He has done in my life through this trial of infertility.  In a sense, this week I relive the pain to relieve the pain for others who are hurting.  This year, I purpose to apply the salve to the women I personally know who are experiencing infertility by praying for them and encouraging them more consistently.

The word ointment comes from the Latin word unguere, meaning to anoint.  When Jesus applies the ointment to our hurting hearts, He is choosing or consecrating us to do the same for others who are hurting.

I do hope for you the joy a baby can bring.  I also pray that you will receive the ointment that can bring you joy as you journey through infertility.

On January 15,2010, I started my blog, due in part to the following devotion I had read four days earlier on January 11 from Streams in the Desert.  I had written in my Streams journal on that day in 2002, realizing I did need training to be a comforter and there would be others down the road that I could help just as someone helped me.

 

Streams in the Desert, January 11th

“Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.”
Isaiah 40:1

Store up comfort.  This was the prophet’s mission.  The world is full of comfortless hearts, and ere thou are sufficient for this lofty ministry, thou must be trained.  And thy training is costly in the extreme; for, to render it perfect, thou too must pass through the same afflictions as are wringing countless hearts of tears and blood.  Thus thy own life becomes the hospital ward where thou art taught the divine art of comfort.  Thou art wounded, that in the binding up of thy wounds by the Great Physician, thou mayest learn how to render first aid to the wounded everywhere.  Dost thou wonder why thou art passing through some special sorrow?  Wait till ten years are passed, and thou wilt find many others afflicted as thou art.  Thou wilt tell them how thou hast suffered and hast been comforted; then as the tale is unfolded, and the anodynes applied which once thy God wrapped around thee, in the eager look and the gleam of hope that shall chase the shadow of despair across the soul, thou shalt know why thou wast afflicted, and bless God for the discipline that stored thy life with such a fund of experience and helpfulness.  Selected.

“God does not comfort us to make us comfortable, but to make us comforters.”  Dr. Jowett

They tell me I must bruise

The rose’s leaf,

Ere I can keep and use

Its fragrance brief.

~~~

They tell me I must break

The skylark’s heart,

Ere her cage song will make

The silence start.

~~~

They tell me love must bleed,

And friendship weep,

Ere in my deepest need

I touch that deep.

~~~

Must it be always so

With precious things?

Must they be bruised and go

With beaten wings?

~~~

Ah, yes! by crushing days,

By caging nights, by scar

Of thorn and stony ways,

These blessings are!

Be A Self-Encourager: Encouraging Yourself Through Song: “Day By Day And With Each Passing Moment” by Carolina Sandell Berg

Earlier, I wrote how “It Is Well With My Soul” was one hymn that has held special meaning for me.  “Day By Day” is the other classic hymn that has encouraged me.  Our choir has often sung it.  In my journal, I had written about a particular instance in July 2003 when we were practicing it.  I wanted to mean the words I was singing, and the tears started to flow.  I tried to control it, but they just wouldn’t stop.  After excusing myself, I tried to leave the building and go home, but a friend spotted me and wouldn’t let me sneak out.  Instead we talked in an office, where she said she prays for me every day.  She encouraged me that day and made me laugh, too.

When our choir practiced the next Sunday as final preparation before the service, I realized I must not have been the only one down in my spirit.  Our music director said it wasn’t supposed to be a grievous, mourning song, so smile!  I thought of that the whole song through, and made it, praise the Lord.

“Day By Day” was written by Lina Sandell, the daughter of a Swedish Lutheran minister.  She was stricken with a paralysis as a young child.  In 1858, at the age of 26, Lina was accompanying her father aboard a ship from Jonkoping to Gothenberg across Lake Vattern. The ship gave a sudden lurch, which caused her father to fall overboard and drown before her very eyes.  Sources often give this tragic event as the motivation for the writing of this hymn, which reflects a simple child-like trust in Christ and a deep sense of his abiding presence, despite adversity.

 ~

 Day by Day And With Each Passing Moment

Words by Carolina Sandell Berg

Tr. Andrew L. Skoog

Music by Oscar Ahnfelt

~

Day by day and with each passing moment,

Strength I find to meet my trials here;

Trusting in my Father’s wise bestowment,

I’ve no cause for worry or for fear.

He whose heart is kind beyond all measure

Gives unto each day what He deems best;

Lovingly, it’s part of pain and pleasure,

Mingling toil with peace and rest.

~

Every day the Lord Himself is near me

With a special mercy for each hour.

All my cares He fain would bear and cheer me,

He whose name is Counselor and Power.

The protection of His child and treasure

Is a charge that on Himself He laid;

“As thy days, thy strength shall be in measure,”

This the pledge to me He made.

~

Help me then in every tribulation

So to trust Thy promises, O Lord,

That I lose not faith’s sweet consolation

Offered me within Thy holy word.

Help me Lord, when toil and trouble meeting,

E’er to take, as from a  father’s hand,

One by one, the days, the moments fleeting,

Till I reach the promised land.

~

Day By Day by Maya Uniputty

Although only the first verse is in English, this woman’s voice is beautiful.

Day By Day piano by Mattias Nilsson

Be A Self-Encourager: Encouraging Yourself Through Solitude

Infertility can make you feel isolated, like no one understands or cares, even when you’re crying out for help.  Often the circumstances can be too private or too painful to share.  You don’t want to sound like a broken record and fear being judged for your times of weakness.

Psalm 69:20 Reproach hath broken my heart; and I am full of heaviness: and I looked for some to take pity, but there was none; and for comforters, but I found none. 

Psalm 142:4 I looked on my right hand, and beheld, but there was no man that would know me: refuge failed me; no man cared for my soul. 

Sometimes when we need encouragement, we simply need to get alone in a quiet place with God and encourage ourselves in the Lord.  Our biblical example is from David in I Samuel 30:6, “And David was greatly distressed…but David encouraged himself in the Lord his God.  He knew what it was like to feel isolated and overwhelmed.  He also knew to Whom he should turn in order to encourage himself.

“The young king (David) turned to the one true God, his God, for encouragement.  There will be times when no one else will be there for us but God.”  Dr. David Jeremiah

We never have to be afraid to cry out to the Lord when we are overwhelmed.  He already knows and He cares.  Jesus said He would give us a Comforter, the Spirit of God.

John 14:16-18 “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth in you, and shall be in you.  I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.”

 The Holy Spirit is our consoler, advocate, and comforter.  When we cry out to God, His Spirit gives us strength, hope, and support to ease our grief.  The Spirit fortifies us!  Do we not feel His presence when we cry out?

When we are filled with comfort, it doesn’t end there.  Once you fill yourself with courage, spirit, and hope, you can look for others to encourage with what you have learned from the Comforter.

“God does not comfort us to make us comfortable but to make us comforters.”  Dr. Jowett  (quote taken from Streams in the Desert, January 11th)

Don’t Ignore Your Support System – My Thank You Notes

The 2012 theme for National Infertility Awareness Week, “Don’t Ignore,” first caused me to look back on the wounds of infertility, the times when I felt ignored in my condition, stung by the words and actions or inactions of people in their ignorance.  However, it didn’t take long for me to also reflect on the people who did not ignore me.  We all have a system of support, if we will avail ourselves to it.  I am thankful we didn’t go through this trial of infertility alone.  Thank you, my support system, the wonderful people and resources God has brought into my life in my time of need.

Thank you, Lord Jesus, for your omnipresence and your Word. 

For the times when I felt alone, You were always there.  When my heart was feeling overwhelmed, You comforted me through Psalms and other Scripture.  When I felt like no one understood, You preserved examples in the Bible we could learn from, like Sarah and Hannah, who also experienced barrenness.

Thank you for my husband.

You were and still are my protector and greatest source of strength and faith.  Thank you that we went through this trial together and came out of it with our faith and marriage still strong. 

Thank you for our loving parents, who hurt when we hurt and rejoiced when we rejoiced. 

In addition to being there to give hugs when we needed them, you prayed for us.  You sent cards and shared songs that were meaningful on this journey.  Mom, you helped me see God’s purposes in my trial of infertility.  Mom (in-law), you gave me my favorite written resource besides the Bible, my first copy of Streams in the Desert – a godsend!

Thank you for our loving family. 

Our brothers and sisters, your love and support with your prayers, phone calls, notes of encouragement, and thoughtfulness meant so much.  You also exhibited faith by saving all those baby things to pass on to me, generosity when turning your home into a bed and breakfast for me during my stays for IVF, empathy when experiencing secondary infertility and loss, and compassion in trying to be a part of the solution.  Our aunts and uncles, your notes and prayers encouraged us, as well as your efforts to help us find solutions to build our family.

Thank you for the spiritual authority you placed in our lives.

My pastor and his wife:  You loved us and prayed for us.  I am especially grateful you preached about joy from the Book of Philippians, the first series of messages God used for good in my trial of infertility.  You shared personal experiences and later caused me to face the difficult questions, like making sure God didn’t want us to have just one child.

After our preacher retired from the pastoral ministry, I became equally thankful for our new pastor and his wife:  Even though (or perhaps because) you were blessed seven children, you showed compassion for us.  God gave us peace and direction through you when we turned to you for counsel.  And most recently, I am thankful for your messages, the current series on the Life of Joseph – God Meant It For Good.  My pastor’s wife: You also shared godly wisdom in teaching me to think about different aspects concerning infertility and the treatment of it.  You offered hugs and a listening ear when I needed them most.  Thank you for your prayers on our behalf.

Thank you for the women who shared their stories of infertility with me and gave me hope. 

You gave me hope that I would also experience what it was like to be a mommy someday.  You remembered me on Mother’s Day, took me to doctor appointments, asked how things were going, listened to the Lord’s prompting to pray over us, hugged me, cried with me, sent cards, helped me realize I could be thankful I experienced infertility in a time when fertility treatment options like IVF were available.  You showed me I could stay encouraged, stay in His Word, and praise Him.

Thank you for the women who encouraged me while also going through struggles of infertility.

It was hard because some of you got pregnant before me.  But even harder was when I got pregnant and some of you were still barren.  I am blessed with friends like you who shared what helped you, like the website Hannah’s Prayer (http://www.hannah.org/).  You helped me realize secondary infertility was difficult, too.  You offered prayers, hugs, a listening ear, positively uplifting encouragement, and helped me see it is about trusting God and His plan for our lives, though it may not mirror the plan we had envisioned.

Thank you for the people we were privileged to teach.

It warmed our hearts when we heard some of our four-year old boys in Sunday school were praying for us to have a baby.  You heard it from your parents and that was special.  When we started teaching young-married couples, a few young moms gave me precious cards on Mother’s Day.  I saw God had given me children in that you considered me a spiritual mom.  Several of you encouraged me in my own trial even though you had gone through different but very difficult trials in your own pregnancies and deliveries.  One of you even wrote a poem for me on Mother’s Day, “What Makes A Mother.”  I am thankful for each of your testimonies during your difficult trials.

Thank you for showing me others who were hurting.

I am thankful for you who I felt suffered and sacrificed more than I, but through you I saw God uses the difficulties of others to teach us the same lessons and to have compassion.  My Streams in the Desert helped me so much that I wanted to give a copy to everyone who was hurting.  One of you shared with me that devotional and my gesture in giving it helped you make sense of your own trial.

Thank you for my friends and my church – the people I consider my family and my friends.

You gave me continuous support, a listening ear, cards and notes of encouragement, and fervent prayers.

Thank you…

To my friend who prayed God would give me the desire of my heart.  He did!

To my friend who did make eye contact with me while you opened gifts at your baby shower – I didn’t have to ask why, for I saw the compassion in your eyes and knew you were hoping I could experience this one day, too.

To my friend who mailed me a care package when you knew I had experienced disappointment in fertility treatments.

To my friend who was concerned enough about my struggle to ask someone who had experienced infertility to help me.

To my friend who realized I had a difficult time at that one particular ladies meeting in your home and you encouraged me with a sweet note instead of ignoring my pain.

To my friend who offered a big hug and a listening ear when I lost it in the choir one day.

To my friend who prayed for a bundle of joy for us, and knowing you’re a prayer warrior that meant a lot.

To my friend who made me a JOY bookmark for me when the Lord prompted you to think of me.

To my friend who prayed and wanted me to be pregnant almost as badly as I wanted to.

To my friend who gave me a sweet kiss on the cheek and a hug when you noticed my tears in church one day.

To my friends who sent cards and prayed after my surgeries for endometriosis.

To my friend who wrote me a sweet note of compassion when you noticed my sorrow in church one day.

To my friend who took an interest in our desire to add to our family while I was trying to encourage you in your journey.

To my friend who confirmed God allows different trials of infertility in our lives and knows what each of us can handle.

To my friend who prayed for that baby girl; for all I know, you haven’t stopped.

Thank you for helpful online resources, like  RESOLVE (http://www.resolve.org/) and the many websites and blogs devoted to helping those who are experiencing infertility. 

You offer support and a voice for us.  You are a place we turn to when we need or want to keep things private.

Thank you, all of you, for bringing me joy in my journey.