When Someone You Love is Infertile (and a Giveaway)

Holidays in the wilderness are tough, no matter the struggle. But the desert of infertility presents particular challenges because so many of the festive celebrations and cozy traditions revolve around children. I’m not there now, but I remember all too well how the ache deepens at this time of year. If you know of someone who is walking this lonely road, this post is for you. 

coffee cups

You may never have thought of this before, but people who deal with infertility often feel like misfits in a society that is so oriented around children. This is especially true in the church, where motherhood is considered to be one of life’s most noble callings.

Take it from someone who knows: Your infertile friend doesn’t want you to feel sorry for her, but she does want you to care.

Romans 12:15 is a good place to start: “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” Notice that this verse says nothing about offering advice, passing judgment, providing words of wisdom, or asking nosy questions.

The meaning of the second phrase of the verse is clear—you are to grieve with your loved one when she’s sad. Nothing more, nothing less.

Remember what Job’s three friends did when they went to see him after he lost everything? “They sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was.” (Job 2:13)

Job’s friends get a bad rap for all the unhelpful yakking they did later. But they did get it right at first.

They just sat with Job and said nothing.

Many times, that’s all your friend who is longing for a baby wants from you. She just wants you to sit with her and not say anything at all.

Yes, that’s hard to do. We’re so programmed to provide solutions and answers. But in this case, there are no answers, at least not ones that are readily available.

If you do feel compelled to say something, tell her your heart aches for her. Acknowledge how difficult infertility is. Ask her if she wants to talk about it. If she does, just listen.

Ask her how you can pray for her. Don’t just assume that she want you to pray that she’ll get pregnant. She may want you to do that, but she may have other needs, too.

She may need courage for a particular test. She may desire wisdom to make a decision about a particular treatment or procedure. She might want you to pray that God will give her the strength to accept His will, whatever that might be, or she might want you to ask God to give her opportunities to use her suffering to minister to others.

You won’t know any of this unless you ask.

Use what you learn from your friend in your conversations with other young couples. You never know whether someone you meet might be having trouble getting pregnant, so be aware of what you say. Never ask a married person, “Do you have a family?” Most people equate families with children, but a husband and a wife are just as much of a family as a couple with six kids.

“How many children do you have?” also is a bad choice. “Do you have any children?” is much more sensitive. And if the answer is no, don’t ask why not. If they want you to know, they’ll tell you—if not, just let it go.

“Do you hope to have children someday?” is another acceptable inquiry. If your new acquaintance doesn’t want to talk about it, she can give you a vague response. If she does, she can explain further.

While you should be aware of how what you say might affect your infertile friend, she also probably doesn’t want you to feel as if you have to walk on eggshells around her. You were an important part of her life before she started experiencing infertility, and although life has taken you down different paths for now, she likely still values your friendship.

She doesn’t want to be the last to know that you’re pregnant, and she does want to be invited to baby showers and children’s birthday parties. Don’t be offended if she chooses not to attend—if she’s feeling particularly vulnerable or sad that day, it might be best for her to stay home. But she does want to be included in the important things in your life, so please don’t leave her out in your efforts to spare her feelings.

The bottom line is that, although your friend may be unsure of how to verbalize it, she needs your comfort, encouragement and prayers now more than ever. Don’t be afraid to ask her how you can help, and if you think about it, send her an encouraging note or text every now and then.

Above all else, remember this: Infertility is not a one-time ordeal. It’s an ongoing struggle, one that can gradually wear away a person’s confidence and hope. And your support—however it’s offered—is a gift your loved one will cherish long after the holidays are over.

Lois Flowers

And now, how about a giveaway? This post has been adapted from my book Infertility: Finding God’s Peace in the Journey (Harvest House, 2003), available here. I’m giving away one copy of the book to some lucky reader this week, so if you would like to be included in the drawing, simply leave a comment on or before Sunday, Dec. 6, and I’ll add you to the hat.

P.S. I’m linking up with #livefreeThursdayGrace & Truth, Kelly Balarie at Purposeful Faith, Jennifer Dukes Lee at #TellHisStory and Holley Gerth at Coffee for Your Heart.

24 Responses to When Someone You Love is Infertile (and a Giveaway)

  1. Michelle D says:

    I know far too many couples dealing with infertility, and I believe they would all applaud this post. Well said. #livefreeThursday

  2. I appreciate this counsel, friend. Your advice is applicable to friendship in the midst of all manner of trials, not just infertility. Thank you for sharing with such graciousness and wisdom, and for linking it with us at Grace & Truth!

  3. Hi Lois,
    When we care for someone, our instinct is to do all we can to fix the problem, but in our haste to do so, we often end up saying or doing the wrong thing! I think we forget that just loving someone and being there is an action and is the best way to help them in the moment. I have never experienced the pain of infertility. I can only relate it to other areas of grief in my life. I know that without actually walking the path, one can never fully grasp the emotions surrounding the situation. Thanks for this wonderful post!
    Blessings and smiles,

    • Lois Flowers says:

      You’re right, Lori … being there IS an action and is so appreciated, no matter the struggle. Thank you for your kind, thoughtful words … when someone who hasn’t been there tries to understand, that in itself is hugely encouraging!

  4. WeepingWillow says:

    I have alway felt like an anomally most of my life. A woman who is unmarried without children. It was a little easier to fly under the radar in the secular world. However, as a fairly recent Christian, I have noticed the strong emphasis in the church community to build generations. And I agree wholeheartly! What I don’t agree with, is the small percentage who place judgement on the barren and unmarried. I am almost 40, and cannot have children biologically. I have lost one to miscarriage. I have faith that God has put a unique purpose in my life. Thank you for writing this article, it is a rare subject, but needs to be addressed.

    • Lois Flowers says:

      I’m so glad you offered your perspective on this today. It hurts my heart to think of women being judged because they are not married and/or barren. There are so many other opportunities for blessing spelled out in the Bible that have nothing to do with having children … I wish more people realized this! I believe God has a unique purpose for you as well … wishing you much comfort and great joy this Christmas season!

  5. I have so many friends who are struggling with infertility. It makes my heart ache for them for sure. There really isn’t a whole lot you can say but letting them know somehow someway that you DO care is so important. I should start writing up some cards to send them for Christmas. Thanks for the push!

  6. Candace says:

    This is important advice: “Your infertile friend doesn’t want you to feel sorry for her, but she does want you to care.” I’ve had many friends struggle with this in the past and it was hard to know exactly how to help. So much great advice here, Lois. You will serve many people with your wonderful book.

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Thank you for your kind words, Candace. I so appreciated reading your friend’s adoption post on your blog this week … and I have a feeling you’ve provided a great deal of comfort and encouragement to friends dealing with infertility just by being yourself!

  7. oops, it is “Whom I could give” right?

  8. Lois,
    Great post, full of wisdom. I have a friend who I could give the book to if I win…Congrats on your book, my friend 🙂

  9. Anita Felzke says:

    I love your blog, Lois. I read your posts faithfully. I have also created a folder to drop them into and go back and reread some. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and talent of writing.

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Thank you so much, Anita. You are such an encouragement to me! (You will not want to miss next week’s post, as it is about a little someone who has a birthday coming up …) 🙂

  10. Christine says:

    Hi Lois
    Your book was the one for me that helped the most, and the only one I re-read. I’d love all those struggling with infertility to read it. I’d love all their families and friends to read it as well. You’re right, it’s not really sympathy that is needed or wanted, it’s care and love and the willingness to understand.
    I love every word you’ve said in this post.

    p.s. don’t put me in the running for a book either. I have it, and a few more copies as well to give to others.

    • Lois Flowers says:

      It’s great to hear from you, Christine! Thank you for your kind words about the book. The willingness to understand … yes, that’s huge! By the way, I have thought often of the C.S. Lewis quote you included in a comment a while back … the one about God remodeling us. I’m hoping to include it in an upcoming post, so you’ll have to keep an eye out for that! Blessings to you today!

  11. Linda Stoll says:

    Oh Lois … this is so sensitive and thoughtful. I so appreciate that you share the questions NOT to ask. Sometimes in our own discomfort, we just can’t keep quiet … and often, that’s the gift that’s most needed.

    Our simple presence.

    Love this piece, girl. Love that God is redeeming your own brokenness …

    P.S. No need to put me in the running for the giveaway. I know for sure that there’s someone out there who absolutely needs to get this book.

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Yes, Linda, this: “Sometimes in our own discomfort, we just can’t keep quiet.” Ain’t that the truth, and not just when it comes to infertility! But maybe that makes the gift of presence all the more precious? Happy Dec. 1 to you!

  12. Susan B Mead says:

    Romans 12:15 is a good place to start: “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” Notice that this verse says nothing about offering advice, passing judgment, providing words of wisdom, or asking nosy questions.

    Yes ma’am Lois. For any grief – infertility, loss of a child, parent, spouse, sometimes even a promotion or a possession.
    Sensitive to others and caring. That’s a blessing to others. Your neighbor at purposeful faith.

    • Lois Flowers says:

      I agree, Susan, that this approach applies to so much more than infertility. I’m grateful for grace when I stick my foot in my mouth, and also for friends who know when to speak and when to hug! Glad you stopped by today!

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