About 10% of couples will experience infertility. According to Alice Domar, Ph.D., Director of the Behavioral Medicine Program for Infertility in New England stated, “The depression and anxiety experienced by infertile women are equivalent to that in women suffering from a terminal illness.” Spouses grieve differently. In a study conducted for infertile couples, half the women reported that infertility was the hardest thing that she ever experienced, while only 15% of men felt the same way.
There are some things that are helpful to say that can encourage a couple going through this trial, but there are some damaging things that can be said as well. It is important as the church body that we understand how to better deal with people who experience this type of loss. It is a loss for the couple who experiences the “let-down” month after month of not being able to conceive or that have a miscarriage.
Christian couples who have gone through such a time, can often feel alone and isolated in the church. The church is usually a place where families congregate, and events are oftentimes centered on families. Unfortunately the church can unintentionally be a place of more hurt for the couple who oftentimes feels the “pressure” to have children and follow scripture that says, “Be fruitful and multiply.”
Below are a few phrases to try and avoid when offering comfort to the grieving/struggling couple.
Things to avoid saying to someone struggling with infertility:
1. “Just have faith. Look what happened to Abraham and Sarah” (Hebrews 11:11-12).
This comment is true, we should have faith, but sometimes there will be heartache and suffering on earth.
2. “Relax, and it will happen.”
True statement, but sometimes you do not know how many “vacations” that infertile couple has already taken to achieve pregnancy
3. It is God’s desire for ALL to “multiply and be fruitful.”
That is true, but ALL cannot create their own child. God is the one who opens and closes the womb. We can force pregnancy by going through infertility treatments, but sometimes that does not even work.
4. “You should just adopt.”
That is also a great suggestion, however, adoption is not for everybody. It is costly, takes a lot of time, and it does not replace the grief of not having your own biological child.
5. “You will get pregnant, God showed me.”
I love prophecy, but be careful because if you did not get a direct word to share with someone it could harm them more. Sometimes, we are shown things by God for other people not to tell them, but to pray for them
6. “You can be a spiritual mother/father instead.”
That is also great, but once again, it does not replace having your own biological children.
7. “Children are a blessing from God, and God wants you to be blessed.”
When you say something like that to an infertile couple, you are telling them basically God has not blessed them and they feel “punished” by God.
9. “I was infertile and I got pregnant, so I believe you will too.”
Not necessarily, God answers prayers differently for different people.
This list is certainly not exhaustive, but can be a helpful guide in relating to couples who have endured the grief and trauma of not bearing children. The best thing to do is to listen to them without giving advice on how to achieve pregnancy. Also, offering to pray for the couple and periodically calling them to just check to see how they are doing is helpful.
He grants the barren woman a home, like a joyful mother of children. Psalm 113:9