Friday, April 25, 2014

Advice from Me during Infertility Awareness Week {7 Quick Takes}

As a young girl, more than anything, I wanted a family. I felt God was calling me to be a wife and mother to many children (at least five).

I became a mother at the young age of twenty. Thank God that I did. I had no idea that I would experience years of infertility, and so many painful miscarriages.

This week is Infertility Awareness Week.

I was not sure if I was going to write about infertility because, as the mother of three children, I did not know if it would be right for me to talk about infertility. So many woman suffering from infertility will never experience pregnancy, nor hold their child in their arms. I certainly did not want to cause pain to them by writing about my struggles, while listening to my children play around me.

But as the week wore on, I found that I wanted to write about infertility and share some advice that I think will be helpful to friends, family, Church family, and even strangers and new acquaintances of couples and women experiencing infertility.

I can not speak for every couple that is dealing with infertility, but in my over fifteen years of dealing with it myself and supporting friends that are experiencing infertility, I have a good idea of the pain that even a friendly and simple question can cause.  

1. Please do not ask the young couple that recently celebrated their first (second or third, etc.) anniversary when they plan to start a family. 

They may have started trying to conceive on their honeymoon, but have been unable to become pregnant or they may have experienced a miscarriage (or multiple). 

2. Please do not ask a couple with one or two children when they will have more. 

They may be experiencing secondary infertility. 

3. Please do not walk up to the new mom at the homeschool meeting or park day and ask her, "You do have more children, right?" 

She may have lost several children to miscarriage. 

4. When you meet a mom that has large age gaps between her children, such as five or seven years, please do not ask her if they all have the same father. 

That question is rude and should never be asked. Ever.

5. If you find out that a couple is experiencing infertility, it may feel natural and helpful to offer advice about diet, doctors, and methods, but please do not.

Offer prayers instead. More than advice, they need and appreciate your prayers.

6. If you have a friend that is suffering from infertility, it may be helpful if you ask her to set a few guidelines for discussing issues that fall into the category of fertility.

Does she want to speak freely about her struggle or would she rather remain silent about it?
Does she want to discuss your fertility journey or is it too painful for her?
How and when does she want to be told of the new pregnancies of friends and family?

These are sensitive subjects and can cause pain. It is best to ask these questions early on, so you both can move forward in your friendship with confidence. 

These questions may seem strange or bothersome among friends. After all, friends talk about everything, right? Please understand that the pain of infertility runs deep, and it is a pain that is repeated with every new cycle. 
How women cope with infertility is unique to them. Allowing them to lead the way is one of the most supportive things you can do for them as a friend.

7. Please do not forget that men experience pain from infertility struggles, as well. 

Offer them your support and prayers, too. 

Infertility is a painful cross to carry. It is especially hard for faithful Catholic couples because they are living their lives in accordance with the teachings of the Church, but too often, people assume that they are selfishly using contraception, blatantly refusing to be open to life. 

I ask you to assume the best of people and to be kind in your thoughts and words towards them.

Honestly, we should behave like that with everyone we meet.

Many Catholic couples are open to life, but their openness is not evident by a packed pew and overflowing minivan. Their openness is not easily observed and can be more accurately called open to loss

Joining Jen at Conversion Diary for 7 Quick Takes. 


  1. This is a wonderful post - thank you! We're coming up on our first anniversary (and one whole year of infertility), so while I haven't gotten too many questions yet, I'm sure they're coming. Your last two sentences really hit the nail on the head.

    1. I have been thinking a lot lately about how my openness to life has felt more like being open to loss. But that is the way it is for every open couple. The lives of faithful Catholic couples may look different, but how we approach every day is the same, with complete surrender to God's plan for us.

      Thanks for reading and leaving a comment! :)

  2. Thanks for addressing this subject. Reading through your post, my first thought was, "Oh, dear, I really hope that no one actually asked you those questions," but I have a feeling that they may have.

    1. Yes, unfortunately, I was asked #2, #3, and #4. I do not think that the women that asked me intended to be rude. They were not thinking about how their questions would hurt me. They were just information gathering.

      I know that most of us love to learn about other peoples lives. That is one of the reasons blogs are so popular. But I think we do have an obligation to be more thoughtful of our words and questions when we meet people, and that is why I decided to write this post.

      Thanks for stopping by! :)

  3. Beautiful post. I don't think I fit any label yet but I'm definitely starting to feel more sensitive to some of these questions.

    1. Thank you! I will keep you in my prayers.

  4. This is wonderful. I too have three children and am struggling with secondary infertility now. Thank you for writing this!

    1. It is a struggle isn't it? Having children seemed so easy in the being, but all of a sudden it becomes a difficult task to achieve.

      I will add your family to my prayer list.

  5. "Many Catholic couples are open to life, but their openness is not evident by a packed pew and overflowing minivan. Their openness is not easily observed and can be more accurately called open to loss."

    I loved this last quote! So true!

    And, that is all great advice! I can't believe people asked you questions #3 and #4. Both of those are incredibly rude (well they all are, but those just seem the worst).

  6. Great post. I also love the last quote, so true and so often not recognized, as if only those who have been blessed with overflowing minivans were somehow "good" Catholics.

    I'm glad that you chose to write about your infertility. It is always good to hear the experiences of others who have gone through it. We need to keep talking about this invisible pain that so many couples carry in their hearts. They should not suffer alone. My husband and I also experienced infertility, and I know what that suffering is like. Like you I was eventually blessed with three children, but I will never forget. I don't want to just move on, I want to spread awareness and help others who are in that situation.

  7. May I add a couple pieces of advice?
    1. Don't be surprised if they aren't in church on Mother's Day.
    2. Don't judge if they aren't spewing wild congratulations of joy when you announce your pregnancy.
    3. Don't assume they want to hold your baby.
    4. Don't expect a childless woman to grieve over your secondary infertility. She may...but she may not. Indeed, she may have many horrible private (or not private) thoughts about you for even bringing it up.

    Perhaps not so kindly put as your advice. I know getting this sort of information out to people is really very helpful.

    You can't know all the times I've been grateful for things that haven't been said.

  8. I'm glad more women are speaking up about struggles like this. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thanks for visiting and commenting!

  9. So beautiful. "Open to loss" is so true. As are all of the "don't ask" questions, most of which I've personally been asked as a late-in-life mother of one.

    PS - I found you via Catholic Sistas. I'm trying to find the post about a "topic that plagues a good percentage of cradle Catholics raised through the 70s and 80s…without spoiling it, you’ll see the deep running effect of the lack of catechesis held over those of us raised in nominally Catholic homes." Can you direct me? Thanks.

    1. Hi! I am not sure which post is referring to by the description. It may be my body image post The Many Shapes of Me from May 1, 2015.


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