The following post is written by a cousin of Jerald, namely Luanne Mast. I have been inspired by her cheerful spirit and acceptance of her disappointments in life. I asked her to write on this subject so we who have families can learn to be more sensitive and compassionate to those who long for a brood of their own.
“Happy Birthday, dear Kylie…” rang thru the house filled with uncles, aunts, and grandparents. She smiled shyly as she opened the gifts for her 3rd birthday. Her auntie had helped sing to her, eat cake, and gave a gift. But her mind was far away. Her heart was hurting. She felt a deep pain which almost felt physical. “What’s wrong with me? Why would this feeling come in the middle of a birthday party?”
Then it hit me. My firstborn could be right beside her cousin tonight having a joint birthday party. She was due 2 weeks before Kylie. They would have had so much fun together. Where was my child? My mind pictured the mound of dirt on the edge of the lawn. Then the streets of heaven. So different from Kylie’s life. “God, You know how much we long for a child to call our own. This dream to be fulfilled.”
That night my heart was sad. Very sad. Aching. Times like those seem to come at the most unexpected times. At times when I am not even worried I will lose my composure. Infertility. 4 miscarriages. DEATH. Grief. Acceptance. Losing heart to EVER dream about anything. Crying to God to not let you be hurdled to the depths of despair. Loneliness ripping at the fringes of another day at home alone. Fear of your husband being the next one He will ask you to give back to Him. Church family standing by praying and also saying so. Seeing the sunshine of a new morning and knowing God has a plan in our lives and is still good just like my friends told me. Being surprised at actually being able to thank God for the journey and grief He has allowed. Is life fair? NO! God never intended that I try to be like everyone else. He created me for his glory. Not mine. I cannot expect to grow if I continue comparing my life with others. “Be you. Not them.” Does that take the pain, the desire, the left-behind-feeling away? No. It is a reality. It is what God is asking me to go through.
Maybe you, my friend, are reading this and understand the pain. Maybe you have a sister who is going thru this while you feel continuously exhausted with your 3 little blessings. Maybe you are reading this just out of a caring heart. Bless each of you. This can be a sensitive subject. We are all such different makes and models, but all have the desire to be the same person – Mothers for God!
~To those of you who are experiencing barrenness of the womb…
You are at the very place God has allowed you to be. How you relate to it may or may not be the response God desires. There is nothing wrong in desiring children. Some people cannot figure out why you can’t just accept and be content with being childless. (They have never been there.) If you have not allowed bitterness to settle in, can reach out to folks whether they have children or not, and find your little place to serve God – you have accepted your place in life. Does it take your desires away? No. My favorite verse – “Four things say not, It is enough. The grave; and the barren womb; the earth that is not filled with water; and the fire that saith not, It is enough.” I went thru a time when I felt like I had to let people know what this felt like. I was setting myself up for hurt. Not everyone will understand. Not everyone who actually asks you how it is going will understand. Let go of the feeling of needing to help them understand. You soon learn who you can share with and when to just reply “I’m doing good.” Then ask about their life.
Remember you may be hurting. So often hurting people hurt others. After the burying of different of our babies I know I did not respond right to people who tried to show us they cared. I took some of their comments wrong (and sometimes still do). I was suspicious of others. We are hurting. We are grieving lost dreams. Dreams for that specific child or the dream of never having children. They are lost dreams. Ask God to continue to heal and for a compassion for what others are going thru. Pray for that before going to a tea party, to church, or to any where you know you could respond wrongly.
We each have different bodies. What works for me, may not work for you. Feel free to share that thought with the person that brings to you the next thing to try that worked for so and so. I long for this writing to be encouraging to those who feel so alone in this journey. I wish I would have known so many of the things I know now, back at the beginning of this journey. It took close to a year to get pregnant the first time, but lost the baby in a week. After losing 2 babies we went the medical route. Many visits with a gynecologist ruled out things that actually left me feeling reassured. After a surgery for endometriosis and a bicornate uterus we were encouraged, and told we most likely will be fine. Am I sad we went the medical route? Not a chance. I feel like a different person—pain- free. But alongside all that, here’s a few things I wish I would have known 6 years ago. Research them and learn for yourself.
Do bloodwork/saliva testing for your hormones (progesterone, estrogen, testosterone), thyroid, Vitamin D, and adrenals. Find a midwife who can send you for lab work, read the results, and prescribe the needed supplements or progesterone (pills, vaginal suppositories or shots). Progesterone (bioidentical, not synthetic) seems to play an important part in conceiving or carrying a baby. Some midwives find it helpful if you chart your cycles. (Taking Charge of your Fertility book). A methylated form of vitamin B in the Smarty Pants or Meleluca’s multivitamin is more absorbable by some bodies. These are just a few things I am learning. Have I attained? No. Have I carried a baby full term? No. We decided to give my body time to heal and just work on my overall health. Amidst learning about my body and all the doctor visits, I still find rest in knowing there is a reason God has allowed this. Don’t get so wrapped up in all the things that might be wrong that you miss enjoying the things that are right…actually perfect. Your husband. Your duties and blessings as a wife.
I tend to get so involved in my day or projects that I don’t stop for lunch. That is not good self-care at all. Eat lunch. Sit outside in the sunshine. Read a book. Just zone out for a half hour or more. And enjoy it without feeling guilty. God didn’t intend for you to do everything for everybody because you have nobody around and then end up being so exhausted that you can’t enjoy the 1 loved one he did give you!
Let’s try to remember that we are just as prone to make snide or selfish comments. Saying to someone who has lost a 2 year- old child, “Least you had one to lose” is not from a compassionate spirit. Find things to do and ways to reach out and children to love. Sitting at home all the time wallowing in self pity will not give you purpose in life or many friends. Thinking NO ONE understands or cares is selfish. Let’s not be sensitive or easily offended. Deep down in they do care about us.
For those of you who have tried for years to conceive or have lost babies and are working thru that grief, please don’t compare griefs. Please talk to someone. Find someone who has been there. But also find ones who haven’t been there. There are always caring people as long as we don’t push them away. Just because you have only lost one and I have lost four doesn’t mean that I won’t be able to relate or do not want to talk with you. It doesn’t mean I have it figured out or feel like I have reached some plateau. It doesn’t mean I have had life so much harder than you. We each have times of suffering and are at different places in our journey, but we can be there for each other. I think the grief of lost dreams of having a baby or losing a baby thru miscarriage can teach each of us to be more compassionate and caring for others around us no matter what they are going thru if we allow it to make us better instead of becoming bitter like Satan would wish for. To each of you my friends….I know….It’s hard…I care. Let’s remember who created us this way. He has a plan. A beautiful plan. “He hath made everything beautiful in His time.”
~To the sister or friend of one with empty arms…
You play such an important role in her life and well-being. My sisters and mom have been such confidantes for me. I know I can tell them exactly how I am when they ask and they won’t tell every Ruth, Sarah, and Anna. Confidence is a huge thing for those of us in this. We feel like so much of our lives are already exposed. Don’t betray them. Don’t tell others details from their doctor visits or whether you know if they are trying to conceive or are taking a break. If others ask you about them because you are a good friend or sister, just encourage them to go talk to them themselves and that you don’ t want to betray her confidence in you as a friend. If they hear you repeating things that were told you, don’t be surprised if you don’t hear more from them when you talk again with them.
Ask them how they are really doing. And listen. They don’t want advise. They just need to talk somedays. They often already know the pat answers and phrases that they should be doing and thinking. They are most likely trying to come to grips with everything yet. Please don’t take it personal or judge her for not coming to see your newborn baby the first week or the first time to church. She may not even be up to bringing a baby meal either. Don’t just exclude her from a shopping trip with your friends because you are baby shopping and think it would be too hard for her. Tell her ahead of time what you are doing and that she is invited. Be willing to accept whatever she decides. Ask her throughout the trip if she is doing okay or if this is too much for her. She will feel your care.
Foresight is better than hindsight for us folks. It means the world to me when my sisters or friends tell me they are pregnant before they announce it to their other friends. Then I don’t have to be surprised right in front of everyone and try to digest all the feelings in front of others. Some of my friends have even done that when switching to maternity dresses, too. A text saying “Hey just letting you know I am planning to go into my maternity dresses this Sunday.” has melted my heart so many times.
Sometimes I come upon a group of ladies conversing. The conversation stops. I feel like a big intruder. Later I find out they were talking about births or pregnancy. Don’t just stop. Include us in your pregnancy and story too. It is harder to relate to you if you don’t tell us anything when we ask you how it is going. We know you tell others details about it. Just because we have never been there doesn’t automatically mean we do not care. But to continue on in that sort of conversation for a long time will not appeal either. Bring the conversation around to something she can join in with. She may walk away from a group that is just continuing on with such subjects. A text that night telling her you are sorry you didn’t think of her in that conversation goes a long way.
Be careful about making careless remarks about family planning, being “done” having children, or statements that take for granted you will have future pregnancies. Those comments can send daggers of pain through a woman’s heart that has learned she has no control over her fertility.
Be sensitive with blanket statements about ladies who dealt with infertility and then were gifted the miracle of pregnancy and birth. Comments like, “Well you know she went on the Reliv program, that must have been what finally did it” or “It was the Juice Plus vitamins she was taking” or “Wow they must have finally just relaxed and forgot about it and it happened!” or “You know she told me they surrendered and prayed to God like they never had before and they got pregnant.” Statements like that cause deep pain to your infertile friend and make her question her faith. Only she knows the desperate prayers she and her husband have prayed night after night, year after year, crying out to God to open her womb. Only she knows the surrendering of her will over and over and over again. Only she knows the handfuls of pills and vitamins she swallowed, the “miracle” shakes she forced down day after day, the ovulation kits they bought and tried, the progesterone cream she rubbed on, the crazy positions they attempted all at the “perfect” time…only to have their dreams crash again and again, month after wearying month.
Care. Truly care. Don’t just care to settle your curiosity. Invite her and her husband out for supper some evening to your favorite restaurant. Leave the children behind for a double date or take them along. Invite them to your house for supper and invite them to stay for family worship. They miss relating to children and their lives. Evenings can get long for a childless couple. Take an interest in their lives and what they do. Don’t just assume they don’t have much going. Sometimes they are so busy because so many folks assume they are getting bored or have the time to do this or that. They can be exhausted too. Please talk about your life, family, or a funny thing your child did that day to them…just don’t complain. If you have accepted where you are in life, she will sense that. I love when ladies include me in their lives. I find it hard to relate to the ones who share nothing about their lives because they are scared it will hurt me. That’s not relationship. Maybe ask her if you wonder if it is hard for her to hear you talk about whatever.
~Things to do for those struggling with infertility:
* Be aware of days that might be extra hard for her. Send her a text or a card, and let her know you’re thinking of her when there’s a new baby in the congregation and all the extra buzz surrounding it — birthing stories, baby meal schedules, and baby-looks-just-like-mom discussions. It’s easy for her to feel like everyone else is being handed miracles and she is left sitting on the sidelines year after year after year. It doesn’t change her situation but sometimes knowing someone cares makes the day a little brighter.
* Share your babies. Each person is different on this. Please ask them beforehand instead of just assuming they would love if you handed them your baby in church.
* Talk about it. Don’t let it be a huge white elephant in the room. Ask questions if you’re not sure how to relate. Ask if there’s anything you can do to make her feel more accepted and connected in the circle of ladies you’re a part of. Ask what discussions are painful for her to find herself in. Ask her how she’s coping on this journey she’s traveling. Ask if it makes it easier or harder to be offered babies to hold. Ask instead of just assuming. Ask questions that give you better knowledge on how to relate and care for her heart, not nosy questions that give you information to feed the gossip chain.
* Tell them early when you are pregnant, etc. Before she has time to overhear discussions on morning sickness and smock patterns and get suspicious. Her mind and ears are probably on high alert to those subjects and it’s painful when she realizes she’s been left out of the loop.
* Drop off a meal or breakfast casserole just because. She has never received baby meals and most likely has made lots for others while tears slid down her cheeks. Remember her with flowers or food or chocolate sometimes “just because.” And try to remember her on her birthday. She has very few times in her life that she is pampered by her friends. It’s easy for her to feel she’s the one that’s always giving, always serving, with no morning sickness, baby bump, or colicky newborn as a “reason” to sit back and take it easy.
* Include them in your family life. Invite them for supper, to join on a camping trip or another trip somewhere.
* Be intentional about subjects and conversations you can connect on outside of motherhood talk. Do you have a hobby in common? Invite her to sew or scrapbook or bake at your house. Go shopping together and purposely stay out of the baby department and off of those topics. Instead look at fabric or furniture or browse the book sections at the second-hand store. Sit and sip coffee together and ask her about her life, her hobbies and her interests. You have plenty of friends to talk baby stuff over with; this time focus on subjects that connect with her heart.
* Invite them in to join you in the nursery. We can’t help but notice you are in there with your babies and talking, but it’s just not our place.
* Have your little children give them gifts or cards. It means the world to get a brand- new children’s book handed to you from the hands of your friend’s two- year- old.
* Pray for her and let her know that at times. Love her and accept her just as she is. There will be times she puzzles you, times she hurts you with her seeming lack of interest in your life and your babies. Remember her grief is a private one – a grief that usually isn’t tangible. If she never buried babies there are no dates to remember, no graves to visit and lay flowers on, no photo book to look at, no memory corner filled with treasures in her living room… just an empty nothingness that stretches on and on without a beginning and an end. It’s difficult to find closure to a grief like that.
~ Things to do for those who have a miscarriage:
- Order in a supper for them or take them a meal. A week of meals means so much after losing a baby.
- Order a bouquet of flowers online or take her some.
- My mom drove four hours decked with lavender scented lotion and a flannel sheet and gave me a full body massage. So comforting.
- Give them a gift certificate for a massage.
- Order Chocolate covered strawberries online thru Sherri’s Berries or make a plate of them
- Invite her to a tea party the day of her due date along with 1-2 other friends. She’s dreading that day, but will not get anything around most likely. It is just therapy to get out of the quiet, lonely house. Make sure she does not spend the day alone!
- Give a gift in memory of the baby they lost- a gray flannel Blanket, white teddy bear, a plaque, a book
- Make a picnic basket for them to take on a picnic the day of her due date or close to it. This could also be done for your friend who has no children…just to show you care.
- A sunshine basket from the church ladies
~Things not to say (that I have heard):
Relax. Maybe you are trying too hard to conceive.
Just hang in there. You will have a baby. (Are you God?)
You can have my children for practice tonight.
You can just do anything whenever you want! (Actually, we are very normal and have jobs and things to do just like you.)
At least you haven’t waited as long as so and so yet. (Who’s to say we won’t’?)
Are you staying busy with anything? (You can feel like they think you sit around every day.)
Maybe your baby was deformed. Then this is better.
It has to be easier to deal with the grief of losing a baby than to have a son run away from home like so and so had last week. (I can hardly process all that right now. I’m just trying to get thru my own grief.)
It is very common for ladies to miscarry at least once in their lifetime. The next one will probably be fine. (Are you God?)
“At least…” Any comment beginning with at least is not usually comforting to the grieving.
At least you know you can get pregnant.
At least there are no other children to take care of while you heal.
Having another child or adopting will probably help you forget. (No! No child will take the place of the one we lost.)
Why don’t you try to figure out more what’s wrong with your body and give it a rest before you try again? (We definitely have.)
At least it’s not like you have given birth and have all the pains of that. (Obviously you have never felt the pain of a miscarriage. The upheaval of hormones. The confused body. The terrible labor and then in the end a dead baby with 10 little toes and fingers just perfect as can be that you need to bury and let go. I can’t process how it compares or doesn’t to a full- term birth right now.)
Things you can say…
I care and am praying for you.
I can’t imagine what you are going thru, but I care.
How are you really doing?
Would this and this be too hard for you or would you enjoy it?
We appreciate the place you and your husband fill here. No one else can take your place.
We really admire the way you have accepted your journey and what God has called you to go thru. We don’t understand, but imagine it can’t be easy. We pray for you.
Just a simple, caring attitude will be felt with very few words. Acting like what they are going thru is nothing new or you’ve been there and done that and know of others who have had it way worse etc. will not reach their hearts. Compassion. Care. Prayer.
Luanne Mast lives in Colorado at the foot of the Rockies with her husband Lynford. She enjoys the outdoors, the view of the mountains, a clean house, cooking, and relationships (especially serving coffee or tea to her husband or friends while catching up on life). They both come from large families and enjoy all the company that brings. They have been working at an adoption from Columbia since December 2019 and are waiting to be matched. If you wish to reach out to her, she would love to hear from you. email@example.com