Saturday, October 18, 2014

Infertility as a Refining Fire

"...Of myself I will not glory, but in mine infirmities. ... there was given to me a thorn in the flesh... Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong." (2 Corinthians 12: 5, 7, 9-10)
For over two years, we have been doing everything in our power to claim the blessing of parenthood. After a year it's officially "infertility", but when young people are infertile some doctors neglect a sense of urgency.

Trying to conceive ("TTC") can easily become all-encompassing. We are used to making plans, following through, and achieving goals. I think it is easy to believe that fertility is in our control.

The lie that our fertility is in our control is further perpetuated by the terminology used to describe "solutions" to prevent pregnancy. Use hormonal birth control ("HBC") to plan your family. When/if you decide to have children, stop using your chosen method of birth control and whammo! you should expect to get pregnant within weeks, right?

In reality, the average couple has only a 20% chance of conceiving in any given cycle, and some sources state that as many as 1 in 8 couples will experience infertility.

Infertility and the resulting feelings of failure, worthlessness, and depression have been the greatest trials of my life thus far.

Speaking from experience, infertility can (and usually does) impact every aspect of a couple's life:
  • Physiological or hormonal causes result in medical treatments that can be very invasive and have unpleasant side effects. 
  • The cyclical grief that matches the menstrual cycle is emotionally hellish. 
  • Spiritually, infertile couples may struggle to understand this trial and why God denies them children. 
  • Employment may be affected if there are frequent visits to doctors, or if treatments or medications impact one's ability to do work. 
  • Socially, infertility leaves couples feeling lonely and isolated. Marriages and other relationships may become strained. 
  • Financially, infertility can be hugely damaging, since treatments are costly and many insurance companies do not cover these services (and adoption, the "alternative" to treatments, is comparably costly).
On the other hand, infertility can be a refining fire. It is possible to find and prove your strength by continuing to fight for your future children. Trusting in God and in His timing can deepen your relationship with Him. Working to strengthen your marriage and keeping communication open with your spouse yields rich, eternal blessings. If you are willing to reach out to support groups or share your experiences, the isolation dissipates. The quiet that accompanies infertility is an ideal time for personal growth and developing talents. But like all Abrahamic trials, it is nonetheless excruciating.

It is a comfort to know that infertility is often treatable. I do not believe God wishes to withhold the blessing of family from me, and I feel that I have appropriately prioritized family. I feel that it is my duty to do everything within my power to claim the blessing of children. This time has given me the opportunity to strengthen my relationship with Jesus Christ. It has also given me an opportunity to strengthen my marriage, improve my health, and to contribute financially for longer than originally intended/expected. I admit that I have grown in ways I may not have otherwise. I also admit that there have been periods of stagnation.

I also find comfort in these words from Brigham Young:
"Many of the sisters grieve because they are not blessed with offspring. You will see the time when you will have millions of children around you. If you are faithful to your covenants, you will be mothers of nations. … Be faithful, and if you are not blest with children in this time, you will be hereafter." (Found here)
Ultimately, in the eternal plan of happiness, I know that if I am faithful to my covenants, I will have a posterity. God is faithful in keeping promises.

My church leaders have given powerful counsel in local congregations, too: whether we receive our desired blessing is not so important as whether we prove our integrity in difficult times. I want to be like Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego:
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter.
If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king.
But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up. (Daniel 3:16-18
They had faith that God could deliver them, but even if He did not deliver them, they would trust in Him. Their faith and integrity were such that they would not disobey God's commandments (to worship only Him), nor deny their beliefs.

Ultimately, I have found that the best comfort comes from relying on the atonement of Jesus Christ, living in such a way that I can have the companionship of the Holy Ghost (the Comforter), and trusting in covenants I have made in the temple. As previously stated, God is faithful in keeping promises.