When spouses are facing the possibility that they will not be able to conceive a child, here are five ways they can remain faithful to one another and to their beliefs -- whatever the outcome of their infertility journey.
Deciding to have a child is life changing.
There is so much to think about as you plan to start a family. What will it cost to feed and clothe a child? Who will work and who will stay home? What about college? What essential childhood experiences do you wish to provide for your child?
But there is one topic that almost never comes up.
What if we cannot conceive?
Through all of the planning, the discussions and prayers, the excitement and fear, most couples do not consider the possibility that they will be among the one in eight American couples who cannot naturally conceive. Infertility interrupts life and often sends couples into a years-long struggle. Infertility becomes tests marriages, faith, and even ethics — and few couples are prepared to face that.
Fortunately, when a couple is facing the possibility that they will not be able to conceive a child, there are ways the partners can remain faithful to one another and their beliefs, whatever the outcome of their infertility journey. Here are five tips:
1. Take equal ownership.
Despite the common portrayal of dads in sitcoms, most fathers want to be involved in their kids’ lives and are equally as capable of parenting as are their wives. God gave men and women equally important roles in raising children.
However, when it comes to infertility, it can seem like a woman’s world. Yes, more than half of infertility involves medical issues that afflict women. But that doesn’t mean men should feel that they are just going along for the ride. To do so would be to abdicate an important job!
Whoever is the healthy spouse has just as big a role to play. It is not just a supporting role, but instead involves helping to make decisions, ask questions, pray, and look out for the partner who is undergoing treatment.
2. Put it in perspective.
When it seems that everyone else is easily having children, it can feel like infertility is some kind of divine punishment. In dark moments, it is easy to wonder if God is actually cursing us.
It’s okay to experience emotions related to your struggle. But it is also important to keep things in perspective. Infertility has been part of humanity from the very beginning, and when it occurs in the Bible, there is usually no connection to divine anger. Remember that Rachel was infertile while her sister, Leah, got pregnant easily. And then the tables were turned on the sisters. But God never explains that one woman did something to deserve children and the other did not.
3. Figure out the end-game scenario.
Stepping into the world of infertility treatment can be disorienting, and the myriad options can be terrifying. Some couples are able to solve their issues with relative ease, while other couples need much more intensive medical intervention.
The problem with treatment is that nothing is guaranteed. There is no magic bullet that will promise a baby. Couples can endure round after round of failed treatment with nothing to show for it except for frayed emotions and possibly even deteriorated health. Every failed treatment beckons to the weary couple — just one more try.
That’s a dangerous place to be in — for your health and faith. Before getting to that point of desperation, it’s best if couples answer from the outset, What if this doesn’t work? A great strategy is for couples to agree on what they are willing to do, what is off the table, and what is plan “B” long before it happens. Making decisions in the midst of desperation will lead many couples to take treatment that would otherwise go against their consciences or good judgment.
4. Protect your marriage.
The most important tool we have been given to raise our children is our marriage. It is easy once a baby comes along for parents to stop paying much attention to one another. But most couples don’t realize that the same is true for couples going through infertility.
A couple needs to make marriage the top priority, or the marriage will deteriorate. Perhaps that looks like a husband who says, “Honey, you don’t have to go to that baby shower.” Or maybe it looks like a wife who quietly tells some friends at church, “My husband is having a really hard time, so it would be great if you didn’t ask questions right now.”
More than anything, protecting a marriage means maintaining your spouse as your most important ministry.
5. Never say, “Whatever it takes.”
Some couples desire children so much that they say they will do “whatever it takes.”
That is a dangerous idea.
Couples must be shrewd about treatment options, especially as they become more invasive. Among all available treatments, the most invasive, expensive, and ethically challenging is in-vitro fertilization. Any couple whose last option is in-vitro has plenty of questions to contend with: How many eggs will be fertilized? How many will be implanted? What will be done with the leftover embryos?
All of these questions cut to the heart of how a couple sees and values life.
There are ways to do in-vitro, and any treatment, ethically. But maybe that is not the path that should be taken. Perhaps adoption is a better idea. Some couples are even called to remain childless.
Whatever the path a couple decides to take is between the man, the woman, and God, and all can be equally fulfilling. But this result is only possible if the couple keeps focused on remaining faithful to God every step of the way. A struggle with infertility can actually bring a couple closer together, build faith, and reveal God in new ways — but only if men and women stop focusing on their frustration and keep their minds on being faithful.
It’s not “whatever it takes.” It’s “whatever God wants.”
By Matt Appling