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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Struggling to cope

Where is the church in times of infertility?

Sarah’s laughter isn’t sitting well with me these days. I imagine sitting across from this biblical figure in the tea shop and hearing: “After all these years! Abraham and I are finally pregnant! Can you believe it!” She laughs and claps her hands. I smile and nod, sip my tea, try to swallow the lump in my throat. Then I manage some small grunting laughter and a weak congratulatory speech, but she (thankfully) doesn’t notice. 

In my head I tell myself that my behavior is ridiculous. In her moment of happiness, I’m overwhelmed with the same old tornado of feelings: envy, anger, sadness. For shame! This is Sarah’s moment of joy and I’m determined to share it with her.

I make a valiant effort but later, after Sarah and I have hugged and parted, I slip into my car and burst into confused tears. Because Sarah is pregnant and I’m not.

My partner and I have been trying to get pregnant for more than four years. Underneath the wish for biological children and the blood draws, temperature readings and clinical interrogation about our sex life there is a storm of emotions rarely talked about with others.

Our inability to conceive squeezes into being these weird feelings of grief, sadness, shame, confusion and envy. The stress of the financial implications of fertility treatments can be paralyzing. We are rattled by the inaccessibility of the dream of parenthood and question our identity. It can be overwhelming.

The church strives to walk with people through the ups and downs of life. The Bible reminds us that we are called to cradle the emotionally and physically vulnerable members of our community (Psalm 41:1). When someone is grieving the death of a close friend or family member, caring people are often quick to call and check in or send a card. Rarely does someone bring a casserole to support a couple coping with infertility.

If my partner and I happen to share our struggles to get pregnant, folks often steamroll through the anxiousness to hope: “It will happen!” they say optimistically. Or: “You’ll get pregnant! In God’s time. God has a plan.”


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