Monday, October 21, 2013

How To Help Your Infertile Friend: Treat Her Like a Normal Person

One of the most helpful things you can do for your infertile friend is to treat her like a normal person. Infertility has a way of making you feel like a freak of nature. What an infertile person needs to know is that infertility does not define them. They are not less than human because they cannot conceive. Their womanhood is not determined by a pregnant belly or a house full of children. They need to know that they are just as normal as the next woman.

When everyone around them is sharing news of another pregnancy, this truth can be hard to hold on to because the reality is that their body (or their husband's body) is not functioning like it was made to. They often feel this acutely. But what they need help seeing is that their biological failure is not a personhood failure. Their identity as God's child is not tied to what their broken body can or cannot do. This is why they need you to come along side them and treat them like their life is just as valuable and exciting even in the midst of a profound suffering.You can have a tremendous impact on our hurting friend by treating them like they are as human as you are.

So how do you do that?

Obviously, this varies from person to person, but one way I felt "normal" with my friends is that they expressed interest in the things that interested me. It might seem really small, but infertility can be an all consuming experience. From doctor's visits to charts and tests, it can often feel like your life is one big experiment. My friends helped me get outside of that experience by caring about the other things that I really loved.

Another thing is that they didn't shy away from was sharing their lives with me. It can be hard to share exciting baby news or the details of your potty training experiences with a friend who desperately wants a child of her own, but nothing makes an infertile person feel more abnormal than when he or she knows someone is intentionally holding back about their own children. Like I said in my last post, carefully composed words require knowing your friend, but so does knowing when to share your life with them. An infertile person can feel very alone at times and refraining from sharing your life with her for fear of making her pain worse can only make her feel more alone. Infertile people are very aware of the myriad of babies that are always seeming to pop up right in front of them, so you probably won't be sharing anything with her that she isn't already acutely aware of.

As you walk this road with your hurting friend she will be greatly served by you remembering that there is really very little that separates you from her. While you may be able to conceive with ease, you both bear the image of Christ and find your identity in him alone. Standing on this truth will help you see her as a normal person in need of eyes of faith to see her Savior in the midst of her pain.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

How to Help Your Infertile Friend: Part 1

It's been over a year since God opened my womb and gave us these twin boys, which means it's been over a year since I've felt the daily sting of infertility. All throughout our struggle to get pregnant, and in the months following our pregnancy, I have wanted to write something that would help others know how to help their friends in this difficult trial. I have written about how to help after miscarriage and I have written to the infertile woman, but I have never written to an outsider looking in on the infertile couple. There are a number of reasons for that. In the midst of our journey I never felt like I could really pinpoint the most helpful things. We were truly upheld by so many dear people, but in the moment I never wanted to come out swinging against the ones who maybe didn't know exactly how to help. During infertility was not the best time for me personally to write about it. I felt like God had more work to do on my own heart before I could write about it.

But as I am now farther removed from it, my prayer is that I can help those who earnestly desire to encourage their weary friends as they walk this hard road of infertility. Here is part one.


Choose Your Words Carefully

This can apply to many situations that have nothing to do with infertility, which is why I mention it first. As believers, we know that our words matter. We know that our words have value for another. And we know that our words can either bring life or bring death to a person's soul.

Nowhere is this more important to recognize than when you are dealing with a suffering person. And infertility is a form of suffering. For the infertile, there are days where the reality that she cannot get pregnant is right on her shoulder, screaming lies into her head. Lies like "you aren't really a woman." "This defines you." "You have no purpose because you can't bring life into the world." Carefully composed words can be a healing balm to a discouraged and fainthearted saint.

But another more common temptation when you are helping your infertile friends is the urge to generalize their situation and lump it into every other instance of infertility that you are aware of. I still struggle with this, and I have gone through it! The truth is there are a myriad of reasons why a couple might be infertile. And as their friend, you might want to help find out that reason. While some may know why they can’t get pregnant, some don’t. Some situations require simple procedures to fix the problem. Some require years of treatment that only amount to drained bank accounts and broken hearts. What an infertile couple needs most is not a story about how a friend of a friend got pregnant with the same treatment. That might be true. But for every story of success there is another of failure. This doesn’t mean you never offer advice or insight. Just be careful what you say and when you say it. Sometimes silence is the best policy.
And I understand how hard this can be. When I don’t know what to say, I often say too much. I just want to say something, anything, to alleviate the pain. But sometimes removing the pain is not what your friend needs. She might just need empathy. She might just need you to sit with her and cry. But here is one thing I can almost promise you, if you have thought of a reason for why she is infertile, she has probably thought of fifteen more. The infertile woman knows her body (usually) more than she ever wanted to know it. And she understands conception usually better than most.
So if your desire is to help your friend, and I trust that it is, understand that a carefully composed word goes a long way. This doesn't mean you have to walk on eggshells around your friend (we will talk about that in another post), but it does mean you think about what you say before you say it. Words, if chosen wisely, can go a long way to helping your suffering friend.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Life With Twins: 8 Months Later

Tomorrow these sweet boys will be 8 months old. I can hardly believe it. Sometimes it feels like yesterday that I saw their precious faces for the first time. And then other times it feels like they have always been part of our lives. We love them so stinking much!

So what is life like with these twinsies? One part crazy. One part totally fun. And equal parts overwhelming joy. I will say, the first 5 or 6 months were really intense. With the first 5 weeks being all things NICU, coupled with the fact that they were pretty much like newborns for the first 4 months of their life, it was exhausting. Then you add the fact that we have never been parents before, and you have a recipe for a little bit of chaos.

Would I do it again? Absolutely.

Around 4 months we realized Luke had some issues with neck rotation and it was confirmed by an occupational therapist and his pediatrician. That explained his flat head (he only slept on one side). He was diagnosed with torticollis, which started us on a busy few months of therapy evaluations, head scans, and doctor visits. He will be in physical therapy until he reaches his important developmental milestones for the first year, and he will be in the helmet about as long, too. Thankfully, we have gotten into a good routine with sitters for Zach, occasionally taking them both to therapy (Luke does better with brother there sometimes), and doing home exercises. At first, I was really sad and overwhelmed with the prospect of more doctor visits for our family. Our life has been doctor visits for the last year or so and I just wanted some normalcy--whatever that means, right?

So what are the twins like?

They are so much fun! They are really happy babies for the most part. They have their usual crabby moments, but who doesn't? They love attention and people. And they especially love women and little girls. They have really started to notice each other and "talk" to each other. I love it and can't wait to see them interact more and more! Luke is much more vocal than Zach, though they both like to talk. Luke often talks himself to sleep at night time and talks himself awake in the morning. They smile all of the time. My favorite moment with them is when I go get them from naps or in the morning. They go crazy in their cribs with excitement!

They really want to move. Just this week they both have started getting on their knees and elbows and started rocking. They roll everywhere (especially Zach) and they can scoot backwards and with their legs (while their head is down), but they often get frustrated when they can't move. They both sit up well and love being able to see the world. Luke's physical therapist told me yesterday that some babies have little interest in moving, but that is not him at all, nor is it true of his brother. They cannot wait to move, though mommy is fine with them waiting a little longer! Honestly, their drive to move doesn't surprise me at all. Luke was very active when I was pregnant with them. I don't think he ever stopped moving. Zach was active, too, but nothing like Luke was.

They also aren't as cuddly anymore because they want to move. The other day they wanted to cuddle before naps and I ate up every minute of it because it rarely happens anymore. I miss it!

Growth wise they are catching up nicely. The doctor said they are doing exactly what they should be doing. Zach is still bigger than Luke, but they both are ahead of the curve, which is what we want. They love eating solids! That is a huge prayer answer for me because bottle feeding has been a bit of a challenge at times and I was terrified to introduce something new. I think they like solids better than bottles! And Zach has a tooth coming through, so that explains his fussiness the last few weeks! I am sure Luke is not far behind.

People often asking me what the hardest part of having twins is, and while I have nothing to compare it to, I think the fact that I can't hold them both at the same time is the most challenging. Having two kids is not unique to many moms, but having two infants is. And the fact that they both need to be transported by my arms poses a challenge sometimes, especially when there are over 35 pounds of baby between the two of them. I suppose it is good that I am learning how to share my love and attention early on because that is just part of being a mom, but it does kill me sometimes that I can't pay attention to both of them at the same time. If I could multiply my arms and my affection I would be golden!

So that is where we are at with these boys of ours. Most days my eyes well up with tears thinking about God's kindness to us. I remember vividly the many months and years of begging God for a child, just one child to call my own. And in his kindness he gave me two precious, precious boys. I try to remember that especially when I feel like I am losing my mind with exhaustion and sinful lack of patience. I cannot imagine any other life than the one I have right in this moment. I love these boys with every fiber of my being. They are such a gift to Daniel and me. And we can't believe how far they have come!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Finding Joy Again

Many of us can remember a time in our life when we experienced great joy in the Lord. Perhaps it was at the time of your conversion, or in the months after. Your eyes are suddenly opened to the truth of God's word. You see Christ as supremely valuable. And you can't get enough of learning about the glories of Christ. Joy is abounding.

We have all been around new believers and seen their excitement. In many ways, the zeal they have for the Lord reminds us of young lovers. It's new. It's endless. And they want nothing more than to spend every waking moment with the One who purchased them and made them a new creation. New love is the same way. Weddings have a way of reminding us of the love we have for our own spouse. Why? Because weddings are full of joy, anticipation, and fresh encounters with love. It's infectious.

But we all can relate to feeling dry and brittle towards the Lord, too. If we were truly honest, we often look longingly at our early days as a believer and long for the fresh zeal and wonder that captured our hearts. Like a wife who is losing affection for her husband, we know acutely what it feels like to go to God's word and feel nothing. The early days of anticipation and abundant emotions are fading fast.

The psalmist, David, understood this human predicament well. Whether our dryness is owing to sin, circumstances, or a combination of it all, there are many days where we need God to restore to us the joy of our own salvation (Psalm 51:12). We come to him in prayer and in his word and we cry out for something, anything, that will resemble the joy we know is possible.

But here is the promise. God will do it. Maybe not in the moment. Maybe not even in the month. But he will give us joy. With each passing day of slowly plugging along, we must not give up hope. The dryness of today will give way to the unending joy of tomorrow if we simply trust that the God who gave us joy once will surely give it again. Even more than that, in the driest of moments he is sustaining us. David knew that he didn't just need God to restore his joy, but he also needed grace for each passing day. Sometimes God acts immediately, making our hearts alive to him again. And sometimes, he holds back. But he never leaves us alone. His grace is sustaining us even in the darkness.

So if you find yourself asking God for a renewed sense of wonder at all he has done for you in Christ, and you come up shorter than you had hoped, take heart, dear Christian. The coldness of today is not the end of the story. Faithfulness is key. And God will act. In the same way that he gave you a new heart and joy in his salvation the first time, he will do it still.