By Jane Osoro
I recently read an article from a lady struggling with infertility. She wrote on behalf of other women like her on what they wish they could say to those around them. Here is my version, how you can be a true sister to your friend who is still waiting to have a little one of her own.
It goes without saying that the place to begin is prayer. Start by asking the Holy spirit to guide you on how best to pray for Hannah (insert your friend’s name), when you are led by the Holy Spirit rather than personal thoughts and feelings, you will truly have effective prayers. widen your scope of prayer from simply praying for her to have a baby to praying for her relationships(husband, relatives, friends, society), for all these have a bearing on what kind of journey she will have. Pray for provision for treatments and for the child, that she and her husband will have all they need materially, spiritually and emotionally to care for their child/ren. When you know she will be having a doctor’s appointment pray for that session, pray for wisdom on the doctors, that they will have the skill and knowledge on how best to help her. Pray that the doctor will see her as she is and not simply as another case number or statistic.
Now to a few do’s and dont’s. Although I find that if you relate to Hannah from a place of prayer, true love and sincerity, you will rarely go wrong. And like with grieving, sometimes presence and silence are of greater comfort than any words. It is enough for her to just know you care and you are praying for her.
Do ask how you should pray for her, instead of assuming what kind of prayer she needs, and always include her husband in the prayer as it is a journey they are both walking.
Do tell her as soon as you can when you are pregnant. She is genuinely happy for you and would be even more devastated if she was to find out from elsewhere. She wants the best for you and would not wish what she is going through on anyone. She will love your children as the aunty she is and always be proud of you for bringing such adorable children into the world. But do understand, that even in her joy for you, the emptiness of her own womb will cause her to cry and long. Understand that there will be seasons when she can do the baby shower thing, then there will be seasons she can’t, pray for her through those seasons.
Do talk to her about your struggles and joys of pregnancy and parenting, but before you start whining about the heaps of dirty laundry and sleepless nights, remember she wishes her sleepless nights were because she had a little cry in her home rather than because her own pillow was soaked with tears.
It is natural as mothers to have an unconscious drawing to each other. without knowing it mothers form a club and it is so easy to exclude Hannah and make her feel like an outsider. It is not so much about talking about children and parenting, but there can be a sense of ” we have given up on you” in the way the discussion is held. I have sat in groups where there are mothers and women who are not yet mothers (maybe even single) but on the way there, and I see the difference in the way Hannah is addressed (usually just ignored) and the way the rest of the group addresses those they have “hope” for. Realise that being a mother is so much more than having the ability to conceive.
Which brings me to adoption. Stop suggesting it at the end of every conversation in this regard like a punctuation. “There is always adoption.” Not quite, for one, simply adopting will not satiate the longing within. If anything, if Hannah adopts a child before she is mentally and emotionally ready for this unique road to parenting, it will not be the joy filled, satisfying journey it ought to be. Secondly in some countries the cost associated with adoption is so steep, that you come off as very insensitive to suggest it without thinking (read praying) through the suggestion.
Don’t throw around suggestions of diets, treatments, exercises, prayers (and people to pray for her), books or healers. You are not the only one doing so for starters and then with any treatment, diet etc, she undertakes there needs to be some time for said intervention to be tested before she can try another. Secondly she is doing everything within her power, and researching her unique condition, your suggestions though well-meaning may communicate you feel she is not trying or simply add unnecessary pressure. Note i said “…her unique condition…”. There are different causes of infertility and so not all solutions work for every one. more importantly, God has a unique journey for each of His daughters, allow Him to lead Hanna through the path He knows will be best for her. Should the Lord put a suggestion on your heart, share it with her. she is able to know the difference between a loving, prayed through suggestion, and one that has no love.
Do research on your own if she has given you the particulars of her experience. This will allow you to be more empathic and to pray from a place of understanding.
DO ask where you would like to get clarity or understand something, she will actually appreciate that more than conclusions made on assumptions. But understand if she is not willing to share certain details.
Do not, ever ever, share anything she tells you about what she is going through with a third-party. Even if the third-party is a common friend. Always assume it was only for your and God’s ears, any news/information she has is for her alone to share.
She may not tell you so because of the cultural dynamics, but the fertility gap may lie with her husband. so pray for them both, that health and all that is needed for conception will abound.
Do remember she is Hannah, so much more than a childless friend. She is a woman after God’s own heart, a woman with gifts, talents, a friend, sister, daughter, wife appreciate her for those as you think about her and it will change how you relate to her.
Many women face infertility problems even after having a first child, and the struggle to have a second is just as harrowing, this Hannah needs your love and understanding just as much. In being there for her it will be helpful to drop the “…at least you have one…”, comments. She is grateful for and loves the child God has given her, but that does not take away from the desire that she and her husband have for a larger family.
And as I conclude, I realise that there is so much and so many dynamics that go into this, am sure many ladies going through the Hannah experience would read through this and pick out one or two things that don’t apply to them. Just be you, guided by the Holy Spirit to be the best sister, friend, acquaintance to the Hannah in your life. And may God continue to build us all in His love.
Do continue with the conversation below. It is always a joy to hear your thoughts and stories.